My name is Brooke Maggs, I’m a writer and narrative designer for games.  I have professional writing and editing training and was drawn into games essentially on a writing contract. The Voxel Agents wanted to start a new exciting project and wanted to create a narrative driven game. They had proved themselves in the puzzle arena and wanted to combine stories with puzzles.

The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game about two best friends, Arina and Frendt, who fall into a strange surreal world of gardens. The player manipulates time to solve puzzles and help get a light from the bottom of the garden to the top of the garden. In doing so it reveals more about their friendship. By the end of the game, you understand the threat that’s been facing them in the real world.

It’s a game that is very slow and meditative. There are no time limits. You can’t die in this game. It’s very slow and calm and that’s how we designed it. We wanted it to be reflective, have a beautiful soundtrack, beautiful art direction and puzzles that make you observe the environment.

I came in as the storyteller. It was really just one day a week to help brainstorm ideas first but then to my delight, I came in more often. Because there is no text or speech in The Gardens Between I was able to take what I knew about literature and story structure and help facilitate how this game can tell a story. I had to think of ways to convey the story and to convey the importance of the story visually with the team.

One of my personal goals was to have a little girl and a little boy who were best friends as opposed to being sweethearts or as opposed to one rescuing the other. I haven’t seen that a lot in games. Some of the great friends of my life are male friends. Growing up I used to play a lot with the boys so that made sense to me. Then we wanted to really talk about growing up and how that can be quite bittersweet.

Being able to see more women in industries that are tech heavy and male dominated is important. Thinking about how we advertise jobs in games and speaking outward. For example, statistics have shown women will not apply for a job if they don’t have 100 percent of the skills that are advertised.

One of the things I loved about showing The Gardens Between at PAX was I got to see how people interacted withthe game. I noticed that women of varying ages would come up to the game with their boyfriends and they would stand back and let him take the controller. I said ‘no you should take the controls. You should play this game’. I handed her the control and then she would play a little self-consciously at first but then quickly got into it and really enjoyed it. It was something that they could do together. So that’s something that I encourage in so many people, including women and girls, just grab the controller and have a go.

Brooke Maggs (VIC)

Brooke’s specialty is in writing, narrative design and production. She is the writer, narrative designer and part-time producer for The Gardens Between by The Voxel Agents, and was the narrative designer on Earthlight, a VR game about space exploration. Brooke is a recipient of the Women in Games Fellowship and was last year named in the top 100 most influential women in the Australian and New Zealand games industries by MCV Pacific. Brooke has been an educator in games, project management, user experience design at a tertiary level For over seven years. She is an academic and researcher in creative writing practice and the intersection between literature and digital storytelling.

The Gardens Between (2018)

The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game where best friends Arina and Frendt fall into a world of mysterious gardens. Together the duo traverse backwards and forwards through moments to solve mysteries within this lush and imaginative world that grows around objects from their past.

Developed by The Voxel Agents (forthcoming, 2018)