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With Ladykiller in a Bind coming out later this year, I had an interview with the game’s creator Christine Love, known most for her popular visual novels Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus. Ladykiller in a Bind is set to be an explicit game with sex and a focus on relationships, which makes it a more mature addition among Love’s major releases.

 

Jonathan (J): I’ve really loved how your games handle sexuality and relationships, especially in Hate Plus. It always felt very human to me, something that I find is increasingly rare in visual novels and the like. Ladykiller in a Bind seems more focused on the physical side of the relationship than your past works, but why? What else about it sets it apart from your past work?

 

Christine (C): Honestly, I don’t think it’s an especially different approach at the fundamental level—I’m interested in physicality because it’s such an important part of how emotions are conveyed in romance, and you definitely see this manifested in the log files in Analogue and Hate Plus. The only real difference is that we’re making that the focus, rather than the technology-mediated computer girl interactions. Ladykiller is a lot more interested in the aspects of relationships that aren’t mediated by technology.

 

J: I remember reading in an interview awhile back that Ladykiller in a Bind would mostly drop the social network/technology angle that a lot of your past games had, with some minor function with a cellphone. Is that function still in the final game? What about the story caused you to skip on the tech angle this time?

 

C: Originally, we had the idea of having a social network function that ran side-by-side the main game, like DTIPB (Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story) had. But we cut it precisely because it was too much like DTIPB, and it felt like a distraction. While my approach to writing relationships hasn’t changed, I don’t want the game to feel too similar to anything I’ve done before. So the game is set on a cruise ship, with no cell phone reception, as an excuse to explicitly feature any sort of communications technology in the game. Every game I’ve done before has been about interacting with people via computers, and I want it to stand apart. I don’t want to just be making the same thing over and over again.

 

J: Ladykiller in a Bind may be the first game on Steam with outright sexual content. That’s a huge thing for the service and could possibly open doors to more developers if that happens. How does that make you feel? Would you like seeing more explicit games, even if that opens the doors for less …”mature” games?

 

C: I have no idea who’ll be distributing Ladykiller or not, right now we’re just at the “wait and see” phase. I will say that I’m not going to cut anything in order to get on a particular platform, since the sex is absolutely crucial to the story.

 

Personally, I’d love to see more games attempt to handle sex without being embarrassed by it. I think, frankly, what’s immature is the persistent atmosphere of female characters being sexualized by default in bizarrely inappropriate contexts—not games trying to actually deal with legit sexual themes.

 

J: I remember a scene in Hate Plus where *Hyun-ae commented that the player wasn’t in a “tacky ero game,” so how are you trying to avoid Ladykiller in a Bind being one of those games?

 

C: Well, I mean… it’s just a silly lyric, I’m not actually being judgemental there. I don’t care if something is “tacky” or not. My goal with Ladykiller is to show both hot sex and emotional honesty, period.

 

J: What has inspired you the most? Any particular works or people that played a role in inspiring your games?

 

C: Digital definitely owes a huge debt to Introversion, since my design goal with it was basically just “Uplink, but with feelings instead of hacking.” Nowadays, I look up to way too many people to give an exhaustive list—especially a lot of people doing smaller experimental works in stuff like Twine—but one of the biggest direct influences on Ladykiller in particular has been Telltale’s approach to narrative design, which I think is some of the strongest that exists in modern videogames.


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J: Which of your games do you look back on most positively? Any you’re ashamed of?

 

C: I basically hate everything I’ve finished more than six months ago. I guess I’m still proud of Hate Plus, it’s pretty good. But Digital and DTIPB are terrible and I wish nobody would ever play them again. Just clumsy garbage, really. Every time someone compliments me on Digital years later, I have to bite my tongue—ugh, it’s so twee and incomprehensibly designed! I tried playing it a few months ago, and okay, I guess there’s some interesting things going on there, but even I couldn’t figure how to trigger half the in-game events, it’s so frustrating! And the story is just shallow and vapid.

 

Probably now that I’ve said this, I’m gonna get emails trying to argue that it’s actually good—but ugh, I hate it!

 

J: Any interesting con stories you could share? Like that time someone gave you NSFW fan art of *Mute, for example. Does stuff like that happen often?

 

C: I… guess I’ll explain the full story you’re trying to tease out here: there’s someone who saw that I was sad I hadn’t gotten any Rule 34 fanart of my characters, so he drew a really amazing image of *Hyun-ae done up in rope bondage! We chatted a little bit, and he ended up showing up at my PAX booth with a sketch he’d done while watching a panel, of *Mute with a mouthful of jizz. I am not sure he would have been able to get away with this if he wasn’t, frankly, pretty hot—but he was, so it was pretty fucking amazing. (UH, IF YOU’RE THE PERSON IN QUESTION AND YOU’RE READING THIS, PLEASE DO NOT LET ME KNOW, OR I WILL DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT.) I still have the sketch, I’ve been meaning to get it framed.

 

There was also a group of people who, at the first convention after the launch of Hate Plus—which has an achievement for baking an IRL cake for the love interest at a particular moment—came by and delivered me a real cake. It was pretty funny as a joke, but also… hey, free cake! That’s really nice!

 

In general, though, I just love doing conventions because I don’t think there’s necessarily a lot of representation from people doing the sorts of things that I do—queer-focused narrative games about women—at them, and people seem to really appreciate that a lot. I get a lot of queer girls coming up to my booth just to thank me for being there, and it’s like… no, thank you so much! They’re what give me strength to keep going, honestly.

 

J: How do you think the indie gaming scene is evolving? Is it going in a more interesting direction, or does it have a long way to go? Can it be judged properly at all?

 

C: There’s no question that there’s so much interesting stuff coming out of independent games nowadays; I don’t think the impact of the Twine revolution can be understated, there’s been this huge explosion of new writers getting interested in using games to tell stories that, on a scale that would have been unfathomable just a few years ago. Back in 2012, I had the first visual novel on Steam; now there’s so many that it’s hard to keep track of! I think we’ve finally proven that there’s a lot of interest in games that tell stories, and I’m excited for what that means as new voices come in and bring in new ideas, and people are able to continue to develop new techniques and technology thanks to there being an actual sustainable market for it. A lot has happened in just the past three years; I can’t wait to see the sorts of indie narrative games that are being made in ten years from now.

 

J: Ladykiller in a Bind is set to come out this year. What would you say the rough release window is at this point?

 

C: It’ll probably be out sometime around the end of the year. We’ve been working on it for a long time now, and I think everyone will be pretty excited to finally have it done; at the same time, I’m pretty committed to taking as much time as we need to make sure it’s the strongest story it can be, as well as… you know, the hottest lesbian bondage sex game that it can be.
You can find some of Christine Love’s work on her website, Love Conquers All Games, including a few free Twine titles. I also did my own look back at some of her work on Hardcore Gaming 101, so check that out if you want to learn more (don’t worry, no spoilers).

  • Typo or verbal slip: “So the game is set on a cruise ship, with no cell phone reception, as an excuse to explicitly NOT feature any sort of communications technology in the game.”

    Those screenshots are definitely very slick. The style of anime is refreshing too. Almost every Japanese video game has used the same character design/look for about a decade now (almost Precious Moments figurines. Not sure how that became so popular in Japan.)