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Finnish Startup Hopes Yoga Game Will Nudge Gender Diversity Forward

Gajatri Studios' Tiina Zilliacus wanted to make "a counterstrike to the fashion and restaurant games."

It’s no secret that most game developers are men, even though women now represent nearly half of all game players.

The under-representation of women in design and development, Gajatri Studios CEO Tiina Zilliacus said in a recent interview with Re/code, means games are largely targeted at the Y chromosome. And the ones made with women in mind, she said, tend to fall into a couple stereotypical categories.

“We’re hoping that Yoga Retreat will be a little bit of a counterstrike to the fashion and restaurant games,” Zilliacus said. “Women are into other things.”

Yoga Retreat, which first launched on Facebook and today came to iOS, is part simulation game — players manage the titular retreat and try to attract patrons — and part educational tool. By watching yoga videos, players are encouraged to learn proper form, and then invent their own sequences of poses to share with friends; Zilliacus said these sequences can be realistic or totally ridiculous.

She said the continued representation problem is partly because “you need to have experience in the business to make more diverse efforts.” In other words, it’ll be challenging enough for Zilliacus, a Nokia alumna backed up by two former Rovio engineers, to get her game noticed. Breaking in with less experience would be harder still.

Zilliacus also expressed interest in the potential of a game based on yoga, which she called a longtime “private passion,” to tap into Google Fit and Apple’s HealthKit if the forthcoming mobile activity-tracking toolkits open up to more developers.

“These are really exciting times with the Apple and Google platforms,” she said. “When they are able to give us heart-rate data … we’ll use it so you can earn game points from completing yoga challenges.”

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