An women-led video game design studio hopes to bring a concept first hatched in a St. Joseph’s Academy classroom to the marketplace.
If successful, Ghost Garden Games would strike a blow for Baton Rouge’s small video game sector and for women in a mostly male-dominated industry.
“People are really excited to see more women in technology, and we’re really happy to be doing what we’re doing,” says Kathryn Nastasi, producer and technical artist with the young company.
As high school students in 2015, Nastasi, Asher Lejeune and Leslyanne Warrington came up with the core narrative, aesthetic and project ideas for Echo, a single-player action-adventure game. Claire Luikart, who taught the technology class, would later join the development group as lead software engineer.
Prior to the company’s official launch, members entered a few “game jams,” in which developers work in teams to build a project based on a given theme in a brief amount of time. Their submission at a 2019 event at Texas A&M, which they participated in through LSU’s digital media arts and engineering program, was awarded Best Art.
Ghost Garden Games was officially formed in 2020. Now eight members strong, they moved into studio space at the Nexus Louisiana Tech Park in June of this year.
Nastasi says members have had offers to join established companies.
“We wanted to choose our own projects and let our own voices really come through in our products,” she says. “We just wanted to join together and create something of our own.”
In Echo, players control the titular sentient sound wave and her multicolored companion Hue. They navigate a surreal apartment world, meeting eccentric characters, fighting bosses and attempting to solve a mystery.
“We really wanted to create a strong narrative and character-focused game with still some of the fun reflex combat you’re used to,” Nastasi says.
The company’s main goal now is to build a level of the game it can show potential investors next year, with hopes of being able to release Echo in 2024. In high school, the founders fell in love with games that had beautiful, immersive worlds and compelling narratives, and they were inspired to create their own, Nastasi says.
“We believe video games are the greatest intersection of art and technology,” she says.