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Estelle is a soulful South African game developer who makes games inspired by emotion and art. She spends her days as a network engineer and her nights sharpening her craft as an indie developer. Get to know about her journey in game development so far and what she’s working on right now.

Tell us a bit about yourself Estelle

My name is Estelle Mmathapelo Makhoba I am a self-taught indie game developer with interests in AI, computer networking, and experimental deep games.

Where did your game development journey begin?

I’ll give you the short version 😊

My journey started when I was really bad at playing arcade games and would always lose at the local shop where they had games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

I spent most of the time watching other kids play and I started to question how games were made. This led me to drawing levels I would like to see in the games on paper and it was a satisfying feeling. After seeing my own creations on paper, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

What’s Ambi about?

Ambi is a dungeon crawler inspired by games like Enter the Gungeon and Spelunky. It’s about going through depression and the levels and bosses represent the different stages experienced by someone suffering from depression.

What was your first time showcasing your work like?

I had shown my work before this but when I showed my work at Comic Con Africa, it felt like it was for the first time. The event attracted over 60 000 people over four days and it was my first time showing my work to the “General” public. Having my work seen and played by that many people helped me be more confident in myself and that I might just have a shot at making my dreams a reality.

What other games have you worked on or contributed to?

I have another game that has over 97 thousand downloads, I call it ‘the game I never mention’.

Because it was one of my earlier games, it’s currently plagued by horrible comments so I decided to forget about it. I have also worked on a game called Khwezi which uses social media to set the mood and  difficulty of the game based on the player’s real life social media engagement. I have also collaborated on a robot game about finding your identity – It’s currently still in development. I have also developed a game called Oeuvre which uses a drawing mechanic to solve puzzles in the game.

What’s your favorite thing about your journey as a game developer so far?

Making games allowed me to embrace parts of me that I have always shied away from.

It might sound weird and strange but when I make games it always feels like a spiritual undertaking and it’s a very cathartic experience.

What are some sources of inspiration for your work as a developer?

I pull some of my inspirations from other indie games and also from other artforms like visual and performance arts.

What would you like to see more of in the game development scene in Africa and the global industry?

I would like to see more women of color taking part and having a say in what becomes of games. 

Anything else you would like to tell us?

I am working on an exciting new game which is a collaborative effort, with the aim of making a commercial project.

Play Ambi by Estelle here: https://starrynightskies.itch.io/ambi

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