Polish designers Aleksandra Sontowska and Kamil Wegrzynowicz reveal the origins of their 'unsettling erotic game for one'.
We’re both gamers and game designers and we first met at a gaming convention. So when we became a couple, it felt natural to make games together.
For this game, it started with Kamil and his usual 'hey, I’ve got an idea for a game' routine, but this time, his sales pitch was, 'you fuck a monster'.
For Kamil, The Beast is a love letter to Clive Barker and David Cronenberg and their exploration of sexuality and body horror themes.
For me, as I didn’t know these artists, The Beast allowed me to deal with sex and sexuality on a personal level. The human body is not so different from the beast’s. It’s both disgusting and sexy at the same time, with bodily fluids and soft skin.
But The Beast wasn’t our first idea for a a game about sex and sexuality. We were trying to design a game like that for some time but with The Beast we hit the the jackpot.
Still it wasn’t an easy road. The first concept for the game needed two players - one to play as a beast, one to play as a human, but we felt it was a dangerous imbalance of power that was very easy to abuse. We’re talking secret desires and needs here. Wa wanted players to open up and forget about self-censorship.
We also thought that games for one player are pretty rare, so we decided to make one.
While Kamil wrote a first draft, I wrote the first questions and designed their principles:
- All questions must be presupposing and provocative.
- All questions must challenge the player.
- Questions are divided into categories - sexual and physiological, personal, social.
With principles set, we could work on more questions together and start play tests. This is when the game showed it could be dangerous.
Writing a diary is a personal thing and sometimes can lead to fiction influencing real emotions. Questions and answers can linger in one’s mind and thoughts can linger way too long - especially when you imagine perverse and repulsive things and situations.
We needed a structure to make sure a player could finish the game safely and leave it behind. Just like with any other relationship - you need a closure.
We changed a few cards because they were too triggering. We also consulted sexologist, Izabela Dziugiel, to make sure our game was safe to play.
At this point we had the game ready for external play tests. Play tests are not easy to get normally, and with The Beast, we thought it would be even harder. But the Google+ game design community surprised us with its openness and goodwill.
Many people got involved and helped us: Paul Czege playtested and sponsored the illustration, helping with communication with the artist, Jason Morningstar offered professional publishing help, while many others playtested, advised and cheered.
We still struggled with our shoestring budget. We still had our doubts and had to learn a lot of things about publishing and developing the game.
But the Google+ community was great and they gave us different reactions from our local Polish community, who were mostly offended and disgusted by the subject.
In short - it took us three years to go from a bare 'fuck the monster' game idea to a complete game about the exploration of one’s sexuality and its dark corners, and the emotional and social consequences of a secret relationship.
Head to DriveThruCards to get your hands on The Beast ($15).