Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Patreon Spotlight: Kira Magrann

Hi all! I have a Patreon spotlight today and it's on the designer and creator Kira Magrann, who makes some queer, experimental games that explore intimacy and cyberpunk themes, among other things. 

kira, a dark haired femme person in a bomber style jacket with tigers on the chest
Kira Magrann
Bio via Kira:
Kira is a tabletop roleplaying game designer, queer NB cyborg, and snake mom living in Columbus, Ohio. She currently has a Patreon where she designs experimental games, a YouTube channel where she talks about game design, and she blogs a few times a month at Gnome Stew. With the support of her patrons she recently released a game about Lesbisnakes in wintertime titled A Cozy Den.

You can find Kira on Twitter: @kiranansi


Kira, a femme person in a black and white flannel and jeans, kneeling not far from a large snake baring its fangs.
Kira and a big snake!
Tell me about yourself and your work. Who are you, and what does your work do?

I'm a queer cyborg game designer living in Columbus, Ohio. I'm a horror movie lover, snake mom, and I'm working on making my hair look like Major Kusanagi's. My work, my game design work anyway, aims to educate, titillate, and inspire. When people play my games I want them to feel things and have learned something they didn't know before. Hopefully the designs and concepts are also accessible enough to reach a diverse audience which is something I work hard at doing.

a series of images depicting different colored snakes with captions for high femme to stone butch, descriptors to identify characters, detailed with stats in the image text.
The identification stats for lesbisnakes in A Cozy Den, featuring a range from High Femme to Stone Butch.

details of the identification stats including presentation like lipstick, butch and femme aesthetics, and some details of how the scales of the lesbisnake impacts the presentation of the character.
Descriptions of the various stats in A Cozy Den, including presentation.
You're a known activist and queer designer. How does your perspective regarding these things affect your design work and the work you do for your Patreon?

Gosh, well, being an activist and a queer designer means that basically all my work will have some aspects of those two parts of me in them. Everything I make is queer, or cyberpunk (emphasis on the punk), or related to queer or feminine monster metaphors. It's a huge pool of inspiration to pull from, which means I can make games that are kind of like, combinations of these things, and maybe not like, 100% just one of them. So A Cozy Den, my game about lesbisnakes, is about half snake half lesbian mythical monster creatures who are trying to live together during the winter. It's also a non-violent game and focuses on cozy stories and mechanics. It also uses lesbian terminology, your stats being derived from a scale of High Femme to Stone Butch. So that's easily like, all three of my main interests in one game. This is how all my games go! I basically draw from what's important to me in my personal life, and also the genres I'm inspired by and care a lot about.

three lesbisnakes - femme heads and torsos on snake bodies - communing.
Three lesbisnakes from A Cozy Den.
Tell me a little about A Cozy Den. What inspired you to write the game? What about it speaks to your design and you as a person?

A Cozy Den came about because I've been obsessed with snakes since I adopted my 8 year old corn snake Sol about a year and a half ago now. I basically read about them daily and am in all these FB groups in the snake community and just love them so much. I've actually loved snakes since I was a child but never really owned any until now (I'm 37!). I had recently learned that snakes den together, and it really humanized them, painted them in a more communal and cozy way.

I like finding ways that make snakes less scary for people, because I think that removing fear even in a small way toward an animal can make huge changes in a person's life and in removing fear in the world in all kinds of ways. I'd also been really into lesbian lifestyle history at the time and watched this short documentary on lesbian communes, and suddenly it clicked... snake dens and lesbian communes are so similar in all these ways like, culturally. They're outsiders, American culture is kind of afraid of them, and the communes in the 70s and 80s in particular were very purposeful outsider ways for lesbians to live outside of the norm in America.

"What's a Den?" section of the A Cozy Den text.

So I basically just combined the two and was like, I can make a game that can teach simultaneously about two things I love: snakes and queer history. That is so typical of my design style. I'll basically find all these connecting points with the many genres and things in the world I love, combine them into an interesting genre game setting, and somehow teach about them in the game. I'm queer and a snake lover too, so this game is very personal, very much about me and the things I love. I also wanted to experiment with mechanics, to see if I could make a pbta game without physical conflict as the main driver. I'm more and more interested in games that don't have violence, and instead create different types of feelings or situations. So in A Cozy Den all the conflict is inter personal... can the characters get along with each other during the winter in a closed space? What does cozy look like in a tabletop game vs a video game? There's a lot going on in this tiny weird game, and its very much how my design brain and personal brain work. I could talk about it for awhile lol.

The Healing section of A Cozy Den describes using social comforting to help heal "feelings" in the game.
The "Healing" section of A Cozy Den.

Your new videos have been well-received! How do you decide what to do videos about? What is your process for creating the videos?

So, my videos, basically I recently got obsessed with YouTube (you're probably seeing a pattern here with my creative obsessions) and I was like, shit, I could do this. I've always wanted to learn more about video making and a lot of my personal media on my insta has been drifting toward video too. Whenever I want to get better at something, I get obsessed with it and do it until I get better. It's worked ok so far although I wish I could stick with one thing it'd be easier lol.

My videos are about my design process and thoughts, so while I'm working on things throughout the week I try to note particular issues I'm having while writing or designing, or thoughts another youtube video or article made me have, and then I write those down. Then I pick one, and make a word document with a bunch of bullet points stream of conciousness style what I might like to talk about in that video topic. Then I'll step away for a few hours or a day, come back to it and clean it up.

I've cleaned up my extra bedroom office so that the space behind me looks decent and I have windows in front of me for natural light, and I just use a very cheap tripod from amazon and my iphone for recording. Then I'll record in about 50 second pieces (I've found smaller ones are easier to upload to dropbox for whatever reason), upload them to dropbox, download them to my computer (this usually takes hours) then edit them in a free editing program I have on my ubuntu computer called kdenlive. I don't do anything fancy with the editing, just add music and text. Once that's done I'll upload to youtube!

A video from Kira's YouTube on Playtest Process and Design Iteration.

There's lots of tricks on youtube to get more traffic and stuff in like, the way you tag things and name stuff and put ending credits in... all those I learned from watching videos on youtube about how to do it. I want to get a little more vloggy with my videos in the future, play with cinematography more, but for right now I'm trying to get a rhythm and skill set to just make them regularly. I think of my youtube channel like a blog basically, like, what would I write about to the community on g+ or gnome stew, then instead of writing I just film it. I'm getting better! It's still mostly an experiment.

What are some goals you have for your Patreon and your design practice in general?

My Patreon is helping me become a better designer while simultaneously putting out content that I can't make anywhere else. It's a really unique opportunity to be able to explore whatever kinds of games my heart desires and not worry to terribly about the "sellability" of it, y'know? I think a lot of creators know what types of content really sells, something with fantasy fighters, something grimdark, something with skullduggery... basically new takes on the typical rpg stuff.

In order to create something truly new and different, it means that you're taking a huge chance as a creator that no one in the rpg community will be interested in playing your weird stuff. So having this patreon to support me even a little monetarily helps me make those unique and innovative games. Also it is paying my bills! I'd love to get it up to 1500 a month, cause then it'd legit be like a part time job! But until then I'm scrambling to fill the extra money in with freelance work which to be honest is kind of overwhelming. It's a dream to be able to live off my patreon. I think it'll get there. 

a sheet of paper titled Actions with various actions described for characters to take in A Cozy Den.
The Actions from A Cozy Den with some handwritten markup.
When do you experience the most joy, and the most satisfaction, while creating?

Wow this is a spectacular question and I'm not sure 100% how to answer it lol! The whole process for me is very joy inducing. I'm a hyper creative person and my imagination is always on overdrive, so coming up with the ideas is really fun. I also love to be critical, and I think editing is a critical skill, so basically the part where you're taking the ideas and narrowing them and sculpting them into something more specific is also really satisfying. The act of writing is sometimes a little tedious, but when I get a flow going I disappear into the document for hours at a time and that flow feels really good, creatively.

I do really love collaborating, especially when I'm in charge of a project and can choose who else is on my team. I'm very proud to work with other marginalized creators and hire them to create art or other work like in A Cozy Den or RESISTOR. Sharing creative work is definitely scary, but I love creating artwork that people use or wear, so when people are getting the game and playing it I feel very accomplished and get this feeling of sympathetic joy. So I guess those are my favorite parts of creating, and the things that give me the most satisfaction in the process. 

A sheet of paper titled Copperhead Lesbisnakes that includes various stats and details on the character in A Cozy Den.
A character sheet from A Cozy Den.

Patterns and colors for the various lesbisnakes in A Cozy Den based on their stats including garter, rattle, water, ring necked, and copperhead lesbisnakes.
Patterns and colors for the various lesbisnakes in A Cozy Den based on their stats.

Thank you so much to Kira for stopping in to talk about her Patreon, A Cozy Den, and her design! Please check out Kira's work and share around this spotlight to show off the cool work she is doing. 

You can find Kira on Twitter as @kiranansi and on YouTube, as well as through Patreon where she designs experimental games, and sometimes at Gnome Stew. Make sure to check out A Cozy Den, too! 

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