Mobile Games Designed For the Real World

When I jumped into the startup world, I started working as a freelancer in UX / Product Design for early-stage companies.

It was the heyday, in startups and design, of ‘gamification,’ ‘feedback loops’ and desire engines. A few years later, Nir Eyal’s Hooked sort of summed up the excitement around what is, in retrospect, the design of addiction.

As a newly minted product designer, it seemed to me that the industry was attempting to master what another industry had long understood: game design. I become obsessed with the intersection of edtech and games, then serious games, and finally, decided I wanted to do a stint in gaming. I’m so glad I did.

In 2012 I joined The Tap Lab, a startup graduating Techstars Boston that was building on top of the OpenStreetMap API and Foursquare’s place data to create location-based mobile Monopoly, titled Tiny Tycoons. This was also the time of check-ins and ‘location-based’ everything, and the founders realized they could take this excitement to build a true game (instead of a gamified product).