A day back in 2010, a woman wrote in to tell us how much she loved a game we made at the company I was working in at the time. We had written the first mobile game ever that was cross-platform, multi-player, with chat.
Yeah, yeah, yeah feature list bragging. But not really.
What this meant for her was life-changing. Her husband was deployed overseas. He had a smartphone, but not the same kind as she did. They talked to each other on the phone whenever they could, but timezones and restricted schedules made things difficult. Anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship can relate to this: you talk about your separate experiences, you try to understand, you comfort each other, you make jokes, you reminisce about past experiences, and you plan for new ones, with hope in your heart. But you don't get to do anything new together, not really.
When our game came out, they started to be able have a different kind of fun. They could play each other, create new memories of fun experiences, and talk to each other while doing it. The woman who wrote in was so happy. Her life and her relationship with her husband were significantly better, and it was directly due to work I was doing.
I'm not gonna lie; I almost cried.
There are a lot of games that are cross-platform, multiplayer now, but the lesson I took away from that email -- and countless other stories from players that told us about how they connected to their friends, both old and new -- is that it's the people that matter the most.
Trite to say, right?
We, as Wonderspark, talk about how we are going to treat our team a lot, and the many lessons we learned over the years about keeping a thriving, passionate group of people going. It's because we only want to do this with people that we'll be want to invest in for the rest of their lives.
We've talked a little in public and a lot in private about how we want to treat our investors, who are giving us a shot at success while we had nothing to offer, so that we can give back to them multifold and "treat them right". Many of them are life-long friends.
And we've touched on how much we care about the community, but I think we haven't said enough. It's not just about building a consumer/business relationship for me; it's about having a sense of positive impact in people's lives. The community that formed around Fleck -- a former game I poured all my professional self into, from babyhood until the day it was put to rest -- gave me so much more back in memories and relationships than I can articulate. That happened because we helped people connect and form strong bonds with each other in the game. We thought hard about every feature, weighing if we had the time to work on it, if it would help people be nice to each other instead of antagonistic -- and sometimes we were wrong, but we tried.
When my husband and I had our second child, we each spent a lot of time with one kid. We joked that we were two single parents living in the same house. When one child takes over an hour to put down to sleep, multiple times a night, it doesn't matter if everyone is awake, because you don't get to spend time together. Sitting in the dark, comforting my baby, then holding him carefully long after he's asleep, I'd often reach into my pocket for my phone and start up Spellwood or Letterpress and take a turn against my husband. And he'd do the same. We'd chat in game, both to brag when we were crushing each other ("Hahaha, did you see that turn? BOOM!") and to communicate mundane details of parenthood ("Can you slide a diaper under the door?" or "Taking J to the zoo, will be back in 2 hours").
We couldn't watch movies together, and we could only eat together for minutes at a time. But we found a way to have a little silly fun and feel a little less lonely.
Games, especially mobile & turn-based ones, bridged that gap for us. I felt anew what it meant to connect people through games, that games weren't just a frivolous bit of fluffy fun stuff that people may think, but a platform for helping people get together to have fun, to create new shared experiences.
I want people, I want YOU, to feel a little less an island, to feel connected, to have the kind of exhilarating shared experience that bonds lifelong friendships.
And I can do that through games.