Zoe Quinn doesn’t just make heartfelt, experimental games like Depression Quest. She’s also pretty set on becoming a cyborg, judging from the cyberpunk as hell implants she’s got over the last couple of years.
On her left ring finger, she has a magnet which is coated in silicone. It lets her feel magnetic fields, wires, and obviously, pick up some metal objects. (And no, she can’t mess up hard-drives with it - it’s not big enough.)
More recently, she got a NTAG216 chip implant on a hand as well, which lets her do…well, whatever she programs it to do.
“I’m not sure what all the possibilities are,” Quinn wrote on her blog. “I can tell you that I’m planning to make a game that integrates it, and I can lock and unlock my phone with it super easy as well as transmit data to other compatible NFC devices like Android phones.”
NFC stands for “near field communications,” and it’s a technology that can transfer data between devices that are in close proximity to one another with just a tap or a wave. It’s the thing that allows you to pay for things with your phone in stores, for example. NFC is a newer version of RFID, radio frequency identification - but RFID has a longer range, and NFC allows two-way communication.
One of the Quinn is doing with her chip is giving out free Steam codes with it - and naturally, as you can see in the video above, she opted for Deus Ex, the cyberpunk role-playing game. It’s kind of perfect.
You can even watch her get the implant in this video, around the 4:08 mark. Obviously, this isn’t for the squeamish:
“There were two majorly difficult parts - the initial break of the skin, and finally getting past the tapered part,” she explains in a blog. “You have to go deeper than just that, too, otherwise the chip will migrate toward the entry wound.” It’s also worth noting that Quinn conducted a ton of research about both modifications before actually going through with them.
And yes, at least two people that have worked on Deus Ex knows about the implant - including game designer Warren Spector himself.
@TheQuinnspiracy I have no idea what I just saw here but it's dreamily cool. You CHIPPED yourself? What's the story behind that?
— Warren Spector (@Warren_Spector) May 4, 2014
Why do all of this? The answer is complicated, and she gives a fantastic explanation of her thoughts on body modification here. But if you want a cliffnotes version: body modification comes as a sort of rebellion against societal norms for her, amongst other things.
“Body modification has been around since we’ve had bodies to modify, yet it ends up being somewhat of a controversial topic in very strangely selective ways,” Quinn says on her blog. “Very few people will bat an eyelash at a pair of pierced ears, but will turn up their nose at the same jewelry a couple inches away in a lip or an eyebrow. No one will comment if you dye your hair from brown to auburn but go a few more shades and suddenly it’s a big deal and people will start asking you what your relationship with your parents is like and tell you you’re not fit to work in the lowest paying jobs in the country.”
“I grew up with [body modification.] I was raised in a Harley shop and was in the room when my dad got a tattoo when I was 3. It seemed like magic the way the tattoo gun would seemingly float across his skin, leaving art underneath. My mum was as heavily tattooed as he was,” Quinn reminisces.
“I wanted the chip in me sooner rather than later, to start programming things in my body, to connect more closely with the tech I use to make my art,” Quinn says. “I didn’t want to just go to a body piercing studio I have no rapport with and sit there like it was just a routine procedure when these things mean so much more to me, as gross and weird as that may seem to most people. I wanted to do it myself, I wanted to take that leap and see what it was like, to DIY biohacking and reach for a more interesting future with my own hands.”
So far, both the modifications sound like they have been worth it.
look it might be evil but since I've gone cyborg I just... feel... weirdly... different #beepboopkillallhumans woah
— Zoë ʻRobobuttʼ Quinn (@TheQuinnspiracy) May 5, 2014
More seriously, though, when she initially got the magnet implant, she described being able to feel all sorts of cool things.
“I feel like a really specific telekinetic. I can also feel the field put out by my laptop in some spots. It feels like when you press your hand against a really carbonated drink can and feel the bubbles, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. Then again, it being somewhat indescribable is one of the reasons I decided to do it instead of just read about it. I can’t wait to see what happens as it heals more.”
“It’s really goddamned cool to be able to *feel* the tools I make art with,” Quinn says. “Even in the minor ways it’s already working, I feel more than ever that the computers I pour code and art into are extensions of myself, and that’s pretty goddamned cool in my book, but I am hopelessly romantic about creativity and prone to fits of stereotypical artist bullshit so, grain of salt.”
It sounds like these two “augments” aren’t the only ones she’ll be messing around with, too.
And just in case you’re getting any wild ideas about doing the same thing, here’s a part of a FAQ Quinn has written up about her chip that might be of interest to you:
Q. Should I do this to myself the same way you did?
NO. I HAVE TRAINED UNDER LICENSED PIERCING PROFESSIONALS AND TOOK A HUGE RISK IN DOING WHAT I DID DON’T BE CRAZY. I don’t condone anything I did in this video nor do I suggest it, it was pretty reckless to be honest and you should absolutely not do this to yourself. I knew the risks and did it anyway.