Sissyfight 2000 is a turn-based strategy online game developed by the Word online magazine staff, including executive producer Marisa Bowe, lead programmer Ranjit Bhatnagar and art director Yoshi Sodeoka, with game designer Eric Zimmerman, written in Shockwave. It was launched in 2000.
The gameplay is simple on its surface, but requires solid strategy to win consistently. The graphics are also simple, and are inspired by the work of "outsider artist" Henry Darger, illustrator Edward Gorey, Japanese anime, and early, 8-bit video games of the 1980s. The game focuses on community-building through chat both in the game and on its associate message boards.
In a departure from the androcentric norm in video games, all of the players in Sissyfight are rendered female and nonsexual.
Sissyfight is often cited as an early example of a web-based MMOG in gaming development and academic circles. Although each game session only contains three to six players at a time, the mechanics of "brownie points" and the robust community surrounding Sissyfight create a much more "massive" experience than most small-scale web games.
Sissyfight 2000 was created using an iterative design process.
Up to six sissies can play in a single game, but a game can be started with a minimum of three. Each player starts with ten hearts, each standing for one "self-esteem point". The game is turn-based, with each player picking her move independently and in secret from the others. The players can, however, use the in-game chat bubbles to create alliances and coordinate their moves. Keeping with the game's playground theme, players can attack each other by teasing, scratching, or tattling on one another. With each round, players try to eliminate each other's self-esteem until only two (or even one or none!) are left standing. Those two become the winners of that game.
Although most games end with two victors, it is also possible for a player to pull off a "solo", or single-player win. There are also rare cases in which all of the players lose; special music plays when this happens.
Some players have devised several methods of cheating
. Most often, two players will resort to using an instant messaging
service in order to coordinate their moves outside of the in-game chat interface. Other players have developed more sophisticated methods, including running multiple sessions
of the game and creating secondary or unregistered accounts (called "sock puppets
" or "socks") to tilt a game's outcome in their favor.
The Honor Code, Sissyfight's terms of service, strictly forbids these behaviors.
Players have invented their own game variations, with unique rules. For example, "Tease Tag" requires everyone to tease, while "Tease The Slow" requires everyone to tease the last person to make a move. Other variants include a "no cower" rule, which is faster-paced and concentrates more on offense. Since these variants are not hard coded into the game, some players do not follow the special rules. As a result, the other players themselves must often enforce the rules themselves by teasing out the rulebreakers.
Sissyfight was a surprise hit when it was launched in 2000. However, it suffered from a lack of promotion and development after Zapata Corporation
, its parent company, closed down Word
later that year. Nonetheless, the community has proven strong enough to sustain itself, with an unpaid administrator and moderators managing the game and message boards. Gamelab
, a game development company founded by Zimmerman with other members of the original Sissyfight team on staff including programmer Ranjit Bhatnagar and designer Naomi Clark, now maintains and runs the Sissyfight servers.
Since its release, Sissyfight has consistently been named a top internet game by online magazines and continues to remain popular among its loyal "sissies" (the community name for regular players). In 2001, it was a nominee for the Webby Awards in the Games category.
- Executive Producer - Marisa Bowe
- Concept - The Staff of Word & Eric Zimmerman
- Game Design & Project Management - Eric Zimmerman
- Lead Programmer - Ranjit Bhatnagar
- Art Direction - Yoshi Sodeoka
- Art & Interface Design - Jason Mohr
- Producer & Assistant Game Designer - Naomi Clark
- Additional Programming - Wade Tinney
- Text - Naomi Clark and Daron Murphy
- Sound and Music - Lem Jay Ignacio
- Communication Engine - Lucas Gonze
- Additional Project Management - Michelle Golden
- The Sissyfight 2000 site
- "GAME THEORY; Battling Little Monsters in the Schoolyard," by J. D. Biersdorfer, The New York Times, March 30, 2000
- "The Virtual Bitch Slap: A new game, Sissyfight 2000, lets me be the playground bully I never was," by Amy Silverman, Salon.com, April 27, 2000
- "Sissyfight: The Net's nastiest little game is a girl-vs.-girl showdown," by Russ Spencer, Salon.com, April 26, 2000
- Game designer Eric Zimmerman discusses the "iterative design" process using Sissyfight as a case study