The Sokpop collective, made up of game developers Tijmen, Rob, Aran, and Rubna from the Netherlands, started calling themselves a boy band as a joke, but they didn’t start it. “It was something people joked about at events,” Tijmen told Kotaku, “mainly because of our looks.” Even if it’s kind of a joke, their cute games are set to capture your heart, and send your teenage girls screaming for their autographs.
“I think the boy band gig is more a result of us looking young and making cute stuff,” Tijmen said over email. (The group prefers to be called by their first names only.) Sokpop releases two games a month, funded by their Patreon, and they’re all seriously adorable. Simmiland is a tiny simulation game, where you use a deck of cards to add resources or change the weather. Brume manages to make the Dark Souls approach to ultra-hard adventure games feel whimsical. Their games feel wholesome, like something you remembered playing as a kid when the whole world was full of wonder.
Part of how they accomplish that is through silliness, as seen in the way they make their characters walk. In most of their games, they make their characters’ limbs flail wildly, which Tijmen said can lead to some silly situations. “For the people that play the games it can be a lot of fun to just mess around with that, like making your character do a little dance!” Tijmen said. “To me, that’s a type of fun that’s very wholesome and true. When making games, you also play around with that, and making the game becomes more playful in itself through it. Those kind of mechanics are not only discoverable in our walk cycles but are apparent in all kinds of places in our games. I think that’s what defines our style.”
Finding the playfulness is a result of talking through their work with each other. Each of the games that Sokpop produces is solely authored by one of the members, though Tijmen credits working together throughout the development process as the thing that helps refine their games.
“Kart Kids was, at some point, supposed to have multiple race tracks, but that got cut down to a single race track. The way we decide this is by sitting together every week and talking about the things we make,” Tijmen said. “The support of the collective makes it more apparent what the fun/interesting part of a game is and how we can amplify that as much as possible. So with Kart Kids, we discovered that the fun part was the chaos of all the karts driving around. Instead of making another track we optimized the game so there can be 60 karts.”
Even if the boy band thing is mostly a joke, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t had a taste of the boy band treatment. Fans have asked them for photos and autographs, Tijmen said.”I was very surprised. Couldn’t believe the boyband thing was actually working!”
Now that the boy band gimmick has caught on, Sokpop has given some thought as to who fits what traditional boy band roles. Tom is the “quiet one,” Ruben is the “sweet one,” and Aran is the “dad.”
“I myself have been known as the bad boy,” Tijmen said.