Kitty Powers’ Love Life is the brand new sequel to the mega-successful Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker game. Released just in time for Valentine’s Day, we caught up with Kitty herself.
Richard Franke is a successful game developer who just so happens to go under another, well-known name. By day, Richard is the director of Magic Notion and by night, he’s Kitty Powers, a glamorous drag queen who is the face of the massively-popular Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker game. In the game, players run their own matchmaking agency with help from Kitty herself.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker has gained a cult following, both on YouTube and game streaming sites. The game has been so successful that it’s now harboured its own sequel: Kitty Powers’ Love Life. The game, due out on February 8th, will be initially released on iOS, Android, and Steam.
We caught up with Richard/Kitty in the build-up to the release to talk diversity in gaming, matchmaking skills, and love lifts.
In-app purchases have been a big talking point in the gaming industry recently, as it seems that people feel these purchases are now getting in the way of gamers being able to actually complete games. In a complete reverse situation, Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker had no in-app purchases at all. Was this a conscious decision? What made you go for this?
As a gamer, I’m sick to death of good games being ruined by in-app purchases. I have no issue with DLC packs of additional content, but constantly being nagged to buy ‘energy’ or whatever consumable they want to sell is annoying and frankly a bit exploitative. I’m not in the casino business, I’m in the games business.
What differentiates the sequel Kitty Powers’ Love Life from its predecessor Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker?
Love Life takes the building blocks of Matchmaker, remixes them and adds a bunch of new ones. Mainly, I wanted to see if I could have the player form an even deeper connection with these procedurally-generated robots than they did in Matchmaker. In Love Life, each couple is in the game longer but you run multiple couples at once. The player has control over how many couples they deal with at once, so they can modulate their own difficulty and pace.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker has gained quite a cult following on YouTube. Why do you think people responded so well to the game?
The game is not only about love, it is made with love. It’s made from pure passion for making games, untainted by corporate intrusion and pressures. Plus it’s very tongue in cheek, and designed for variety and replayability.
Every player gets a unique experience, and that means constant surprises. It is really an emergent arcade experience that you’ve never experienced before. It’s also presented in a game show format, which means that it’s very audience friendly. You only need to watch someone else play to have fun, which makes it perfect for YouTube.
A recent study by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) found that 74% of workers in the gaming industry are cis males, 61% are caucasian/European, and 81% are heterosexual. Have you experienced any encounters where there has been a lack of diversity within the gaming community?
You’d be better off asking me when I had encountered diversity to be honest. Media Molecule is an industry leader in that regard. I’ve worked there part time as a contractor for a few years and have never encountered a AAA studio with such diversity.
There aren’t as many gays as there could be (although who knows?) but there are certainly a massive amount of women compared to most game dev studios. You have Siobhan Reddy to thank for that. She is an incredible leader. There is still a long way to go in the industry as a whole for racial, gender and LGBTQ+ diversity. The video games industry is at least making an effort to rectify the situation, I will give it that.
For anyone looking to get into the gaming industry, what piece of advice do you have?
Play games, deconstruct what makes them good, and get building your own. You can build something on your own with Unity. You don’t necessarily need to go to uni, there are plenty of resources online. Most studios care more about talent, attitude and proof that you can make a decent demo of your skills than what qualifications you have.
Creating games such as yours that are inclusive of all races, genders and sexualities are therefore incredibly important. Did you experience any adversary when creating the game?
None. We took an angle of not calling it out and letting it just be diverse. And it worked. The game puts out nothing but love, and nudges and winks. It respects the player and we’ve had nothing but love back from the interweb community. Sounds unlikely that a drag queen game dev wouldn’t get trolled but we haven’t, I’m overjoyed to say.
Games like Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker and Dream Daddy have shown that there is an audience for inclusive games, and they seem to appeal to audiences not just within the LGBTQ+ community. With independent games and studios showing how its done, do you believe there could be a rise in LGBTQ+ representation from the major players in the industry?
A truly inclusive game is not an LGBTQ+ game. It is a game for everyone. I have found myself marginalised a bit by mainstream press because of our inclusiveness, and I mean no disrespect to our community, but I’m sick to death of being labelled a ‘gay game developer’. I’m a human being and I make games for everyone. My style is a little campy, but does that make it ‘gay’? I don’t think so.
But yes I think diversity is on the rise. There are already more female protagonists than ever. The problem is that LGBTQ+ is niche by its very nature, so it’s not commercially viable to make a lead character gay. Unless you revealed that Nathan Drake is bi in the final act of Uncharted 5. That would be fun wouldn’t it 😉 I’d like to make a gay protagonist cool one day. Cool for everyone.
If you could explain Kitty Powers’ Love Life in five words, what would you say?
The best procedural soap opera.
How long have you been a drag performer for? What’s your go-to song to perform to?
I’ve been doing it about ten years. I don’t perform on stage in drag all that often anymore. I did perform to a mash-up of Applause by Gaga and the Pokemon theme tune. I’ve also recorded a companion track to Love Life that I performed once so far. If you get to level 20 in the game you’ll hear it 😉 We plan to make a music video for it after the game has launched.
If you could have ANYONE pop out of the Love Lift, who would it be and why?
Probably Julian Clary. Kitty is partially inspired by his saucy humour, and I empathise with his history of anxiety. I’m sure we’d have a scream. Or Kenny Everett, who is equally inspirational to me.
In the gaming world, Kitty Powers is the ultimate matchmaker. How is your matchmaking skills in the real world?
Pretty good, I match-made a couple of my gay friends recently. They are totally smitten, so I can’t be that bad! My own love life, not such a great performance record…
If it came to it and you could only choose one profession, would it be drag queen or game designer and why?
Probably game designer. Being a Drag Queen is physically and mentally exhausting. I don’t know how full time queens do it. Game development is my primary passion, and just as exhausting, but at least I don’t have to do it in heels. I do love being Kitty though!