Layton Hawkes - Game Designer

Gemma and the Living World

Gemma and the Living World


The award winning puzzle-adventure Gemma and the Living World is a tale of two fantasy worlds. The first world mimics our own world covered with cities and polluted by the many factories, cars, and resource gathering machines. The second is the Living World and this world is truly alive, a giant Creature. The sun in the sky is a giant eye that watches all, the clouds its brow, the rolling hills its scales and the rain its tears. A young girl Gemma is thrown into the Living World only to find that the Creature - this world - is afflicted by a wasting sickness. One that she must cure. Join Gemma on her journey through this pristine evironment, an adventure that will lead her to discover more than she ever imagined.


Gemma and the Living World is an indie game developed for my Advanced Diploma of Multimedia (Games Development) as a final year project. It was created over six months part-time. It was developed as an exploration of how games can be used to convey a moral message, and used beyond pure entertainment. I was solely responsible for design, art, programming and sound/music.

The game focuses on the self-developmental process of those who play it, and acts as a self-reflective process for myself as a creator. A design abtract was written before development began which included a full production schedule, concept art, colour palette and game synopsis including dialogue trees. 

My aim was to create a storybook ‘look and feel’. I hand painted all the sprites, and brush stroke particle systems were used extensively in the environment, making it shift like a moving painting.

Gemma and the Living World won two ATOM awards in 2010; Best Interactive/Video Game and Best Tertiary Multimedia. I remastered the game in HD and released it on IndieCity in 2012.


The general gameplay flow within Gemma and the Living World rewards puzzle solving with story progression (Puzzle > Story > Puzzle > Story). The game uses simple platforming mechanics and puzzle elements and utilises them in varying levels of difficulty within the overall level and game design.
During the puzzle sections Gemma must push and pull objects to create a route past whatever is blocking her path forward. Only three major interactive objects are used in the puzzle sections. These three major objects are:

Light Objects
These objects can be pushed and pulled and may be stacked upon
one another.

Heavy Objects
These objects can be pushed and pulled and may be stacked upon one another. Heavy objects crush light objects if they fall on them.

Magical Fireflies
If an object (heavy or light) is left within the fireflies, it will eventually be sent back to its undisturbed location, its location before the player moved it. If an object is blocking it's original location, it will not be moved until the area is cleared.

These three interactables made levels using ordering, timing and stacking possible in different and varied combinations within the level design. This kept each puzzle section feeling fresh without the costly introduction of new objects and mechanics given the small scope of the project.