Welcome to She Builds Games‘ third interview! Geina Malavolti is the second in a series of three artists that are sharing their experience with being a female artist in the video games industry. Geina was born in California, lived in Japan after the age of three, and moved back to Oakland when she entered the sixth grade. She is a passionate costume-maker, game-player, and character designer!
GEINA MALAVOLTI Concept Artist / Character Designer EDUCATION Central Washington University - BA Music Education.
When did you first start playing games?
My first game system was given to me at the age of 5 when my grandpa decided to get my older sister and me into the very popular franchise, Pokémon. He bought us our first Gameboy Colors along with Pokémon Red and Gold. I never understood what I had to do in the game at that age because I wasn’t on a very high level of reading in Japanese, but I did have fun just exploring and battling wild Pokémon. I continued to buy more games on Gameboy Color which later evolved into playing and buying games for the Gameboy Advance SP, GameCube, PS2, PSP, Nintendo DS lite, Wii, and currently Nintendo 3DS XL, WiiU, and PS4.
My gaming addiction really took off when I was about 10 when my sisters and I would spend hours on our GameCube trying to figure out puzzles on Zelda: Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask from the GameCube collector’s edition or trying to steal the best items from the town shop before my sisters did in the first Animal Crossing. I have so many important and fun memories from when I first started playing video games and I have many people to thank for that.
What made you want to start making games?
My love for video games made me want to be involved with the creation process. I am an artist, so I love creating things that everyone and myself will enjoy. I originally wanted to be a studio musician so that I could play in the orchestras that record video game music. Video game music is my favorite thing to listen to when doing anything and it was my dream to be a part of the group making that music. After realizing that my skills on clarinet will only have a thin chance of making it into that level, I decided to begin pursuing character designing for video games. I have been drawing ever since I could remember and looking back at my old drawings, they mostly consisted of Link from Legend of Zelda, or my favorite Pokémon. I want to be involved in making games because I want to share my character ideas and input game ideas so that everyone can have a great experience.
“I’d like to create a game that has a good introduction to beginners, but can also be played to a high level for those who are more experienced.”
A sample of Geina’s animation and character design work:
What is the one most important aspect of a game that you feel elevates the good games above the rest?
I think good games are fun games that include a lot of creative and original content. The original content and creativity that goes into a game is what I think gains more recognition. One recently released game that has received high ratings all over is Super Smash Brothers For the WiiU. I think it holds such a high rating because the game is purely based on fun. It gives the option to play many different types of games suited for people with different taste. Simply put, it is just a fighting game. However, this fighting game can be as simple or complicated as each level of player makes it, so it caters to all types of gamers.
As for a creative game, I think the Legend of Zelda series does a great way of creating puzzles that utilize the items or ability you have in the game. There were tons of moments in A Link Between Worlds where I just was surprised with how cool the puzzles were solved by just utilizing the ability to merge into walls.
What’s a game that you recently played that inspired you in some way?
The first one in a game that I played on the PS4 called “PIX the CAT”. This is a game that combines the simple and well-known games “Snake” and “PAC-MAN”. The cat, which you control, collects eggs that become ducks that follow you. After collecting the eggs, you must avoid trapping yourself within the long line of ducks following you and walk over the teleporting holes so the ducks are transported to safety. After safely transporting all ducks, you move onto the next room with a new puzzle.
It is such a simple concept, but this game is so fun and has so much replay value because of the various modes and the release of a new puzzle daily. My friend and I were recently trying to think of an idea for a game that is simple enough yet appealing both to casual and advanced gamers. Our main focus was that the game would be fun and will make you want to come back and play it over and over. When we came across “PIX the CAT”, I just remember being so inspired to want to create a game like this. It has a nostalgia factor of being similar to PAC-MAN and Snake but has a very new feel to it.
“I want to be involved in making games because I want to share my character ideas and input game ideas so that everyone can have a great experience.”
Is there any game you’ve worked on recently that you’d be excited to talk about?
There is a game I am currently working on with a team but we don’t want to release much information on it. So far, the experience of working together and combining ideas have been great. It will be a while until it’s done, seeing as half of our team is still in school but I can’t wait to share the game with everyone when it’s ready.
Could you talk about the work flow you use when designing a game? (Milestones you have to hit in order to build a successful game.)
In my case, when I design a character, I try to get as much information about this character as I can and I will sketch multiple designs. I explain each design idea to the leads of the team so they know what I was thinking to create them and choose. I also ask if they like particular parts in the design that I could carry over to another design.
Are there any development roadblocks you’ve run into more than once, or for an extended period of time?
The roadblock I encounter is when I can’t find an inspiration that’ll make a character look unique.
How did you deal with the roadblock and keep progressing with your game?
I try to solve this by going out and away from the house and observe everything around me. Keeping my mind off the project for a little while sometimes leads me to come up with a new character designs out of nowhere.
How do you stay organized while working with other people?
I like to have frequent meetings so we all know how much progress we have made and how much progress we’d like to make by a certain date.
Where do you get your best work done? (In an office? From home?)
I usually get most work done by sketching at home with video game music playing in the background. However, I can draw almost anywhere in public during the day to gain inspiration for a design.
What sort of games do you think there are not enough of? (What direction to you want to see the industry take??
I think there aren’t enough of Life-based games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and the newly released Fantasy Life. I think it would be great to see more games that combine the Life-based games with other genres of games.
How would you involve women with the gaming community, who otherwise might not become involved on their own?
I would continue to make games that cater to both beginner and advanced gamers, despite who we’re trying to bring into the community. If any person is not involved in gaming to begin with but would be willing to try one, I’d like to create a game that has a good introduction to beginners but can also be played to a high level for those who are more experienced. I view video games as a book. They are for everyone and anyone who would like to pick up a book, or in this case, a controller. To involve a wider variety of gamers, I think it’s important to release a wider genre of games. The popular shooters that gain a lot of attention just happened to attract more male players than female, and that seems to create an image that women are a rare entity in the gaming community. Everyone has their favorite genre of games that they like to play, but many of them don’t gain the attention that first-person-shooters do. I think a great way to get more people involved into the gaming community is to release a wider variety of games that will attract beginners and advanced players alike.
What can big companies like Microsoft do to bring more women into gaming?
Large companies have the power to hype a game regardless of the audience. I think bringing the level of hype to other games besides first-person-shooters.
“I view video games as a book. They are for everyone and anyone who would like to pick up a book, or in this case, a controller.”
What can I do locally to bring more women into gaming?
If anyone seems to have an interest in gaming, I’d love to introduce them to many genres of games that they find interesting so they can come across their favorite taste that they find entertaining or fun.