Cute Games: Using Icelandic Krútt Music to Understand Revolution and Resistance in Alt/Queer Games

Watch Session:


The alt/queer games movement has frequently held up punk as a model, while often adding caveats regarding punk’s more toxic elements. In particular, games like merritt k’s HUGPUNX, Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz’s We Know The Devil, and Toby Fox’s Undertale suggest a push toward softer and quieter forms of rebellion that prioritize self-care and care for others over the more individualistic and antagonistic qualities present in punk. As we try to recontextualize punk in the alt/queer games movement, it would therefore be worthwhile to look at prior cultural movements that have attempted to salvage punk’s do-it-yourself ethos and counter-cultural tendencies into more emotionally supportive and uplifting purposes.

One such movement is Icelandic krútt. Roughly translated as “cute,” krútt was originally applied derisively by Icelandic music critics but was soon reclaimed by some of the movement’s members. Icelandic music historian Dr. Gunni ultimately described krútt as being like punk but “comfy and most-of-all testosterone-free.” Considered an evolution of earlier Icelandic punk rock, krútt reinterprets punk’s rule-breaking tendencies in newer, more playful ways. The object is no longer to be overtly loud and antagonistic, but rather to move beyond codified rules of “good” art in a quest for new, undiscovered forms of beauty. Krútt musicians therefore attempt to approach music as a precocious child might—not concerned with what is “right” or “proper,” but rather focusing on the process of exploration in the hopes of finding new and interesting forms.

This talk will explore the conceptual parallels between krútt music and alt/queer games, and will proposal a new framework of “cute games” in order to better understand what is currently happening in the alt/queer games scene. In particular, this talk will focus on elucidating important ways of expressing resistance and revolution through “cuteness” and related concepts like “awkwardness” and “imperfection,” looking at how these concepts are expressed through aesthetics as well as mechanics and philosophical approaches to art creation. This talk will also present some of the lessons krútt has to offer regarding how to salvage punk and how to build and support a stronger alternative arts community.



Niamh Schönherr is your foxmom. She is also a writer, game mNiamh Schönherraker, and critic from Chicago. She has written for publications such as ZEAL and ZAM, and her game “Tea Ceremony” was a Game Chef 2015 finalist. Much of her work focuses on issues of care—both care for others and for one’s self—and often belies her deep interest in things outside games, including food, history, music, and folklore. Her name reflects her familial ties to Ireland and Germany, and it’s okay if you’re not sure how to pronounce it. Here’s a rough guide: Nee-uv Shoon-hair

Twitter: @FoxmomNia