Video Gaming on Fire
It was in the earliest days of our conceptualizing what MediaTech Ventures would become, that we shared an insight to a specific media vertical that we believed might indicate from where funding for other media might come. That thought, that though most forms of media production seemingly struggle to find funding, videos games were finding interests through corporations.
The video game industry in many ways exemplifies the work we strive to support – at the heart of appreciating the convergence of technology with media is the video game. Where the written word, audio, video, music, and even advertising still exist in traditional and digital worlds, wrestling with the implication of innovation, the video game medium exists because of innovation. Born of the hardware and software that make it possible, can we continue to lead from an example therein?
Video Games in the 21st Century
In 2016, the U.S. computer and console game market grew an astounding 48%, over 2015, to eclipse $24 billion dollars.
“In 2012, there were fewer than 1,800 game company locations. By 2014, this number rose to more than 2,200, resulting in a compound annual growth rate of more than 14%. In 2013, the U.S. video game industry directly employed fewer than 57,000 people. By 2015, with the industry’s direct employment at approximately 60,000, industry employment increased at an annual rate of 2.9%.”
As we look to the future of our economy, jobs, and to a role model for other media verticals, the fact that our gaming industry is a growing share of GDP and employing tens of thousands of designers, artists, sound engineers, and developers, at an average compensation per employee was about $73,000, demands that we take a closer look.
Austin Gaming on Fire
To do that, we did look, recently and in our own backyard, Austin, TX, where Certain Affinity, EA, and Portalarium, are just a few of the fueling the gaming economy through Texas. One of Austin’s great voices of innovation, Moby, host of the Austin Fire Show, sat down with a group of industry professionals to ask simply, what’s cooking?
“In this episode we have Frank Coppersmith, Mike Panoff, Karen Snyder, Elijah May, and Joe Blancato,” starts the show. “I really wanted to get Gordon Walton who worked on Sims and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I missed him at the event. A solo episode with Gordon is coming up soon.”
- Mike Panoff, co-founder of Edge of Reality + Founder/CEO of App Jar
- Frank Coppersmith, Chair Austin Video Game Dev Association + President BlankMediaGames
- Elijah May, Managing Partner at The Experience Firm
- Joe Blancato, COO of Double A Events
- Karen Snyder, Transmedia producer at Trans Seven Studio + Lecturer of Digital Media With the University of Houston
What was explored was not just what you might expect, the exciting implication of VR or craze in mobile and social gaming, but the role games are playing in teaching. While it’s clear that video games are showing us how the various media industries can embrace technology, consider too how this medium is educating the entrepreneurs of the fu
A bit of the show…
Mike Panoff: So, it’s a mobile game, a space shooter, and the plot of the game is that the cats and dogs have lived on Earth. And the cats have over populated and kind of taken over the Earth and kicked the dogs off to further and further planets. So, they went to Venus, Mars, and Mercury. And eventually the cats kept colonizing and colonizing, kicking the dogs further and further. Well, eventually the dogs got pushed to Pluto and the cats colonized all the other planets and everybody lived in harmony, there was a truce. Well, the scientist got together and decided Pluto is no longer an actual planet and that was the last straw. The dogs have had it and so the dogs decided to take over and invade the cat colonies and cause all kinds of havoc. And so, as Fizz’s cat in space, your job is to defend your cat colonies and help them grow. And so that’s the game plot at least, but the point of it is really to do a game with the kids, to do it as a family. I don’t know of another game that was entirely developed as a family and so this is kind of fun and they’re kind of doing things age appropriate.
I’m functioning as the project manager and, you know, kind of lead programmer, but I’m doing things in a way that the kids get to complete what is being done. And so, it’s age appropriate for a fourth grader, a seventh grader, and a tenth grader for programming. But, a 100% of the audio in the game was done by my son. He either downloads free sounds from freesound.org and credits the author in a spreadsheets. Brings it into Audacity, edits it for length and volume, checks in diversion control software, puts it into unity in the game all himself.
So, all the sound you hear is done by a fourth grader and he’s foleyed some of it himself with, you know, rocks on a pile across the street from our house, and iPhone to record it. My other daughter has done a lot of the art and the other one has done programming and they’ve all done some programming. So, really excited about it and you know whether it’s a hit or not, I don’t know, but, at least they’ll have a professional game developed on their resumes as they go to colleges. And, you know, their friends will at least play it. And it’s been a lot of fun to do as a family. So, it’s been very fulfilling. I’d say it may not be the commercial success that we’ve had with other games, but personally doing something with the family like that and seeing your kids learn and be part of what you have a passion for has been a real rewarding experience.
Rao Mubariz: And that’s fantastic training for them because you’re creating entrepreneurs. Training them to be entrepreneurs.
Mike Panoff: Yeah, for sure. They get to see everything that’s involved with, you know, having to set up marketing pages, the Facebook pages, the social media. They are uploading development video blogs to YouTube. So, they get to see everything that’s behind the scenes along the way. You know, the re-upping as an Apple Developer, we have to pay your $99 to be an Apple Developer to release on the platform. You know, they’re there when we put in the credit card and, you know, renew that. So, they’re seeing all of that and getting experience of that which is a good thing.
Rao Mubariz: So, how long have you been in the video game industry, again?
Mike Panoff: Well, I’ve been making games as an amateur since like seventh grade or fourth grade or something like that.
Rao Mubariz: Since 7th grade, wow.
Mike Panoff: And my dad bought us a PC Junior and I would spend all weekend making a video game and show it to the family on Sunday night. You know, they weren’t any good at the time, obviously, but it was a lot fun. That’s how I learned. Professionally, I’ve been doing it since 1994.
Rao Mubariz: So, what was the point after you started you looked at something you built and said, “Oh my God I’m actually good at this, or I made something I’m really really proud of,”?
Mike Panoff: So, the first professional game I had was Pilot Wings on Nintendo 64. It was a launch title for Nintendo 64. In fact, if you bought a Nintendo 64 in the United States they were only two games available, Mario 64 and Pilot Wings. And so, a lot people played that game and it was a lot of fun. And I just remember thinking, “Wow I, you know, this is something I actually did.” And you know, you play the game, you see all the little imperfections in it, but at the same time you see something you collaborated with other creative people. And people have fun playing it. And you see it in the magazines at the time or in videos. And you’re just in awe, “Wow this is really … ” It’s come together at the end and all these joint pieces you were working on throughout the process is now a complete project that people are enjoying. That is the most rewarding thing in the world to see your finished game out there and people having fun playing it.
And it’s actually pretty funny. I remember … I speak to schools a lot on game development and one of things that teachers, especially math teachers, enjoy is this. I remember being in college, and having a course in vector calculus, or you know, linear algebra and vectors, and someone asking, “Man, when are we gonna use this ever?” And the teacher saying, “Well, aerospace engineers use this all the time. This is really useful in aerospace engineering.” I remember thinking I want to make video games, this is so not applicable to me and this is the one time I remember thinking, I’m literally never gonna ever have to use this.
So, then I get my first job in video games at Paradigm and I’m working on Pilot Wings and my job is to create the physics model for a fixed wing aircraft for the hang glider in the game. And I’m having to use this vector math that I remember specifically thinking I would never have to use, and I have to use on my very first video game I ever work on. So, I always tell the teachers every time, you know, a student asks you, “When am I ever gonna use this?” And there’s probably dozen examples of that.
Rao Mubariz: Yeah. I had that thought too. So, fast forward from that point to here, you were doing video games for social good. Did you ever imagine at that point that gaming could be more than just entertainment or the tech that video games are built with could be used for more things than entertainment?
Mike Panoff: Yeah, there’s always been, in fact game developer conference, which is the, you know, kind of the Mecca for game development where new ideas are shared. You know, the industry leaders talk about what they’ve done. They always have a track, at least as far back as I can remember on serious games, and that includes games for education, games for medical application, games for training. And, so there’s a rich history of games being used for more and they call it serious gaming, but games for more non-entertainment purposes.
In fact, my first job out of college was actually Texas Instruments where we were working on a 3D Simulator for the military, which was really just a hi-tech video game. And so, you know, the military has been using video game technology. In the early days, they were actually way ahead of where the game industry was because they had the capability of developing that on million dollar onyx silicon graphics computers, whereas gaming hardware was much more reasonably priced. And so, the military has always been very ahead games in terms of game quality. Of course, there’s is more simulation based and not fun based.
Rao Mubariz: What still excites you about where you think games are going?
Mike Panoff: So, you know, I think there’s been this … I think in the next decade or so we’re gonna see a big transformation when it comes to mixed reality. And I think that’s kind of where I’m really excited it going.
You think about the transformation of technology and at first there were personal computers where people were typing or using mainframes and that kind of culminated in people typing. And then all of a sudden you had Mac and Windows come out where people using a mouse and graphical user interface and computers became way more accessible. Now, everybody is on their phone. I think, you know, a decade from now maybe less, maybe more, but certainly in the next 10 to 20 years, wearable technology is going to be ubiquitous. And the only people who’s gonna be looking at their phone and typing is grandma and grandpa. And everybody else is gonna be doing stuff with eye gestures and glasses.
You know, I could be wrong on this, but there’s a lot of good, smart money going into this from the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. And I think that, you know, gaming is sure to follow. And you already have, you know, the Oculus and the Vive, which are phenomenal experiences, but you’re tethered to this umbilical cord that’s next to a very expensive computer. And it’s only a matter of time before that becomes lite and wearable and wearless. And when that happens, gaming is sure to follow. And I think that there’s really potential for some really interesting mixed reality stuff in the near future.
Rao Mubariz: What’s one application in the medical space that you’re excited about because you mentioned that?
Mike Panoff: So, yeah I am working on a thing right now that’s kind of … I’m coming together of gaming and medical device top help people with certain physical impairments. And so, nothing to announce yet. They’re still in prototype phase, but that’s actually something I’ve been spending a lot of time on lately and very excited about the way the prototype is going. So, hopefully make some announcement soon on that.
Rao Mubariz: We’re at WeWork right now at an event by MediaTech Ventures where we just talked about the implications of capital in Austin’s economy, how to actually jump into video gaming if you’re new. I’m interviewing Frank today. What he’s doing is … What I find most interesting is the Micro-MBA, but before that Frank what do you do?
Frank Coppersmith: Sure. So, I chair Austin’s Video Game Developer’s Association. So, the Austin Game Developer’s Association has been around for more than 22 years. Austin is, as many people know, one of the main hubs for video game development. Depending on how you do the math, we’re number two or number three in the United States. Certainly, the top five to six in the world. About 135 studios in Austin, about 20 major studios plus anywhere between another 100 to 200 really small Indie studios where people work and kinda have a day job, but also make video games.
Rao Mubariz: I had no idea it was a top three place for video games in the US.
Frank Coppersmith: Yeah, absolutely. Have some of the top games here, Dishonored was shipped here. We’ve got Arkane, we’ve got EA, Space Time Studios. Just a ton of the top folks have outposts here, or have their, you know, operations here.
Rao Mubariz: And is that a recent thing, or has video games been a part of Austin’s history as a growing city for 20 years, 30 years?
Frank Coppersmith: So, video games have been a big part of the Austin scene really going all the way back to the time of Richard Garriott and the very first Ultima games. I think though that for the longest time Austin was known as a city where you got great MMOs built, great massively multiplayer online games. That was really our expertise. And what’s changed in the last, say five to seven years, is the breadth of games coming out of Austin.
Sure, we’ve got MMOs, that’s terrific. We’ve still got Star Wars here. We’ve got others. We’ve got of course Crowfall by ArtCraft Entertainment. We’ve Shroud of the Avatar by Portalarium. But we’ve also got games outside of that where we’ve got from scientific games, we’ve got casino gaming, we’ve got three different casino gaming companies here. We’ve also got mobile gaming, and host of other platforms as well.
Rao Mubariz: But you said casino gaming, was Zynga here?
Frank Coppersmith: So, Zynga had a pretty big office here. They bought Challenge Online Games, a company I work for, turned that into Zynga Austin, and they still have Zynga Casino here.
Rao Mubariz: Zynga still lives?
Frank Coppersmith: Zynga still lives in Austin.
Rao Mubariz: Wow. I’m just surprised it still exist as a company.
Frank Coppersmith: It does. So, I guess people still play games on Facebook.
Rao Mubariz: So, you’re Chair of the Video Games Association here in Austin and you’ve seen problems with building games. And people being passionate about games and failing and making successful video games. And I know, this is a big, vague question, but what do you think is the core thing behind a successful game that people want to buy?
Frank Coppersmith: So, I think from my standpoint there are so many different ways to define a successful game. So, let’s define it as a commercially successful game. So, what’s a commercially successful game? That’s one that produces more money for the developer in some reasonable period of time than it cost that developer to built. And so that’s just the core. So, that’s how I’ll define a successful game.
So, what’s it take to do that? Well, I think it takes, the most important thing it takes, is a certain sense of humility. It’s wonderful to want to build the great new Diablo, the great new Call of Duty, but the number of folks that get to do that and do that out of gate are very, very small. It’s a really tiny group. What you really want to do is build that game that appeals to a small audience, one that you can address, one that you can explain, one that you can talk to and get excited about your game. There are 2.2 billion people who play games on Earth right now. That’s like a third of everyone who lives on Earth. If that’s the case, how many of those people do you really need to play game for you to make it successful?
Rao Mubariz: You know, that’s true. So, the Micro-MBA for video game developers right now. You’re building a curriculum to help people who want to launch their video game business?
Frank Coppersmith: So, one of the initiatives that the Game Developer’s Association is focusing on relates to the challenges that creatives have in transitioning really into the business world and in running their own businesses. So, the mission of the Austin Game Developer’s Association is all about helping great game developers make great game companies. And what that means for us is, we provide regular events focused on, and we jokingly refer this as the “most boring game events in Austin,” because they are focused on topics like how do you hire employees, and how do you pay them, and what taxes do I deal with, and what kind of laws am I responsible for. And we put that all that together into events. We’ve decided now, having been doing that for the last two and half years that we need to bring all of that content together in a concentrated way.
So, what we’re building is a Micro-MBA in video game development and we’re gonna have it here in Austin. It’s looking like it’s going to be a 10 week program with one day a week. Still working on funding, but we’ve got a curriculum in place that covers all of the major pieces from forming your company, getting started, dealing with finances, you know getting your legal documents in place, figuring out how I get employees, how do I fund them, how do I pay them. All of these administrative tasks are just hard if you just never done it before. And that’s what were hoping to have sometime this year.
Rao Mubariz: And it’s two different, very different and hard things: entrepreneurship and building a video game people want to play. Both are very different and very hard things separately.
Frank Coppersmith: That’s exactly right. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, what you really should do is take your money and buy like a Subway Sandwich shop. And the reason you should do that is because Subway will tell you how to sell Subway sandwiches. Everybody loves Subway sandwiches. They can tell you if they put you in a ceratin location, exactly how many you’re gonna sell every single day, and if you invest $50,000 in it you’re gonna find out that sandwich shop will make you $250,000 a year. And so, you’re like “Oh, after I pay my expenses, I make a 100 grand. This is a pretty good deal. I like it.”
Well, that’s not how it works in gaming. You have to do all of that investment, you have to do all of that effort, you have to put all of that stuff together, you have to do it on your own. No one will tell you how to do it except we’re gonna tell you how to do it. Oh, and then you gotta build a good game that people are gonna want to play. And boy that’s really hard.
Rao Mubariz: How do people find out more about the Micro-MBA that you are building right now?
Frank Coppersmith: So, we’re hoping to have it sorted out with the city here in the next month or two. Once we do that, it’ll up on Austin Game Developer’s Association website. We’ll likely have an event up on our meet up page. You can find us at IGDA Austin on meetup.com. You’re gonna find more information there. They can also follow us on just traditional social media, Facebook or Twitter.
Rao Mubariz: Good, good. How was the panel today? What did you guys think?
Joe Blancato: I thought it was really cool. You know, I’ve been in the game industry for, I mean God it’s actually 15 years this year and it was really cool to see Gordon Walton who is kind of a seminary in the industry kind of talk about new stuff as well as old. It was really cool because I remember I used to play the games he worked on earlier in his career like UO and stuff like that. So, to get a chance to kind of see him speak was really cool and then learning a little bit to kind of confirming as well as kind of disproving some myths out there about where you get venture capital, and how that comes in the game industry.
I thought one thing he said was really interesting where, you know, VCs were looking to, you know, tan or 100x their investment. And that is not something you get out of most games unless it is like a big platform play. So, that was one of those things that kind of had my wheels turning, where it’s like, okay maybe you need to go after private equity or is it more of a friends and family thing to build your proof of concept and then from there you go out and shop it and try to get it that way. So, it was really cool.
Elijah May: Well, I mean I’m the opposite of Joe where like Joe has been in the video game business for a very long time, knows what he is talking about it. I know nothing. So, I have an entirely uninformed opinion about everything. And so, I disagree with some of things that I heard, but I don’t really have a basis for that other than … I feel like, you know, he said that it’s so expensive when you’re investing these marketing dollars trying to get new gamers. I’m like I totally believe that because people do come along with an App game right? And they spend a $100 on it, like it’s tap this and make a cow moo and millions of people download that shit, right? I think that in general, I think the same thing applies to video games that applies to everything else. If you create a compelling experience, people are gonna do it and that’s the bottom line. I think that when people have to spend millions and millions of dollars in marketing to get people to try something maybe you didn’t build the right thing in the first place.
Rao Mubariz: Make something people want?
Elijah May: Yeah, I mean it sounds so simple and yet nobody seems-
Rao Mubariz: And so hard to do.
Elijah May: It is hard to do. Yeah, I agree.
Rao Mubariz: Every time I start project that’s the exercise I go through, “Do people want this?” No matter how much time I spend it’s always, I don’t fucking know. It’s like whatever. We’ve talked about before on the podcast, video games, we’ve talked about experiences. What was the first time you guys experienced VR because that’s a hot thing right now?
Joe Blancato: Oh, geez. Actually been pretty recent, it’s probably been two or three years ago. No, maybe four. But either way, I mean-
Rao Mubariz: That’s recent?
Joe Blancato: That’s recent for me. Oh, no because a part of it too was memory was coming back. It was actually at a game developer’s conference in San Francisco and I want to say it was 2012, 2013? But is was the Oculus, it wasn’t even the, you know, the Vive because it wasn’t even out yet. And a line was wrapper around this booth. And the booth was a good size, it probably was 20×20. So, a lot of square footage there and people were just dying to see this thing.
And so, it was still like one of the early prototypes of the Oculus. And I wear glasses, so when I put this thing on my face it was clamped against my eyeballs you know? I could barely see, but I was playing this game called Eve Valkyrie which was a space dog fighting game. And as soon as I got in it you don’t really realize how transported you are until you put one of these things on. That’s what VR is always gonna be struggling against is it doesn’t sell itself very well cause it’s one of those things you just have to see for itself. You’re just completely immersed in this brand new world and I was completely blown away. I was like this is … It’s gonna take them awhile to get people to actually try this shit, but at same point they’re either gonna shrink the stuff down so it’s more easily wearable or it’s gonna turn into some pill you take and you’re not gonna care about how heavy the damn headset is. But like, you’re eventually gonna reach this state where this is gonna be a completely new way to experience content. Not just games but, everything. I was really blown away.
Rao Mubariz: When was the first time you experienced VR?
Elijah May: Oh, I was gonna say recently. So, if three years ago was recently I would say approximately yesterday, I guess. No, I just tried it a couple of months ago and I like had the same experience Joe did. I mean, like I heard about it and I knew hypothetically it was awesome, but then you put it on and you’re like, “Oh, my God.” And of course a friend of mine Facebook lived the whole thing, so I’m like standing there wigging out and he’s laughing his ass off.
Rao Mubariz: Karen, you drove in from Houston for this?
Karen Snyder: I did. Someone had to make the trek I guess and represent Houston here, but through the drive my hope and intent to come here tonight, first of was to meet some of the people that I only had the pleasure of talking with via email and phone call. But the other side of it was to continue to see how can cities, especially creative groups, cross overlay and compliment each other. While we do have regional efforts and needs that have to be met there’s also collective efforts that have to be addressed.
Rao Mubariz: What brings you from Houston? What do you do over there that you’re interested in video game events in Austin?
Karen Snyder: Well, I’m actually transmedia producer with my studio. I also teach transmedia lecture with the University of Houston. And in that effort I was seeing students leave the region because they weren’t finding a job in various points of media, video games being one in which they have a serious interest and one of which I have produced in. As such, as I came to see that need and I happened to meet with one of the councilmen Mike Know of the city of Houston. I said, “Well, what if collectively we can start to reaching towards the goal of seeing more jobs and opportunities created here?” And in that endeavor I started to curating what became the known as the Gamers of Houston where we’ve brought together 33 different game studios. We’ve brought together and interviewed 21 different individuals that I filmed collectively to get their voices on camera to reach out to government leaders and showcase. In addition, to 44 others that I want to get their insights, observations, and concerns to create a step-by-step strategy that government officials can start to flow or integrate as they see fit so that our economy and jobs can be produced.
So, coming here today was more to share this story and as well as to continue to see on a state wide effort what needs to be done to keep prompting government officials to recognize the value technologists bring.
Rao Mubariz: And it worked. You came here and you’re on a podcast that people in Austin listen to and think, “Oh wow. What she is doing is interesting.”
Karen Snyder: Yeah, so I would highly recommend gamersofhouston.com so they can see at least more of the video games side of the creatives and then as relationships are built of course there are other things in video production, et cetera, that I’m involved in as a transmedia producer.
Rao Mubariz: What aspects of video games do you see translating really well into other industries. For example, social good, education, and politics, I’m kidding. But education?
Karen Snyder: Hey, on a side note years back let’s see 12 years ago I created a political satire racing game and Arnold Schwarzenegger was actually interested because he’s running for Governor of California to utilize it as a political game.
Rao Mubariz: What? Oh my God.
Karen Snyder: But at the time, this is ancient history now, we didn’t have mobile phones that were smartphones and you had to have a plugin and it was 3D. And that plugin was causing issues, it wasn’t Flash plugin it was VirTools. And anyway, technology limited that. Nevertheless, serious games whether it be for corporate training, data visualization, healthcare, educational use in class room, online. There is so much that industry does or could be amplified that is not entertainments based but it has to do with how you problem solve and video games in particular are so effective in that sense of training or corporate use because you have to do. And when you do you learn best. You’re not just watching, you’re not just listening, you are participating and in that is a strength that can’t be found in any other media, which is why I started it integrating it as a story teller. So, when you have marketing or education or training or entertainment vehicle, having that leverage of a video game is holistic as well as fantastic.
And at least from the city of Houston, when I have at least thus far in this process of wooing government leadership, when I said, “Would you like to be 32nd in the nation for film production or would like to be first in the world for serious games?” Guess which one resonated?
Rao Mubariz: 32? I’m kidding, I’m sorry.
Karen Snyder: So, while Austin has done a fantastic job, especially on entertainment and we’re seeing VR an AR hopefully going in a large track here, Houston is better positioned for industry. It is an industry thinking town and if we can leverage that and help bridge that gap, indeed that might be where we see that no one else can do. And eventually it will trickle over to other cities and the state holistically.
Rao Mubariz: That’s wonderful. And I didn’t till this point, you said something 60 seconds ago. I never realized just the simple comparison of video games versus other pieces of content and how much, much more engaging video games can be. In my mind, I was thinking instead of me sitting in a class and watching someone speak if I could be in a video game or VR experience, or something similar, how different would I learn?
Karen Snyder: Well, that’s understandably in the education environment that always want to see not only do you show me, prove it because their jobs on the line. You have to have the numbers that say you’re improving end-retention rate will increase by XYZ percent. Otherwise, they just don’t integrate it. But this is that merge where we finally starting to see more and more data that is indeed illuminating that video games are allowing the amplification of whatever is learning so that it is a retained at a higher level and of course, when you talk about students teaching other students, what’s the best you learn? Is by teaching. That is old you know phrase and it’s absolutely correctly.
Rao Mubariz: 100%.
Karen Snyder: Because you force people then to have to own it, to the rest teach it because now their butts on the line where otherwise it was so easy to poo-poo the teacher. And then when suddenly you get put on point of having to constructively relay it, well now you realize why the teacher is the teacher.
Rao Mubariz: Yeah.
Karen Snyder: But, it is an exciting point as long as we can as an community help relay the possibilities and keep stories like yourself by helping know the other stories of the other people. Theoretically, we can network each other into positions of power over time to then release the funding or release the yes to that school district or to say to the government on the federal level indeed you need to allocate XYZ. Because we as a voting block have seen and suggested it in such a way that you cannot ignore it.
Rao Mubariz: So, why are you, this is fascinating because you’re giving so much detail and you’re giving the vision of what it could be like. Why are you so passionate about this space?
Karen Snyder: Video games or transmedia?
Rao Mubariz: Video games plus education.
Karen Snyder: I was home schooled when no one was home schooled way back in the 80s and I will tell you the value is that you come out as an independent thinker. And when overtime of course I’ve gotten my college degree and most recently I got my Master’s Degree. And in that process the individual in me comes out consistently saying, this could be better. And also over time I’ve become an entrepreneur and the entrepreneur in me also says this can be better. When you look at the fact that the US is 55th in the world in math that’s outrageously disgusting.
Rao Mubariz: I had no idea that was case.
Karen Snyder: Yeah. So, when you see Singapore and of course I was home schooled so we could pick whatever math program in the world we wanted that could teach the best.
Rao Mubariz: Freedom.
Karen Snyder: Singapore math is the best in the world because they don’t teach you to just do the numbers, they teach you to think to engage with the numbers, to problem solve. So, in a holistic way of approaching math, but we are not allowed. There are multiple reasons for that, part of it is that state and regions have different levels of criteria. And sometimes that’s good, sometimes that bad. And the other part of it is voter unawareness and the other part of it is the powers that curriculum who have said we get the money for years and years et cetera, et cetera. So, that’s the standpoint that says if I can make a change I’d like it to be utilizing the best possible tool, video games, integrating out the best possible people who care and network and want the best for either their child or their community. And as such cultivate something that has long term implications. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
So, it’s the win, win, win, win, win that grabs me. From a business standpoint, education you’re gonna make money on. Entertainment, you never know. Even though you do your absolute best, you do your marketing, you do your case studies and you think you have the ultimate brand and guess what? It won’t pay for it. You never know. It’s a crap shoot. Education there’s always money for education.
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Now Texan, O'Brien works in Venture Capital Economic Development, serving the investment and venture capital economies directly, through thought leadership, consulting, and startup development.He's the founder of MediaTech Ventures, a founder and managing director of the Texas Technology Council, and partner in 1839 Ventures.