To a standing room only crowd at Casual Connect Europe 2013 in Hamburg, Jens Begemann, founder and CEO of Wooga in Berlin, discussed how we make games and the devices we make them for, questioning the dominance of traditional platforms. “What is required to make tablets the best game machines ever made,” began Jens. The direction we are heading in now, according to Begemann, is away from the keyboard, mouse and gamepad controls of old and toward touch controls that will have a drastic impact on game design.
“We are entering a new era for games,” he say. “Every fifteen years or so a new input technology becomes mass market and, with that, new ideas and new genres follow.” By way of example, he points out the game pad and the mouse resulted in the creation of completely new genres such as jump-n-run and hidden object games. “The same thing will happen as developers create games specifically for touch, rather than adapting genres created for older control methods.”
A successful leader looks for something new
In 2009 Jens was looking for a new challenge. He had just left Jamba, where he had worked since 2001, helping it grow from a small start up to its position as Europe’s leading provider of mobile entertainment.
Begemann had always been interested in games, even coding a few while in his teens, but what really piqued his curiosity was the question of why video games hadn’t gone completely mainstream. As he says, “If you asked someone on the street if they listened to music or watched video or TV every day, you’d get a clear “yes” from everyone. But if you asked them if they played games, more often than not, they would say their children or grandchildren played but they did not.” He was inspired to get into the games industry to change that situation.
When founding Wooga, Begemann kept the mass market in mind, with a vision to bring games to the same level as music or video, with everyone playing every day. Begemann knows that everyone wants to play; it is a natural part of being human. Over the past twenty years the games industry has grown exponentially, yet there are still many people who are not playing games. He wants to reach this audience by bringing out games with greater depth, teaching them to play in new and interesting ways.
Wooga HQ – A very special place
Begemann recalls launching Wooga’s first game, Brain Buddies, as a wonderful moment. However, as he looks at the company from today’s perspective, he believes his greatest accomplishment has been bringing together so many people from all over the world. Wooga now has artists, engineers, game designers and office staff from forty different countries all working together under one roof. And for him that is something really special.
As Begemann considers the factors shaping his approach to his work, he reminds us that this is a very fast paced industry, so it is essential to be open to both change and failure and to benefit from the lessons they can provide. At Wooga, they constantly revise their approach to game creation. For that first game, they began with a 100 page game design document before writing a line of code. But now they begin with the person who will be responsible for the game, not with the idea. That person is given considerable freedom, with the last word on all decisions affecting the game. They will then do prototyping for months, gathering feedback until they are sure they are on the right track.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.