Interview with Jenny Xu
"Xu has released nine mobile games that have been downloaded over 3.5 million times, including Can You Escape Fate and the dating sim Five Nights of Love. Jenny is an IGDA Scholar and Women in Games Ambassador, and won the 2017 MIT Outstanding New Leader Award." - Forbes
How has being nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30 affected your career? What was your reaction when you found out you'd been nominated?
Honestly, I found out about the Forbes 30 Under 30 thing when I was in my advanced algorithms class at MIT. I was sitting in class listening to lecture but not really listening. And I was on my on my laptop and I get an e-mail from a journalist and he basically told me that I was on the list and that I basically got in on this list with people that I thought were really really cool and I didn't think that I really deserved it. Like it kind of felt random, out of the blue. And I was honestly just very very honoured. I think that just being nominated for a Forbes 30 Under 30 has given me a little bit more self-confidence since before I didn't really really tell my friends about like working on games. I didn't really tell like people that I worked with that I worked on games and it felt like more of just like a side hobby and something that I loved. But it was really cool because afterwards people were asking me about it more. I talked about a lot more with my friends and I've just been able to meet a lot of really cool people through it and super grateful and thankful for it.
What are the main themes of the games you've developed? What is your favorite part of developing and designing games?
So I think I'd call myself a really big troll since most of my games are not super serious I'd say, I mostly make horror comedy games. I really really love scaring people, surprising people and making things that give people like a good laugh too and maybe even a good scare. So a lot of the games that I've made have revolved around this idea of more experimental, kind of weird, kind of trolly games, that might have like some really cute animal but then suddenly the animal head falls off, or starts bleeding, or just jump scares you. And that just really excites me and I feel like there's so many opportunities to innovate within this space and make things that people haven't seen before or people have seen but don't really expect to see in a game and especially one of my favorite parts about developing and designing games since you really can own the narrative and you can make things that can make people feel emotions that you kind of design and that's really cool to see. And when Youtubers or friends play my games I can see them reacting and see them like reading the lines that I wrote maybe at like 4 p.m. after a really hard homework problem. I think it's just cool because I can see the impact that what I'm working on has on people, whether it's like seeing them scream or seening them laugh like that's really really cool to me.
We saw that you're currently an intern at Google. Could you tell us a bit about your experience?
Yes so right now for the summer, I am a software engineering intern at Google Firebase and I actually really really love my experience at Google. My team actually is a team that's working on creating better ways for game developers and app developers in general to test their games before they submit on the Google Play store and it's cool because I am like one of the only people on my team that knows a lot about game development and how game developers feel about their product which is something that I might use in the future. So the work that I get to do is talk to game developers, talk to people within Google that talk to game developers and see how my project might be something that can help people all around the world. And I find that a really really cool, just the impact that can have on my project. And Google has really nice perks and benefits to being there. There's a ton of people I've gotten to meet, so many people working on products that I have used in the past. And as a game developer, I can meet other people who do game development at Google. The free food is really nice too. And also I'm like really into fitness. So the Google G fit programs is one of the best things that I've ever had and I just love going to spin classes, workout classes with my manager. So that part of the intern experience has been really great along with my project and just being at a company that big in comparison to like my one person company.
How many people currently work for JCSoft? Is the team remote or do they predominantly work in the Bay Area?
So right now it's basically just me working on J.C soft. I like doing the art side of animation, the programming itself, the sound design, the marketing, the business strategy. I guess my family helps me a lot. So my dad and my brother are my most loyal testers. I often ask my friends online or my fans to help me test my games and that really helps a lot of those people I don't know them in person but they're always willing to really spend a lot of time on my games and help me out. So I do count them as part of the team. But for me, I mostly work out of my dorm room which is in Cambridge since I go to MIT. But when I come home and kind of make games with my family that's mostly in the Bay area.
Could you please introduce JCSoft and what led to your founding the company?
Hi, I'm Jenny and I'm the founder of JCSoft. JCSoft is it really just a mobile gaming company and we make apps, games for the Apple App Store, Google Play store and I really made JCSoft just because I always make games and I've made games for the last nine years. So I made my first game when I was twelve, and I put a lot of my art on DeviantArt.com back when I thought I was going to be an artist. So I would be posting these things on my DeviantArt account almost every single day, and I didn't really think much of it. I didn't know anything about programming, anything about game development and one day I started learning more about animation and how to animate the things I was drawing and that really spiralled off and I started making games out of animations and learning how to really use code to bring my art to life. And after doing that for a couple of years, I decided to start making apps and games for the App Store. So that's kind of when I started making my first games under JCSoft. And I've really just been doing that since, just making games and doing what I love.
What's next for JCSoft, as well as your own career?
So yes. What's next is i'll definitely just keep making games with JCSoft. I think that personally, I am not too sure what I want to do with my future yet. I still have a year school, another year at MIT, so I'll see how much I can learn in that year. How many people I can meet. And just along the way I'll probably make more and more games, update my existing ones and see how I might be able to make things that people love to play, I might be working with a friend on a game that might be used more for like education, maybe tackling something in the mental health space as well using like narrative games. So that's probably what's next in the immediate future but longterm career wise I think they'll probably never figure out what I want to do. But I'll just take it one step at a time, like now as my internship at Google. being at a huge company seeing that I can have a huge impact here like maybe that's what I'll do but I think that definitely in the future I'll do something related to games whether it's making games or making envelopment easier for other people who are interested in game development like I was.