In one evening during the Easter break in 2015, Ian was hiding around a corner, terrified out of his mind. Not far from him was a group of people playing a video game, yelling and screaming before a TV. Bananas, golf balls, and margarita glasses in various colours flew all over the screen. Whoever reaches the flag first, wins. The game was a product of a stressful 48-hour session of game development. Ian and six other people banded together and created Party Golf, Giant Margarita’s flagship game.
Ian Lewis, a lecturer in the University of Tasmania, founded Giant Margarita. This independent game studio with a big name is based in Hobart, Tasmania. The idea behind its creation is to promote games development in the state. Career opportunities for game development is severely lacking in Tasmania. Graduates from university must venture outside – to mainland Australia, or even overseas – in order to pursue their careers. Thus, Ian hopes that Giant Margarita is another avenue that these aspiring developers can explore.
The road to the studio that we know today was paved by a mobile game called Save the Teenies, a game with cute characters and a deceptively difficult learning curve. Ian gathered around four PhD students in Shamrock Hotel for this project. In classic Australian fashion, the meeting was accompanied with a beer in one hand, and lunch in the other. The agenda was “making something with the sole aim of coming up with an idea, and finishing that idea.”
During the development of Save the Teenies, two new additions joined the team. Lindsay became the group’s lead programmer, and remains so to this day. Kristy de Salas, another lecturer at UTAS, joined as a producer. She was also the source of all the high-pitched squeaking of our adorable bouncy friends. Save the Teenies was released in December 2014 on both Android and iOS mobile phones.
Four of the students remained to develop Party Golf alongside Lindsay, Kristy, and Ian. The game’s graphics and music was outsourced to local artists. “If we can support other parts of the art industry, we try to do that as well,” Kristy mentioned.
Giant Margarita’s current base of operations is a small “dinky” (as described by Ian) studio near the heart of Hobart. The studio oozes charm and personality. Two large posters dominate the far wall of the studio, one for each game that they’ve developed. Beside is a whiteboard, with scribbles of stick men drawn it with the words “Desert Golf”. What the most eye-catching decoration, however, was neither of those. Situated on top of a tall shelf was a large, black sombrero. It is a testament of the Giant Margarita name, and the studio’s history of margarita consumption.
“We do actually have a bunch of hats in the office. Some of them have been awarded, if you could call it that, for drinking a lot of margaritas at different venues. Then they just give us a free hat,” Ian said with a laugh.
“It’s quite simple when you break it down. We like margaritas.”