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Meet The Malaysian Masterminds Behind These Creative Southeast Asian-Based Games

From cats in kebaya to warriors fighting jinns, this game studio definitely captured the essence of being Southeast Asian.

Cover image via Persona Theory Games (Provided to SAYS)

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No one is more of an absolute geek over Southeast Asian folklore than I am, so imagine the pleasant surprise when I discovered this game studio that brings that element forward in their games

Image via GIPHY

Meet the team behind the game studio, Persona Theory Games, who spotlights Southeast Asian folklore

Founded by Saqina Latif, Buddy Anwardi, and Derek Mui, Persona Theory Games started with the goal of telling stories through games. Previously, they had no experience in game development and were actually from film production, but story-telling has always been their main focus.

"Seeing games like Never Alone, a puzzle platforming game based on Alaskan Iñupiat culture, really inspired us to push our Southeast Asian stories in games, and in the last few years of taking part in events and talks, I think we are now known for that," Saqina, the co-founder and managing director told SAYS.

Their first game, Fires At Midnight released in 2020, is the studio's starting point of producing visual novel-style games revolving around Southeast Asian culture and folklore.

A photo of the team, consisting of Michelle Lee (art director), Ahmad Helmi (technical lead), Joshua Wong (game designer), and Alvin Lai (narrative writer) during the A MAZE Awards 2022.

Image via Persona Theory Games (Provided to SAYS)

Let's take a look at two upcoming and in-production games from Persona Theory Games:

1. Kabaret (2023) — A dark fantasy adventure game following Jebat who finds himself in a mysterious and violent realm full of monsters

In the game Kabaret, players will play as Jebat, who is cursed into becoming a monster and finds himself in a realm called 'Alam'.

There, Jebat is taken in by the owner of Kabaret, who we only know as The Caretaker, and is tasked with providing tasseomancy services (tea leaves readings) to the realm's dwellers in his attempt to break his curse and return home.

The game will be released in March 2023 and will be available on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

Image via Steam
Image via Steam

You can play the demo here and watch the trailer below:

2. The Lonely Hearts Petshop — A narrative game where you run a pet shop as a cat and adopt humans on Jonker Street

Currently in development, The Lonely Hearts Petshop lets players matchmake a cat to its human who's looking to adopt. 

Customise your catsona, run a pet shop owned by anthropomorphic cats, interview potential adopters, and decide on a perfect match, all set in the historical Jonker Street, Melaka.

Image via Itch.io
Image via Itch.io
Image via Itch.io

Play the demo here and watch the game trailer below:

The game studio hopes to be able to continue making games on a bigger scale and presenting Southeast Asian stories for the world

"Right now we're wrapping up production for our second game, Kabaret, and preparing it for its launch in the first quarter of 2023 on Xbox consoles and PC, while the launch for PlayStation and Nintendo Switch will be by the end of 2023," Saqina said.

Their first game, Fires At Midnight, will also be coming to consoles in 2023.

Persona Theory Games was also part of the studios that developed Sara Is Missing before producing Fires At Midnight:

Looking to get jumpscared by creatures from Southeast Asian folklore? Here are some horror games you can play:

These chill, effortless games are available to play if you're not into horror games: