A majority female LGBT game design team composed of three University students competed in a world renowned game design competition and won the “Best Art” category.
The “Ghost Garden” team was formed in 2015 when the five original members were in high school. The team was created by information systems and decision sciences junior Kathryn Nastasi and computer science junior Leslyanne Warrington because of their passion for making video games. Eventually digital arts sophomore Asher Lejeune, civil and environmental engineering and computer science sophomore Raquel Hodgeson and computer science senior Julia Grammes joined their ranks.
“For me, my favorite part is the environment,” Nastasi said. “I’m surrounded by friends that I’m comfortable with and like-minded individuals that I enjoy bouncing creative ideas off to create something we’re all proud of.”
Ghost Garden competed in Chillenium 2019 on Oct. 5, a game design competition at Texas A&M with 408 registered participants from 23 different schools. Over 100 games were submitted for judging. Each team was given 48 hours to create a game to the theme “all for one and one for all.”
This was Grammes’ first competition on the team. Grammes first heard about Ghost Garden when she joined the University’s Chillennium Game Jam group. She did not have a team and was worried about finding a good fit. Ghost Garden had an open spot on their team for a programmer, and she fit the bill.
“I’m very thankful I found them because we just worked really well together and all had similar ideas for game design,” Grammes said. “My favorite part about being on the team is how we’re just a bunch of friends making games together.”
Lejeune heard about the group and competition through friends. This was her first time competing at Chillenium but her second game as a part of Ghost Garden. Lejeune said her experience at the first competition, as well as the desire to try working with pixel art, prompted her to attend Chillenium.
“I love being able to brainstorm with my friends, and I love producing the art,” Lejeune said. “The creative process under pressure is sort of tough, but it can lead to some really fun projects.”
For the competition, Ghost Garden created a game called Headspace. According to their website, Headspace is a game about uniting different internal organs of the body, each representing different factors of depression and anxiety. You, the rational brain, perform a fetch quest for each of the organs, helping them cope with their symptom (one for all) which, in turn, helps your sleeping human cope as well (all for one).
Each of the three members had an important part in creating the game, Lejeune created and animated the player character, as well as drew all of the visual aspects and animations in the game as you see them. Grammes handled the programming aspects and the seamless movements between rooms, inventory systems, and items.
Nastasi handled all the quests and dialogue trees, ensuring that characters would change accordingly as the player progressed. She also made small color tweaks as she built the gaming engine.
Click here to play Headspace for free.