Home JG OriginalsEnglish Articles Natalia Martinsson on Joystick – “Creating games is an amazing way to create a safe environment”.

Natalia Martinsson on Joystick – “Creating games is an amazing way to create a safe environment”.

Γράφει ο/η Στέλιος Αναγνωστόπουλος

It is a great pleasure and honor to host Natalia Martinsson as I love Killmonday Games’ stories. A creator without a nugget of hypocrisy who boldly talks about mental health issues without taboos and prejudices. I thank her for the confessional interview. Yikes forever!

So, Natalia, can you introduce Killmonday to the Greek community?

Hello! Killmonday Games is an independent game development studio from Sweden. We focus on producing story-based games with some dark themes attached to them. Our idea is to connect deeply with emotions!

The company was created in 2012 and the only members back then were my husband Isak Martinsson and I. We started this company out of love for storytelling, games and creativity overall.

Today we are 15 people, creating our third game, not yet announced, and for the first time with 3D graphics, as well as expanding the mechanics! A dream we had from the beginning! Until now, all our games share the same universe and it’s something we enjoy creating so much!

I would like to confess that Fran Bow is one of my favourite adventure games of all time. The atmosphere, music and dialogues are extremely well developed. Also, the horror concept is captivating; murders, anthropomorphized animals and flora, demons, psychiatry, asylum are giving us the chills. It seems that the game is trying to use allegory, symbolism and altered states of mind in order to tell Fran’s story through sadness and gore. What were your inspirations for the game?

Fran Bow is a story that grew under a few years! Even before knowing it would become a game. It’s based on personal experiences, mixed with the inspiration from many art forms, books, movies and tv shows. Growing up watching Tim Burton work has left a deep impression on my artistic background. As also feeding my eyes with Rembrandt, Mark Ryden and Marion Peck’s art, to name a few, gave me the tendency to paint in a cartoonish way but with a feel of reality.

When it comes to the psychological part; I have a deep interest in reaching emotional balance after experiencing great pain in life due to trauma. I’m on a journey to find a way to heal some childhood and teen traumas and creating games is an amazing way to create a safe environment, where you can experience the whole journey, from the trauma to the healing process, creating awareness of emotions and consequences of traumatic events, as the game plays, the gamer experiences, it has a direct connection.

Gore comes from personal experiences with self-harm and the allegory and symbolism can be connected to the idea of portraying the morbid and terrible, in beautiful ways, like poetry, so it feels a little softer when it comes to the delivery of a very dark theme. About the music, Isak wanted to enhance the feelings of every scene! Playing with synths and a mix of classical with whimsical gave birth to the music style.

Fran Bow

Why did you choose a horror theme for so many meanings? Do you think it’s more suitable as a genre in order to tell a story with impact on people?

We wanted to tell the story from an open perspective in which the dark wasn’t limited. That openness to the dark, made it automatically quite horrid. It was also very giving to portray traumas as they feel in our very skin, they hurt and hold us back.

It feels like everything we touch with Isak, becomes a little creepy! It must be connected to all tragic experiences we had gotten through life. The best part is, we learned to cope with humour and cuteness, aspects you can also find in our creative pieces.

The graphics and animation are amazing. Dark and disturbing themes which conclude in charming narration giving us all those elements to explore Fran’s inner world. From a point of view, Fran is being psychoanalyzed by us and the gameplay is smashing the fourth wall of our screen. Do you
think that people got your messages?

The interesting part of Fran Bow when it comes to the interaction with gamers is that many have different experiences. And I’m guessing that it has to do with the abstraction the whole game has. As stated earlier, the allegories, they can be interpreted differently, depending on who you are.
Fans have been reaching out, explaining their story while playing Fran Bow and we are very happy to say, that it seems the game have helped people in a very personal level.

Little Misfortune

So, as an indie developer what are the main problems developing video games? I believe that after Fran Bow, Killmonday had an easier way creating a new game like Little Misfortune. As an indie game developer you have your own timelines and working conditions without pressure from publishers, shareholders et.c. Do you think that if you were working under a different state, with more obligations and rules, you could have games like Fran Bow and Little Misfortune?

I don’t know. It would be a good question to revisit after we release our third game, which has brought us so many new responsibilities! But we are aiming to always create stories that we are passionate about, stories that we understand in our very skin. So, we’ll see! As when it comes to main problems; for what I have experienced until now, every project is so different, but things that often repeat are management of time, communication and workflow. I think developers need to have an open mind, as every project will come with new problems to solve.

In Greece the video game development is almost non-existent. Is the situation better in Sweden? Does the state support the developers with funds?

In Sweden the video game industry is quite big. There are many gaming companies, both big and small. Luckily, we haven’t been in need to seek for funds after our Indiegogo Campaign back in 2012, so I’m not too much in touch with that side of things.
I know there are many publishers in Sweden that will help smaller teams to kickstart their games. Also, that European Union has supported many indie-games too.  

Any favourite video games and developers you admire?

A few favourite games are Alice Madness Returnsall Resident Evil,Dungeon Defenders, Journey, Tales from the Borderlands, Walking Dead Series, Life is Strange, Uncharted 3, Stray to name a few.

I have a special place in my heart for Tim Schafer and American McGee, as both have shared their story quite openly on social media and we got to learn a lot through their experiences on how it is to drive a company. I look up to the work of Tarsier studios as well, especially Dave Mervik who’s the writer of Little Nightmares. And I admire Karoline Forsberg so much, she is a game designer whose career is so exciting to follow! Another writer that I really look up to is Anna Megill, and so, so many others!

So, I know that you are up to something new! Can you share a few info with us?

We are currently working on the story of Benjamin, the fox, the same fox from our game Little Misfortune. We are exploring the universe we have already established in Fran Bow and Little Misfortune and expanding its lore, characters and mechanics. We could say it’s a third-person action adventure and a dark-epic journey awaits us. We are working on revealing the name and more of the story through a trailer later this year.

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