MEET THE DEVELOPER
She Quit Her Job to Design a Game
See how Daisy Ein turned a side hustle into Tiny Bird Garden.
Tiny Bird Garden
Make friends with Tiny Birds!
For illustrator Daisy Ein, there was something about the videogames she loved as a child that stood out: the absence of people of color. “Avatar-makers with tons of customization but no skin color made me feel someone like me couldn’t be the hero of an adventure,” she says.
So when in her spare time she and her husband created Tiny Bird Garden—a delightful game where you customize the garden home of more than 70 feathered friends—she made sure that it wasn't just the birds that were diverse. The humans were too.
Now Ein has quit her day job to develop more representative games for her two-person studio, Super Retro Duck. Here’s how she made the leap, and what she’s up to next.
What pushed you to pursue game development full-time?
I had a day job that was making me really miserable. My boss told me my pay was going to be cut and when I challenged this, I was told to stop being difficult because I would “never find anything better anyway.” It really hurt, mostly because a part of me believed her.
I made a decision that even if Tiny Bird Garden couldn’t support me financially, I was still going to shift my professional focus toward supporting my dreams. I supplement my development work with freelance illustration to help make ends meet and keep me creating. It’s been rough, but I’ve never felt so empowered and happy with myself.
Where does your love of games come from?
My father enjoyed going to the arcade, and I guess that rubbed off on me. I remember wanting a Nintendo Entertainment System more than anything in the world. The interactive aspect of it captured my imagination and never let go. Games were more exciting than a TV show or a book because I could go at my own pace and the decisions were mine to make.
I supplement my development work with freelance illustration to help make ends meet and keep me creating.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been getting the game in front of an audience. There are a lot of wonderful games out there, and it can be really difficult to get the word out about your project, especially when it’s your first title and you’re an indie team of two.
I’d love to see Tiny Bird Garden enjoyed by even more players, but even if that’s not what the future holds, I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. Just knowing someone out there is playing my game inspires me to keep trying and keep creating.
What’s turned out to be easier than expected?
Surprisingly, the easiest part was actually making the game itself. It was a labor of love, but it felt like I was living out a childhood dream. As a little girl, I remember daydreaming about making games “exactly like I wanted” so many times.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t hesitate, and don’t waste your time doing something that doesn’t make you happy. Even if things don’t work out, it’s so much better than wondering what could have been if you’d given yourself the chance.
What’s next for you?
We’re working on another title that we haven’t announced yet, but it features the Tiny Bird Garden characters. It’s all kept me really busy, but excited. I want to make fun, diverse, uplifting games that make people smile—the kind of games I dreamed about when I was a little girl.