Experience Points: mxmtoon

Stardew Valley outside the blacksmith holding a bone
(Image credit: ConcernedApe)

Experience Points is a fortnightly chat with people in and around the games industry to talk about the most important games in their lives, whether that’s working on them, being inspired by them, or just playing them.

For singer-songwriter mxmtoon, her love of gaming arrived "way before I got into music" and has remained ever since. "I remember playing Battlefield with my dad when I was around six years old. [It was] not an appropriate game for a six-year-old to be playing in any capacity, but that was my introduction to games,” mxmtoon recalls. This introduction alongside PlayStation 2 Lego games forms the artist’s earliest memories of video games. “My brother and I bonded by playing video games a lot growing up, so it was always something in the background of everything I was doing.”

This love is something that’s continued. Maia (who keeps her last name private) started to release music online under the mxmtoon moniker as a teenager with a ukulele in hand, sharing both original songs and covers on YouTube. Since then, there’s been a handful of Extended Plays (EPs) that are musical releases longer than a single but shorter than a full-length album. It all started with 'plum blossom' in 2018, a project that came full circle in 2023 when she released a re-recorded version plum blossom (revisited) and two stellar albums, lo-fi 2019 debut The Masquerade, and 2022's disco-flecked Rising.

Throughout her career, gaming has played a part, from providing vocals for the singing voice of Alex Chen in Life Is Strange: True Colors and recording a version of her track prom dress in Simlish for The Sims 4 to streaming games on Twitch. It’s been an integral part of building community, particularly for mxmtoon, who left high school at 17 to pursue music. “I've been out of the school system for five years, and one of the biggest things for me was this feeling of like: 'I'm not going to have a sense of community, I'm not going to have that interaction on a day-to-day basis the way that I would, had I been in school or at university.”  

A profile picture of singer songwriter mxmtoon on a pink background

(Image credit: Joelle Grace Taylor)

She continues: “So for me, gaming has always filled that spot of getting the chance to connect with friends, talk with them, and have shared interest in these moments of connection. It’s been pivotal for me.”

It’s also become a way to connect with people on tour, both online and in person. "When I'm working with new people on a crew, I find that video games are sometimes the common denominator between you and someone that you've never met before," she muses. "Someone probably has some sort of slight knowledge of Mario Kart, and so that's a new way for you to connect with people. It's also a way to stay in touch with people that aren't physically next to you for the duration of time you're on the road."

Gaming has even informed the music itself. “So much of my early exposure to music was through the format of video games and understanding gaming scores and how they inform the overall visual world or the narrative storytelling aspect,” mxmtoon explains. “Even now, I'm working on my third album and so much of the visual creative that I've really been thinking about has been informed by liminal space in horror games.” 

Here, mxmtoon talks us through four of the games that mean the most to her.

Persona 5

Persona 5

(Image credit: Atlus)

First up is Persona 5, a game mxmtoon first played back in 2017 when she was in her last year of high school and acted as something of a time management tool.

"I remember timing all of my days by how much homework I had and [working out] how many hours of Persona 5 I could play at the end of the day. So that was the only reason I managed to have any time management was because I was bookending every single day with at least two hours of Persona 5,” she reminisces, adding: “And I still love it.”

After investing hours in the role-playing game, once she'd finished, she "genuinely didn't know what to do with my days. I was like: ‘ I guess I could just play it again?’. I didn't know what to do. It was such a pivotal piece of my routine; not having it anymore felt like I was just being thrown out into the sea."

Persona 5 Royal has seen mxmtoon dive back into the game more casually. "I think I've played around 50 hours so far into Royal, and it's been great. It's so fun to be able to go back to something that you have such fond memories of, and [can be] excited about experiencing some new aspects of it too.” 

Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3 keyart with Astarion, Shadowheart, and Lae'zel

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Baldur's Gate 3 was a game that took mxmtoon by surprise. When it was first released, she’d just finished up a tour, and she reflects: “I honestly didn't even know that I was gonna play it. I didn't find out about it until a week before the release.”

Yet, as soon as she began playing, she was won over. “Nobody on my management team or music team heard from me for a very long time because I was just playing Baldur's Gate the entire time,” she reveals, “it's phenomenal.” 

One of the reasons she loves the party-based RPG is that it’s “a master class in terms of having everything completely packaged and in one place”. 

“So often now in the landscape of gaming [there are] DLC packs or add-ons, and all this sort of stuff becomes kind of par for the course whenever you're playing a game,” she explains. “ I have a lot of favorite games where that is the format, but it's so refreshing to play a game where you pay one flat fee, and you get these hours and hours and hours of experiences and multiple choice.”

The expansive nature of the game continues to draw her in. “You can play that game a million different ways, and you probably would still miss something, and that's the best feeling ever. It brings back this childlike wonder of a video game where you're like: ‘I can't wait to see these Easter eggs or find something new,’ and it feels like you're discovering it for the first time.”

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

(Image credit: Concerned Ape)

Third up is Stardew Valley, a game that mxmtoon initially hated. "I was playing games like Persona 5 and other action-packed first-person shooters like Overwatch, and it just wasn't my cup of tea. I think I got 30 minutes in, and I was like: 'I just don't get it. This is so boring.'"

However, several years later, mxmtoon returned to try Stardew Valley, and when she made it to day five of the farming simulation game, something clicked. “I was like: 'Oh, I get it now. This is an amazing game'. I finally figured out the mechanics, I learned that it was only one guy making the entire game, and I was just blown away by the fact that one game developer could make something that's so phenomenal. But now I have over 600 hours on Stardew Valley; it's certainly one of my favorite games.”

As mxmtoon plays Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch, it’s an ideal companion when she's touring. "It was so palatable to be able to play it on a bus or play it on a plane, and so it became my go-to travel game.” But this isn’t the only platform she uses to visit her farm: “I just recently picked it up on Steam so I can play it on PC and try modding for the first time, which has been really fun as it makes it an entirely different experience.”

As for her farm itself? "I have almost everything in the game. I'm trying to play it on my Switch, but it takes such a long time. I'm very proud of it; I've put so much blood, sweat, and tears into the creation of it.”

Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Finally, mxmtoon has picked Overwatch 2. "It is one of my favorite games to this day. I love the play style, I love the cinematics that they released for the game, so I'm just a big fan.”

mxmtoon has played Overwatch since the team-based shooter was first released in 2016, and it’s something that she's continually drawn to, mainly due to the connectivity and community it can bring.

"I have one friend who I've known since we were nine years old, and Overwatch 2 has been this breaching force of keeping us connected. I find that that's the case for a lot of my friendships. There's always one game that keeps me coming back to staying in touch with people that I really love and care about.”

Having racked up over 800 hours on the game, mxmtoon laughs, "I don't like who I become when I play the game."

“I played competitive for a while, and I got up to a point where it was impossible for me to play the game anymore because I was so beyond my skill level, so I play a lot of quick play now. I also enjoy custom games. They're really silly and very fun. I'll play anything. I'm not super picky.”

As for her favorite collabs, mxmtoon name-checks Overwatch 2’s team-up with K-pop girl group LE SSERAFIM as one of them. “Seeing that, I was like, 'Oh my god, this is so cool'. I was really stoked about it, so I'm excited to see what else they’re gonna do in the future, and I hope there's more K-pop collabs, too.”

For more excellent games that you can play right now, check out the best RPGs and the best FPS games