Kirsten Lee Naidoo is a South African game developer with an array of fun jam games under her belt and a passion for her local game development community. Get to know how her journey in game development began and what inspired her to get involved in projects such as A MAZE. Johannesburg and the Enter Africa initiative by the Goethe-Institut.
Tell us a bit about yourself Kirsten
I’m from South Africa and I studied Game Development at the University of Witwatersrand. Since then I went on to intern at some indie studios in SA and I worked at the Goethe-Institut where I planned and executed game dev related projects. I love game jamming and teaching people how to make games.
What kind of games do you enjoy? Have they had an influence on your work?
I enjoy games that are not overly complicated and are easy to play. Because of this, I tend to make games that are quite simple and short with as few inputs as possible.
When and how did your game development journey begin?
I knew nothing about indie games before I started studying Game Development in 2015. I enrolled because the course was quite broad and I’d be able to learn about programming and art/animation. I did not really know what I wanted to do after school so it seemed open-ended and fun enough. At the end of my first year I was the student organizer for A MAZE. Johannesburg and that really changed my perspective on games. The festival had so many games that were so different from all the ones I had seen before. From that point, I knew I wanted to experiment more and make cool things for others to enjoy.
Which of the games you’ve worked on has been your favorite and why?
My favorite is “It’s a Blob Eat Blob World.” This was made for the first game jam I participated in (SA game jam). It’s the game that made me realize that I LOVE game jamming and that I really enjoy making small but fun experiences. I often look back at it and think about how much more I have learned since then and it’s a nice reminder of where I started. It’s also very fun to play!
Aside from game development, you’ve also played roles in the African game development scene on projects such as the A MAZE. Train Jam and Enter Africa. Could you tell us a bit about that?
After I graduated I went on to work at the Goethe-Institut. During my time there I was able to work on projects that were aimed at improving the game development scene in South Africa. I worked on a bunch of different projects which included two local Train Jams. A MAZE. Johannesburg was very important to the student community and when the festival was no longer happening we needed to make sure that students from Johannesburg were able to get to Playtopia and experience the festival. So we decided to have a train jam so we could get the students to another province and still have the A MAZE. spirit in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
I also had the privilege of working on the Enter Africa project. I had joined during this project’s end stretch but it was so amazing to see everything come together. The project was aimed at bringing African creators from 15 different countries together to make games. The participants had workshops and made location based games over 2 years and were able to showcase their work at A MAZE. Berlin and Gamescom. It was so cool to have so many people who were “from where I’m from” at these events but the best part was being able to work with and connect other Africans.
What made you take on these roles and what are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I knew that I wanted to do more for our local community and every project I worked on made me feel like I was actually making a difference because I was able to create more spaces for learning about games and making games. I learned a lot about working in the project space in general (I had like no prior knowledge of what went into large scale projects) but most importantly, I learned that bringing people together is never a bad idea.
What are you currently working on that you would like us to know about?
I’m always working on a bunch of random things but I have been consistently working on ‘Henchlings’. This was a jam game that we are currently expanding on.
What would you like to see more of in the games industry in Africa and globally?
I want to see more games made by Africans available commercially and for there to be more resources available to make this possible.
Anything else you would like to tell us? A fun fact about yourself?
I am spending all my free time playing Animal Crossing!
Play Kirsten’s favorite game so far, “It’s a Blob Eat Blob World”, here: https://hirohun.itch.io/its-a-blob-eat-blob-world
Play the rest of Kirsten’s games here: https://kirsty-lee0.itch.io/