Have you ever thought nostalgically about your childhood games? What made these games so fun and memorable, and how can we bring some of that magic into the games we design today? During his Casual Connect Tel Aviv talk, Goldy, game designer and founder of Playful Shark, explored how recent top-chart games draw their essence and features from real-life play experiences from our childhood and beyond. He showcased examples and demonstrations that introduce a new perspective for examining contemporary success stories. He explained how to use the same lens as a creative-thinking method for imagining possibilities for the next disruptive gameplay. One tip he gave: “Use the RELAI methodology! Looking back at our playing experience as a child. Reminence, extract essence of good games, look around for physical world solutions and implement the best in your game.” For more insights, tune in below.
Goldy is the founder and game designer of Playful Shark, an Israeli game studio, and co-founder of GameIS, the Israeli Game Developer Association. Casual Connect recently enjoyed learning about Goldy’s background and perception of the game industry.
Casual Connect: Tell us about the work you do at your company. How did you come to work at your current company?
Goldy: Playful Shark’s story ties to the story of the Israeli Game Industry: back in 2005, I studied in the first Israeli Game Design and Production academic program in Beit Berl College. My final project (a funny shooter named “Office Warz”) is what led me into my soon-to-be-formed company and what introduced me to my co-founders. Soon after graduation (summer 2007) we decided to establish a game development studio that works with clients as a service provider… we figured we should gain as much hands-on experience as we can, so why not create games for anyone who wants to deliver messages using games?
CC: How have your past career experiences been helpful to you in your current position?
Goldy: Previously (and somewhat during) my game development career, I was a stage performer, I explored and practiced almost anything you can do on stage – Circus, Comedy, Theatre, Dance, Music, Street art… I had a few opportunities to write and direct shows… which when you think of it, is not so different than being a game designer. In both cases you need to create worlds that have unique (and hopefully original and compelling) mechanisms, that are shipped as a packet of entertainment to people you don’t necessarily know or see… It’s just the medium and language that have changed.
CC: Where do you find the most inspiration for your designs? What was the most interesting thing you found inspiration from?
Goldy: As I describe in my lecture at Casual Connect Tel-Aviv “Drawing Game Ideas from the Past – Marty Mcfly Style”, I make a lot of use in a method of idea generation, and that’s observation on childhood play experiences (not only digital) and extraction of their essence to recreate digitally. One of my own favorite creations is a game called “it’s alive”, inspired by a baby toy.
CC: What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Goldy: I think I remember free time, isn’t it that thing we used to do in the 90’s?
My way of entertaining myself is connected to my work, and I try to have fun at work just like I try to learn and benefit from pastime activities; Obviously I play a lot – for research but also for adrenalin. Other than that, I read everything on Facebook, specifically about startups and technology, I cook, practice a drum set, run, and volunteer in GameIS, the Israeli game industry association.
CC: What is your favorite thing about your job?
Goldy: My favorite part is definitely sitting next to talented people while they do their job, and iterate on it together. In a deeper sense, I appreciate that the professional expectation from me is to be creative, surprising and child-like.
CC: What inspired you to pursue this career?
Goldy: Gaming experiences are magnetic to most people, and I first noticed this before I was 5. Games have just always been in my life, so why not work in something that never gets old? On top of that, the gaming business is ever changing, and unlike many other creative professions, it has much clearer financial prospects.
CC: Do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing the same career?
Goldy: Sure – play as much as you can: try different games, not crucial to play through everything, but play and observe; don’t aim to be a one-man band, because gaming is interdisciplinary, you’ll do it better off being an expert in one of the fields and finding good partners for the others; find good partners – for that I recommend being social, active and lucky.
CC: What was your dream job as a child?
Goldy: It shifted often from king, to super hero, to a fire truck
CC: In your younger years, was there anything that hinted at your future career path in gaming? Do you expect to end up where you are today?
Goldy: I definitely couldn’t imagine the shape of the industry, what projects or the actual work are like, but I was 10 years old when I first imagined a game I would create. I thought of an open adventure world to explore, maybe something similar to Minecraft. But I didn’t want it to have any difficult conflicts… I was probably frustrated by Commodore 64 games… anyway I am happy Minecraft turned out the way it did.
CC: When and how did you first become interested in art/design/coding?
Goldy: When I first saw Pixar movies, I understood something is about to change. That was a very inspiring collaboration of technology and art… so in fact I started my game development studies to get closer to 3D graphics… only later I felt I have something to offer in the game creation space that is more unique.
CC: What is your creative process like? Where do you begin?
Goldy: You rarely get to start from a blank page… I look for a starting point – an anchor, a boundary, a topic, a message… something that is already “given”, that must be in the game, and I need to complete creatively to a full and compelling experience. I try to empathize with players and with what I want them to think about, do or feel, in order to decide if a concept is worthy.
CC: If you had unlimited resources and time, what type of game would you create?
Goldy: Where’s the challenge in developing something without limitations? Necessity is the mother of invention. If I were to step up above my usual scope, I would probably want to create a co-op action game with unique mechanics.
CC: What is the most challenging part of game development for you? What is the most rewarding part?
Goldy: Most challenging – throwing away some aspect of the game that feels right, but creates complications in production or in user experience. Most rewarding – Discovering “let’s play” videos of my games created by fans.
CC: What methods do you use to handle creative blocks? Do creative blocks occur frequently?
Goldy: I take showers. Not so frequently.
CC: What was a painful experience have you found a way out of? How did you do it?
Goldy: One time, I wanted to create a cinematic intro to set off the atmosphere to one of my games. The hero of the game was a brand character, with very familiar voice acting. On the tight budget, there was no way we could record new texts with the original talent. We had to improvise, and got a folder of pre-recorded lines of this character from previous projects (generic as “Good Job!”, “Look out!” and so on), so I ended up writing the story and script for the cinematic to fit the sound bites we had, based heavily on general statements, double meanings and other tricks. No one ever noticed.
CC: What has been your proudest moment during your career so far? What led to this moment happening?
Goldy: In 2012 we’ve won an award during a major Game conference in Europe. Our game, Disky, surpassed over 100 games and was selected “Best Mobile Project” by Tapjoy, for bringing something different to the market. I knew the game was great, I was dreaming to create it since I first saw a touch screen, but the announcement was surprising and filled us with pride, as we realized for the first time our games are competitive even in international standards.
CC: What do you think will be the next big trend in the industry in the next three to five years? How are you incorporating this trend into your future plans?
Goldy: I’ll challenge myself not to say anything related to the letters V or R. I think we will see eSports becoming a more mainstream activity, accessing new audiences and league types. In addition, as the mobile platforms are leaving less space for small developers, they will look for new outlets, and we will start seeing the craftsmanship of games in other types of products and devices.
CC: What do you think your staff most commonly says about you? What do your employees think of you?
Goldy: I had the privilege to run my company as something that feels like a family business, not the typical boss/employee relations. I imagine they trust me. I assume they say I am not as funny as I think I am (but they are wrong).
CC: What attributes do you look for in a member of your team?
Goldy: Good question. I still surprise myself on how much I prefer working ethics over talent. I’ll prefer fast learning/ curiosity over experience (of course they need to be capable and talented). I’ll prefer people who are into what they’re doing, passion players. The people I’ve worked with the longest are those who are fun to be around.
Emily Baker is the Production Supervisor for www.gamesauce.biz. Emily loves learning about cultures, taking care of her hobby farm and spending time with her two kiddos.