Ghost Garden Games: Female-Led Independent Developer Studio Shares Their Experience at Xbox Game Studios Game Camp New Orleans

Two years ago, a group of future studio founders signed up for Xbox Game Studios’ first-ever Game Camp in New Orleans, where they received the tools, resources, and mentorship to turn their studio dreams into reality.

ghost garden games is a promising, female-led, gender-inclusive study located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The team was officially formed in 2015, when a group of high school friends discovered their passion for interactive narrative storytelling.

“The original people involved were Asher, Leslie, Claire and myself,” said Kathryn Nastasi, producer and technical artist for Ghost Garden Games. “Claire was a teacher advising us in high school, and we remember meeting in her classroom every day and discussing the idea of ​​Echo., which is this little sound wave and its companion ball of light, Hue. Over the course of a few years, we really developed this idea into a wonderful story, and that was the project that we ended up bringing to the first Game Camp.”

Game Camp was founded with the goal of empowering aspiring game creators from traditionally underserved communities with access to subject matter experts, tools, and industry connections. The program offered a mentoring experience that taught fundamental skills in game building engines, programming, and game design through a combination of self-paced learning and live instruction.

While at camp, the “Ghosts” realized that they needed to step back and build a solid foundation for their study before developing Echo. Thus, during the program, they focused a lot on exploring their interests and defining the organizational structure of their team.

Participating teams were paired with mentors from Xbox Game Studios and even had the opportunity to discuss their ideas with industry legends like Shannon Loftis and Ken Lobb. The Ghosts received support from Erin Ali, Game Camp Mentor and Lead Producer at Turn 10 Studios, throughout the course of the show and even continued to meet with her every six weeks after camp.

“I had been thinking about opportunities to work with groups and support the next generation of developers in the industry when I saw an article on our company intranet about Game Camp launching in New Orleans. I remember how difficult it was to get into the industry and understand what the development was like,” Ali said. “I have always enjoyed seeing others succeed and mentoring has been a significant avenue for me to express that joy in the industry. I hope that Ghost Garden Games has enjoyed their experiences with me as much as I have learned from them.”

Ghost Garden Games officially became an LLC in December 2020. “We left the first Game Camp feeling very confident about going out and making our studio dreams come true,” said Nastasi. They have since moved into their own studio space within a tech park and grown into a team of nine.

However, according to Nastasi, the team quickly realized that although Echo was fueled by passion, “he was a little too ambitious to [their] skill sets and current goals. Consequently, the Ghosts sat down in their Baton Rouge studio and began to assess their next steps.

“We are inspired by something we notice that supergiant games did with his latest release, hell. They took different systems from their various games..Bastion, Transistor, Y Pyre…and perfected them for Hades,” Nastassi said.

The team decided to implement that strategy in their own work and shifted their focus from Echo for Head space. Head space is a narrative, point-and-click, couch co-op game. The objective of Head space is to solve a mystery inside the human body by exploring the perspective of the left and right brain to allow two players to collaborate and solve a mystery together. The study is currently in the design and prototype phases for Head space and is bringing it to Game Camp New Orleans 2022 in hopes of getting feedback from mentors at Xbox Game Studios.

“In the end, we decided to sign up for Game Camp 2022 because we are much more organized as a studio now. We have a much broader idea of ​​what we’re doing, and we’d love to come in and learn and focus on some of the areas that we weren’t able to focus on the first time around,” Nastasi said. “For those interested in developing games, this is the best opportunity to receive personalized guidance from professionals in the gaming industry.”

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