BEHIND THE SCENES
Sum kind of love
How one couple juggles marriage and designing a great sudoku game.
Husband and wife Karsten and Nikita Engelbrecht never set out to be game developers. They were happy travelling around the Netherlands, Portugal and other countries working on marketing projects for the creative agency they founded.
But then the thirtysomethings, who married in 2015, decided to start a side hustle: developing Sudoku Master Edition: Logic, an elegant numbers puzzler they launched last year.
“We’ve always loved sudoku, so one day Nikita just started designing mockup screens of her dream app,” Karsten says. “And when Apple Pencil came out, we thought, ‘Why do this on pen and paper anymore?’”
Nikita handled the design while Karsten focused on coding, which he taught himself by reading ebooks and taking Swift programming courses through Udemy. A programmer friend helped out when he hit roadblocks.
One of the first Sudoku business decisions Karsten and Nikita made was actually about decision-making: Nikita would have the final say in all things. Nikita advises that couples who are also working partners need to be mature enough to let one of them call the shots – or to bring in a third person to help with decisions.
“It’s all about both partners being secure in the fact that there’s no wrong answer and it’s no one’s fault if things go wrong,” Nikita says. “You have to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them.”
Even the smallest issue needs to be addressed straightaway… so it doesn’t grow too big to handle.
– Karsten Engelbrecht
Communicating hasn’t always been easy for the duo, but it was the key to creating their app. “Niki taught me that even the smallest issue needs to be addressed straightaway,” Karsten says. “If you ignore it, it might one day grow into something too big to handle.”
At first, Karsten and Nikita became so focused on making Sudoku that they almost lost sight of their relationship. “We soon realised that we needed to also do other things we enjoy together, like reading and collecting vintage records and hanging out with our pug, Olive,” Nikita says. “And date nights.”
Refining the game has also brought them closer. “Nikita and I now know we can work together on visions we both share – whether it’s our next game or eventually opening a shop or starting a brand together,” Karsten says. “We’re capable of saying, ‘This is work, and once work is over, we have us.’”