Fun & Games: Part 1

Micah Heiselt Creative Director

LinkedIn

At the end of 2011 I was fired.

At the time I was working for a large, household name company on a large, household name brand. It was exciting to see my work sitting on store shelves, but the corporate world was a trying environment for me. So, when my brand was down-scaled and I was scaled down with it, I saw it as an opportunity rather than a disaster and had a two part plan: Freelance enough to stay afloat and focus more on my own projects and entrepreneurial pursuits.

One of my first ideas was a game called Flipmatch, a fast-paced reflex game that used the iPad’s brand-new large, retina screen to show off its beautiful (and yes, skeuomorphic) designs. I had no idea what I was doing though. I just started putting together mockups, rules, wireframes and anything else I thought that a dev shop would need to bring my dream to life. I found a handful of digital agencies that I liked and started meeting with them to see how to move forward. The agencies were all interested in the idea and eager to be part of the project. It was a very exciting time! At least until they showed me the price tag. It turns out that development is harder than it looks.

Silly designer.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Flipmatch, in the hands of an inexperienced lone designer, ended up fizzling to death – eventually gathering cloud dust on Dropbox. Despite that, though, it was one of the most valuable projects I have ever worked on because I learned three very important lessons.

1. Ideas are important, but execution is king.

I spent a lot of time on Flipmatch. I researched tons of games, experimented with many different visual styles and even worked with a friend to score original music. None of it mattered, though, because I didn’t have the understanding, experience and skills to bring it to life. No matter how great of a game it may have been, if nobody ever played it then it was worthless.

2. You can’t just be good. You have to be smart too.

It’s not enough to have a good idea or do good design. In fact, it’s not even enough to have those and good dev on top of it. If a project as big as a mobile game is going to be successful it has be be carefully thought out from every angle. Every step, every rule, every graphic must be created in view of the larger vision and must be done in the right order. Even now, I think Flipmatch would have been a fun game, but I was too inexperienced to be smart and that’s why it was doomed from the start. There was no plan to test, validate or iterate. It was all or nothing. And we know which of the two directions it naturally went.

3. Building apps is just plain fun.

Probably the best lesson I learned personally from Flipmatch is that making apps (especially games) is really wonderful. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s a whole lot of work. But if the idea is good, and the execution is on point and smart, then the outcome can be worth every drop of sweat and tears. It’s a beautiful experience.

At the end of 2011, I didn’t know all this. I didn’t even know what UX and UI design were! We never built the game, but the agencies I spoke to saw something in my work and invited me into their fold. One freelance gig led to another, which led to a job, to leading a team, and eventually to today. I’ve learned a few things along the road and I now have more apps under my belt than I can honestly remember. Every day I get to work with an incredible group of designers and developers, each of whom is smarter and better than I ever was.

And now at the beginning of 2018, as Creative Director, I’m excited to announce that we are going to build AD:60’s first in-house mobile game! Starting next month I’ll be documenting the experience and taking you along for the ride as we learn, and build, and hopefully go about all this in a way that is both good and smart. I invite you to join us.

It’s going to be great!

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