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 …
Knife Sisters will be on Kickstarter Oct 30 – Nov 29! Keep a look out for more updates or sign up to our newsletter to be reminded!
How is BDSM portrayed in games, and what can this teach us about love, life and games?
I will be speaking about this at Queerness and Games Conference (QGCon) in Montreal on September 30, as well as at IndieCade in L.A. on October 11. The topic is “Explicit Power Dynamics – BDSM in games”. Knife Sisters will also be shown at the Arcade at QGCon. I’m looking forward a lot to test the game with this crowd, and hope I will have the time to attend some other talks as well.
Games and BDSM actually have some things in common, they are both examples of play, and therefore have some similar structures, such as requiring clear boundaries, clear rules, and clear feedback, among other things. But games are also great ways of addressing power, since they include mechanisms that you can play around with. During the talk I’ll take examples of how BDSM is used in games, but also how negotiations take place between the game and the player.
I hope to get a chance to sum it up in writing later this autumn!