MENOMONIE — UW-Stout Associate Professor Erik Evensen is used to creating artwork for items people use and consume, but now some of his work will appear in an exhibit.
Evensen and his spouse, Erika Svanoe, the band director at Augsburg University, have their work from Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game on display in an exhibition titled “Analogy and Interaction: Creating a Context for Curiosity Through Games and Play in the Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture” at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville.
The exhibit, which runs through Friday, Sept. 7, is coordinated by a multidisciplinary group that brings together members of the university who share an interest in researching the development and use of simulations, gaming and role-playing.
“It is really exciting to be in this show because it showcases the more academic side of this game and the thoughtfulness we put into it,” said Evensen, who created the artwork and designed the card game’s visual elements. Svanoe came up with the concept and developed the gameplay.
Evensen’s career has included an award-winning graphic novel and illustrations for comic books.
They published the game, based on the famous Jane Austen novel, in 2014 after running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it. Evensen wrote his Master of Fine Arts thesis at Ohio State University on design research and board games. Svanoe proofread Evensen’s thesis, and it gave her the idea to create a game.
“I am just a super fan of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’” Svanoe said, noting she watched the 1995 miniseries at least a dozen times, read the novel and has seen other adaptations.
The game is based on the female characters striving to improve themselves, using their cunning to attract a suitor and marry well.
“The game is based on the reality of the book,” Svanoe said. “All of Austen’s books are about getting married. The women in these stories have no power to propose, which seems ridiculous now. The women can do some things to increase the likelihood to be proposed to.
The way Jane Austen approached it as an author was she used humor and satire. She was very forward thinking and I think a feminist at the time.
“There are a lot of men who are fans of the game and who enjoy the game play,” added Svanoe, who grew up in Whitewater, earned an undergraduate degree in music education at UW-Eau Claire and a doctorate in conducting at Ohio State University. “They enjoy delving into that role and the ridiculousness of it.”
Evensen, who teaches in UW-Stout’s design department in the School of Art and Design, noted that, in Austen’s time, marriage was about status and marriages often were for economic and social gain, making for a good game concept.
Cary Staples, a UT-Knoxville professor in the School of Art, said the idea behind the show is to create spaces where viewers could interact with the content as well as the game mechanics.
“We want to provide a space where educators might showcase the innovative experiences they have created to allow viewers to explore the ‘course’ content,” Staples said. “We also chose the games based on the mechanic of having a more open game play, where there are multiple paths toward a ‘winning’ or ‘success’ state. Where acquisition of specific ‘course’ content can be leveraged to increase success in the ‘world.’”
Evensen met Staples when he was a member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design reaccreditation steering committee and told Staples about the game.
Over 30,000 copies of the game have been sold, far exceeding the couple’s expectations. They thought it would be a very niche market of Austen fans and board game fans. The game is available through Amazon.com for $25.59.
The game has been featured on Geek & Sundry International Tabletop Day during a livestream event and at the XOXO Festival, an event in Portland, Ore., that celebrates independently produced art and technology.
Evensen and Svanoe have added two expansion packs to change up the play in the game.
One called Marrying Mr. Darcy: Undead Expansion, adds the threat of the walking undead to the heroines’ attempts to build their characters and marry well.
Another called the Emma Expansion includes six new heroines, five new suitors and 60 new event cards inspired by Austen’s book “Emma.”