We are super happy and proud to be able to show a game that expands the limits for which stories can be told through games, and who gets to be represented in them! 🖤
Knife Sisters has been out for a little more than one month. The reception has been very positive, and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the ones we aimed to reach. Here are some impressions:
*inhales* If you want to explore queer relationships, empathic BDSM scenarios and wonderfully written trans and enby characters + enjoy a good mystery *exhales* Then go play!
– A Steam reviewer
“A visual erotic novel about love, obsession and unconventional relationships. A unique plot, art, musical content, the mechanics of choice and the depth of emotions make the game a real masterpiece!”
– Reviews Online, Steam Curator (translated from Russian)
All in all, 34 Steam Curators featured the game, of which 26 recommended it, 3 did not, and 5 were purely informational.
The diversity of the cast is a genuine delight. Modern day gaming has dropped the ball when it comes to queer representation. It’s very rare that I’ll see people like myself or my friends in the media we consume. But that’s certainly not a problem Knife Sisters faces. Characters of every kind take part in this story.
– Hailey McKay, Checkpoint Gaming
A number of streamers daringly featured the game, one of which was the Weird and Wonderful Game Watch.
I’m really impressed with the lovingly crafted detail throughout “Knife Sisters”. I’ve talked a lot about the narrative, but even the subtle animations used for facial ticks and expressions are able to cover a massive amount of ground in creating an almost fluid sense of movement for a medium that is largely static. Meanwhile, the sound cues are delightfully matched to moments representative of atmosphere shifts, with the game appropriately scored as well.
– Weird and Wonderful Game Watch
Before the game was released, we wrote this artistic statement:
As creators, we want to make a game that portrays our world, coming from a community where being queer is the norm. We want to address things such as BDSM and non-monogamy in a playful way. We want queer people to be able to see themselves in the game, but we also want people who aren’t that used to queer environments to view them as something completely commonplace, and get drawn into the game by the story.
In my humble opinion, it seems like we succeeded in doing just that, and that warms my heart!
The reach for the game has been limited (although it’s very popular with pirates), for reasons I’ll be touching upon in this blog series, but that is something we came to expect quite a while before the release. The game has always been seen as an experiment on our behalf: We wanted to be able to take risks and tell this story straight from our hearts, without restricting ourselves – and that has led to us experiencing some hurdles. But since parts of the development was funded by the Swedish Arts Council, through Kulturbryggan, we were able to make exactly the game that we wanted, and that is something we will never regret!
This game means a lot to me, since I see it as the essence of what I’ve been doing artistically since I was a teenager. I’ve been working in the games industry since 2005, and my aim has always been to explore what games are and could be, in different forms. Parallel to that, I’ve been writing and publishing stories about queer emo kids, or if you’d rather: about relationships, identity, sexuality, mental health and self expression.
In Knife Sisters,
the graphic expression from the punk fanzines I created as a teen,
the stories I made up back then about friends I didn’t have,
the queer kids I’ve been writing about in my novels,
and the games I’ve been making throughout my years in the industry
are all coming together.
I hope the game will do its job in reaching people who are lonely teens just as I was, people who live in countries where being LGBTQ is not as accepted as in Sweden, people who wants to see themselves represented in games, and people who just like a good story.
Knife Sisters is created by me (art, game design and story), Pixie Johan Anderson (programming), Niklas Ström (sound design), and Douglas Holmquist (music), with support from Kulturbryggan (The Swedish Arts Council), GaymerX, and our lovely Kickstarter backers. Without you, this game would never have been made. 🖤
Now, wish the game luck on its continued journey!
We are happy to announce that we are approaching closed beta for Knife Sisters, and we are looking for story game enthusiasts to help us test the game! The beta period will take place from the 11th of March to the 4th of April. You can apply for your beta key HERE!
You are also welcome to join our Discord server through this link: https://discord.gg/g3QcHcc
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.
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.
Our next game has the working title Truer than You. It’s a game about what it means to be true, especially in relationships. It’s also a game about shame as a driving force in social situations.
Yesterday a small group of people who are interested in relationships gathered to ideate for the game. We did a workshop in the creative environment of the city library of Malmö.
We started with the exercise to draw a subway map of our lives, which we then presented to each other. Then we continued the ideation based on the game’s premise and its main character Rin. It resulted in more than ten situations and scenarios that can be used in the game, as well as many more ideas to develop further. I’m super impressed that so much can come out of just 1.5 hours of workshopping!
Rin has recently moved to a large city and knows noone …