Code Breakers: Women in Games (photograph by Charlie Kinross)
Stories & Ideas

Thu 09 Apr 2020

Code Breakers: Women in Games

Exhibition Retrospective Videogames
ACMI author icon


Your museum of screen culture

Take a look back at a groundbreaking exhibition that celebrated the achievements of women working in the videogame industry.

Experience the best of ACMI at home. We’re sharing our curatorial insights into some of the world’s most influential films, artworks, TV series and videogames each fortnight.

In 2017 we pressed play on Code Breakers. Curated by ACMI, this exhibition was the first of its kind in Australia celebrating the achievements of women working in the videogame industry.   

Did you know that almost 50% of gamers are women? Maybe, but how much do you know about the integral role that women have played shaping gaming? Though they still comprise less than 10% of the industry, the contribution of women is enormous. 

Code Breakers included playable games – from indie through to commercial hits and new releases – all made by Australian and New Zealand women working in different capacities: as directors, programmers, developers, digital artists, writers, producers and designers.   

Whether it’s making commercial hits or indie titles, these women know games.

Take a peek behind the curtain of game development with interviews, good reads, DIY activities – and of course, the games!

Play the games

Armello (2016)

“It’s like Game of Thrones, but with animals.” 

Armello is an adventure strategy game that combines RPG elements with the strategic play of card and board games, creating a story-driven experience. You play as a hero from one of four animal clans: Rat, Rabbit, Bear or Wolf.

Players navigate their fully animated 3D character across the board as they scheme, explore, vanquish monsters, perform the Mad King's royal edicts, and face off against other players, with one ultimate goal in mind – storming the palace and becoming King or Queen of Armello.

Maker: Lisy Kane 
Developer:  League of Geeks

Download on Steam

The Gardens Between (2018) 

“The simplest deep game possible.” 

The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game where two best friends, Arina and Frendt, fall into a surreal world of mysterious gardens filled with moments and memories.

Together the duo traverse backwards and forwards through moments to solve mysteries within this lush and imaginative world that grows around objects from their past. The Gardens Between tells an evocative story about what it means to grow up, what must be let go and what should never be left behind.

Maker: Brooke Maggs (Producer & Narrative Designer)
Developer: The Voxel Agents

Download online

Objects in Space (2018) 

“A joyful celebration of brilliant controllers.”  

Objects in Space is a space-trading game set in Apollo – a huge cluster of star systems dozens of lightyears away from Earth.

You are a lonesome ship’s captain, buying and selling wares in order to keep your bucket of bolts afloat and stay one step ahead of pirates, organised criminals, corrupt governments and shady laws.

Objects in Space includes an innovative, custom built controller that emulates the design of a real space capsule. You navigate your ship like a submarine, rather than like a plane.

Maker: Elissa Harris (co-founder and co-director of Flat Earth Games)
Developer: Flat Earth Games

Download on Steam

Māori Pā Wars (2017) 

Defend your tower in this mobile platform game.

Māori Pā Wars is a classic tower defence game set in ancient New Zealand featuring native Māori characters and creatures. Get ready for an epic battle to defend against hordes of beasts, ogres and other nasty creatures, including the mighty Taniwha, using your arsenal of defensive Pā fortifications and special abilities at your command. Fight in forests, wastelands and mountains, customising your defensive strategy and placing different specialised Pā, each with unique specialist troops. Then rain comets, summon brave backup warriors and recruit the gods as guardians to help you in battle as you face legendary monsters and beasts on a quest to vanquish all your enemies.

Maker: Maru Nihoniho (Founder and Director of Metia Interactive, Māori Pa Wars team leader)
Developer: Metia Interactive
Publisher: Adrenalin Group

Download online

Astrologaster (2018) 

Play as an Elizabethan astrologist-doctor and answer your patients' questions.

Astrologaster is an astrological comedy game based on real-world historical figure Simon Forman, an Elizabethan doctor and astrologer who was considered a sage by some and a charlatan by others.

Players take the role of Forman: casting and interpreting astrological charts to answer patients' questions about their political intrigues, romantic entanglements, deadly illnesses and missing spoons.

Maker: Katharine Neil (Narrative Designer)
Developer: Nyamyam Ltd., supported by the European Union’s Creative Media program and the Wellcome Trust

Download on Steam

Tricky Towers (2015) 

“A brilliant physics-based puzzle/party game that merges Tetris gameplay style and Jenga mechanics.” 

Tricky Towers is a tower building game set in a magical world. It takes the familiar concept of arranging bricks with the added twist of real world physics and competitive multiplayer focus.

The goal, to build a tower higher, faster and better than your opponents, is made more difficult by gravity's constant pull, the seemingly gentle breeze and the devilish dark magic attacks from the other players.

Maker: Rebecca Fernandez (Programming team member)
Developer: WeirdBeard

Download on Steam

Need For Speed: No Limits (2015) 

“It’s hard not to get enthused when a game looks this good. The world streaks past in rain-slick console-level sheen.”

Race for dominance in the first white-knuckle edition of Need for Speed made just for mobile.

Build your dream ride with an unbelievable range of cars and customisations. Launch yourself between chaos and control as you hit the pedal and roll into underground car culture. Win races, up your rep, then kick into more races, more customisations and more cars.

Make your choices and never look back.

Maker: Erin Dupuy (Game Design team member)
Developer: Firemonkeys Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Download on App Store

Ninja Pizza Girl (2015) 

A serious game about self-esteem, bullying and resilience – and pizza delivering ninjas!  

The story follows Gemma, a sixteen-year-old girl working as a pizza delivery ninja for her father’s independent pizzeria. In a world where slums teeter on top of skyscrapers, where powerful mega-corporations exploit the poor and where quality pizza is hard to come by, Gemma must fight to keep her ideals, her family and their business intact in face of the most merciless enemies known to any teenage girl – other teenagers.

Maker: Nicole Stark (Co-founder and Co-Director of Disparity Games, Ninja Pizza Girl Art Director and Designer)
Developer: Disparity Games

Download on Steam

Tearaway Unfolded (2015) 

“With its arts and crafts ethos, it’s unsurprising that Tearaway’s biggest message remains the celebration of creativity.” 

You play as Iota or Atoi, a messenger tasked with delivering a letter to a mysterious portal in the sky called "the You".

Along the way, the messenger must save the world from Scraps, small villainous creatures that are invading the paper world via the portal.

Maker: Siobhan Reddy (Media Molecule Studio Director)
Developer: Media Molecule and Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Download on Playstation Store

A still from Heart Strings by Cherie Davidson

Heart Strings (2013) 

Guide your passive avatar through the world by tugging on their heart strings.

In Heart Strings you guide a passive character towards their fate by tugging on their heart strings.

Keep your heart on their sleeve and pull them through the levels, or throw it through the air to help untangle the pathway.

Don't take their heart for too long, or they will grow too depressed and be unable to go on.

Maker: Cherie Davidson
Developer: Elaine Carter, Cherie Davidson, Lisa Dyball, Yueyue Mo and Georgie Zuzek

Download online

SPARX (2013) 

“It’s the only game that’s got a clinical trial showing that it reduces depression.”

SPARX is an animated fantasy game and educational tool to help young people combat depression.

Pitched at teenagers between the ages of 19 and 25, SPARX helps young people learn life skills to combat depression by completing challenges based on cognitive behaviour therapies (a type of therapy that changes unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving).

Maker: Maru Nihoniho (Founder and Director of Metia Interactive, SPARX team leader)
Developer: The University of Auckland in collaboration with Metia Interactive

Download online

Alone in the Park (2011) 

A slow-paced, low-octane blend of text and graphical adventure gameplay.

Play as a rather misanthropic gamer who finds herself lured away from her computer to embark upon a real world quest: finding hidden treasure in a national park.

Annoyingly, doing this requires her to locate and reassemble pieces of a treasure map.

And instead of being populated with cool creatures like giant vampire squid bats or something, the park's forests, lakes and mountains are home to the lamest NPCs (non playable characters) imaginable.

Maker: Katharine Neil (Founder and Director of Cheap Drunk Games, Alone in the Park Game Developer) with Deb Kunda (map art)
Developer:  Cheap Drunk Games

Download online

LittleBigPlanet (2008) 

“If you’re a fan of 2D platformers or like games that are designed around creativity, then LittleBigPlanet comes highly recommended.”

LittleBigPlanet is a puzzle-platformer based on user-generated content.

The series follows the adventures of Sackboy and has a large emphasis on gameplay rather than being story-driven.

Players meet on a blue and green planet scattered with individual plots and learn to play, create and share what they build with other gamers throughout the world.

Maker: Siobhan Reddy (Media Molecule Studio Director)
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Download on PlayStation Store

ACMI at Home