Road to the IGF: Playables' Kids

Nuovo Award-nominated Kids is a game of crowds - of exploring our relationships in terms of our positions we take relative to one another.

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.

Kids is a game of crowds - of exploring our relationships in terms of our positions we take relative to one another. Through examining our positioning and that of the people around the player, they can delve into the meanings behind how proximity and position can reflect our feelings and thoughts on one another.

Michael Frei and Mario von Rickenbach had a talk with Gamasutra about the Nuovo Award-nominated title, speaking about how they worked to explore what crowds tell us about the people with them through how they're laid out, and how the developers definitely want the players to feel something through this examination.

What's your background in making games?

Frei: My background is in Animation. My first collaboration with Mario lead to the game Plug & Play. We continued working together under the corporate entity we call 'Playables'.

von Rickenbach: I have been creating interactive experiences for a few years. In addition to collaborating with Michael on Plug & Play, I worked on things like DreiMirageMIKMARakete, and Moon Rabbit.

How did you come up with the concept?

von Rickenbach: In 2013, Michael started sketching strange things that later developed into the idea to create a game about crowd dynamics.

Frei: Am I actually doing things or are they rather happening to me?

What development tools were used to build your game?

von Rickenbach: Mostly hands and brains. Computers were also involved.

Frei: I am the tool!

How much time have you spent working on the game?

von Rickenbach: Quite some hours.

Frei: The initial idea dates back to 2013. The first prototype was made in 2014. I worked on it since 2015.

What drew you to explore crowds after your game of connections, Plug & Play? What made you want to look into this next?

Frei: Plug & Play was about binary relationships. Kids is about relationships that go beyond the binary.

von Rickenbach: Crowds are an interesting topic from a philosophical point of view. We were curious to see how this will play out in the interactive setting of a game.

What do you feel your minimalist, crisp art style adds to your exploration of the concept?

Frei: My intent was to design the characters as little as possible. I wanted to describe human relationships only by the positions we take relative to each other. 

von Rickenbach: We wanted to focus on basics properties of crowds as described in Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti: density, movement, direction, growth, without going too much into details. Choosing a minimalist art style helped to keep the focus on that. 

What do you want the player to feel while immersed in the crowds of KIDS?

Frei: Something!

von Rickenbach: I completely agree.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

Frei: I have played Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy by Bennett Foddy, but I must confess that I enjoy it more to watch other people struggling with the game that struggle with it myself.

von Rickenbach: I definitely enjoyed the struggle trying to climb that mountain myself.

What do you think are the biggest hurdles (and opportunities) for indie devs today?

Frei: Dollars (and cents).

von Rickenbach: To be able to make a living while making uncompromising work.

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