Kelly Wallick is a Partner and Community Builder at 1Up Ventures, a venture capital fund supporting a diverse and inclusive community of independent game developers. She is also the Founder and CEO of Indie MEGABOOTH, a platform dedicated to promoting independent game developers at gaming expositions. Kelly has over 10 years of experience in the tech and video game industries. As a self-professed passionate believer in the impact of community in gaming, she’s sat on various boards, including Light Forge Games, advocating for creative, unique, and diverse voices. Kelly is also a former Chairperson of the Independent Games Festival, an event held at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), championing excellence in independent games.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Kelly Wallick’s inspiration for founding Indie MEGABOOTH
- Steps to funding and scaling a startup
- Kelly discusses the impact of gaming communities on participants’ lives and careers
- MEGABOOTH’s partnership with 1Up Ventures
- Criteria for funding game developers and studios
- Creating a healthy work environment
- Non-traditional work schedules in the gaming industry
- Independent versus venture capitalist-backed game developments
In this episode…
For years, the video game industry has grappled with diversity, catering to an infinitesimal demographic and causing toxicity within the gaming community. As gaming studios and venture capitalists focused on diversity and inclusion emerge, could there be a shift in the industry?
Kelly Wallick, an industry community builder and VC, explains that changes in hiring practices have widely contributed to inclusivity. And with the increase of remote-first jobs since the pandemic, it’s easier for companies to recruit worldwide. The popularity of video games spans the globe, so it makes sense for characters to reflect this. VCs have also taken an interest in independent game developers with unique voices. Companies such as 1Up Ventures, led by a woman with decision-making power, advocate for underserved communities, such as people of color and individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus sits with Kelly Wallick, Partner and Community Builder at 1Up Ventures, to discuss the shift in the video game industry. Kelly discusses how gaming communities impact participants’ lives and careers, indie game development challenges and diversity, and creating healthy workplace cultures. She also reflects on her inspiration for founding Indie MEGABOOTH and partnering with 1Up.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Here’s Waldo Recruiting
- Lizzie Mintus on LinkedIn
- Kelly Wallick on LinkedIn | Website | Instagram | Twitter
- Indie MEGABOOTH
- 1Up Ventures
- Ed Fries on LinkedIn
Sponsor for this episode...
This episode is brought to you by Here’s Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the video game industry that prioritizes quality over quantity and values transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white-glove experience that ensures a win-win outcome.
The industry evolves. The market changes. But at Here’s Waldo Recruiting, our commitment to happy candidates and clients does not.
We understand that searching for the best and brightest talent can be overwhelming, so let our customer-first staff of professionals do the leg work for you by heading over to hereswaldorecruiting.com.
Welcome to the Here's Waldo podcast, where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead. Now, let's get started with the show.
Lizzie Mintus: Welcome to the Here's Waldo podcast. I'm Lizzie Mintus, founder and CEO of Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique video game recruitment firm. In every episode, we dive deep into conversations with creatives, founders, and executives about what it takes to be successful. You can expect to hear valuable lessons from their journey and to get a glimpse into the future of the video game industry.
This episode is brought to you by Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm for the video game industry. We value quality over quantity, transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white glove experience that ensures a win-win outcome.
Before introducing our guest, I want to give Ed Fries a shout-out for introducing us. Today we have Kelly Wallick on the show. Kelly has worked in the tech and video game industry for over 10 years. She's the founder of Indie Megabooth, former chair of the Independent Games Festival, and a partner and community builder at the 1Up Fund. She is a passionate believer in the strength and impact of community, and implementing long-term change to support creative, unique, and diverse voices. Let's get started. Thanks for being here today, Kelly.
Kelly: Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me.
Lizzie Mintus: Yes, of course. First, I just want to ask you what inspired you to create the Indie Megabooth 10 years ago and how did you envision it when you started and what did it become?
Kelly: Yeah, there's a long, I don't want to say too complicated version of the story, but I'll give the short version. I actually didn't start off in the games industry. I started as a chemist. So I went to school for sciences and I worked in that field for a handful of years before deciding to make the switch into the games industry.
And so when I was first making that switch, I was working at a contract shop that was doing contract work and enterprise software and in games industry work. I started going to meetups. I was living in Boston at the time and I started going to local meetups and meeting developers and getting to know the independent game scene.
And just really fell in love with the people that are a part of it. It's very entrepreneurial, it's very technical, it's creative. I felt like I had found my people. And so the first iteration of the Indie Megabooth was started in collaboration with a handful of other indie studios and some folks who had an idea around helping to get more visibility at consumer-facing showcases.
So when I initially started running it, it was a little bit more of a way to get to know people in the games industry and to learn more and just try something that I thought was going to be fun. Then it ended up getting really popular and taking off. So it turned into this thing that became more work than my day job and then also something that I felt really passionate about and that I really love.
And so I ended up leaving that position and then running the Megabooth as a full-time thing. When I was first starting it, I didn't really have an idea or a vision of what it was going to become. I was just following this like organic thread of all of these opportunities and people and ideas that seemed interesting to me.
I think even when I first started it, I didn't really think of myself as like a business owner or running a startup or that I had a company or anything like that. I was in my late twenties at the time. It just seemed I'm just doing this thing with some friends and like with these cool people.
Over the years that grew and changed and it became a lot more formalized and I started hiring employees and having to manage all the stuff that goes along with running a business. And then later on, accepted the fact that I was like running a company and created a business, as being a lot more intentional about what was it going to look like and what was it going to be?
I think that it was a combination of a lot of things and that just chasing a lot of opportunities that as things unfolded and just seeing where it took me.
Lizzie Mintus: I love it. I think a lot of people have an idea of starting a business, but they really struggle with putting it into action. Can you break down kind of the first steps you took? Like you had this concept in your mind. What was even the first concept and then how did you put on your first event?
Kelly: Yeah, I've been talking with some folks about this a lot recently. I think I'm very much like an action person. I'll think about something for a pretty long time, but once I decide I'm going to do something, I'll just jump off the cliff and do it, and see what happens. And try to trust that I'm going to be able to navigate it in the process.
A couple of things is one, when I was first starting it, I think I benefited from not really understanding what I was getting into. There's a lot of learning along the ways. I did have a job that I was working at and then doing this as a hobby or a side project for a little bit of time.
So I'd say there was about like a year or a year and a half where this was just something that I was doing in my spare time, a handful of months out of the year or something. And then, as it began to grow and get more popular and the demands got bigger and bigger. Then I started having folks approach me about wanting to sponsor it.
And I was like, I literally don't even know how to take the money. I don't know how I would like to take the money from you. I don't really know what this would look like. And so a lot of the first steps I think were things that are really common to a lot of founders is learning about like how much paperwork and weird bureaucracy and little you need to do to actually get a company going. And I will give a shout-out to basically the entire games industry. Everybody was very kind and super helpful and helping to answer questions and guide me along the way. And this is like a lot of what we try to model and do for the 1Up Fund community as well too.
What we are also doing with the Megabooth community is, there's all of these things that go into running and starting a business that kind of don't have anything to do with what you think the idea of like your company is going to be, or your product. You still need to do them and they're still really important, but it's just piles and piles of the things that you don't know that you don't know, and you just keep running into them over and over again.
Some of the very first stuff was just, how do I incorporate a company? How do I do that? Do I want to be an LLC, or do I want to be an S corp, or do I want to be a C corp? And this is a US company. How do I open a business bank account? How do I get an EIN number?
I remember getting a business credit card felt really stressful because I didn't like really know which credit card I wanted to pick. And there's all these points and rewards and miles. All of this kind of stuff. I think the initial bit was just a lot of this, what is all this paperwork to do for me to actually be able to get money into this and be able to run it as a business.
I'm a big fan of engaging with people who are experts in what they do. So I always worked with an accountant. I always tried to work with a bookkeeper. I really tried to get people in. Lawyers help me make the decisions that I needed to make for the long term and to make sure that I was like protecting myself and protecting the company and making smart decisions.
I think it's one of the areas that like I always recommend people don't really cut corners on because it can be a huge hassle, very expensive problem like later on. Aside from all that, the actual logistics of running an event. Im thinking back to ... I didn't really understand how to get signage printed. I didn't know what the names of the signs were. Somebody was like, those signs that they have outside of gas stations that look like sales. So I'm like Googling this stuff. I actually had my mom help me with a handful of things cause I was like trying to get these signs printed and I need help with it.
We had a lot of volunteers and people pitching in to be able to pick up the bits and pieces of stuff of, we need to make a website, we need to market this, and we need to have social media accounts. Especially at the start, it was very much a kind of volunteer community-driven effort.
Then as it got to be what I was feeling like too much work basically to have people just pitching in because it's like kind of fun or they can volunteer their time a bit. I really was like, okay, I need to start having people that are actually helping me do that.
And around that same time is when I left and started doing it as a full time thing. Around that time is when I started to see, how much money do I have that I can put into this in my savings. And like how much can I afford to go and like how long can I try to do it?
I had about about six months of being able to give it a go. And if we weren't going to get money in, it wasn't going to work. What I look back at, it's terrifying, but I just went for it. Found some people that would be able to help me more full time, and try to make it a little more professional.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. I had the same thing with my business in starting it and having it get bigger and then realizing that you have to put all these processes in place. Being intentional; it's different when it's just you and you have to communicate it to other people.
Kelly: Yeah, and even I think going from one person to two people to three people and then six people... starts to get all these kind of weird communication challenges. We were never bigger than I'd say maybe 14 or 15 people at any given time. Maybe a handful of full time people and a handful of contractors and then if you're counting a lawyer and accountant and bookkeeper.
But we were working with hundreds and hundreds of studios. So we were scaling up and scaling down over and over again, which was interesting. But now when we work with studios and they talk about scaling up from a handful of people, to 15, or 20 people, to 50, to hundreds of people, they're very interesting and everybody's got their own philosophies and opinions and thoughts about how do you resolve communication? How do you do team building? How do you build culture? I just find it like very endlessly fascinating because you're creating your own almost like family systems or little towns or community.
I think everybody does it in their own little way. And everyone has opinions on what works and what doesn't work. And I think it's really fascinating. And I found it challenging to do that.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. And eventually, it almost becomes an entity outside of you. Because at first it's really just you and then it's its own separate functioning thing. And that's a really crazy point to get to.
Kelly: Yeah, at some point we were hiring people that I needed help with the curation work because we were looking at probably five, six hundred games a year or seven hundred games a year. There was some point where I was playing literally every single game. I was having people help me with the decisions, but it got to a point where I needed help with doing the curation work. And so we started formalizing that and having more of a team of people and judges that we would pay in addition to industry people who would go in and do the judging with us as well.
I'd be sitting back and everyone would be having a conversation about, I don't think this is a Megabooth game. And I think that's this. It's clearly this, and it's clearly that. This became so much of a voice or a distinct idea that I could start to bring people in externally who understood what the brand was or what the curation values were. And it was very interesting to see something that had been in my head or just something that I didn't even really fully comprehend, like what I was creating at the time, be seen and understood by people who could just come in now and have those values. It was a cool turning point.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, it definitely is an interesting business point. But what are some of the biggest wins? Were there any games that were discovered or any people that found each other? What are the biggest highlights from this?
Kelly: I wish I had a whole list in front. We had a ton of games that came through. One in particular, Crypt of the NecroDancer was something that showed with us for the very first time. Right when they were getting started out, and recently when I was downloading Tears of the Kingdom, they have a Crypt of the Necrodancer, like Zelda special edition, basically being co-promoted with Tears of the Kingdom. And I was like, wow, that's really amazing. We've had some experiences and teams like that. There are so many stories of companies. I personally love their game during the curation. And then I'd see them like kind of grow and launch multiple games and build communities.
I'd say we have a handful or more of these kinds of like big breakout hits that made it off into the zeitgeist. But one of the things that I think is really the most interesting is hearing about how much that community like helped people or got them connected up with future co-founders or inspired them to get into games.
It was interesting when we announced that we were going into hibernation at the beginning of the pandemic. I had literally 100 emails from different people and companies that were like sharing their stories of what it meant to them, and the impact that it had on their career, and the networks that they made, and the people that they met.
It was really cool because like we would work with folks and we'd stay in touch with them and we'd see them, but not everybody comes back and is like, 'Hey, this is exactly what happened from when we were working together.' Even though it was like a very bittersweet situation, it was really validating and heartwarming to hear how much it helped to impact people's careers. Just like a variety of ways that I wouldn't have thought of or even understood.
We worked with over 800 studios during the 10 years that it was running. And that's not to mention all of the people who came through the space or volunteered or worked with us in some way or another. I think it had a pretty big impact on a lot of people.
Lizzie Mintus: And did you find Ed through this?
Kelly: Kind of. So we got introduced by a mutual friend in the industry when he was first starting up the concept for the 1Up Fund, 'cause there's a really strong community component to it. This person was like, okay, you have to talk to Kelly. If you're going to do a community thing, this is the person to talk to.'
So we got introduced that way, but I actually hadn't met him before or wasn't super familiar with his work. He's like clearly more on the triple A side and I was very on the indie side. And so, I bump up against platform holders and publishers and big triple A stuff, but I don't want to say a separate part of the industry because there's a lot of intermixing between the two. We did get connected like through my network and through his network that overlaps somewhere.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I imagine that he hired you for your community building. Can you tell us when you started, where the fund was, what your role was? And I've loved watching you grow and evolve. Now you're a partner. I want to hear that.
Kelly: So crazy. We got connected up like four and a half or five years ago. I wasn't really super familiar with him, but he came with glowing recommendations from everyone that I had talked to that knew anything about him. They're like, 'he's great!' Which it turns out he was. They were correct in their assessments. He really wanted to build this community, he calls it like a venture fund wrapper around it. And so we had a phone call and we just really gelled on what our vision was for the community and for the industry overall and how much we cared about developers and how much we care about diversity and founders and using this experience as a way to help make the industry better and to help to support the games and founders and studios succeed in the games industry. It sounded like we shared a lot of similar values. I liked his idea around it.
Honestly, at the time knew very little about venture funds, but that sounds neat. And if I get to do the work that I think is really interesting, 'cause also on top of it, the Megabooth was always bootstrapped and we never took external funding. It was always running at a break-even thing, like technically should have been, I think run as a nonprofit when I look back at it.
But the thing that was also really interesting with this is that it was an opportunity to have an actual budget that would go towards this and do at the time, a smaller, more professional version of what I cared about and was doing with The Megabooth community. For the Megabooth, there was a lot of focus, obviously on in-person events, curation, and the promotional work. The community stuff was a component of that, but for the 1Up Fund, it's like a set number of studios. They've ranged from indie to AAA and there's a more, I don't want to say professional and like a derogatory way - derogatory to the indie scene, but more like professional, like these are venture-backed studios that are like, running as startups and want to grow.
A lot of the indie teams that I remember working with through The Megabooth ran the company similar to how I started The Megabooth where they just had an idea and just ran with it and you're learning along the way and you don't even really consider it a company. Like you're just considering it like the vehicle to express the thing that you want to express. I thought it was a really neat opportunity to learn more about that side of the industry, to learn more about like the funding side and also to have this opportunity to really focus on what makes the community component important. How can we help to support that side of it? With a lot more focus than what I was doing with The Megabooth. So to me, it seemed like a cool neat opportunity and I was doing it part-time at first. To supplement the work that I was doing with The Megabooth and also as the chairperson for the Independent Games Festival for about seven years, so I was piecemealing together a couple of these like projects to help first off pay myself, and then second off to keep in touch with a variety of different sides of the industry and to spread out and give variety to the kind of work that I was doing.
Lizzie Mintus: And you started as a community builder and then tell me about your transition to venture partner.
Kelly: Ed and I, we're working together and building the 1UpFund in the community. I think he said it was like the first call or the second call that he made, after talking to the folks who put in the initial investment and then the fund. So I've been working on that part of it since the very start. Then over the years, as I'm running the community and building it and learning more from the teams and talking to Ed and absorbing a lot about like, how does venture funding work in the games industry? What does that look like? What are these terms? I'd heard some of it thrown around, but for a long time, venture wasn't really in the games industry at all. And the amounts that, the deals were getting done were very large or in the spheres that weren't overlapping with the indie scene.
In particular, I was doing a lot of work with very like creative side of the industry as well too. There just wasn't a lot of interest from venture funds and investing. So I was learning about all this on the way, enjoying my work with that, with the community. And then when the pandemic happened, like I mentioned, we had to put The Megabooth into hibernation, which meant that it was unclear what the future of this was going to be and what was going to happen.
Multiple years into everything, I was really, like, really thinking about what did I want to do next in my career? What was this going to look like for me? Where did I want to focus on? And so, to be honest, running The Megabooth for like about a decade, it was hard. We never, like, got to a point where it was fully profitable. It was self-sustaining. It's running and it's going, but do we grow it? Do I hand it off? I was already having these thoughts and conversations in my head. Then the pandemic, for better or for worse, gave me a good opportunity to take a breather from that and recover from burnout.
And really be intentional and think about what I wanted to do next. I had started working when I was basically like 16 and had been like supporting myself ever since then. So this is like also one of the first times that I really had to stop and think about what I wanted to do next. After I recovered a bit, we were finishing up the investing out of fund one, VC stuff and games was really blowing up. There's a lot of interest in it. I was learning a lot more about what was going on with other funds. Keeping like a much closer eye on the VC and the funding side. And Ed was really looking to have someone to come on to help support that growing and continuing on. And since we like working with each other, I joined as a partner. It's been about a year and a half. Getting a little closer to two years, since I joined on that side of it. It's been really fascinating. I've really enjoyed working with Ed. He's done a really great job of helping to mentor me into the space and to help to teach me things that I would need to learn, but also letting me explore and try things on my own. It's been nice cause like The Megabooth, I was a solo founder. I had advisors and friends and people that were helping me, but it was also doing something very unique in the industry. It's not like I was running a game studio and there's a bunch of other game studios I could talk to. I was running something that basically nobody else was doing. So it was really hard to have peers in the space or to have somebody to help guide me in what I was doing. So I think that with the 1Up Fund, that's been really beneficial, mentoring me through the process.
Also, I just feel really strongly about the impact of decision-making powers around funding. Like, who gets funding, and why are people getting funding, and what does that look like, and. I both care a lot about diversity in the game space. It's something that I personally care about a lot. It's kind of a place to have a really strong impact and advocacy work in a way that's very roundabout. And there's not a ton of people that are like me or look like me in the games venture space. And so to in a situation where I'm a partner, I have decision-making power, like Ed and I are the two partners in the fund, and then we have a fund administrator. There's not investment committees or layers above the decision-making for us. It's really just the two of us that are making these decisions. And that's like a cool situation to be in. I think a pretty rare opportunity.
Lizzie Mintus: You're so inspiring. I love that. Congratulations.
Kelly: I just realized I'm like, I just talked a bunch.
Lizzie Mintus: No, it's so interesting to hear. And I love your evolution. I'm sure you've learned so much. What an amazing advisor to have. What would you say really makes you as sure as you can be that you want to fund a specific game studio?
Kelly: Ed and I are rarely in conflict, I think on the things that we're looking at. We're really founder-focused. There's things, him and I have both between the two of us looked at like thousands of game projects over the years, and seen many companies come and go and projects come and go. And so, I think that there's one component of it, is this project or this concept, like interesting? But I think what we really focus on a lot is, Who is the team? Are they going to be able to weather the kind of like changes and things that come along with running a game studio, right? And running a project. How are they looking at the culture of their company? What is their experience in the industry or what are their aspirations in the industry? We're really looking at that.
There's times we get off calls and both of us, we'll be like, Oh, that was amazing. Loved everything. Just the kind of energy and the idea of it. Sometimes we'll get off and be like, I don't know, like a vibe check, to put it a little inelegantly. But those feelings come a lot from combinations of experience and an intuition that is coming from a large history of looking at the stuff over time. We always do get really inspired by young people who are coming in the industry with a lot of energy and fresh ideas. Looking at things on the way that they could be instead of the way that they are. We really try to have a good mix within the community too - a lot of different voices and perspectives. I think like we generally both will know whether something's going to be a good fit or not, and because we don't act as a lead investor, which I don't have to get too far into like how VC funding works. We do follow on. And so lead investor is the one who's really going to dig into all the financials and all of the details and make sure that all of the T's are crossed and the eye's are dotted and all that. We also get to benefit a little bit from being able to have that work be done by the lead investor. Then we can take our decision based on our feelings on it , our thoughts and perspective, and our own due diligence that we'll do with checking with folks in the community or people that we know in the industry. Researching it and be able to combine those things to make a decision on whether we want to go for something or not.
Lizzie Mintus: Everyone says go with your gut, which is how do you know, but a long time of seeing many pitches, but also founders and seeing somebody that says something a little bit different than everybody else, like a fresh perspective. There's always a struggle going from one to two and just expanding your team. There's so many communication issues and everybody handles it a bit differently because everybody builds a different team and has a different culture. What are some ways that you find very successful teams overlap and how they operate or their fundamentals?
Kelly: It's funny. I kind of joke about this. At some point, how good you do as a founder or CEO kind of depends on how much therapy you've done. I think it's a little less about a checklist of things or, oh, we have this exact process.
I really think that there's a lot of humbling experiences. There's a lot of internal growth you bump up against a lot of complicated emotional things, I think, along the way. The pressure can be very high. When I was first getting started on running my own thing, at that point I had already worked at a handful of startups.I had worked at startups in the sciences. I had worked at a small company in the games industry. I had talked to a lot of people who did startups. And I was like the second or third people like person at a handful of companies. And I would look at like the owner and they're doing like 25 or 30 percent more work than what I'm doing. Or, 30 percent harder. And then I got in the position where I was the person who was the founder and who was running it. This is like 200 percent harder than I thought it was going to be. Cause there's a lot of stuff that's hidden from you. Not intentionally, but just that you're shielded from as someone who's not a founder of a company. And a lot of those have to do with the pressures of decision making around like finances, hiring, interpersonal stuff, and HR things. All this stuff that was just really emotionally was unexpected to me. The volume of the pressure, I think.
If you take it a little bit of a layer deeper, when you're creating a company and you're creating culture or you're building a studio, you subconsciously rebuild dynamics and things that are comfortable to you, right? If you have, say, a history of childhood trauma or unresolved things, which I've struggled with that stuff myself. You can unintentionally recreate dynamics that are really familiar to you, which can be healthy or unhealthy, right?
So needing to continually work through these things that might seem unexpected, actually has a lot to do with like, how do you handle communication? How do you handle decision-making? How do you handle pay? How do you handle all that kind of filters off into a lot of different things. And so I think that companies and teams that I see be the most successful in a sense of trying to create healthy work environments and cultures, you have to have to have a lot of self-awareness.
You have to be ready to have complicated conversations. Transparency is really helpful. Thinking about like how did the systems that you create are going to affect people in the immediate, and how is it going to affect it in the long term? And are you willing to resolve like mistakes that you make?
Cause you're going to make them like nobody's doing it perfectly. What does that look like? And how do you try to go through the process with as much integrity as you can like possibly have.
I think that from the flip side, when I've seen toxic cultures or toxic companies, like cracks in the foundation that happened very early and maybe they scale up super fast or things get really big. It's really hard to go back and try to paint over it and be, 'now it's fine'. It can be really complicated to backtrack from that.
Not that it's impossible, but like I said, I think having as much self-awareness as you can muster and really trying to be honest with yourself on where you're at as much as you can be and with people on the team and stuff, I think seems to with creating a culture that I think folks can look back at and at least be proud of, even if they made mistakes or didn't work out. With as much like kind of authenticity and realness as you can. And there are definitely dysfunctional companies that become super successful. There's very functional companies that become successful. So I don't totally want to tie it into, is it going to make you financially successful or not? But I think that it's possible to do both. And I think it's better for the industry and better for for founders if they can try and do it in a way that feels like healthy for themselves and for the people that are going to work with them.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, build an intentional culture from the start. I just had Eve Crevoshay from Take This on. She's wonderful, but she talked about what you're building inside of your company and your culture really translates into your game, which then translates into your community that you build within your game.
Kelly: Yeah, exactly. One of the things when we're looking at a pitch, you can kind of tell when people are coming at the industry in a sort of mercenary way. I think comes through in their games. Like, oh, we identified this market and this idea and, this testing did well with this, so we're going to put these things together and we're going to make this thing.
Those games can be successful to varying degrees, but I think even as a player and someone who really loves playing games, you can tell, was there like soul and love and like attention and all that like put into the game? Or was it mushed together with a bunch of random ideas? Again, that's not the only thing that you need to be successful, but I think the games that are really like crafted in that kind of way, it also comes out in the product. And it comes out and the community of people who ended up playing it.
As a founder or as an employee of a company, you're spending eight hours a day at this place. More if you're in the game studio. Depending on the situation. We have a lot of teams actually that are really working on doing four-day work weeks and non-traditional structures. I think especially if you've worked at a company where you've been in crunch culture or you felt really pressured or that there weren't enough resources... When you do your own thing, you're like, I'm going to do it differently, right? Like, you kind of rebel against your parents a little bit.
Lizzie Mintus: A great analogy. I'm going to eat sugar. I'm going to do this.
Kelly: You learn along the way. But I think sometimes, a lot of I think good can come out of those experiences in a way to have what do you not want to do or what do you not want to model with that behavior with your behavior with your company's culture. And so we see a lot of that with the teams that we talked to. Really thinking about what is the future of this industry look like? What do studios look like? And what does the culture look like?
Lizzie Mintus: That's inspiring. Interesting. How are the stats on the four-day work week? That was a heated topic.
Kelly: I'd say every company that we talk to in the community that has talked about doing it, they love it. They would never go back. Like I have a friend who has been running a game studio for a really long time, as long as like The Megabooth was around.They said there was challenges with it, especially around deadlines and things like that, but. But the benefits so much outweigh the downsides that they couldn't imagine ever going back. We've also had some teams talk about how they had been at places where there was a four-day work week, and then they removed the four -day work week and everybody hated it, you know? So, it's definitely a very easy way to ruin morale. So far, every team that we have has talked about implementing a four-day work week just loves it. There's are different structures around that, how they do it. Some have core hours,. Some hasto be Monday through Thursday. Some have it that it could be any one of a certain kind of days. There's a lot of variety and how that works. But another thing to think about, there is a lot of studies that were done. The eight-hour workday came from manufacturing, right? Car manufacturing. So it was like, how long an employee could physically work before their productivity dropped. And then we just carried that over into intellectual work and mental work, which isn't really the same thing. You can mentally get tired after six hours or something before people actually start to drop in their productivity.
One of the teams called it 'chasing the muse,' which I think is really interesting because we're in a creative industry, right? So people get excited and they were following a thread and they're in a flow state. How do you balance those things? But I think the reality is, doing a five-day, eight-hour work week was implemented for manufacturing and then implemented into an office culture and doesn't really fit in a modern tech culture, and then also games as a creative industry also. So it's like you can't really, I mean you can, but it's hard to be like, okay, be creative from nine to five Monday through Friday.' And never without these other things or without getting like the rest and the time that you need to become inspired and have space to refill your creative cup or bucket or juices or whatever you want to call it. Like that creativity and energy coming from space and unstructured time as opposed to rigid structures, forcing people to sit down and do something within a certain time. I think the games industry is in a lot of unique positions around that. And so I think that there's a lot of experimentation on how do you do this? Because you're like combining tech work and creative work and you're creative, like an intellectual work and all this stuff. And it's like, how do you actually make that work for people?
Lizzie Mintus: It's been an interesting experiment too. Everybody went remote. Some companies are doing return to office. Some companies are doing some days in office and flex hours and a four-day work week. There are a lot of experiments and companies that want to have their own fun way of doing things. We'll see in the next few years. It seems like there will be so many games that come out from studios that have had these nontraditional ways of working. And then, you'll see how it works or not.
Kelly: Yeah. Personally, I've been working remote and working from home for 10-plus years at this. So I'm a big fan of it, but I also think that it like allows an increase in diversity of candidates and ideas. And if you have a life situation where like you can't afford to live in a super expensive coastal city, or you have family that you need to take care of. There's an endless number of reasons why that kind of structure might not work for somebody. It also lets you hire globally, which I think could be really helpful. It lets you hire people with accessibility issues, or maybe people who might not be able to travel or be able to go into an office. It also opens the pool of people and voices you can have working at your company, which to me, like the audience of people who play games is super diverse and global. And so like the people who are making them should look the same way.
Lizzie Mintus: In theory. Yeah, it is getting better and remote hiring is truly the best thing for adding diversity. If you start a Seattle studio, you do have the same people that have been in Seattle for a really long time and hopped around to different studios. So refreshing. And so you've seen what it takes to make a really successful indie game from Indie Megabooth and then what it takes to have a successful VC backed company in games. What would you say that the similarities and differences are?
Kelly: Like I said, I think that there's a lot with kind of like thinking about, what kind of company you want to be building and the culture and being intentional about that part, which I think is really important. I think that in the indie space, it's not that people aren't commercially viable or aren't seeking to be commercially viable, but there's definitely a lot more of an independent streak and really having this strong creative desire to get an idea out there to express yourself in some way. And so, there's that. And then when I was like getting approached by a lot of like publishers or investment even prior to doing stuff with the 1Up Fund, where people wanted to identify indie studios that wanted to become bigger or big commercial successes or eventually sell the company. In theory, I feel like there should be a lot of overlap, but there's not, I think there's a really unique situation of people who have the indie spirit. Who also strive to make one of the pillars of what they're trying to do is that it's large scale and that commercially successful.
Not to say that ambition isn't there on the indie side, but I think that it's less of the point and a little bit more of the point as the process and the journey and getting the artistic vision out. I'd say that's maybe one of the differing factors. Even the type of company that would go after VC funding, I think is different than the type of company that just starts off as an indie studio. But I think that the overlaps are still there, right? There's still plenty of indie games that intentionally or not, became very commercially successful, right? And are very commercially viable. I'm trying to put my finger on like maybe what some good differences between the two would be, but I think it's a little bit of the kind of attitude. Going into it like, what are you trying to get and create out of the situation?
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, and one would have more pressure, one would not.
Kelly: Yeah, kind of depending, right? I think whether is it external pressure or internal pressure, there's definitely a lot of creative indie studios. It can be very high pressure or take a really long time. I've seen a lot of games that take 8, 9, 10 years or they're working on it for an incredible amount of time because they're doing it with much less resources over a slower period of time. As opposed to having a lot of resources and maybe a slightly shorter period of time. I think also maybe it's a little bit of a kind of punkiness on. I don't want someone telling me what to do. But like I mentioned before, I feel really strongly about the impact of funding. To go back to the diversity side of it, if you can properly fund your studio and pay the people who are working on it and have access to the financial resources that you need, that also lets you run a more diverse studio. Because really, if you're bootstrapping or you don't have sufficient funding or you don't have a publisher deal, the money has to be coming from somewhere.
So you're either, having people who are independently wealthy, or people that can afford to work on things where they're not getting paid. Maybe enough to sustain a family or to take care of other people, aside from themselves and their lives.
Again, not a necessarily a bad thing, but the industry has grown and changed a lot in that sense where Indie used to mean, no money from anyone, like no one telling you what to do. You're eating ramen and you're working in your basement. To people being, okay, that works for some people. But there's everybody else. We live in capitalism. So we still need to pay people, compensate them to be able to get a good level of diversity and the people that are working on this stuff.
Lizzie Mintus: I hadn't thought about that aspect, but it makes a lot of sense. I have one final question. And before I ask it, I want to point people to the 1Up website at 1UpFunddotcom.
My last question is, you said that you had this self-reflection journey of what you wanted to do. And it seems like your why? Maybe from my view point is connecting people and building these communities through different platforms. Maybe I'm wrong. But what is your why and how did you go about discovering it?
Kelly: I've actually been thinking about this question a lot because I never really thought of myself as a person who builds community or brings people together. But it's clearly something that I'm almost compulsively doing at this point and have been doing to different levels of success, with inside of my career and outside of my work. There is something that is really exciting to me about facilitating people's creative visions and helping them achieve what I think that their potential might be, maybe I feel I didn't have or I couldn't have when I was younger. So I think there's something in there for me about how much access can we give people to the resources? That they might need to become successful and to express themselves and to pursue their dreams, right? Regardless of what their backgrounds might be or what their history might be. Or where they come from.
There's something in there that's really energizing for me. And again, I'm really a big fan of how do we make big long term changes? And so a lot of my political activism, I would say in a way is filtered through what do I want to see in the future. And what do I want to see in the world? How can I have that impact? To go back to the culture of companies and what they're trying to build, think hybrid work and remote work and four-day work weeks and building inclusive cultures and creating art and experiences and games for people that are coming from that place and those values... I think in the very long term is pushing forward a vision of the way that I would like the world or society to be. To be able to facilitate that for people and to provide the resources that they might need, whether that's like. Community or networking with people or just access to resources or access to money. To me is like really a big driving factor for a lot of this. I think that like it wasn't clear that's what was going on to me for a long time, but I'd say like over time watching the impact that it's had and that the games industry has had on, on the rest of the world, I think has really solidified that reasoning for me. I'm very patient in some ways and impatient in a lot of ways, but I'm very patient in how do we make big, long-term sustainable changes towards a positive vision of the future.
Lizzie Mintus: So you take a large vantage point on what you want- big picture and then. Yeah. Figure out how you can get there. I like it. It's hard to figure out.
Kelly: Yeah, it wasn't like I said something that I went into it really intentionally trying to do I think I just it was something that seemed interesting with people that I thought were really cool and that we're doing things that were exciting and new and different and creative to me. And then really shaping that slowly over time, probably subconsciously at first and then more consciously and intentionally, as I got a better handle on what exactly was I working towards and what was like the driving factors of that.I started off I'd say very punky and anti-counterculture. We are different people in the world to be able to have a voice and to do something interesting and express themselves. Just went from there.
Lizzie Mintus: You've made it. I'm excited to see the future holds for you. We've been talking to Kelly Wallick, founder of Indie Megabooth and partner of 1UP Fund. Kelly, where can people go to connect with you or learn more about you?
Kelly: I'm just Kelly Wallach basically on everything. I'm all over different social media sites, but I'm probably most active on Instagram. I updated my personal website recently so you can find me there. The easiest way is through the 1UP Fund through LinkedIn or email.
Lizzie Mintus: Thanks so much.
Great. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week to. To catch all the latest from his Waldo. You can follow us on LinkedIn. Be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes. We'll see you next time.
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