By Sarah Tan | 28 Feb 2022
I’ve been working in the game industry for a while now, and playing games for even longer. And yet, I’ve never seen Singapore’s culture represented in games. No, that cringe worthy accent of Bolo Santosi, voiced by a British actress, does NOT count!
I first heard about Ghostlore, a game based on Southeast Asian folklore, almost 2 years ago. If not for all the craziness in my personal life back then, I would have reached out and offered to help. PSA: don’t remodel all the bathrooms in your house at once, and then have a global pandemic hit and force your office and gyms and other places with showering facilities to shut down
Fast forward to late last year. My life had settled down somewhat, and I was looking for a side project. That was when the Steam page for Ghostlore launched, and you can imagine my excitement! I reached out to Andrew, the artist and creative genius behind Ghostlore, and the rest is history.
While working on Ghostlore, I had to do a bunch of research on Singapore and its history. Here are the top 3 surprising things I learned:
Singapore is made up of 64 islands 🤯
Yup, you read that right. 64! I discovered this while researching Singapore’s islands for one of our Patreon posts and was mind blown. I know our little nation has many islands, but had always thought it was closer to a dozen. Not five times that! Here’s a challenge for you: how many islands can you name? I’d be very impressed if you can list off even a quarter of them!
In Ghostlore, we’re only using 4 of the most well known islands as reference: Sentosa, Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, and Pulau Ubin. The maps look very different from what you’d expect though, since the game is set in the past. For example, the island inspired by Sentosa is one large cemetery, a nod to the gruesome history of the island which used to be called Pulau Blakang Mati (“Island of Death Behind”).
You need permission from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to use the Merlion 📜
This one was a big surprise. The use of Singapore’s official mascot is guarded by the STB and the Singapore Tourism Board Act. Even though Andrew made Ghostlore’s version from scratch, he still had to get permission to use its likeness. If not… The team would be “liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both”
Southeast Asian folklore has some of the most messed up creatures 🧟♂️
Most of us are familiar with the common ones like the pontianak and jiang shi. But have you heard of the penanggal, a floating, disembodied woman’s head with its organs still attached and dripping poison? Did you know that this nocturnal monster preys on menstrual and birth blood? And it’s not just Singapore that has stories of this monstrosity – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines all know it by different names.
That’s just one of the many weird and horrifying creatures. Ghostlore captures over 20 of the region’s popular monsters in full pixel art glory, complete with a log book describing them.
With the current rhetoric about representation and diversity, the chance to work on Ghostlore means a lot to me. It’s a concrete step towards putting Singapore and our culture on the gaming map. At the same time, it truly is an uphill battle – I’ve been told the media only covers American and European games, and most journalists we’ve contacted just aren’t interested in covering a “niche” game like Ghostlore.
So wish us luck with the Early Access launch next month. And if you want to support the game, consider contributing just $1/month on Patreon!
Ghostlore is a Diablo inspired Action Role Playing Game (ARPG) based on Southeast Asian folklore. Play as a ghosthunter who keeps the Mogui (romanized Chinese term meaning “devil”) at bay while exploring a world rich with life and culture.
You can wishlist Ghostlore now on Steam to get notified when it gets released in mid April. If you’re a reporter or influencer, view the press kit here and contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free copy of the game.
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn here.