Exclusive Interview With Lightneer CEO About Newest Game ‘Big Bang’ | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Lightneer is a game company looking to bring education and gaming together, making it more mainstream. I had the pleasure of sitting down with CEO Lauri Jarvilehto to discuss their upcoming game ‘Big Bang,’ as well as the past, present, and future of Lightneer.

Would you be so kind to share with me how your studio was formed?

There were former and present Rovio executives that got together to brainstorm. After many talks of creating a particle physics game. Last summer it took place that we started building a team, and then we started development in early January.

What about the people working at Lightneer? I’m sure our readers would be interested in hearing some of their stories.

Lauri Konttori (CCO, Co-founder of Lightneer) and myself have been involved in various kinds of brainstorming operations concerning game learning. The first workshops that I participated in were with Lauri.

Our lead programmer (Albert Alonso) was actually the lead programmer at Game Loft. He didn’t really have a background in learning games, but he was a superstar programmer for a great studio. Our lead designer (Ilari Kaarnakari) was involved in a couple of hit games. We’ve been able to create this back and forth process between these amazing designers and developers and also with our scientific advisors, who are also at the top of the pack in a global context. We have Physicist’s working with us who are very passionate in their world of science, and then we have developers and designers who are passionate about reaching the core game and meta game, and when we can merge those worlds of mutual passions, I’ve seen so many amazing things already.

My background is actually pretty strange for someone running a game studio; I use to be in research for academics for several years, and I have a Ph.D. in Theoretical Philosophy. So in this line of work that’s how I came to write this book, “Learning is Fun.”

Seeing as how you’re developing games for educational purposes, what is your endgame? Are you hoping to see your titles reach educational facilities, and being used as learning tools?

No no- our goal is pretty simple, as we just want to get learning games into the mainstream category of games. As far as our team goes, we have had developers create games that have been globally in the top ten. But, as far as I know I have never known a learning game to be one of those top ten. That’s what our goal is. I think the key element there is to create a game in which you do not want to be actually motivated by the learning. So you can actually download it from the app store and can start playing it, and you’ll have so much fun playing that you’ll start learning stuff such as particle physics, or the periodic table or how nuclear fusion works. One of our main goals is stealth learning, where people are being taught without someone teaching them.

Do you see yourselves developing titles concerning other areas of academic pursuits, such as, say, math or history?

Yes, we haven’t looked very far down our pipeline just yet, but we are looking to use the characters we have now and expand our IP(intellectual property). We have a pretty good idea for a history game. Another idea is to make a literacy game. While it’s a little too early to tell, it is possible that we may introduce a literacy game somewhere in the roadmap, possibly next year even or the year after that. In the next three to five years, our hopes are to introduce a literacy game that would be available to developing countries. Right now we are one hundred percent focused on releasing our first game.

Regarding the premier of your title, what gave you the idea to use the periodic table as your first subject?

We got in touch with the people to make the game about two years ago, and we were so excited at the thought of making the game with world-class experts. The idea was to create something other than another elementary math or foreign language game. It was basically having access to these individuals, and reaching an understanding that this would be something cool to do. Having the inspiration and meeting a challenge to teach these difficult subjects under a really fun platform.

Will Lightneer focus solely on developing educational games?

Yes. Our cornerstone is to figure out the next generation learning paradigm.

As far as outreach, will the game be released locally first, or will it be available to everyone?

We will do a soft launch, so geographically we will do a soft launch sometime in the fall, right now the roadmap looks like the hard launch will happen before the end of the year.

Now I hate to ask the obvious question, but I just feel like I have to. Are you a gamer?

Yes, definitely. I don’t think people who don’t like video games should design them.

What would you say are your favorite video games?

Right now I would have to say The Room 3. It’s a mobile game that involves problem-solving. Kind of like a mobile version of the Rubix Cube. Now another game I spent a lot of time with was Hearthstone.

On the PlayStation I would have to say Destiny, I don’t really like shooters, but somehow Destiny was really awesome to me. There’s another game that I really think is amazing, the former CEO of the company that developed it is actually our advisor. It’s a motocross game called Trails Fusion. Now I’m also not really a fan of motocross games either, but this one has really been an inspiration to me. I also play a lot of Rocket League; it’s just the casual crazy kind of fun. There was also an indie desktop game called Braid, which was like a mix of Super Mario with excruciating puzzles. (I informed him of The Witness, of which was directed by the same creator. He gladly took the time to write it down.)

Is there anything else that you would like to add for our readers to take note of?

One thing is that I’m so excited that I am getting a shot at these next generation learning games. Like when I was in San Diego I got to see how people were building education technology, and I am pretty confident that we’re close to this tipping point where EduTech and learning games are going to become a massive phenomenon. Take Angry Birds for instance, before Angry Birds; gaming was looked at as geeky and then Angry Birds brought gaming to mainstream in mobile gaming.

It’s kind of like William Gibson once said: “The future is already here, it’s just evenly distributed.” So it’s just one to three years from now, someone is going to come up with this way to introduce learning into everyday life for us all, and I think that’s going to have a huge impact on the well-being of people and how are education systems are run. At the end of the day, you see these pioneers crushing boundaries between learning and education. There are key elements there and what I mean by that is not learning something by being in a school, but by being super excited about something and that’s really exciting for us to feel like we are part of the crowd preparing that future.
If you’re interested in seeing what Lightneer is creating, head over www.lightneer.com. You can also get Lauri’s eBook, “Learning is Fun” on Amazon. If you’re up for some more thoughtful gaming news, make sure you keep reading Mouse N’ Joypad.