General / 17 September 2022

When teams; support each other, show up consistently, have a clear mission and operate transparently... results and relationships consistently exceed expectations.

In over 200 interviews of teams, it was found that who was on the team mattered less than how those teams worked together. Below are some of the most important attributes.

1.  Safety

  • Rule number one: all ideas are welcome.
  • Create a space that allows teams to take risks without fear, and they won't be afraid to achieve more.
  • Spend our limited energy on solutions, not blame - we're all doing our best. (Hanlon's Razor)
  • On the journey to great we’re going to fail. Learn and move forward.

2.  Dependability

  • Bring your best self - you are contagious.
  • Accountability is a must, but everyone has off days. Support your teammates, you’ll appreciate it when they return the favor.
  • Being consistently respectful and helpful keeps everyone on track, together.

3.  Clarity

  • Be transparent with goals, roles and plans so we all move in the same direction.
  • Communicate thoughtfully, honestly, and more than may be necessary.
  • If a task, goal, or priority isn't understood well enough, it's unlikely to be successful.

4.  Purpose

  • Great work always matters to the team doing it.
  • Teams that don't understand the impact of their work won't go the extra mile.
  • If you care, the audience will too.



General / 01 October 2022

Illustration by Mark Weaver

Ready to unleash the power of design? Meet Raymond Loewy. The French designer created some of the most iconic designs of the 20th century. He brought modern aesthetics to the U.S., designing trains and cars with sleek aerodynamic shapes, and created cultural staples like the Lucky Strike package and Coca-Cola soda fountains.

But what was his top-secret formula for success? Enter M.A.Y.A., the “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”. He understood that the key to good design was striking a balance between the familiar and new, the expected and unexpected. He called it "Familiar Surprise" - something bold and innovative, but instantly understood.

Think about it, as humans, our brains are wired to recognize and trust familiar patterns, but crave the excitement of the new. A study in 2011 even found that people prefer objects that strike this balance. This is why Loewy's train designs were so successful, they were clearly recognizable as trains, but the streamlined bullet shape added a surprising element that helped them stand out.

Our brain filters out the familiar because at a very primitive level, it’s not a threat to our survival. Humans and other animals subconsciously scan for threats in the environment, and with a lack of actual threats in a modern setting, this equates to something “out of the ordinary”.

This is the power of Familiar Surprise, it doesn't just grab attention, it retains it. And in the world of entertainment, whether it's music, film or games, understanding this principle of popularity can give us insight into why certain designs, songs, and films resonate with us and become successful.

In the late 90's the top films were all original, these days they're sequels. The entertainment industry sees franchises as a safer bet but as we’ve learned, those need to be infused with originality to be successful. How much depends on who it’s for.

There's a science to this “principle of popularity” but it's not an exact one. When we understand the power of Familiar Surprise we can create designs, songs and films that not only stand out but also resonate.

Now, go make something extraordinary!



General / 24 September 2022

Illustration by Quantic Foundry

Who is this for?

The team is always the first customer….so, why should we try to understand players?

Customer obsession has become an Amazonian buzzword but it’s simply the combination of several timeless business concepts. When we have a deep understanding of what players value, we create experiences that are more engaging. 

Motivation models are a lens to view decisions with more data, and can give us a common shorthand to use when discussing ideas. Again, since the development team is the first customer we’ll intuitively make stronger creative decisions because we’re making things we’re excited about and WE want to play.

Motivation Profiles

The model comes from QUANTIC FOUNDRY - to date they’ve surveyed around 650,000 gamers. They’ve given a handful of great GDC talks on their profiling process as well.

The models were generated based on:

  • Intuition/Observational models (e.g., Bartle’s Player Types)
  • Theory-driven models (e.g. PENS based on Self-Determination Theory)
  • Factor analytic models (e.g. Sherry's Uses & Gratifications Model).

Using these motivations we can better evaluate the kind of experience we want to create. This also makes positioning, and creating marketing maps of competitive titles much easier as well. 

To learn more about player segments, check out the Quantic Foundry Blog.

If you feel like getting to know yourself better, take the Gamer Motivation Profile survey!

Market < Position < Segment < Target Audience

Marketing RULE #1 - do not try to serve everyone. Does Walmart market to everyone? No.

They focus on shoppers looking for low prices.

Market | we’ll always be in the video game market (3B+), so we don't have to overthink that portion of this but, these ideas are more easily understood together.

Position | where we assess competitive advantages and position ourselves in the players minds (and the market) to be the most attractive option.

Segment | identifying the portion of the market to be segmented and developing profiles. Who COULD this be for?

Target | identify the best segments. Who SHOULD this be for?

It should be for YOU... and if it's not, you may want to try something that is.



General / 10 September 2022

Creative Strategy answers…

Why the game exists, What it is, and Who it’s for.

There are countless models for the creative process and product development. This step-by-step outline transforms established concepts from marketing and puts them to work for new IP development.

Making games is not a totally linear process and some would say it's completely organic. This depends entirely on the company, culture, and how they approach development. There isn't one solution for every team.

What's important is that if we have an understanding of the complete picture and larger parts, we can make more informed decisions around each of them.

This outline approach is like building a house, each step lays the foundation for the next.

1. Company Brand

  • Your brand is what players think of you, not what your logo looks like.
  • Modern players care about company purpose.
  • Modern employees expect people-first cultures.
  • Understood Purpose, Mission, Vision = better results.

2. Audience Insight

  • Understand your fans' motivations.
  • The team is the first customer - scratch your own itch!
  • Discover players values (feature < benefit < value).
  • What are the values underlying the game's Unique Selling Propositions?

3. Positioning

  • Understand and map the market landscape to discover blue ocean/gaps.
  • What competitor comes first, second, third in players' minds?
  • Gain high-ground with differentiation and being a first-mover.

4. Brand / Voice

  • Famous film directors all have a brand and voice. Given the same world, they create dramatically different films (e.g. classic vs. modern depictions of Sherlock Holmes).
  • Embody personalities the audience is attracted to.
  • Values should align between the Brand and Player.

Here we start moving further away from business strategy and psychology. Don't ignore those previous steps because they're what's driving everything moving forward, even if it's not immediately obvious.

5. Gameplay

  • At this stage we understand the audience and competition.
  • How Familiar and/or Surprising is the gameplay?
  • What genre (and values) appeal to the team and fits the business strategy?

6. Story

  • All stories have the same structure. (see Story Circle by Dan Harmon)
  • Complexity isn’t Quality... "With great power comes great responsibility."
  • Protagonists are distillations of the Brand, and their values align with players.

7. Art Style

  • How we instantly communicate with the target audience.
  • Without proper integration, this stage can become subjective decoration.
  • What art movement or genres share themes/values with the brand (e.g. Film Noir = German Expressionism)

8. Name

  • Shipping title. We now know: brand, audience, game, story and art style.
  • Unique, simple, short and still has meaning.
  • Fun to say out loud.

Beyond this point, Marketing can drive much of the decision making, and was probably already involved in naming too.

9. Collateral

  • Where it all comes together.
  • Ads, website, billboards, etc.

10. Messaging

  • How to communicate all the above to players - “what’s in it for me”
  • Every engagement with the Brand aims to be as exciting as the game itself.

11. Marketing

  • Where is the audience (what websites, physical location, etc.).
  • Develop specific messages for each environment/channel.

Hopefully this outline gives you more context and clarity around the steps involved in developing new properties, good luck!



General / 03 September 2022

Illustration from Rick and Morty

Dan Harmon's (one of the creators of Rick and Morty) 'Story Circle' is a modern take on Joseph Campbell's 'Hero's Journey'. This framework can be used on a lot more than your traditional heroic mono-myth, and a great one to have in your pocket. I've seen a lot of versions that folks rewrite, edit, etc. They're not making it any better. The following is almost completely unedited. At the end is a link to the original as well. Enjoy!


by Dan Harmon

It's not that stories have to follow this structure, it's that, without some semblance of this structure, it's not recognizable as a story.

When I talk about "story structure" I'm talking about something very scientific, like "geometry." Your story could have "perfect" structure, in that it hits all the resonant points craved by the audience mind, but that won't make it a perfect piece of entertainment.


Once upon a time, there was a thirsty man on a couch. He got up off the couch, went to his kitchen, searched through his refrigerator, found a soda, drank it, and returned to his couch, thirst quenched.

That was "perfect story structure." On the other hand, the story sucked.

Here's a converse example:

Once upon a time, a car exploded. A Navy Seal killed a werewolf, then a robot shot the moon with a Jesus-powered laser. The world became overpopulated by zombies. The End.

Lot of exciting, creative stuff is happening, but very little structure. Again, boo. What do you want? You want both. You want to be cool, but you're going to be cooler if the structure is there. Cool stuff with no structure is like that perfect scene you recorded when you left the lens cap on. "Guess you had to be there." Show me an army of zombies and I might say "cool zombies," but I'm not going to "be there."

1. YOU (a character is in a zone of comfort)

ESTABLISH A PROTAGONIST... Who are we? A squirrel? The sun? A red blood cell? America?

2. NEED (but they want something)

SOMETHING AIN'T QUITE RIGHT… Something is wrong, the world is out of balance. This is the reason why a story is going to take place. The "you" from (1) is an alcoholic. There's a dead body on the floor. A motorcycle gang rolls into town.

3. GO (they enter an unfamiliar situation)

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD… For (1) and (2), the "you" was in a certain situation, and now that situation changes. A hiker heads into the woods. Pearl Harbor's been bombed. A mafia boss enters therapy.

4. SEARCH (adapt to it)

THE ROAD OF TRIALS… Adapting, experimenting, getting shit together, being broken down. A detective questions suspects. A cowboy gathers his posse. A cheerleader takes a nerd shopping.

5. FIND (find what they wanted)

MEETING WITH THE GODDESS… Whether it was the direct, conscious goal or not, the "need" from (2) is fulfilled. We found the princess. The suspect gives the location of the meth lab. A nerd achieves popularity.

6. TAKE (pay its price)

MEET YOUR MAKER… The hardest part (both for the characters and for anyone trying to describe it). On one hand, the price of the journey. The shark eats the boat. Jesus is crucified. The nice old man has a stroke. On the other hand, a goal achieved that we never even knew we had. The shark now has an oxygen tank in his mouth. Jesus is dead- oh, I get it, flesh doesn't matter. The nice old man had a stroke, but before he died, he wanted you to take this belt buckle. Now go win that rodeo.

7. RETURN (and go back to where they started)

BRINGING IT HOME… It's not a journey if you never come back. The car chase. The big rescue. Coming home to your girlfriend with a rose. Leaping off the roof as the skyscraper explodes.

8. CHANGE (now capable of change)

MASTER OF BOTH WORLDS… The "you" from (1) is in charge of their situation again, but has now become a situation-changer. Life will never be the same. The Death Star is blown up. The couple is in love. Dr. Bloom's Time Belt is completed. Lorraine Bracco heads into the jungle with Sean Connery to "find some of those ants."

Link to original article series by Dan Harmon

Story Structure 101: Super Basic Shit



General / 27 August 2022

What to read?

The game industry is an amazing community, but sorely lacking material on how to be an effective leader. Looking outside the industry you're in can provide a lot of perspective you wouldn't otherwise get.

These are some of the best books on business, leadership and creative product development. 

Each has a distinct flavor and focus. More detailed reviews/breakdowns to come... 

    1. Good to Great - Jim C. Collins 

    2. Leadership Strategy and Tactics - Jocko Willinik 

    3. How Google Works - Eric Schmidt 

    4. Sorry Spock, Emotions Drive Business - Adam W. Morgan 

    5. No Rules Rules - Reed Hastings 

    6. Creativity, Inc. - Ed Catmull 

    7. The Visual MBA - Jason Barron