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Knife Sisters

Knife Sisters

Dark, cute & queer – inspirational sources

January 29, 2019 • By

I’ve been posting pictures on Instagram from inspirational sources for Knife Sisters, and it made me want to sum it up here as well, in a little more detail. First, the origins of a project are of course a multitude, from events in one’s own life, people you’ve met, experiences that are kept in the back of one’s head … but there are also sources of inspiration that are easier to track down, and those are the ones I’d like to talk about here.

When I started working on designing Knife Sisters about two years ago, there were two works specifically that affected me: Ladykiller in a Bind by Christine Love and the Wet Moon series by Sophie Campbell.

Ladykiller in a Bind – Christine Love, 2016

The lovely queer game, about The Beast who has to impersonate her own twin brother at a school cruise, came into my life at a point where I was struggling with how to tell the story of Knife Sisters in a game format. Ladykiller in a Bind offered an answer to that. Not only was I inspired by its theme and storytelling, but also by the functionality. I knew I had to be able to tell a complex, character driven story, but I also wanted to include game elements such as meaningful choices, and stats that could affect the players’ decisions. Ladykiller in a Bind was the perfect example of such a work, and I analyzed it thoroughly.

Ladykiller in a Bind – The Princess

Wet Moon – Sophie Campbell, 2004 – present

About the same time, I worked on concept art. I’d known for a long time that I wanted to do the art in black & white – because I’ve always loved that. Around then, my friend tipped me about the Wet Moon series, and I got all of the (then) six parts from the library, reading them in just a few days. I got very inspired by the diversity of the characters, something that affected me in the character creation for Knife Sisters, having me redesigning some of the characters.

Wet Moon characters Cleo and Trilby

But I’d worked on this project for quite some time before I even stumbled on those works. Early on, I stated the tv-series Skins as one of the inspirations, along with other British tv-series such as Cucumber and Banana. There is a certain roughness to them that I really enjoy. They are bold when it comes to showing sexual content and they don’t shy away from including heavy subjects.

Skins – Jamie Brittain, Bryan Elsley, 2007-2013

What I especially love about Skins is that the young people in the series are giving the mandate to sort out their own problems, without the adult world interfering a lot. Sometimes that is of course not realistic, but as a young person struggling to find your way, that’s sort of what’s on the agenda: trying to form a life where you yourself is in charge.

Skins series one characters Sid and Cassie

Shortbus – John Cameron Mitchell, 2006

I was also inspired by Shortbus, a movie about a number of characters in New York City, that all come together at the queer sex club Shortbus. The movie got a lot of attention for being sexually explicit, without for that sake being porn.

What I think Shortbus does is bringing sex into a story as an important thing in people’s lives, showing sexuality as a force to be reckoned with, something that actually affects us a lot. That’s something I want to do too. I oppose the way that sex is treated as separate from ordinary life, as though it should be handled privately and never really spoken about. I think that does us harm.

Shortbus

Long before that came another work that affected my drawing style and storytelling a lot, and which I think I always carry around as a profound inspiration, namely Love & Rockets.

Love & Rockets – Jaime Hernandez, 1981-present

Love and Rockets is an influential comic magazine created by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez in 1981. Though loving both Gilbert’s and Jaime’s works, I was especially inspired by Jaime’s stories about Maggie and Hopey, the two punk girls who became lovers as teens, and who we then could follow into their adulthood.

Those were stories about queer punk kids, and since I was one myself, they meant a lot to me. My drawing style was already somewhat similar to Hernandez’, and his stories inspired me even more to come up with my own stories and characters.

Maggie and Hopey, Love & Rockets

As I said, it is almost impossible to know what has really inspired you, since your brain does a mix of everything you’ve ever experienced and creates an output from that. But the sources I mentioned are those I know have affected me, and which I can see direct effects from in my work. I’m very thankful for having encountered them at points in time when I really needed them. They gave me keys to the future!

Knife Sisters

Symbolic and Logical – The Tarot Cards

January 16, 2019 • By

I’ve always had a great fascination for tarot cards and other similar meaningful/figurative cards, such as the Kille card deck. As an eleven year old, I created my first divination game, based on my own cards.

I’ve since worked on many projects that incorporated divination and tarot cards in different forms. One example is the board game prototype The Fortunate, where players created a prophecy for their own future (similar to a horoscope) by collecting tiles.

The Fortunate – game prototype

In the unreleased Ozma project The Silent Town, tarot cards were an important part of the mechanics. They were used to determine the fate of the game’s characters, in a tarot play session inside the subconscious.

The Silent Town – Concept Art by Steffi DeGiorgio

In Knife Sisters, the tarot cards are not part of the game’s mechanics, instead the main character can do a tarot reading at an event in the game’s Occult shop. I finally got to illustrate my own version of the Major Arcana for use in the game.

It wasn’t until I was about to write the tarot scene in Knife Sisters that I actually researched more in-depth what the individual cards meant. Up until that I had mainly been interested in them as concepts, as game design components, but also a bearer of some elusive, magical meaning.

I think some games have a quality that is rarely talked about, but very important, that is just that: They stand for the magical, the mysterious, the things we cannot explain. In a way that’s the complete opposite of what most games are built upon: logical systems. But it’s not really a contradiction. A logical system can be made to contain and enhance more esoteric phenomena, and that’s exactly what a tarot layout does. It’s also what makes games so fascinating: they can incorporate both the logical and the fantastic.

I’m not sure that I personally will continue using tarot cards for tarot readings, but I do see why you’d want to. They can definitely serve as keys to find personal meaning, to view things in a new light, and to connect to emotions that might be hard to grasp. My fascination for combining logical systems with components that have symbolic meanings will probably never diminish.

Knife Sisters, Update

The hurdles of marketing a game with adult content

November 26, 2018 • By
So, the Kickstarter campaign is soon coming to an end! During this campaign I’ve learned so much that will be invaluable when the game launches this spring, and for that I am very grateful. But some of the things I’ve learned are a bit bitter to swallow …

When I started this project, I didn’t think that much about how it would be received. That is a necessary starting point for me to be able to create things straight from my heart, saying exactly what I want to say, not thinking about how people will react. So I’ve been telling the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to – and that means it has explicit sexual content in written form, it has some strong themes, and a little nudity here and there. The players who have tested the game have not had any complaints about that though! 🙂 I wasn’t totally naïve – I knew from the start that I might not be able to sell the game on the biggest platforms such as the App Store and Steam. But I didn’t want those kinds of things to stop me from doing what I wanted.

I’ve always been interested in challenging norms, but maybe my being from Sweden (which is a pretty progressive country when it comes to how sexuality is viewed), made me not fully understand how different the view on sex is in other parts of the world. I’ve published four fiction novels, some of which are targeted towards young adults and include sexual content and no one have had any complaints. I’ve written erotic short stories aimed at teens and young adults, that will be published in an anthology by RFSU Malmö (an organization that engage in sexual politics) and those stories are just as explicit as anything in Knife Sisters. In Sweden it’s totally fine to write serious stories about sex. I’ve now understood how privileged we are to be able to do this.

Since the development process of Knife Sisters is coming to a close in a couple of months, I’ve since autumn started to reach out a bit more with the project. About that time, Steam changed their policy to allow for adult content, which I of course think is a good thing – but they’ve made it very hard for people to actually find that content. If users haven’t checked the box for wanting to see adult content, the game doesn’t show up in search results – even if the users themselves were looking for it. It’s as if the game doesn’t exist. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that I can sell it on Steam at all.)

Friends of mine who’ve tested the game and who I’ve told about this get rather surprised. They don’t view the game as porn. But right now it feels like everyone else does. No, there’s one exception: Kickstarter doesn’t! They’re allowing me to do this campaign and I’m very happy about that. The problems arise when trying to market it. Facebook and Instagram doesn’t allow for marketing posts that refer to the game, since it includes adult content. It doesn’t matter if the post itself is super clean. Twitter takes it even further, not allowing my account to market any posts at all, since the account is associated with content that goes against their marketing policies. Anyone who’s seen my Twitter account I think can verify that there’s not much porn going on there … but that doesn’t seem to matter.

After trying to market posts on Instagram a few times, to see where the limits are, they’ve now blocked me from following people. I don’t know if that block will last, but if it does, I think I can see that Instagram account as pretty much dead. It doesn’t matter that much, because I haven’t got many followers, but I’ve been posting there since I started the project, so it has some sentimental value to me.

I understand that platforms want to have rules, I understand that they don’t want their users to get explicit sexual content and porn shoved in their faces … but this is far from that.

In a way all of this makes me feel that what I’m trying to do is more important than I originally thought, and that this is much more of a political thing than I thought – and that’s spurring me in a way. But in another way, I just want the people who might like my game to be able to find it. And that seems like a big challenge right now.

Knife Sisters, Update

On ethical dilemmas in games

November 24, 2018 • By
Yesterday we we’re at SpilBar in Copenhagen, showcasing the game and listening to great talks about moral choices in games. I of course support the idea that games can be much more than entertainment (not saying that entertainment is anything wrong, though).

Jordan Erica Webber presented ideas from the book “Ten things Video Games can teach us about Life, Philosophy and Everything”, by herself and Daniel Griliopoulos, and Miguel Sicart talked on the topic “Choices That Matter: Games Through the Lens of Ethics”. Tomasz Kisilewicz gave us his thoughts on the processes of making This War of Mine and Frostpunk.

In Knife Sisters I’m also dealing with ethical dilemmas and the question of how far you are willing to go to be accepted by someone you love. Most of us want to make the right choices – but how do you actually know what’s right? That’s up to you to decide, while playing the game.

Knife Sisters

Knife Sisters at A Maze and Yonderplay

April 19, 2018 • By

This spring there are two chances to get a preview of Knife Sisters – if you are attending either A Maze Festival or the Nordic Game Conference.

The game will be shown at Open Screens at A Maze Festival, on Thursday the 26th of April from 3-6 PM.

Knife Sisters is also selected as one out of nine nominees for Yonderplay, the indie game initiative at Nordic Game Conference, curated by Copenhagen Game Collective. The Yonderplay Showcase is on the 25th of May.

We’re looking forward to see people playing and get some feedback on the game!