Thara Krishna Pillay (Programmer, Public Programs): What sparked your love of videogames and what was the first videogame that got you hooked?
Jini Maxwell: I think the first games I really loved were Flash games — I’m already mourning the death of Flash in December. As a kid, I particularly loved the Grow series, like Grow Cube and Grow Island. The whimsical art style and approachable design combined with total lack of instruction really captured my imagination — I still play them regularly.
TKP: What videogames are you playing right now?
JM: At the moment I can’t stop playing Spelunky, which I returned to after dying a lot in Spelunky 2. Spelunky is the first game I ever really enjoyed watching, as well as playing — I love watching streamers who are far more skilled than I, and trying to learn how best to survive Derek Yu’s Rube Goldberg machine of death — or even make its dark machinations work in my favour! It’s great fun.
TKP: What are your top 5 videogames that you can recommend?
- Necrobarista — This Melbourne-made game is a stunning visual novel with a strong sense of place. The art direction is incredibly dynamic, the dialogue is recognisably Australian without being forced, and the story is moving and profound.
- Hades — a mythological romp through the underworld as Hades’ defiant son, Zagreus, who wants to escape his father’s domain to find out who his mother is. Great fun, and great accessibility features.
- Wide Ocean Big Jacket — A gorgeous, cinematic little game that perfectly captures the comfortable patter of a family dynamic. The story follows two thirteen year olds who have just started dating as they go on a family camping trip, and it's every bit of funny, heartfelt, and offbeat as you'd hope.
- Paperbark — a watercolour-style picturebook game about a wombat on a hot summer’s day, narrated by Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq.
- Mutazione — a meditative, melodic story game about tending musical gardens and understanding your community. An all-time favourite.
TKP: What are you looking forward to the most hosting ACMI’s Women and Non-Binary Gamers Club?
JM: I’m looking forward to encouraging enthusiastic discussions between people who haven’t always had a space to talk comfortably about games, or they haven't felt that their tastes and perspectives were valuable. I'm also really looking forward to sharing local games with the club, and hopefully demystifying some local game making communities, and game development in general, for club attendees who might be curious about making games of their own.
TKP: Who is someone (game studio, game designer) to watch out for?
JM: I love everything that the team at DragonBear Studios are doing. Under the leadership of Creative Director Paulina Samy, I think they're setting the bar for ethical, exciting game dev practice in Australia. As a result of strong relationships with Indigenous artists and communities, and design processes led by Indigenous developers like Phoebe Watson, their upcoming fantasy game Innchanted looks totally fresh and exciting — I loved playing the demo released during MIGW, and I can’t wait to play it (and all their future games) in full!
TKP: What is the game you’re most looking forward to?
JM: I’m really excited about all the games that received funding from Film Victoria in the latest round! I’m a long-time fan of Ian MacLarty’s puzzle design in games like Jumpgrid and Tile Snap, so I can’t wait to play Logical Lawns, the meditative, multi-layer logic puzzle about landscaping he’s developing.
Olivia Haines also received funding to develop a game in the same round — she hasn’t announced many details, but her small game Terracotta was one of my favourites of 2020, so I can’t wait to see how this bigger project develops.