Meet Wren Brier, a driven Brisbane-based video game developer living with MS. Wren works as Creative Director at Witch Beam Games on the successful video game Unpacking, while being supported by our MS Employment Support team.
The idea behind the game
Unpacking is a meditative puzzle game that sees players take possessions out of packing boxes and organise them into a new home. Wren came up with the idea for the game when she and her partner moved in together.
“My partner moved in with me and as we were unpacking his stuff I thought, there’s a game in this. You take things out of one box and empty it to ‘unlock’ the box underneath, and there’s a sense of surprise and delight when things come out of the boxes,” said Wren.
“You can tell a lot about a person from the items that they own. We wanted to show one person’s story through all of the moves they’ve gone through, so you can learn their life story through unpacking their belongings.”
Wren’s Journey with MS
In late 2018, Wren started to notice her first MS symptoms. Shortly after, just as full-time development on the game was starting up, she was diagnosed with MS. She was 29 years old.
“The week I had my first MS attack I was in Melbourne for Melbourne International Games Week, promoting my game. I woke up one morning with a sharp pain in my back and then I started getting sick. That week was super rough; instead of attending the convention I came there for, I spent the entire weekend in my hotel room,” said Wren.
“I ended up having a sinus infection and was on antibiotics, but I also had weird symptoms like tingling in my toes. After a few weeks the sinus infection went away, but the tingling in my toes turned into numbness. I was getting worried, so I went to a bunch of specialists until eventually I got my diagnosis.”
Wren was shocked by the news, but thankful she caught the illness early.
“It was devastating because I was about to start the biggest thing that I’ve ever done and now I’ve been saddled with this diagnosis. That’s not what I wanted, but it was good that I knew early so I could start treatment,” said Wren.
Support at work
Since diagnosis, Wren has reached out to MS Queensland and gained support at work. Wren now experiences less fatigue, feels more comfortable at her desk, and can better manage side effects from her medication.
“Since I got in touch with MS Queensland everyone’s been super lovely and helpful,” said Wren.
“They set me up with an exercise physiologist that I go to every other week, as well as got me a new sit-stand desk and an ergonomic computer chair. It’s helped with my fatigue and made it a lot easier to work the hours I want to work, so I don’t have to cut my day short.”
“I luckily don’t have a lot of symptoms now. I am on medication that keeps my MS at bay and so far, it’s been working super well allowing me to focus on my job.”
Looking forward to the future
Unpacking was recently released and is now available for anyone to play. Wren is proud as the game has won Game of the Year at the 2021 Australian Game Developer Awards.
“It’s been so exciting to see the positive response to the game from both players and critics! In the future, I’m keen to keep making interesting things with people I like.”
Wren’s advice to others who’ve been diagnosed with MS is that it doesn’t mean your life has to stop.
“The important thing to know is there’s definitely life post-diagnosis. It doesn’t have to change everything about your life, it’s just one more thing about you,” said Wren.
“You can live with it and thankfully we live in a time where there’s a lot more medication options and the supports for MS in Australia are really good.”
Learn more about how MS Queensland can support you at work through our Employment Support Service.