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Creating engaging tech for good; How thatgamecompany made gaming healthy and successful.


At Howami we are often checking ourselves at decision points, asking; “Is this right for our daughters?”

It sounds a little virtue signalling to say this, but it also happens to be true. We have daughters who love to play games on their mobile devices. Parents across the world share our worries about the content our kids absorb and whether they are having too much screen-time.

Anecdotally, I can say that these concerns are less when we know that the platform they are using has their best interests at heart. But how many of those can we reasonably point at? Certainly not the social-media giants. Certainly not game development labels or distributors.


One exception, seems to be Thatgamecompany, the makers of Sky; Children of the Light. Now before I go on, we are well aware that this is a private company and their primary concern is remaining profitable. But, when such a company designs healthy principles (such as generosity or empathy) into the DNA of the game-play and makes those principles the thing that sets them apart, then we think that this makes them different.

Right from the start of our work on Howami we were inspired by Sky. My daughter has been playing this game for several years and shares (excitedly) her progress within it. She has a story to tell. Things happen that seem to hit her emotionally. She cares about the world she’s interacting with. She’s moved. We hear descriptions of positive emotions; joy, relaxation, sharing, challenges and so on. There is always more to explore and more to share. So it seems.

Why can’t more games and apps solicit these emotions?


In the founder’s own words, their motivation was;

"to create games that inspire and evoke genuine emotions,"

"we wanted to remind people of the importance of connection."

"we believe games can be more than just fun. They can play a role in personal growth, understanding, and even healing."


Thatgamecompany, founded in 2006 by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago. Renowned for its innovative approach to game design, focusing on creating emotionally engaging and artistically profound video games. Starting with "flOw" in 2006, a game about life's journey, they moved on to create "Flower" in 2009, an "interactive poem" that explores the tension between urban and nature, as Chen described it. Their most acclaimed work, "Journey" (2012), a wordless narrative about connection and beauty in human interaction, solidified their reputation.

With "Sky: Children of the Light" (2019), they expanded their vision to a social adventure game aimed at fostering altruism, with Chen explaining, "It’s about giving players the experience of altruism." Their work has consistently focused on themes of connection, empathy, and the human experience, aiming to redefine the role of games in personal growth and healing.


Taking this work back to our "Menstrual Health tech" drawing board (a clean slate, as we see it), we were inspired specifically by how a financially successful company could start with a such positive framework and how we could create our own application with the same motivations. Our lens is more specific (ie. The Menstrual Cycle) but our audience has a similar demographic profile. Can we facilitate channelling our users better emotions, to sustain engagement and improve outcomes? We think that we can and every care (and a lot of time) has gone into research, design and imagination to make sure Howami achieves these goals.

This is not pure altruism. This is a path towards designing an application that engages emotions. And emotional engagement is what keeps users coming back.


Rather than go into the details (there is plenty on the rest of this website), we want to leave you with one lesson...


No matter how high the ideals or how wide the intended impact, unless young people are enjoying what they are doing - having fun, they will not stay the course. It's about time that Wellness/Health Apps aimed primarily for women/girls started to be designed to be rewarding for their specific audience. Designing just for "women" is not enough! Designing for function alone is also not enough!


Howami fosters emotional intelligence, self-understanding, body confidence and autonomy. And it's fun!


Thanks Jenova and Kellee.


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