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Skyrim, Blaseball developers form new studio focused on ‘collective growth’

‘Gardens is built on the initiative of growing a studio that’s transparent, sustainable, inclusive, and empowering’

two people standing on a hill Image: Gardens
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

What Remains of Edith Finch developers Chris Bell and Stephen Bell, alongside Dustforce developer Lexie Dostal, announced a new independent studio Wednesday. The studio, called Gardens, is “built on collective growth,” and has raised $4.5 million in funding to build its first, currently unannounced game, according to a news release.

The studio’s mission “is to create vibrant online games that foster meaningful multiplayer moments and relationships between players around the world,” developers said. Its first game is inspired by the “special ways members of the team have designed shared online experiences” previously — like with games such as Journey, Sky Children of the Light, and Blaseball. In the news release, Gardens said the multiplayer interactions it intends to create will rely “on care from their communities in order to thrive.”

That message feels particularly reminiscent of Blaseball’s online community, built around the fictional fantasy sports game, wherein the game thrives because of its fandom.

Part of Gardens’ mission of collective growth includes creating a healthy and equitable environment for its developers, including a 35-hour work week, the founders said.

“With Gardens, we wanted to create a studio that cares as much about the health, happiness, and wellbeing of its team members as we do the craftsmanship of the games we create together,” co-founder Chris Bell said in a statement. “Our top priority is making sure our teammates enjoy their lives and are given the tools and resources to grow while creating compelling, well-crafted, thoughtful games that cultivate novel shared experiences between players online.”

The team so far includes executive producer Sarah Sands (Fullbright), lead artist Ryan Benno (Spider-Man: Miles Morales), principal engineer Rose Dale (The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim), senior engineer Roldán Melcon (Blaseball), gameplay engineer Tonia Beglari (Monster Hunter World: Iceborne), and art director Leighton Milne (The Hobbit).

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