I would have never imagined myself co-founding a team developing games and other immersive products with impact. If you’re passionate about an idea, give it a shot and see where it takes you, especially if you’re only at the beginning of your career path.
As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marek Hasa.
Marek has recently co-founded Flying Kale, a small design and development team focused on solving challenges in health and social care with its own immersive, engaging and entertaining products. A core element of the team’s efforts is gamification. Marek has a background in marketing communication and behavioral sciences. After graduating from the University of Amsterdam, he taught Bachelor students for a while and worked with a digital agency Pixelfield on a variety of innovative digital products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
Thanks for having me!
Ever since my Bachelor studies, I’ve been deeply interested in social marketing campaigns and behavioral interventions. I knew that I would want to start my own project focused on addressing some of the big and small challenges our healthcare and social care are facing these days. That was my intention. And the digital side of things complemented my plans naturally. I got involved in some digital projects and then had the opportunity to co-found a new company with my colleagues at Pixelfield. It was a chance to connect the two main interests I had — solving health and social issues by applying behavioral science to digital product design.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Let’s stay with the story of Flying Kale for a bit longer. It all started just before the Summer when we were discussing some options for our own fun products at the Pixelfield agency. I came up with the idea of a mobile game tackling a mental health issue, specifically the mild to moderate symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Building a gamified product with positive impact got everyone on the team very excited a and what had seemed like a far-fetched idea at first quickly developed into a tangible concept. We partnered with the Czech National Mental Health Institute and applied for a grant together — if our application succeeds, we will bring the game to life in the coming months. And this project also served as the foundation for setting up the new team — Flying Kale.
My lesson learned here was that great things can come from exciting ideas, as far-fetched and idealistic as they might seem at first. Before last Summer, I would have never imagined myself co-founding a team developing games and other immersive products with impact. If you’re passionate about an idea, give it a shot and see where it takes you, especially if you’re only at the beginning of your career path.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Flying wouldn’t have been born without its second co-founder, my brother Filip. Without his contacts, experience and resources in the field of digital design and development, I would have never been able to set up a team developing its own digital products. I am very lucky to have him as a business partner.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The whole idea of Flying Kale is to bring goodness to the world! We’re still only doing the first steps but we aim to build a network of experts in different domains of healthcare and social care, with whom we will be able to create gamified and immersive products that offer an innovative approach to solving a particular challenge, either for institutions or individuals.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in toys or games that that you are working on?
We’re not innovating games, rather we are innovating health, education and social care with games and other playful technologies. We believe in the power of gamification and immersion as well-evidenced drivers of motivation, habit building, engagement and other mental and behavioral processes that are crucial for behavior and social change.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
We identified a plethora of specific areas in healthcare, social care, education, workplace training and advocacy, where the status quo, to put it briefly, is rather boring. People tend to see these areas as something very serious which is largely determined by the nature of tools and solutions they have been offered up until now. We aim to change that and offer them ways to improve their wellbeing, skills or knowledge in a truly exciting manner.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?
As I’ve already explained, the good purpose is embedded in Flying Kale’s DNA. It’s our reason to be. We innovate fields where people are not expecting to receive entertaining, exciting solutions. And we thing that’s a big shame. Our product concepts are all focused on bridging joy and engagement with a positive “serious” impact.
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
I think both educational institutions and parents need to stop battling with emerging technologies once and for all. I know that there are many schools which are very progressive in this sense but others should start following their example as soon as possible. It’s time to make more use of the omnipresent companions all of the kids have in their pockets — leverage the interactive power of smartphones for increasing engagement and creating opportunities for all students to express themselves without the need to be the loudest or fastest in class.
I know that this question may be outside of your core expertise, but I’m sure you will be able to share some important insight. In your opinion, how is the US doing with regard to engaging young people, and particularly girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
It definitely falls outside of my expertise as I don’t have a clear overview of the US educational system. But let me provide you with three general suggestions that can increase engagement and inclusivity:
- Communicate the practical implications and tangible products of these subjects.
- Adjust the learning process to equip the students with skills and opportunities to apply their knowledge very early.
- Make the classes and homework more exciting, build engaging products that enable people to learn more at home and experience the subjects from a different perspective.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
I will stay within the area of games for health. A successful health game is truly fun to play even in the long run while also successfully conveying the pro-health messages or facilitating healthy habit building. Hello Yoop from a Dutch studio Yellow Riders is a very good example of a quality health game. This Tamagotchi-like game succeeded in entertaining its young players over the period of several weeks and allowed them to continually learn the basics of healthy nutrition and exercise.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create Successful Games or Toys” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Again, staying with games for health and social care, my “5 things you need to know” are:
1. Understand the issue you are trying to solve — when developing a mobile game for the elderly, you should first study the social care system and interview relevant players in the field
2. Learn as much as you can about your target audience — do both qualitative and quantitative research into the elderly’s motivations, habits, attitudes and feelings, ask them about their favourite games
3. Research competing products — study both digital and offline solutions to the problem of the elderly that you are trying to solve, think of how your proposed solution can be more playful, effective and engaging
4. Get user feedback as soon as you can — build a prototype of your health game as fast as possible and have it tested by the elderly themselves, involve them in redesigning the game mechanics
5. Make sure to find the right balance between the fun and the serious — don’t let the drive for positive impact completely overshadow the entertaining elements of the game, otherwise you will not achieve the positive impact at all
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well, I think my influence is very far from being great but that might change after this interview is published, right? 🙂 I think that the core of any movement is the passion about the subject matter. Without passion, there is no inspiration and traction, no real engagement of others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m proud to be a quote-free person. But if I were to come up with something relevant for myself, I’d say „take it easy“. As a perfectionist, I tend to be overly invested even in mundane tasks and stress out about things a bit too much. But I’m eager to work on that!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m mainly active on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marek-hasa/
I would also like to invite all of your readers to follow both Pixelfield (https://www.linkedin.com/company/pixelfield/) and Flying Kale (https://www.linkedin.com/company/flying-kale/) on LinkedIn — great things are about to come, so stay tuned!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts and Flying Kale’s plans!