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The Here's Waldo Podcast

Business & Economics Podcasts

This is The Here's Waldo Podcast where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead.


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This is The Here's Waldo Podcast where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead.




The Puzzle of Puzzle Games: Navigating Game Development With Laura Taranto

Laura Taranto is the Senior Director of Product Management at Big Fish Games, a developer and distributor of casual games for computers and mobile devices. With 14 years of experience, Laura has traversed various phases of game development, with a particular emphasis on nurturing and growing live titles. In June of 2021, she joined Big Fish Games, where she spearheads new game development and oversees the popular game EverMerge. Before that, Laura held positions at esteemed companies, including Scopely, King, and Wooga, where she contributed to the success of titles such as Tuscany Villa, Farm Heroes Saga, Pearl's Peril, and Diamond Dash. Beyond her work in product management, Laura also contributes actively as a writer and podcast host at Deconstructor of Fun, a leading source of insights into the game industry. In this episode… Puzzle games have long captivated players with their addictive gameplay and brain-teasing challenges. Behind the scenes, game developers continuously strive to innovate and refine their creations to meet the evolving preferences of players. How can aspiring gaming professionals break into the intricate world of puzzle game development? Seasoned game developer Laura Taranto highlights one key aspect: the importance of analyzing player feedback in shaping puzzle game development. By closely examining player comments, reviews, and suggestions, developers gain valuable insights into what aspects of the game resonate with players and identify areas for improvement. This feedback-driven approach allows developers to tailor puzzle games better to meet the expectations and preferences of their audience. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast as she interviews Laura Taranto, Senior Director of Product Management at Big Fish Games. Laura discusses her pivotal role at Big Fish, offering insights into the process of analyzing player feedback for game development. Additionally, she shares recent shifts in the gaming industry, providing listeners with valuable perspectives on emerging trends and innovations.


Improving Talent Acquisition in the Gaming Industry With Jon Wolheim

Jon Wolheim is the Volunteer Vice President of People and Culture at Games For Love, a nonprofit providing video games in children's hospitals and helping medical professionals to meaningfully integrate games into therapies. Jon's education runs through Stanford, USC, and MIT, where he got his start in core Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, ahead of leading some of the largest global HR and hiring teams at Apple and Amazon. Beyond being a top voice on LinkedIn, Jon is a competitive keynote speaker, a highly vocal advocate within the LGBTQ community, and a passionate voice for games and the brilliant minds who make them. In this episode… In the ever-evolving gaming industry, acquiring talent is paramount for success. What are some valuable insights into optimizing the talent acquisition process to cultivate a vibrant gaming community? With extensive experience as a recruiter in the gaming industry, Jon Wolheim has witnessed firsthand its evolution. To foster a thriving community, he emphasizes the importance of streamlining hiring processes, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fostering positive workplace dynamics. By actively addressing biases in hiring practices and prioritizing supportive environments alongside retention strategies, gaming companies can establish inclusive workplaces that drive innovation within the industry. Tune in to the latest episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where Lizzie Mintus hosts Jon Wolheim, Volunteer Vice President of People and Culture at Games For Love, to explore recruiting practices in the gaming industry and the mission of Games For Love. Jon highlights volunteer opportunities within the organization, pathways to kickstart a career in gaming, methods for streamlining the hiring process, and approaches to fostering diversity and inclusion in recruitment.


Lessons From a Gaming Industry Entrepreneur With Anthony Castoro

Anthony Castoro is the Owner of Protagonist Games, an independent games and technology company specializing in multiplayer and online games. He is also the Founder and CEO of Simulation Theory, a proprietary technologies platform yielding incredible high-performance results for video games, AR/VR, real-time AI applications, and industrial simulations. A gaming industry veteran, Anthony has led teams in developing cutting-edge technologies and immersive gaming environments. With a passion for pushing the boundaries of interactive entertainment, he continues to drive innovation and deliver unforgettable experiences to gamers worldwide. In this episode… Entering the realm of gaming entrepreneurship demands a fusion of passion, tenacity, and strategic acumen. What insights can aspiring entrepreneurs glean from accomplished trailblazers as they navigate the intricacies of this vibrant industry? Video game pioneer Anthony Castoro’s venture into the gaming industry began with a passion for creating immersive and engaging experiences for players. However, his entrepreneurial journey wasn't without challenges. Like many startup founders, Anthony faced obstacles along the way, from funding constraints to market competition. His resilience and determination guided him, teaching him invaluable lessons about perseverance and adaptability. One of his key takeaways is the importance of non-traditional paths in game development. Anthony encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to explore alternative avenues, such as self-teaching, online courses, or participating in game jams. These non-traditional paths not only offer valuable learning experiences but also provide opportunities to showcase creativity and talent. In the latest episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus sits down with Anthony Castoro, Owner of Protagonist Games, to delve into insights and guidance for budding gaming enthusiasts. Anthony reflects on his journey spanning Protagonist Games, Simulation Theory, MaxPlay, and Heat Wave, offering alternative avenues into game development and underscoring the pivotal role of mentorship.


The Future of Remote Game Development

Štěpán Kaiser is the Co-founder and CEO of Remāngu, a cutting-edge platform designed to bridge the gap between remote individuals and prominent gaming studios. With a background in software engineering and a passion for innovation, Štěpán has spearheaded Remāngu's development of intuitive feedback management solutions tailored to meet the evolving needs of modern enterprises. Under his leadership, Remāngu has emerged as a leader in the feedback management space, empowering businesses to leverage customer insights for strategic decision-making and continuous improvement. Štěpán's relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to driving customer success has positioned Remāngu as a reliable partner for organizations seeking to improve customer experience and accelerate growth. In this episode… In recent years, there has been a noticeable surge in the popularity of platforms that facilitate connections between remote workers and gaming studios. This trend reflects the growing prevalence of remote work arrangements across various industries, including the highly competitive gaming sector. Industry leader Štěpán Kaiser explains one such platform at the forefront of this movement is Remāngu. This all-in-one game development cloud tool distinguishes itself in the competitive landscape by offering a unique approach to connecting remote talent with gaming studios. Rather than simply serving as a middleman, Remāngu focuses on fostering meaningful relationships between freelancers and studios, ensuring compatibility and mutual benefit for both parties involved. Through its unique approach to matchmaking, emphasis on cultural inclusivity, fair compensation practices, and commitment to innovation, Remāngu stands out as a trailblazer in this burgeoning industry. Tune in to the latest episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where Lizzie Mintus interviews Štěpán Kaiser, the Co-founder of Remāngu, on the rising trend of platforms linking remote workers with gaming studios. Štěpán delves into Remāngu’s unique approach to standing out in a competitive landscape, navigating cultural disparities, managing compensation in a remote-first setup, and insights into Remāngu's future direction.


Insights From a Venture Capitalist for Aspiring Gaming Founders

David Kaye is a General Partner at F4 Fund, a pioneering venture capital firm specializing in funding early-stage technology startups. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for disruptive ideas, David leads F4 Fund in identifying and investing in high-potential ventures poised to impact their respective industries significantly. Leveraging his extensive experience in the startup ecosystem, he provides strategic guidance and support to portfolio companies, helping them navigate the complexities of growth and scale. Before founding F4 Fund, David held vital roles in startup ventures and established technology firms, gaining invaluable insights into the dynamics of entrepreneurship and investment. Committed to fostering the next generation of tech innovators, he actively mentors aspiring entrepreneurs and shares his expertise through various speaking engagements and advisory roles. In this episode… For aspiring gaming founders seeking funding, navigating the competitive landscape of venture capital can be daunting. What are valuable insights on catching the attention of VC funders in the gaming space? With experience in both gaming and investment, venture capitalist David Kaye understands the intricacies of funding in the gaming industry. He provides invaluable recommendations for founders aiming to survive and thrive in the competitive gaming market, emphasizing the importance of demonstrating demand for your product and proving its market viability. Additionally, David discusses the future of the gaming industry, offering guidance for founders seeking funding to propel their ventures forward. Tune in to the latest episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where Lizzie Mintus sits down with David Kaye, General Partner at F4 Fund, to explore the competitive landscape of venture funding. David shares insights into his motivations behind establishing a VC fund, highlights F4 Fund’s unique approach in the industry, and offers valuable strategies for capturing the attention of potential investors.


Navigating the Gaming Industry With Sucker Punch’s Chris Zimmerman

Chris Zimmerman is the Co-founder of Sucker Punch Productions, a video game developer best known for creating action games for PlayStation consoles. A renowned figure in the video game industry, Chris has been instrumental in producing iconic titles such as Sly Cooper, inFAMOUS, and the critically acclaimed Ghost of Tsushima. Before his venture into Sucker Punch, Chris spent a decade at Microsoft, where he worked on various projects. In addition to his contributions to gaming, Chris has extended his expertise to the realm of programming wisdom. He authored The Rules of Programming, a book that distills Sucker Punch's programming insights into easily digestible and applicable rules. In this episode… Operating a video game studio comes with unique challenges and triumphs. While the journey begins with inspiration, the venture is more than passion and a love for crafting engaging gaming experiences. Known for its fast-paced evolution, the gaming industry grapples with the challenges of retaining top talent. Finding the right talent is crucial to bringing creative visions to life, and studio head Chris Zimmerman shares insights into the intricate process of building a skilled and dedicated team. ​​In navigating the dynamics of autonomy, work culture, and company values, Chris emphasizes fostering a collaborative and innovative environment. He highlights the strategies to overcome these hurdles and keep teams motivated and committed. In this insightful episode of the Here’s Waldo podcast with Lizzie Mintus, Chris Zimmerman, the Co-founder of Sucker Punch Productions, delves into the inspiration behind launching the renowned gaming studio. Discover the intricacies and challenges of recruiting top talent for a video game company, and gain valuable insights into effective strategies for retaining team members in the world of game development.


Elevating Well-Being Through Gaming With Alina Matson

Alina Matson is the Co-founder and CEO of Glossbird, an innovative game studio creating lifestyle-improving games for untapped player markets. She is an award-winning designer, engineer, inventor, and startup consultant with a diverse portfolio ranging from flying cars to the latest VR headset at Metis. In her roles at Glossbird, Alina leads a team dedicated to evoking positive emotions and enhancing well-being through entertainment. With the spirit of a game studio and the efficiency of a tech startup, Glossbird is poised to revolutionize the game industry — redefining the process, player demographics, and creators’ diversity. In this episode… In the gaming world, several startup studios have emerged as transformative forces reshaping the industry. A growing trend is the development of video games specifically designed to promote physical fitness and overall health. For aspiring developers and studio owners, what factors can set them apart from the competition? Alina Matson, a seasoned game developer and lifelong gamer, emphasizes that companies like Glossbird stand out by embracing fundamental pillars that serve as the foundation for their game development philosophy. These pillars are carefully crafted to elevate games beyond mere entertainment. Glossbird strongly emphasizes vital objectives, including fostering innovation in wellness, ensuring accessibility for a diverse audience, promoting creative collaboration, and maintaining a player-centric design approach. These guiding principles shape Glossbird's identity and contribute to creating games beyond conventional gaming experiences. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo podcast as she interviews Alina Matson, Co-founder and CEO of Glossbird, about well-being in gaming. Alina discusses the inspiration behind Glossbird, highlights the studio’s four pillars, shares advice for aspiring developers and studio owners, and offers insight on creating a positive and thoughtful company culture.


Unifying Social Media and Gaming Through Generative AI With Negar Shaghaghi

Negar Shaghaghi is the Co-founder and CEO of Auxuman, a game technology company with a mission to bridge the divide between social media and gaming. With a remarkable career trajectory, Negar served as an AI Product Leader for the past six years, showcasing her expertise and leadership in the dynamic intersection of artificial intelligence and product development. Under her guidance, Auxuman thrives as a pioneering force, shaping the future of interactive experiences and redefining the landscape where technology, gaming, and social engagement converge. In this episode… The convergence of social media and gaming represents a powerful synergy that empowers companies to redefine user experiences. So why should companies actively bridge the gap between social media and gaming? Game developer Negar Shaghaghi explains that merging both realms allows for expanded reach, enhanced user interaction, and community building, among other benefits. By integrating social media and gaming, companies like Auxuman can tap into a wider audience pool. These types of enterprises continue to push the boundaries of innovation by constructing ecosystems where users can fluidly move between interconnected worlds. This approach marks a significant shift in how players perceive and engage with digital entertainment. With each advancement, companies like Auxuman actively contribute to the evolution of a digital landscape, promising exciting possibilities for users and content creators. In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus interviews Negar Shaghaghi, Co-founder and CEO of Auxuman, about the benefits of unifying gaming and social media. Negar shares her outlook on the future of AI in the gaming world, the challenges game developers and entrepreneurs encounter, how she incorporates player feedback into her game designs, and the lessons she learned from her startup venture.


Balancing Acts: Overcoming Startup Challenges for Moms With Terry Redfield

Terry Redfield is the Founder of a stealth mode startup, a company in its early stages of development and inspired by a game she created in 2015. With nearly three decades in the gaming industry, Terry embarked on her remarkable journey at 3DO as a junior artist. Her notable contributions include content creation for acclaimed games such as Psychonauts, Gardens of Time, and League of Legends. Throughout the years, Terry has refined her expertise across different specializations in the console, PC, and mobile platforms. In this episode… Embarking on an entrepreneurial path is demanding. Add the responsibilities of motherhood to the equation and the challenges become far more intricate. How can moms balance work and life, overcome obstacles, and venture into the startup landscape? Terry Redfield, a seasoned gaming professional and entrepreneur, reveals that building communities is paramount when facing of these challenges. Networking plays a pivotal role in providing moms with the resources, guidance, and encouragement needed for their dual journey. Terry also explains that it's crucial to recognize the collective responsibility to empower change. By acknowledging these challenges, learning from experienced entrepreneurs, and participating in community-building efforts, creating a more inclusive and supportive landscape becomes the standard. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where she interviews Terry Redfield, an entrepreneur and gaming expert, about the challenges mothers face as gaming entrepreneurs. Terry shares effective tips for managing large teams, hiring processes for building successful teams, the challenges publishers face when launching new products, and the lessons she’s learned from her previous startup experiences.


Strategies for Inclusion and Diversifying Leadership in the Gaming Industry With Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph is the Chief Strategy Officer at VentureBeat and GamesBeat, the leading sources for news, events, and groundbreaking research used to help leaders make intuitive decisions. Gina brings two decades of expertise in media and technology to her role. As a first-generation Afghan American woman, she actively champions diversity and inclusion, especially for women leaders. Gina is also the Founder of VentureBeat Lab, an innovative publishing arm focused on thought leadership, consultancy, and branded content. Additionally, she holds the distinction of being the first Afghan American board member for a games publisher in the US and is the sole Afghan woman occupying a C-level role in a games and tech publication. As a board member for The Daily Californian and the alumni network for Harvard Women, Gina has been recognized in Forbes and Digiday. In this episode… With diversity and inclusion increasingly recognized as essential to professional success, the gaming industry provides an opportunity for diverse voices to excel, especially with more women joining the space. What are some strategies for fostering diversity in women leadership roles? Diversity in leadership requires a commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where people from disparate backgrounds feel valued and heard. Gina Joseph, a trailblazer in the industry, emphasizes the cruciality of actively seeking diverse voices to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. One key strategy that Gina advocates for is establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs. Allowing underrepresented talent to access guidance and support from experienced leaders breaks barriers and fosters professional growth. Gina also highlights the need for programs that encourage people from various backgrounds to pursue careers in gaming. This creates a pipeline of talent that reflects the industry’s varied player base. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where she is joined by Gina Joseph, the Chief Strategy Officer at VentureBeat, to discuss diversifying leadership in the gaming industry. Gina talks about what attracted her to join Midwest Games, how Chief has positively impacted her career, the current state of AI in gaming, and her reasons for creating VentureBeat Lab.


Navigating Mental Health in the Gaming Industry: Breaking the Stigma With Kate Edwards

Kate Edwards is the CEO of Geogrify, a niche consultancy providing geocultural and geopolitical content strategy to help clients reach a global audience. She is also the Co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of SetJetters, which aims to revolutionize the film tourism experience with its location-based app. An award-winning gaming industry veteran, Kate’s career spans over 30 years working with premier companies, such as Microsoft, the International Game Developers Association, and Global Game Jam. In addition to serving on several boards and advisory roles, Kate is a geographer, corporate strategist, and writer. She’s been inducted into the Women in Games Hall of Fame, and in 2021, Forbes named her one of the 50 over 50 in the Vision category. In this episode… In the fast-paced and immersive world of the gaming industry, where creativity and innovation thrive, there's an often-overlooked aspect that deserves attention: mental health. Why is it crucial to acknowledge the prevalence of mental health challenges within the gaming community? Individuals in the gaming industry face unique challenges that can impact their well-being. Seasoned industry veteran Kate Edwards reveals that addressing mental health is one of the first steps in the process. Open conversations about mental health help normalize discussions, making it easier for individuals to seek support without fear of judgment. However, creating supportive work environments involves implementing policies that prioritize mental health. This can include flexible work hours, mental health days, and access to counseling services. The gaming community itself can be a powerful source of support. Initiatives that promote mental health awareness, such as support groups like Take This, can provide a sense of community for individuals facing similar challenges. By sharing experiences and coping strategies, gaming community members can strengthen their collective well-being. In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus welcomes Kate Edwards, CEO of Geogrify, to explore mental health challenges in the gaming industry. Kate talks about Take This and its resources, the importance of addressing mental health issues, and how she survived imposter syndrome.


50 Years of Dungeons and Dragons: An Iconic Fan-Favorite With Ray Winninger

Ray Winninger is a seasoned video game pioneer who began his career as a freelance designer in high school. His most recent role was as Executive Producer at Wizards of the Coast, where he managed a studio for Wizards’ Dungeons and Dragons. Ray’s career spans over 30 years, leading departments for prominent companies such as Sony, Viacom, Microsoft, and Amazon. In this episode… The popular tabletop role-playing Dungeons and Dragons celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and is played by more than 50 million people. How can established publishers like D&D maintain longevity and popularity? As gaming industry pioneer Ray Winninger explains, one of the most significant appeals of gaming is the ability to immerse oneself in another world. D&D developers understand that people enjoy being able to create characters and stories with no restrictions. Although it may seem obvious and trite, Ray affirms that companies must employ product developers familiar with their target market. This necessitates that game designers and company heads conduct polls and studies to determine what’s popular and why their clients prefer certain games. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where Ray Winninger, a pioneer in the gaming industry, joins her. The two discuss the quintessential Dungeon and Dragons, Ray’s contributions to the brand, why D&D has maintained longevity, and how historical companies can create innovative products without losing authenticity.


Indie Studio Startups: What Every Aspiring Founder Needs To Know With Raph Koster

Raph Koster is the CEO of Playable Worlds, a computer games company specializing in gamification, online games, and game development. As a veteran game designer, he’s been professionally credited in almost every industry area. Raph was the lead designer and director of Ultima Online, one of the first MMOs to reach $1 billion, and Star Wars Galaxies. Raph is also the Founder of Metaplace, a metaverse company that he exited and sold to Disney Playdom. His book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, recently revised for a 10th-anniversary edition, is an undisputed classic in the games field. Raph is revered as one of the most celebrated social designers of Sandbox Games, and in 2012, he was named an Online Game Legend at the Game Developers Conference Online. In this episode… Are you a video game developer who dreams of starting a studio? In recent years, the gaming landscape has seen a dramatic increase in the number of independent game studios. Although founding an independent studio affords creative freedom, it is a risky industry that requires careful consideration. According to gaming pioneer Raph Koster, the success of independent studios has always been impeded by factors such as smaller marketing and distribution channels. As a result, indie games heavily depend on word-of-mouth and critical acclaim to succeed. Additionally, due to rising costs of development tools and the need to hire more talented developers, indie studios face increasing pressure to reduce costs. Raph forecasts that studios might try to maintain quality by using AI to perform pathfinding and animation tasks. Another hindrance is the surge of games as a service, which is a safer investment for publishers. Although GaaS generates more revenue over a longer period, other genres might receive less funding. Join Lizzie Mintus for this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where she talks to Raph Koster, CEO of Playable Worlds, about gaming startups. Raph discusses how to raise startup funding, a 10-year outlook for the gaming industry, and what makes a video game fun.


Rafael Brown on the Importance of Diversity in Leadership and How To Pivot During Slow Seasons

Rafael Brown is the Founder and CEO of Symbol Zero, a video game studio developing interactive software across games, XR, virtual worlds, and concerts. As a seasoned veteran with 27 years of industry experience, he’s contributed his talents to over 37 projects. Before Symbol Zero, Rafael founded Digital Leaf Design, serving as the Creative Director for 22 years. His expertise has garnered him a reputation as a thought leader in the gaming world, and he’s spoken at various engagements such as SVVR, Samsung Next, VR Gaming Summit, and Augmented World Expo. In this episode… The unforeseen circumstances of the global pandemic posed a challenging time, but it also taught many people, particularly in the gaming industry, the value of adapting. Additionally, 2023 saw many layoffs due to studios overspending and overhiring. Because the gaming industry is known to have periods of growth and decline, how can professional developers survive and thrive during ambivalent times? Having endured layoffs and slow seasons, veteran industry expert Rafael Brown understands that his career does not define him. He explains that these are times to reflect, take a hiatus, and study the market. Although unemployment can be stressful, this period provides an opportunity to interview with multiple companies or studios, exposing you to innovative projects. Time off also helps you explore your passions and determine your career path. Tune in on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast as Lizzie Mintus welcomes Rafael Brown, Founder and CEO of Symbol Zero, to discuss how to pivot within the gaming world. Rafael shares how to survive the industry during uncertain times, tips for making online spaces safer, and why diversity and inclusion are vital to leadership.


The Power of Networking and Fostering Relationships for Career Success

Joe Nickolls is the VP of Sumo Digital North America, a multi-genre video game platform featuring titles for major publishers, including Microsoft, Sony, Sega, and 2K. With 25 years of industry experience, he’s contributed his talents at various studios like Capcom and EA, where he led the MAXIS Studio, overseeing the Sims franchises. Joe is also the Co-founder and Managing Director of Timbre Games, a Vancouver-based company focusing on values, diversity, and inclusion, and a two-time Best Places to Work in Canada winner. In this episode… Although no scientific proof backs the percentage of jobs acquired through networking, fostering relationships can lead to job opportunities. What are some practical approaches to networking? When considering networking, most people associate it with attending industry events. However, forming connections can be as simple as reaching out to your personal and professional contacts. This is why it is vital to never burn bridges with former coworkers and managers, as you never know when those relationships may be beneficial. But, as business leader Joe Nickolls explains, it’s imperative to be open when meeting new people. While showing vulnerability to strangers can be intimidating, openly sharing your career background, knowledge, and skills can open doors to new opportunities. Join Lizzie Mintus on this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where Joe Nickolls, Co-founder and Managing Director of Timbre Games, discusses how networking and relationships can influence career opportunities. Joe discusses Timbre Games’ talent acquisition process, the inspiration behind his viral #JoesImpact100 LinkedIn posts, and his journey into working in the video game industry.


AAA-Action Game Studio CEO Jerry Hook Shares Industry Insights

Jerry Hook is the Founder and CEO of Jar of Sparks, a new studio committed to creating AAA action-adventure games. He has over 20 years in the industry and was a founding member of Xbox Live during his Microsoft tenure. Jerry also led the Destiny franchise at Bungie and headed the Design team for Halo Infinite at 343 Industries. While at 343 Industries, Jerry was the visionary behind progression, e-sports, and integration with the company’s business model and partners. In this episode… A commonality in the video game industry is developers who aspire to start a studio. Regardless of the industry’s ebbs and flows, there is no better time to be a video game innovator. What does it take to own and operate a successful gaming studio? Throughout Jerry Hook’s 20 years in the industry, he’s learned the one constant is change. Therefore, embracing it is imperative. However, as with any business endeavor, starting your own company is daunting, so embracing fear is also advisable. Leverage all the experiences you’ve survived — positive or negative — because they will serve as a guide. Jerry also suggests establishing cultural values the entire team can apply to their work ethic. Additionally, he advocates hiring and partnering with people smarter than you so they’ll continue challenging you. And while you’re sure to have fun as a video game studio owner, it’s vital to remember that you’re competing with other studios. Jerry recommends playing plenty of video games and studying market trends. In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast with Lizzie Mintus, Jerry Hook, Founder and CEO of Jar of Sparks, joins the show. Jerry discusses his emerging studio and the inspiration behind its founding, offers tips for cultivating a healthy team-building culture, examines the challenges industry leaders face, and provides advice for aspiring developers.


Talofa Games: A Gaming Platform Invigorating Entertainment, Fitness, and Mental Health With Jenny Xu

Jenny Xu is the Founder and CEO of Talofa, a video game platform inspired by her interests in running, fitness, and gaming. She hopes Talofa can help gamers improve their mental and physical health through play. Jenny is also the Founder and former CEO of JCSoft Inc., an independent game company that creates experimental horror-comedy mobile games. While at JCSoft, she collaborated with Niantic — the developer of Pokemon GO — to design new augmented reality and location-based gaming experiences for their platform. In addition to being named a 30 Under 30 Honoree by Forbes in 2018, Jenny is a member of Persistence, a professional women's group for executives and founders in tech. In this episode… There are several myths about video games, including their adverse effects on sleep, relationships, and mental and physical health. However, many games defy this negative stereotype. In fact, many game developers create games that promote fitness and mental health. At the age of 12, Jenny Xu created her first video game, a feat she would continue throughout high school. Despite being recognized as a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, there was a time when she felt she had peaked too early. However, when Jenny experienced bouts of melancholy, she knew she could always turn to fitness to improve her mental state. Her most recent game production, Talofa Games, is an homage to fitness and mental health. Unlike traditional games controlled with joysticks and buttons, Talofa is activated by body movement and speed, which is scientifically proven to release dopamine and produce feelings of euphoria similar to a runner’s high. In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus interviews Jenny Xu, Founder and CEO of Talofa Games, to discuss how gaming can encourage fitness and mental health. Jenny shares case studies, how she turned her passion for gaming into an entrepreneurial journey, and Niantic’s role in securing funding for her startup.


Gaming: An Ever-Evolving Industry With Gordon Walton

Gordon Walton is the Chief Product Officer and Executive Producer at Playable Worlds, a computer games company specializing in gamification, online games, and game development. As a pioneer in the industry, Gordon started his career in 1977 and has executive-produced multiple MMO games. He has an extensive resume, working for companies such as ArtsCraft Entertainment (formally known as Crowfall), Monumental LLC, Playdom, and Sony Online Entertainment. Gordon oversaw the development of several MMOGs, including Air Warrior and Multiplayer Battletech at Kesmai Studios. Additionally, he’s personally developed over 30 games and led the development of more than 200 games. His numerous years of experience and knowledge have made him a thought leader in the industry, and he speaks regularly at industry conferences. Gordon also serves as an advisor for various gaming educational programs. In this episode… In the early days of the video game industry, game developers were nerdy hobbyists creating games for other hobbyists. However, the industry has changed significantly over the last 50 years. Gordon Walton, a seasoned game developer, shares that during the '70s and '80s, a coder may have produced 100 lines of code per day. Today, it’s much faster and more interactive. The scale is also much more extensive, from as low as five-person teams to large teams of hundreds of workers. He also explains that the one-time linear career path in gaming is a different ecosystem. Gordon suggests aspiring developers should be flexible and seek positions where gaps must be filled. Although being an expert in one area is imperative, a willingness to learn other skills always proves beneficial. On today’s episode of Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus welcomes Gordon Walton, Chief Product Officer and Executive Producer at Playable Worlds, to discuss how the gaming industry has evolved. Gordon shares vital elements of a successful game, insights on establishing communities, and why inclusion and diversity are essential to the industry.


David Fox on Creating Groundbreaking Games at Lucasfilm Games and the Evolution of Virtual Reality

David Fox is the Co-founder and Director of Electric Eggplant, specializing in new media and interactive design. In addition to his responsibilities at Eggplant, David decided to adapt his 2013 Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game to XR. He is also a founding member of Lucasfilm Games as employee number two. During his 10-year tenure at Lucasfilm, he worked on Maniac Mansion, Zack McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. David recently collaborated with Ron Gilbert’s Terrible Toy Box team on Thimbleweed Park and is the Lead Programmer of Return to Monkey Island. In this episode… Virtual reality games continue to grow in popularity. However, the technology behind VR is constantly evolving. How has VR advanced, and how can it be improved upon? Seasoned industry leader David Fox has witnessed many innovative developments in the gaming world, including virtual reality. He recollects several setbacks in creating VR, such as slow frame rates, movement lag time, and the fact that it needed to be more affordable. However, he understood that these were temporary obstacles and that game developers needed to focus on how to make VR a more memorable experience. Although there is always room for improvement, David maintains that with the advent of 3D design, participating in VR is utterly engaging due to its immersive environment. Still, David declares that VR can further its mainstream appeal by creating games that do not require bulky headsets or extensive equipment setup. Join Lizzie Mintus on today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where she talks with David Fox, Co-founder and Director of Electric Eggplant, about the pioneering days of game development. David discusses his tenure at Lucasfilm Games, the advancement of virtual reality games, and what developers should consider to make VR more mainstream.


Fostering Innovation and Accessibility in the Gaming Industry With Ben Kvalo

Ben Kvalo is the Founder and CEO of Midwest Games, a regionally-focused video game publisher dedicated to championing disenfranchised developers in underrepresented regions, starting in the Midwest. He possesses over 12 years in the industry, including contributions to over 100 game titles and 50-plus films encompassing several of the entertainment industry’s most illustrious franchises. Ben is a former executive leader for 2K, Blizzard, and Netflix, where he led marketing and product development initiatives. Ben also sits on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s board as an Advisor for Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Advancement and the creation of the eSports Center at the University Union. In this episode… California, Washington, and Texas account for 67% of the video game industry, yet most game developers hail from various regions across the US. How can mainstream companies advocate for underrepresented areas to improve industry inclusiveness? Like most industries, leaders in the gaming sector often hire referrals and individuals they’re acquainted with. To break this pattern, veteran gaming executive Ben Kvalo advises those in hiring roles to challenge themselves to look beyond their comfort zones. Investing in areas where innovation is paramount, such as indie and single-person studios, is also crucial. Developers also need financial support to cover the costs of game production and development, marketing, public relations, and a go-to-market strategy. Join Lizzie Mintus in today’s episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, where she welcomes Ben Kvalo, Founder and CEO of Midwest Games, to discuss his new venture and the value of fostering a more inclusive gaming industry. Ben explains how Midwest Games differentiates itself from the competition, offers tips for pitching investors and acquiring funding, and expounds on the impact layoffs have had on the industry.