At Casual Connect USA, the Senior Vice President of Games at Defy Media answered tough questions like: What type of content is preferred by youth ages 13-24? On what platforms do they prefer to access it? How much do they consume and how much do they create? How do they respond to advertising and what motivates them to pay? These questions and more were answered in this session, based on detailed quantitative and qualitative studies of over 1,000 young people across the United States. Alexander advised, “Your content needs to be appealing but it also has to be on every platform.”
The universe lost a Jedi Knight when Alexander Macris grew up and decided to become a Wall Street lawyer. Then, in his last year of Harvard Law School, his plan changed again when he took a course on Internet & Society and another in Venture Law. As these courses introduced him to the startup tech culture, he suddenly fell in love with entrepreneurism. He was determined that his startup would be something he was passionate about it, so the games industry was an obvious choice for this lifelong gamer.
When asked how he became Senior Vice President of Games at Defy Media, he says, “I was acquired.” It’s actually a little more complex than that. He co-founded The Escapist in 2005; in 2013 it was acquired by Digital Alloy and he joined the company as General Manager of The Escapist. Then in 2014 Digital Alloy merged with Break Media to form Defy Media and Alexander was promoted to his present position. Now he manages five major gaming brands: Addicting Games, Shockwave, GameFront, GameTrailers and The Escapist.
Rewards and Challenges
The moment that has given him the greatest gratification in his career came in 2008 when The Escapist won its first two Webby Awards. He relates, “It was a tremendous honor to receive an award alongside luminaries like Tim Berners-Lee, Trent Reznor and Stephen Colbert.” Since then he has won a total of six Webby Awards, a Mashable, two Streamy Award nominations and recognition as one of Time Magazine’s “Top Fifty Websites.”
The greatest challenge he faces at Defy Media is organizational. The company has grown “at lightning speed” through mergers and acquisitions so they have access to tremendous scale and resources. However, it has been difficult to assemble these different assets into a coherent and sustainable organization. But despite the difficulties he still greatly enjoys his opportunities to discover and promote innovative content for the gamer audience.
Alexander’s advice to anyone pursuing a similar career is the same that he would give to any young professional: Network! He describes, “Networking is like tending a garden planted with seeds of an unknown varietal. You don’t know what will grow, nor do you know when they will bloom, but if you don’t tend the garden regularly, it is certain that they will die.”
Games Change Our Culture
Alexander maintains that video games are the most important entertainment medium of the twenty-first century, unifying every aspect of creativity and imagination. They are preferred over every other online activity by twelve to eighteen-year-olds, and this fact seems unlikely to change. He insists, “Video games have already permanently changed our culture, and they will do so even more in the future.” And he believes that since play is the way the mammalian brain learns, there is tremendous untapped power for teaching and training with games.
He expects in the near future to see games changing from a platform-specific medium to an anywhere-anytime medium. Phones will have the processing power of a console, VR glasses will allow us to enjoy home theater on the go, and with wireless connectivity we will be able to shift seamlessly between screens and devices at will. So, he tells us, “We are investing heavily in the gaming space because we believe in its future growth.”
Alexander is a dedicated gamer himself. His all-time favorite video games include X-Com: UFO Defense, Master of Orion II, Medieval Total War, Morrowind, Oblivion, Neverwinter Nights, Asheron’s Call and Star Wars Galaxies. He is also deeply interested in tabletop games, designing and publishing them in his free time. In his small side business he holds Kickstarters and distributes his work. And when all this isn’t enough to keep him busy, he enjoys reading science fiction, philosophy, economics and physics.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.