Interview: Tiina Zilliacus Creator of Yoga Retreat

We recently got the opportunity to catch up with Tiina Zilliacus, the founder and CEO of Gajatri Studios, developers of Yoga Retreat, a gaming oasis.

Firstly a bit of background about Gajatri Studios’ first game, Yoga Retreat.

Yoga Retreat is a Facebook powered game that puts you in the role of a woman who is looking for a fresh start in life and decides to up-sticks and take on the management of a Yoga retreat in an idyllic sunny country.

Gameplay is quite straight forward as you learn and practice new Yoga moves before teaching them to your clients. Each client pays you for the moves that you teach them, and you use these earnings to enhance and expand your Yoga retreat, adding extras like a Juice Bar.

Playing alongside Facebook friends will enhance the game experience as players can gift items and visit friends’ Yoga resorts.

Yoga Retreat is the first social management game that we’ve seen centered around Yoga and healthy living. A refreshing stress buster, in the modern world of explosions and intense action. We salute the ethos behind the game and are thrilled to have the opportunity to find out more about it first hand.

So without further adieu, we welcome Tiina Zilliacus.

PopBucket: For those that are unfamiliar with you and Gajatri Studios, could you tell us a little about yourself and your history?

Tiina Zilliacus: Gajatri Studios is a well-being games company based in Helsinki, Finland. Our vision and mission is to create games that play with the white space in between casual games and authentic well-being content. So we’re a small developer with big vision!

PB: What inspired you to create a Yoga based game?

TZ: During my CEO career in a few casual games companies I realized that 55% of online gamers in the world are female (60-70% of Facebook players are female), and probably 95% of all developers making the games, are men. So I started thinking that supply does not necessarily reflect all the potential games demand.

Well-being is also a personal passion of mine, and especially sharing it in scalable and fun ways. I’ve been a yoga and well-being enthusiast for eight years now. Laughter is the best medicine, and playing can help us to learn in a way that does not feel like learning at all.

Yoga Retreat is fun and useful, mainly for those people that are new to yoga and like to play. I often hear people tell me that they have a hurdle of going into yoga classes because they do not understand why yoga positions (asanas) are practiced, or the logic of the flow or do not recognize the pose names etc. I wanted to lower these barriers for casual game players when designing this game.

PB: How long has it taken to develop Yoga Retreat?

TZ: It has taken about four months and then one month of testing…let me know if you spot any bugs!

PB: Have you had much feedback from gamers so far?

TZ: It is still early days for us, as we’ve just soft launched Yoga Retreat. However, the statistics tell us that 80% of first time players completed the tutorial section and continued to play on. We’ll be looking at player experiences and feedback much more over the coming weeks.

PB: What’s different about Yoga Retreat that you think will appeal to
gamers?

TZ: Well, it is not a war game, but hopefully a game that you can play with good conscience and also take something with you to your ordinary life. Yoga Retreat is designed to be a daily gaming oasis. It is also a service, so players can, from now on, influence us on how the experience should be expanded: would players like us to add more yoga content, or extend the Juice Bar with healthy foods to make, etc.

PB: What’s your favourite part of Yoga Retreat?

TZ: Yoga Cat who appears every once in a while to teach you a stretch that you can do by the computer. I used to have a lot of shoulder and neck problems myself before starting yoga from long work days, and think that most of those could be avoided if people would remember a few good stretches to do a few times a day.

PB: Have you always been into video-games? If so, what sort of games did you grow up playing? 

TZ: I am and have always been a pretty casual gamer at heart. I like brain games, hidden object and match 3 games. The sorts of games that give your brain a workout.

PB: What’s next for the studio? Do have any other projects on the
horizon?

TZ: We hope to make more games like this, i.e. merging health content that has stood the test of time, into casual game mechanics for masses of players to benefit from and enjoy.

PB: Sounds good, very much looking forward to seeing what’s next and how Yoga Retreat develops over time. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us!

Yoga Retreat is available now for Facebook users. Check out the trailer below and visit Facebook.com/yogaretreatgame to get involved.

Author: James Sterling

Associate Editor (Game) for PopBucket, avid gamer and educating folks about the Wilhelm Scream since '98. Show him some word-love.

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