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Feature: Behind every great woman: Richard Franke talks Kitty Powers, romance and representation

Kitty Powers has not one, but now two dating sims under her pink twinset, thus growing a reputation as the empresaria of games where you match up two characters and try and get them to like one another (I didn’t want to say ‘dating sims’ twice in the same sentence). Gaming’s most prominent and quite possibly only drag queen dev is making waves all over the place: Kitty also hosts events, and was on the PlayStation float at the London Pride parade last year. 

Kitty’s alter ego is Richard Franke, who’s worked on projects including Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit before starting Magic Notion and putting out indie games with Kitty’s name on them. Franke says he first caught the drag bug at a birthday party for Rex Crowle, the creator of Tearaway, years ago. Franke dressed as Catwoman and says that at the time there weren’t enough drag queens around, which he took as a ‘personal challenge.’ When Franke started making his own games he was looking for a way to make them stand out, as well as a way to take drag somewhere new, so combining the two killed two birds with one stone, as it were. ‘It gave Kitty a purpose and the games a figurehead.’ Franke doesn’t keep his life separate from Kitty’s, either: they have separate Twitter accounts, but Kitty’s Instagram gets a new #transformationtuesday post every week, showing Franke next to his more feminine alter ego.

Kitty Powers' Love Life

Franke says that creating dating games for Magic Notions’ first indie outings was, in a way, a reaction to games he’d worked on in the past as well as the industry as a whole. Rather than making a game where your object is to destroy things or kill people to get points, Franke wanted to make something almost the opposite to that. ‘I wanted to see if I could make a fun and exciting game where the objective was to enrich people’s lives.’ Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker, the first of these, came out in 2014, and saw you flicking through your little black book to match up lonely hearts with likely partners based on their shared interests, personality traits, and what they find attractive in one another. In Kitty Powers’ Love Life, released just last week, you take it to the next level by shepherding couples through engagement, marriage, and into the happily ever after. The happier they are, the better you do.

‘I think the drag fits well into our games because it’s supposed to feel like a throwback British sitcom/game show,’ says Franke, ‘Which in their heyday were awash with drag queens and camp comedy.’ Franke cites Lily Savage as an inspiration, amongst others, and you can certainly imagine Kitty Powers as the late 90s host of Blankety Blank. As the lively compère of a video game she offers innuendo and scandalous oohs and ahs as she helps you through running a dating agency.