Meet the Team: Part 1. Game Design and Team Leading with Matthew Bond

Our team at Psyon Games is always working hard on making science fun and accessible to everyone. But who, exactly, is it that makes up the team? As the first in a series of write-ups, get to know Matthew Bond, the co-owner and CTO of Psyon Games.

The ever reliable lead game designer at Psyon Games, also known as Matt Bond, was one of the first members to join the company, promptly assuming the role of its CTO. Matt met Olli, the CEO, at a presentation in Jyväskylä – he was there to give a lecture, Olli was there to give a presentation, and apparently it was love (the professional kind) at first sight. Matt witnessed the presentation Olli gave and sought him out afterwards, and the rest, as they say, is history (recent as it is).

What exactly does Matt do at Psyon Games?

At Psyon Games, Matt works as the lead designer and the go-to person for most every issue or problem beyond the scope of the art and tech leads that the rest of the team might encounter. As the lead designer, he’s responsible for coming up with new ideas, storyboards, solving design problems and being the gatekeeper of game design, among other things (technically, the list of his tasks is about 43 steps long, but we’ll refrain from boring you to death). As the other half of the boss-duo, he’s responsible for both creating and approving ideas, leading the team and company, and occasionally pitching in with the development. Matt also maintains the websites, deals with some of the communication and marketing, and helps out wherever it’s needed. He’s the reason to Olli’s innovation, smoothing out ideas and thoughts into something that can be applied in the company’s projects.

Antidote, the company’s main development project, is Matt’s current focus. As with every project, it’s been an eye-opener to work on and an impressive learning experience. To gain a proper understanding of how people learn from each game they make, the team visits schools for field testing, experiencing first-hand how children play the games. The kids learn best when there’s a reasonable level of difficulty and it’s important to see just how good they are at overcoming the challenges presented to them. Children are experts of innovative, creative thinking, and games need to work with that in mind. Matt fully believes that Antidote will be one of the best games to come out on mobile devices this year. A lot of work has gone into it, and it embodies the company’s main vision quite well – that is, popularising science.

So what’s the story?

Matt was born in Nottingham, UK, and moved to Birmingham for university. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, he worked for Toshiba in Edinburgh, writing programs for different medical machines that display human insides for the doctors to observe. From Edinburgh, Matt moved to Joensuu, Finland where he studied and completed his master’s degree in computer science, specializing in educational game design. Through all this time, games never lost their importance to him, and he continued to enjoy a wide variety of them on all platforms – though games built around simulation remain firmly on the top of his list of favourites.

There’s a reason behind his love of simulation games – When Matt was a child, his class was given the task of making an aerial map of their home street. Matt made his in SimCity 2000™, printing it out for viewing and discovered an interesting fact. The city was planning a new crossing, but where they intended to place it might not have been for the best – perhaps they ought to place it where most children crossed the street on the way to school, instead, as showed by his map. Matt wrote a letter to the council and an official showed up at his home to ask more questions. In the end, the traffic light placement was changed and Matt learned that he could, in fact, make a difference. Through playing a game, he made an impact on the real world. Perhaps there was more to games than just entertainment value. And it didn’t just stop there – games continued to teach him valuable lessons, ranging all the way from orbital physics (Kerbal) and economics (Runescape) to architecture (Minecraft) and history (Civilization).

Looking towards the future

Matt believes that Finland has exceptional talent and a beneficial leaning towards co-operation, even if sauna tends to pop up more than one might expect in company politics. Given the low population, the game industry in Finland is surprisingly widespread and globally competitive. Games make up a large portion of Finland’s economic value, and their influence is ever increasing.

For future projects, after Antidote launches in the Play Store, there are plenty of opportunities to look forward to. Two of the most recent ones involve working with the astronaut Leland Melvin on a game about becoming an astronaut, or working with Greenlight on a game about Einstein’s achievements. There are also some important topics that Matt would be particularly interested in exploring, such as climate change and sustainable development. Whatever the future projects turn out to be, they’re sure to remind people of the need for science in our lives, without forgetting the value of entertainment and enjoyment.

What IS science, and how about this “Trump” thing?

For Matt, science is being curious – it’s a set of tools you can apply to observe the world and to gain a deeper level of understanding on its workings. Matt reflects the company’s stand on science, firm in his belief that science matters. Trump vs. Science, one of Psyon Games’ current projects, further applies the company’s way of thinking into politics, showing how ignorance can brew misunderstandings and confusion. Science is important – scientific reasoning is required at governmental level, and popularising science is one of Psyon Games’ priorities. While Trump vs. Science is still in its infancy, the browser game will further develop into a direction that strives to publicise science, rather than just point out the somewhat questionable quality of Mr. Trump’s tweets – useful as they are to show the consequences of scientific ignorance on international level. There are even plans to involve charities, providing people with the ability to donate to science-related programs such as SOS Children, World Literacy Foundation and Wings of Hope.

Bacterial contribution

Matt’s favourite character in Antidote is Sam the Salmonella – the most basic critter you can encounter, your Average Joe of bacteria, charmingly depicted as a green glob of goo with a vacant expression. There’s just something about that forgettable, everyday slime that makes his plainness stand out… apparently.

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