ArenaNet co-founder and Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain has founded a new studio, Possibility Space, featuring plenty of industry veterans.
Although the studio will be based in New Orleans, its staff will be physically distributed, making it easier to incorporate the many luminaries on staff. They include visual director Jane Ng, formerly of Campo Santo and Valve; IP Director Austin Walker of the Friends at the Table and formerly of Waypoint Media; simulation and narrative systems director Liz England, formerly of Ubisoft and Insomniac; and others from Undead Labs, Double Fine, EA, BioWare and more.
The decision to allow for remote working was partly inspired by Strain’s experience of isolation over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like many others, the past year and a half has been a fraught time for me. While I am grateful that my family is safe, the anxiety, fear, and isolation of the last 18 months has been almost unbearable at times,” he said in a press release. “That fear and isolation was the catalyst for Possibility Space, a modern kind of game studio, where we are creating a joyful game that’s been my dream for many years. I’m delighted and grateful for the team that has chosen to share in this vision and bring it life.”
Strain wrote an open letter encouraging unionization in the games industry in July, advocating for improved working conditions in the fallout from the Activision Blizzard discrimination lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Possibility Space will be a chance for him to build a studio culture free of the pervasive toxicity being revealed at other games companies.
“It’s just not that hard to treat people fairly and equally,” he told PC Gamer in an interview about Possibility Space’s launch. “I’ve learned that it’s not enough to just have good intentions. It’s not enough to wish for diversity. You have to build structure that you adhere to in order to make it fair.”
Ng, who served as lead environment artist on Firewatch while working at Campo Santo and as artist on Half-Life: Alyx, reiterated the focus on a fresh start.
“My mom says that the world is in great need of expelling ‘tired air,’ which probably makes more sense in the original Cantonese,” she said in a press release. “But when I had the opportunity to shape a team and a company with ambitious, fresh goals that just seemed so right for the time, I shook off the fatigue of the pandemic and jumped in.
“I am thrilled to be part of Possibility Space, and to play a part in opening all kinds of possibilities for players and developers.”
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