People Make Kwalee: Simon Platt

Kwalee is made up of a diverse bunch of people, and we’re growing all the time! To provide some insight into the multitude of individuals and roles that go into releasing chart-topping games, we’re pulling back the curtain and focusing on the people that make it all happen.

This time we’re chatting to our professional wrestler turned hyper-casual game developer extraordinaire, Simon Platt!

 

What do you do at Kwalee?

Simon Platt: I am the Head of Development and Design at Kwalee, managing the inception and development of our games from rough prototype to full production.

What’s the first game you ever played?

I was 7 years old, being dragged from playing board games with my brothers to introduce ourselves to the new neighbours and welcome them to the street.  

I remember defiantly entering their house with folded arms, until I saw their son playing on their brand new NES. I spent the next 15 minutes watching him die over and over again in Super Mario Bros, mesmerized by the interactive magic I was seeing on the screen.  

Although I was only given a couple of minutes to play myself, it was enough to trigger a three-month campaign of badgering my parents until I was eventually bought a console of my own.

How did your career in games begin?

I was working a temp job alongside a professional wrestling career when I first joined the games industry as a QA Technician at a major UK games studio, testing racing games.  

I absolutely loved this job. For the first time in my life I was thrilled to go to work and I put a lot of effort into understanding the intricacies of design and programming that made me better in my role.

While I learned that it’s very easy for entry-level talent to feel ignored and overlooked in a big development team, which affected some of my colleagues, I remained thankful every day to be paid to influence and improve video games — something I had no formal qualifications to do.

Simon in his professional wrestling days

Over time, I was given more responsibilities and the lack of ambition I’d had up to this point turned into a drive to understand and better the processes around me.  I applied for a QA Manager role at a games studio in London — something way above my station at the time — and was given the job in the first interview.

Overwhelmed and desperately trying to hide the fact that I had little to no clue how to run an entire department, I absorbed as much as I could as quickly as possible from the strong team of seniors and industry veterans I was now surrounded by. I quickly helped turn QA into an essential part of the development process thanks to strong support from a great management team.

It was here that I learned the value of developing with a small team and how, with a strong process for hiring great people, you can foster an ethos of respect and teamwork in the name of producing better games. I also taught myself programming at this time to better understand how to solve a problem, rather than just identify it.

From there I took a job at Kwalee as Head of QA, not only for the opportunity to work with a young studio trying to find its feet, but also to work alongside legends of the industry like David Darling and Andrew Graham — people who helped shape my childhood.

I soon started pushing for more responsibility, driven by a desire to impose more structure to the studio, something that my colleagues were craving. I was promoted to Producer after a few months and we transitioned into hyper-casual games — an emerging market we saw as an exciting opportunity.

After designing our first commercial successes such as TENS!, Spillz, Looper and Go Fish, I was promoted to Head of Development and given control over the design and development of all internal titles.

How does life at Kwalee differ from other companies you’ve worked with?

Kwalee is a haven for creativity and collaboration. We appreciate that great ideas can come from anybody and make big efforts to ensure every member of staff feels they have the freedom to express opinions and make suggestions.

We follow through with this promise with our Creative Wednesday initiative, providing a literal platform for anybody in the company to pitch new game ideas.

Our studio is built on respect and compromise and ensuring that every employee in every department feels they can speak their mind at any time is incredibly important to me.

Tell us something about your role that you think will surprise people.

I spend a large amount of time sitting with members of every team, from Programmers to Recruitment specialists, discussing their concepts and mechanics for new game ideas.

A young Simon dabbles in some early mobile gaming

I use these opportunities to educate the team on the design considerations and principles of hyper-casual games. I also hold regular workshops for the entire company, talking through intuitive methodologies for conceptualising new games.

What’s been your proudest moment as a Kwalee employee?

Although it isn’t our biggest hit, I am incredibly proud of my first successful game design: TENS! Pitched to the company early in my career here, it was the first casual game we took a real chance on and proved our process could identify hit games.  

Without TENS! We may not have jumped in to hyper-casual with both feet like we did.

The reaction from our user base continues to be extremely positive and includes people who have played every day for over a year.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the games industry?

Give as much time as you can to those around you and try to foster a team mentality in everything you do.  

The respect that you earn and the growth that you receive as part of a communicative and optimistic team is invaluable and infectious.

You will find so much more joy and value in this incredibly creative industry if everyone is made to feel essential to the process — as they should be.

 

If you’re interested in joining Simon and the rest of our team, we’re hiring for a whole host of exciting positions right now! Or, if you’re already developing your own games, you can submit them to our publishing team here.