Signs of the Sojourner is a video game that uses an exceedingly simple card game to simulate the ups and downs of relating to people. The idea is that if you and another character can manage to play cards back and forth for long enough, then you are having a fruitful conversation. If not, then some incompatibility is getting in your way. The game takes place across a regular caravan journey that you take several times, allowing you multiple chances to connect with the same cast of characters. The longer you are on the road, the more your hand fills up with fatigue cards which can’t be played, giving you an incentive to return home and plan another trip outward.

I first played the game serenaded by the hum of the dehumidifier in my parents’ basement, while I lived with them in Pennsylvania. My lease had ended in Chicago, and the Coronavirus has shut everything down for only a few months by this point. I had very little contact with anyone, very little practice with conversation, and greatly welcomed a game about travelling and socializing. The ultimate power fantasy.

I also thought the game was a perfect way to connect with my mom, and share with her my love of video games. It’s self-directed, and there’s no urgency to the play. It’s easy to control, and has a delightful art style and soundtrack. And so, she and I spent a few days a week for a few weeks in June of 2020 playing through the game. It was a great way to spend time together, and I’m so glad we did it.

That is, until we met Alexis. Alexis is a merchant you repeatedly meet in the game, and the game only uses they/them pronouns to refer to them. My mom never noticed. “He” “He” “He” she sounded like the freaking Joker! This was before I had even come out to myself. At the time I was just a huge advocate for trans people for some reason. And yet I couldn’t say anything to my mom about it. All I had in my hand were fatigue cards. All I could do was dread the part of the caravan trip when we’d meet Alexis, and feel super bad while my mom misgendered someone. Three months later, I was a woman. And now she misgenders me.

Girl with needs and fears