Ascension: Transition and Silver

Ascension: Transition and Silver

released on Jan 13, 2021

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Ascension: Transition and Silver

released on Jan 13, 2021

A transgender visual novel, loosely based on Tarkovsky's STALKER.


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When I finished my fourth and final playthrough of Ascension something occurred to me. I thought: this is why the queers will ultimately win. Because queer lives, even the darkest and most uncomfortable parts of them, inspire such beautiful art. You can never make something this resonant, beautiful, and empowering from hate or bigotry. It can only come from a place of truth, as jagged and uncomfortable as those truths may sometimes be.
Ascension reimagines one of my favourite science-fiction novels Roadside Picnic (and Stalker - the Tarkovsky film loosely based on it) but through a queer lens. The broad strokes of the story are the same, with a group of people entering a cordoned off forbidden zone in which reality shifts and breaks apart in unpredictable ways. In the game, as in the novel and film, their goal is to reach a mysterious room at the center, which supposedly has the ability to grant literally any wish to those who enter.
Taking this premise and applying it to an LGBTQ perspective is frankly genius, because in so many ways being queer means desiring something that can seem unobtainable, even impossible. The game's three characters all have very different reasons for entering the zone, while their relationships to their identities and bodies are just as disparate. Their backstories are vague at best and we learn everything we need through their interactions, with some spectacularly efficient writing. The characters are not defined by their pasts, but their nows, and it makes their journeys more powerful than if the story wallowed in their former trauma.
The game uses the zone in several interesting ways but I primarily read it as an analogy for living in a queerphobic world when you don't fit into its rigid boundaries. The zone is frightening in how unpredictable and different from the outside world it is, but it's also amazingly beautiful. What initially seems terrifying and outlandish soon becomes familiar, even comforting. It feels real. At times this parallell is very explicitly stated, which I honestly appreciate. When the game has something to say, it says it clearly.
Change is absolutely terrifying, but stagnation is infinitely worse. While self-loathing can be a big part of being queer, it doesn't mean that's all there is. Nor does it have to mean that what happens on the road to finding yourself or any decisions you make are final. The zone is there to be explored, you can carve out your own spot there, you can even find love. You can make a home, you can change yourself and the world. In fact, change is inevitable and constant and you are powerful enough to take charge of it.
When I finished Ascension, I felt all of this. It all seems so obvious and real. We change, we grow, we love, we die, we're reborn, and we carry on as something different but the same. If change is art then surely transitioning is the ultimate change and most beautiful art. An art where you're both the creator and the canvas. It's a scary journey into the unknown but there's also nothing more gloriously, unfathomably beautiful.

Taking a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. CD and spinning it on my nose until it bleeds.