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December 2019/January 2020 Vol 90:10 $5.95

10 2019

God Jul och Gott Nytt Ã…r

Swedish Gaming Industry Minecraft Candy Crush Saga A New Christmas






The Candy Man Can

Swedish game engineers in the competitive world of digital entertainment. By Sofie Kinnefors


ounded in 2003 by Riccardo Zacconi, Thomas Hartwig, Sebastian Knutsson, Lars Markgren and Patrik Stymne in Stockholm, the Swedish game maker was bought in 2016 by Santa Monica-based video game holding company Activision Blizzard. King has studios and offices in Stockholm, Malmö, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Malta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Swedish Press spoke to Svärd at King’s studio about the company’s success, its game development and his very own Candy Crush live score. “The company is built on a balance between industry-leading creativity and a data-driven mindset. We are team-oriented and inclusive in our way of working, and this has played an essential role in King’s success,” says Svärd.

The company, which develops computer games for the web such as Facebook and Windows 10, as well as for mobiles such as Windows Phone,

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Android and iOS, made second place on Swedish Game Developer Index list of Sweden’s 10 biggest gaming companies by revenue in 2018. With 247 million monthly active users (Q3) and over 4 billion downloads, the King franchises and their games, includ­ing Bubble Witch, Pet Rescue, Farm Heroes and puzzle video game Candy Crush are – to say the least – greatly appreciated. Daniel Svärd. Photo:

King is one of Sweden’s biggest gaming companies. It took the world by storm with its successful saga game “Candy Crush” in 2012. Since then, the company – with Daniel Svärd, VP Head of Live Games Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga, as well as Fiction Factory game engine at King’s Stockholm studio – continues to develop their mobile games and ever-growing fan-base.

Svärd insists that King’s success is because of a diverse and tech-savvy work force. “To ensure we maintain our creativity and a holistic view of creating games, we work hard to recruit people from different backgrounds with a variety of perspectives,” says Svärd. “King’s recipe for success is a combination of creativity, our capacities in data analysis and our diverse teams, approximately 2000 employees in total, along with a humble and inclusive culture ,“ he adds.

Svärd completed a Bachelor’s degree in computer science at KTH in his native Stockholm. He then worked in various roles within gaming and other industries before joining King in




2013. He quickly worked his way from Game Performance Director, Head of Studio for King’s Malmö studio to his current position at King’s Stockholm studio. “I started working at King because I was impressed by the unique atmosphere and culture, which is a red thread through everything that we do.”

Overall, Svärd’s main priority is “to make sure that we keep investing in our two largest Candy titles, so as to ship more and greater experiences to our players. We’re constantly experimenting and innovating on how the Candy Crush games are experienced.

The overall franchise now has more features, more levels, and greater product innovation, and this is something we will continue to work on. ”

With over four billion downloads since its launch seven years ago, Candy Crush Saga is King’s most popular game. Svärd mainly attributes the game’s success to the improvements done to the game after its launch.

“Unlike the traditional video and computer game format, where the development process is considered done when the game is launched, a mobile game is constantly under further development. At least, that is the case with King’s games. We constantly improve and develop Candy Crush Saga through a data-driven approach where we listen to our players’ experiences and reactions to the game and iterate on the content to improve the gaming experience. I think that has contributed to the stamina in the game’s popularity.”



For those who have not yet tried the popular game, Svärd suggests penciling in some time on their busy agendas. “Give it a go if you haven’t tried it! Candy Crush Saga provides a nice break from your daily grind. It’s a colorful world of candy where you constantly receive new challenges. You may also find that it’s a pretty good ice breaker since most people around you likely play Candy Crush Saga, too.”

He says that although there are so many levels to aspire to, “I’m only at level 715 in the live version. There

are currently over 5700 levels in the game, so I have plenty of fun ahead of me!” All photos ©

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Top Sju



Celebrate Christmas the Astrid Lindgren way by visiting the Swedish author’s childhood home “Näs” and the Christmas market in Vimmerby, Småland this year! The very special market, which takes place on December 13 – 15, features local foods, sweets and plenty of crafts. Visitors are also invited to take a tour, offered every day at noon, 1 and 2 pm, in the house where Lindgren was born and raised. Entrance fee to the market is 60 SEK. Children eight and under go free.

Add more zest to your holiday table this year with sparkling bright yellow “saffranscider” (saffron cider) from St. Eriks brewery in Stockholm, Sweden. Saffron cider is based on organic apple cider and flavored with saffron, orange and vanilla. Serve the cider (alcohol content 4.5 percent) as an aperitif or as a complement to “glögg” (mulled wine). Saffron cider is available for purchase at Systembolaget throughout the Christmas season. Look for a yellow bottle with a label of a saffron bun on it.

St.Petersburg’s Nötknäpparen. Photo © Julius Production

24 Sweet countdown! Malmö Chokladfabrik, founded in 2004 and one of Sweden’s few chocolate producers, is releasing a luxurious chocolate calendar filled with 24 ecological pieces free from nuts, gluten and soy this Christmas. Internationally awarded multiple times for its chocolate and design, Malmö Chokladfabrik is known for combining carefully handled organic cacao beans and exciting flavors in a completely nut-free factory. Look forward to ten different flavor combinations, including lemon, licorice, pears and cardamom in your delicious calendar.

10 World-renowned St . Petersburg Festival Ballet is bringing their performance Nötknäpparen – En jultradition (The Nutcracker – A Christmas Tradition) to Sweden – beginning with a visit to Stockholm on December 10, followed by performances in Gothenburg on December 14 and Malmö on December 15. All ages will enjoy this beautiful classic Christmas story, featuring talented dancers, spectacular stage design and extravagant music by the great Russian composer Tchaikovsky. Info: www.

9 Swedes love their “pepparkakor“ (gingerbread cookies) – especially during the holidays! Make ”Pepparkakans dag”, established in 1996 and celebrated on December 9,

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the day you set your dough, pick up pre-made dough at the store, or simply buy a tin of ready-made crisp cookies consisting of ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Gingerbread cookies have been said to make people who eat them kinder, so each year during Pepparkakans dag amusement park Gröna Lund in Stockholm honor “årets snällaste” (the kindest person of the year).

5000 Recycle and get a discount! People who enjoy eating bread from Swedish bakery company “Bageri Skogaholm” can now recycle their plastic bread bags at one of Sweden’s over 5000 recycling stations. Simply download the “PantaPå app”, travel to the nearest recycling station found in your app, scan the barcode on the bag and throw it in the right container. As a reward, you’ll receive a discount coupon for your next purchase of bread from Skogaholm.

5 A study about eating habits at Örebro University showed that people who eat Mediterranean foods have a higher content of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory substance that counteracts a wide range of diseases, including diabetes. Mediterranean foods contain a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and chicken, and less red meat and fatty dairy products. The National Food Agency (Livsmedelverket) recommends five fist-sized portions of fruits and vegetables per day to stay healthy.

[Lifestyle] Book A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute

About the authors:

By Nate Christopherson and Tara Sweeney


is for “Akta dig! Look out!” And when you do, you’ll see the nyckelharpa, or keyed fiddle, that Axel’s father made – which followed Axel from Sweden to America. You also find Axel with his umbrella as one of the inquisitive characters who will accompany you on these pages, guiding you through the twenty-nine letters of the Swedish alphabet. Each letter does something exciting. C is “Cirkulera! Go round and round!” And for D, “Dansa! Dance!”

This fun introduction to the Swedish alphabet, a romp from A to Z (and then Å to Ä to Ö), is also a delightful tour of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, a cultural center alive with stories past and present. Artifacts from the museum’s collection are charmingly rendered in watercolor and decorated with whimsical pen-and-ink characters that lead readers from page to page. Tara Sweeney and Nate Christopherson, a mother and son collaborative team, create magical realism in A to Zåäö, their first picture book. The artifacts in A to Zåäö were carried or shipped from Sweden, or

built in America, by Swedish immigrants about 150 years ago. Some are so small they could fit in your pocket. Others are so big you would need help to move them. Some were used every day, while others were kept for special occasions. Their stories are written up at the end of the book, along with photographs of the actual objects. Says Inga Theissen, the Collections Manager of the Swedish American Institute: “As this project progressed, we understood that we weren’t just telling the story of a bunch of objects. We were telling the story of place – the story of the American Swedish Institute, the story of Swedish Americans in Minnesota, and the personal stories of immigrants. These objects serve as evidence of the layers of culture that permeate a place.”

Nate Christopherson is a special education teacher and freelance illustrator. He created art for Amy Leach’s Things That Are and a special edition of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass for the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. He received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to illustrate The Island, an award-winning limitededition collaborative artist book. Award-winning artist, illustrator, and author Tara Sweeney received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to co-illustrate and author A to Zåäö with her son, Nate Christopherson. She is author of Close to Home: A Minnesota Year in Sketches, a collection of illustrated creative nonfiction. She is professor emeritus at Augsburg University, where she taught drawing and painting for twenty-five years. Sweeney and Christopherson both live in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 88-page book costs $24.95 and will be available from University of Minnesota Press from December 1 onwards.

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[Lifestyle] Film Exclusive Interview with Vivienne Kjono

Vivienne Kjono. Photo © Manhart Photography

Meet Vivienne Kjono (pronounced Shono), Swedishborn American author, movie producer, wine-connoisseur and jewelry designer. In the following interview we follow her whirlwind career characterized by an insatiable urge to explore and create. Interviewed by Peter Berlin

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Please describe your upbringing and professional background. I was born in Stockholm. In the early 1960s my mother felt compelled to leave Sweden because of my father’s alcoholism. We landed in L.A. when I was 7 years old, and that was of course a big culture shock after Stockholm. My professional career started at age 21 in San Francisco, working for a brokerage firm as a Compliance Officer Assistant. I was making very little money and decided to become a stockbroker. I took a correspondence course in finance while working full time. I married my instructor, and we formed our own company with the objective to analyse losses and gains in the stock market. Our clients were major stock brokerage firms; we served as their expert witnesses in cases involving stock and option frauds. We worked on over 200 cases in the US District courts, bankruptcy courts and arbitration proceedings. We then moved to Seattle where I became affiliated with a law firm. I am not a lawyer but was hired to head up their international joint ventures. In the early 90s I travelled all over the world and brought TGI Friday’s to Scandinavia. It was an exciting time during which I also started up the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce (SACC) in Seattle, with the blessing of SACCNew York. Given your background in the corporate world, what inspired you to become an author and film maker? I always wanted to be in a creative

field, so I left the corporate world to become an author. I wanted to write a small, enchanting children’s story about how everybody should honor their God-given gift and share their talent with humanity. That started me on the journey of “Mykonos Blue”, an action/drama/fantasy tale. From there I wanted to create films that are heart-warming and inspirational for people to watch and enjoy, but with a message for them to take away. You are now involved with the production of a new movie called “A New Christmas.” What inspired the storyline? The story was inspired by a deep love for Christmas, a holiday that embraces one and all, regardless of cast, creed or religion. My East Indian partners and my screenwriter wanted to make a Christmas film with a twist. It occurred to us that we haven’t seen a movie in America that truly portrays the impact of Christmas across immigrants and foreigners. My producer and I worked on the

The film, “A New Christmas” was shown recently during Heartland Film Festival. Seen here with Vivienne Kjono (left) is Prashantt Guptha, the lead actor in the film and his beautiful wife, Mansi Gupta, both flew in from Mumbai. Photo courtesy: Vivienne Kjono

[Lifestyle] Film The third movie project is “The Sanctuary,” a thriller about a topsecret mission between the U.S. Defense Department and India in 1965 in order to monitor China’s secret nuclear test launches. We already have funding for half of the production, and are in negotiations with a director. How many hours are there in your day? I have two computer screens in front of me! I love what I do, so I don’t think of it as work. In addition to Vivienne Kjono with fellow producer, Rashaana Sha. Photo courtesy: Vivienne Kjono

production – we were two people doing the job of ten people, from locations and costumes to logistics and accounting. The biggest challenge was doing all this at below zero temperatures during Christmas night, but we got through it. The movie will be released December 6, 2019 for domestic distribution in US and Canada, initially to theatres and later to digital platforms. What future projects are in your calendar? First in line is “Mykonos Blue,” the above-mentioned movie. We will be in production in 2020. The second project is “Destiny Starts Early.” It is a memoir based on my mother’s life and shows the tremendous spirit a person can manifest when handling life’s strange twists and turns. We had the storyline written by a professional writer, and now we are seeking to turn it from a manuscript into a movie.

my role as a movie producer, I have enjoyed market placement in Costco of my sister’s prize-winning winery called Wise Villa Wines. I have also been asked by Quintessence jewelry NY firm to collaborate in designing unique gold and silver medallion necklaces interfaced with precious and semiprecious stones. I don’t count the hours in the day. I wake up, go to my computer, write down my stuff, and talk to my team to get our movies rolling. I am simply happy doing what I do.

Brief review of the movie “A New Christmas” Christmas in New York. A young woman unintentionally upsets a troubled young man by taking a picture of him in the street without his permission. She is a visitor from Kenya; he is a New Yorker of East Indian extraction. After reproaching the woman and storming off, the man feels remorse, turns around and apologizes to her for his outburst. It is Christmas, after all. The two of them quickly establish a close rapport. In the evening they stroll along New York streets bedecked with Christmas decorations and discover that they have much in common, despite their different cultural backgrounds. But he has personal issues, and her appearance by his side creates waves in his other relationships. The story comes

to a surprising but satisfactory conclusion. A New Christmas is beautifully filmed: a heartwarming drama of friendship, love and soul-searching set in the forgiving ambience of Christmas. Director: Daniel Tenenbaum Writer: Travis Hodgkins Cast: Prashantt Guptha, Grace Wacuka, Preeti Gupta

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Profile for Swedish Press

Swedish Press Sample Dec 2019/Jan 2020 Vol 90:10  

Swedish Press is the world’s leading magazine on all good things Swedish. An authority on design, business, culture and travel since 1929, S...

Swedish Press Sample Dec 2019/Jan 2020 Vol 90:10  

Swedish Press is the world’s leading magazine on all good things Swedish. An authority on design, business, culture and travel since 1929, S...