Video Games As Self Expression: The Work Of Olivia Haines

Video Games As Self Expression: The Work Of Olivia Haines

To gamers, the video games we play can have a big influence on who we are. They can affect how we see the world, and the stories we seek to consume. To developers, the video games they make are an extension of who they are and what they love.

Olivia Haines is a Melbourne-based 3D artist and game developer whose creative library is a gorgeous array of cute and colourful 3D games. Her upcoming title, Surf Club, was announced last year as one of eight Australian games getting support from Film Victoria and is one we are very much looking forward to playing.

A TikTok of hers showcasing some of her work and accompanied by the text: “The feminine urge to only make video games as a form of self-expression and make no effort to appeal to gamers” recently went off.

Unsurprisingly, the comments are filled with love for Haines’ work, with many expressing how the game does appeal to them. One comment from user minto0o0 states, “Appealing to gamers is definitely after appealing to yourself.” While developers benefit from positive relationships and open communication with their audiences, the sentiment of creating a game you love first rings true for many, and the audience appeal will follow based on who decides to play it.

I decided to reach out to Haines and ask how she uses her games as a form of self-expression.

I grew up drawing all the time and used that as my primary form of expression for a long time, but once I began making games on my own, my eyes opened to the possibilities the medium could have to expand my art abilities. Games offer a completely immersive experience with dimensions, audio and a chance for the player to truly connect with the creator. Even if the game is just a virtual environment (like my game e-scape, for example), the act of exploration can lead to surprise, contemplation and nostalgia. I’m really motivated by the idea of translating a certain feeling or time of my life into an interactive experience that I can reminisce on in the future.”

Image: Terracotta / Olivia Haines.

I also asked how she’s taken influence from herself and her experiences when making her games.

“I’ll often go through phases of fixating on remembering a certain time in my life, whether it’s a specific memory or how I was feeling at the time, and I’ll use those memories as inspiration for the subject matter of a game before I’ve even decided on any actual gameplay. I’ll try to think of mechanics that complement the subject matter, but also won’t take time away from creating the aesthetic experience I’m trying to capture. Because games take a long time to make, it gives me the time and space to truly delve into that memory and I feel like my mind has been freed once the game is released.”

Looking at her past work, it’s easy to see how self-expression comes into her creative process. Dream Street is influenced by the memory of her partner and her finding a place in 2018, while Terracotta came from an expression of emotions around the time of development. 2k Club is an ode to memories of girlhood from the late ’90s and early 2000s, while e-scape is dedicated to online spaces and games of the 2000s that no longer exist. They’re human expressions of memory and emotion in the form of interactive experiences, allowing the player to take a walk in the developer’s shoes while still being entertained.

You can find more of Olivia’s work via her page.

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