Think of video game companies and your mind is instantly drawn to the giants like Nintendo, EA Sport, Epic and so on. It is true to say that these major names from the USA and Japan have created some of the best-selling games and even that they have been instrumental in shaping the gaming industry as it is today.
However, they certainly don’t have a monopoly. In fact, many of the most memorable games have come from relatively obscure game studios in far flung corners of the world. Australia is a case in point, where the tech industry is now one of the top three contributors to the nation’s GDP.
Gaming is one of the most significant niches in the tech sector, and there are more than 30 gaming companies in Australia. They might not be household names, but they are responsible for some titles that are guaranteed to go down in history as classics. Let’s look at a few examples.
Fruit Ninja – the original smartphone game
Back in 2010, Apple released its new iPhone 4. As the world started to acknowledge that smartphones really could be the future, a Brisbane-based game studio called Halfbrick wondered what it would be like to create a game that uses a smartphone’s touch screen interface. At the time, it was a left-field idea that might or might not have some mileage to it.
So it was that Fruit Ninja came about, the original smartphone game and one so intuitive that your granny could play it. It’s impossible to overstate its importance, as it essentially kickstarted the entire mobile gaming movement. As for Halfbrick – they went from strength to strength to open up new studios across Australia and Asia Pacific.
Journey – gaming can be as emotional as a movies or music
In years to come, when gaming has matured a little more, people will talk about classic games the same way they discuss albums. If Fruit Ninja is Sergeant Pepper, Journey is the Dark Side of the Moon.
There are no words and there is little in the way of instruction, because neither is needed. The player takes the role of the mysterious, robed figure and crosses a barren landscape with foreboding ruins and a mountain on the horizon.
That’s all we will say, the rest needs to be discovered and the experience is in the journey. Journey changed our preconceptions about what a game can do and how we can engage with it emotionally.
Match Poker – developing casual casino goers into elite poker players
Poker is a game that has been close to Australian hearts and minds since long before anyone had heard of smartphones, PlayStations or even the internet. However, its popularity has grown exponentially since people have been able to play online. Here’s the problem, however. It’s one thing to log on to a casino platform, search through the different casino games online and try your luck at 3-card poker or video poker or even Casino Holdem. It’s then quite a leap to graduate from what are essentially casino games against the house to competitive PvP poker. That’s where Match Poker comes in.
Fronted by Melbourne businessman, financier and part-time poker fanatic Julius Colman, the game incorporates a whole range of training tools. The really clever part is when it pits players against set piece scenarios.
The way it works is this: Every player is at a separate table in a no-limits Holdem tournament set-up. After each hand, the chips for each player are reset and a new hand is dealt.
After a set number of hands, let’s say 100, the players can have their performances compared and ranked. Remember, everyone has the same baseline, the same hand, the same choices to make at the flop, turn and river. This means there is none of the usual variance experienced in comparing poker performances, and the differences are only down to skill, not chance.
It’s different to anything the poker world has seen before and its value to aspiring players is inestimable.
Apartment – an emotional reflection on the world of 2020
We will all look back on the events of 2020 from our own perspectives, remembering the separation from loved ones, social isolation and changing working environment. Books have been written, songs composed and screenplays penned about that period – so why not games, too?
Apartment is Kalonica Quigley’s very personal reconstruction of those times. The game developer left her Melbourne apartment in March 2020 to sit out the next few months in the company of her parents in rural Victoria.
The game involves a lovingly created virtual reconstruction of Kalonica’s city apartment that players can explore and where they can interact with others. It’s evidence that a creator can put just as much of themselves into a game as they can a novel or a piece of music.
She lays bare her vulnerability, hopes and disappointments from what was a terrifying time for everyone. Apartment is a game that will only get more touching and evocative with age.
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