Build play into your day — At Fort Mason Games, we actually play games at work. From board games to competitor’s games, to games that are not related to our products at all, we enjoy having the flexibility to play during the day, and having the opportunity to play together. It deepens our relationships with each other. It’s fun, and it gives everyone a small, happy break from thinking about work problems during the day. After a bit of game play, I often feel mentally refreshed and ready to go back to work.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Kate Gorman, Founder and CEO of Fort Mason Games. Kate Gorman moved up to become the highest-ranking women in product at Zynga. Then, she went on to found Fort Mason Games. She wanted to make games for women by women. In the process, she aims to revolutionize the mobile gaming industry by creating new games that are social, AI-based, relaxing, and designed to meet the needs of female players — especially since historically the majority of mobile games have been targeted at male audiences. According to a recent study by Google, 65% of US women play mobile games. Kate is a 2019 winner of Forbes 30 Under 30. She founded Fort Mason Games to bring new, fun, entertainment to everyone with a focus on meeting the unique needs of female players.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always loved playing games. Starting from a young age, I played Madden with my older brother. Later on, in a high school computer science class, I made a brick breaker game. The experience of building this game lead me to become interested in Computer Science as a major, and in turn to make games for a living.
I started working at Zynga as an intern between my junior and senior years at UC Berkeley. Before graduating, I joined Zynga full-time as the youngest Product Manager. I eventually went back to UC Berkeley and finished my Computer Science degree. After this, I returned to Zynga, and over time, moved up to be the highest-ranking woman in product at Zynga.
I went on to found Fort Mason Games www.fortmasongames.com with the mission of creating games for women by women. In the process, we’re revolutionizing the mobile gaming industry by creating new games that are social, relaxing, AI-based, and designed to meet the needs of female players — especially since, historically, the majority of mobile games have been targeted at a male audience. According to a recent study by Google, 65% of US women play mobile games.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
I believe that feeling rushed and being busy is a byproduct of our society, especially for a younger demographic like mine. We are more focused on our careers in our 20s than previous generations. There is intensity and a focus on our careers that defines us as individuals. With this comes the need to do more, and many think that progressing in their career means more time spent working at the office. So there’s less time for other parts of life, and everything starts to feel rushed.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
While moving quickly is a valuable trait of any company, it is equally as important to strategically consider our decisions before blindly executing. Having unscheduled time to do work or think strategically allows more creative, collaboration, and ultimately better products and teams.
For example, at Fort Mason Games, we are able to interact and work collaboratively without booking our days up with meetings. Due to our alignment and availability, we are able to move quickly and productively while not sacrificing key working hours in meetings. Thus, our company’s output is very high and it results in less overall time spent at work which could be spent elsewhere.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
I’ve found that taking time to explore the big picture in work and in life has allowed me to be happier and grateful. By slowing down and ensuring I am taking care and advancing all parts of my life — from my health, to relationships, to my company. I’m able to put the bumps in the road and the stress of being an entrepreneur in perspective, when I take time for other parts of my life. Additionally, by planning downtime into my schedule, I’m able to fully mentally escape and be present. I feel incredibly refreshed even after a few hours of pure engagement in an activity with a friend or family — whether it be a trip, a coffee, a workout, or simply escaping into a good TV show.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Learn to Say No — As your success grows, it can be overwhelming the amount of positive outreach you receive. While it’s incredibly flattering and kind, it also means people are constantly asking you to get a coffee, pick your brain, speak at a conference, etc. It’s incredibly important to thank all those who have helped you along the way and maintain relationships, but learning how to politely decline invitations from distant connections or set a limit on the amount of time you spend with non-critical engagements a week is a fine balance. Part of being a leader is having the strength to say no, to protect your time and well-being.
- Make Plans! — I find months can go by without seeing some of my closest friends if I’m not cognizant of it. By arranging plans with friends and family in advance, I both have something to look forward to but it also ensures I am maintaining balance in my life overall. The time you spend is meaningful and a great break from the intensity work can provide. When your life becomes stressful and chaotic, the first instinct is to eliminate all personal plans. This makes the stress worse and leaves only the most stressful things on your plate! I like to make dinner plans or Sunday Morning Farmer’s Market plans with girlfriends. When it rolls around, I’m so grateful I set aside the time in advance, otherwise I would have felt overwhelmed and not reached out to make a plan.
- Take Care of Yourself — Slowing down and finding time for a workout, a TV show, or a bit of reading can re-energize you. With more time away from work, you will return energized, even if just after a few hours.
- Stick to your Routine — This applies even on the weekends. My boyfriend and I attend the same spin class every Saturday morning, then get coffee and go grocery shopping. Without this routine, I could easily end up waking up and jumping straight to my computer to start working the day away. My routine both forces me to make plans and to take care of myself!
- Ask for Help — Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. It’s okay to ask for help, and I think it’s important to hire the best people in your company — then trust them to do a great job.
- Build play into your day — At Fort Mason Games, we actually play games at work. From board games to competitor’s games, to games that are not related to our products at all, we enjoy having the flexibility to play during the day, and having the opportunity to play together. It deepens our relationships with each other. It’s fun, and it gives everyone a small, happy break from thinking about work problems during the day. After a bit of game play, I often feel mentally refreshed and ready to go back to work.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
I define mindfulness as being fully present. For me, mindfulness is the ability to concentrate only on the present moment and embrace and enjoy it. Even just a short period of mindfulness can re-energize me. For example, I recently went to Las Vegas for work and then stayed an extra day for a short vacation. In the morning, I worked, but the second I turned off my laptop and left my hotel room, I transitioned into being fully present. By being present, taking in the city and sites, not thinking about work and not checking my phone, I was able to fully enjoy every experience. I may have only been “out of the office” for 5 hours that day, but the mental escape made the vacation feel so much longer.
I think mindfulness is about the ability to control your thoughts to concentrate on the task at hand — whether its work or play!
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
I have personally found the best mindful moments are either during a workout or at lunch with coworkers. I think human interaction can be very mindful. Rarely do we take the time to focus just on the people we are with and not the technology around us. Actually, turning over our phones, so we can’t see them, and they can’t distract, and focusing on the people you are with, is a great way to integrate mindfulness into your day.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
If I need to focus on some work, noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to stay focused or engaged in your thoughts while also signaling to those around you that you need to concentrate.
Otherwise, a change of scenery or a quick walk outside help break up the day and add perspective.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a great book for examining how to do more of what matters at work and in life.
For me, the best tools are activities that require my full focus and attention — that can help me be escape my stressful thoughts. For example, try hitting golf balls at the driving range or a high intensity interval class at the gym — time will fly and you will leave feeling more relaxed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everything is Negotiable” — There’s so much more to this quote than settling a deal. Learning to ask, and thinking about how to help both parties end up better off than they started is the ideal outcome from any negotiation. Learning to negotiate means handling the most uncomfortable situations, learning how to communicate, and understanding the person on the other side so you can understand what motivates them. By practicing this, you learn to think about situations and interactions differently and get comfortable with asking for what you want or need. I’ve found people have been so willing to help me along the way — but I started out too timid to ask for help, to send someone a cold email, etc. You don’t get what you don’t ask for in life — learn to be confident in yourself, justify what you feel you deserve, and communicate what matters to you.
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. 🙂
It’s people and relationships that make the most difference in our lives. If you are not healthy, it’s hard to do your job and connect with others. So, schedule some “me time” during the day to relax, play, exercise, and connect with others. Don’t let business prevent you from connecting with those you love. When we take care of ourselves, and connect with others, we still have time to build great companies, and move exciting new ideas forward. I’d say, those new companies and new ideas are even stronger because we can truly focus on them when the rest of our lives are in balance.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!