By Sharon Wood (Founder & CEO, Stone Creek Entertainment)
I spent the first half of my career in agencies, focused on entertainment marketing and digital entertainment. Midway through my career, I fell in love with digital games — not just for the fun games give the player, but for the immersive emotional connections and aspirations the player gets from the experiences, the decision making and the communities that games create.

Watching my teen daughter revel in games as much as the boys did, I hoped for games that she could play through her lifetime, not just while she was young.

I loved the fact that games deliver rewards, and hoped for games that would be as meaningful and enriching as “guy” games are for guys. I hoped for games that guys could play that played more with their thoughts than their twitches.

For ten years, I explored the possibility and researched what it means to be a woman from several points of view. What do women most do? What inspires and immerses them? How does how they see themselves match or conflict with how society and their friends see them? What are their aspirations and how can that be tangibly rewarded in games?

The project begged so many questions and I realized there is not one answer. It’s an individual pursuit: the questions are universal but the answers aren’t. As Elie Weisel observed, we’re united by our questions and divided by our answers. The idea of emboldening this thought informed how we would create our games concepts.

Stone Creek Entertainment

We decided to create lifestyle games for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and for social media (Facebook). Because of my earlier career experiences, I wanted brands to participate, knowing that the association would help build the brand’s image, and the experience would help build brand affinity, when executed well.

We now know that brands can get an extraordinary boost from players’ experiences within games, unlike metrics that are available through other forms of media, when executed well. We set out to create a win-win offering for brands.

We focused, tested and talked to businesses both within and connected to our category. We gathered data and continued to tweak the game concepts. We never encountered a sensible reason for *not* pursuing this, and the insensible reasons made us more determined.

We searched for funding, finding angels who liked the plan, the game concepts and the goals. It wasn’t easy to ask people to invest money into a business category that didn’t exist, with an approach to it that was untried.

We searched for individuals. We have individuals who I have worked with, respected and trusted for years, working with us to build the business.

We have a board — a group of advisors (from a nice spectrum of business) who likewise, are enthusiastic,
passionate and collaborative with us, who help us in ways that a small company generally wouldn’t be able to operate. Their advice, support and leadership are inspiring.

Startup Lessons Learned

This endeavor has been a fascinating journey and filled with learnings. We realized that we needed more expertise within the company, and we needed to better align our external partners vision with ours. We needed higher caliber talent, that was more devoted to our goals. We realized some mistakes in our approach with the press. We knew we had to better leverage social marketing opportunities, and have been discovering more ways to do that. We continued to evangelize our products and the contributions we could make to potential sponsors.

This company is as much an exploration into what potential players want and need in their games, as it is a study of how games can help brands meet their business goals. And the entire process is one of the most joyful and intensely informative endeavors I have undertaken.

We invite you to play Karizmac Luminous for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and would love your feedback. Please let us know what you think and suggest women who should be added into the next version.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Sharon Wood is Founder and CEO of Stone Creek Entertainment, creating games for teen girls and women that are more like them. Sharon creates the company’s game concepts and its sponsorship models. Using her 31 years in entertainment and digital games marketing, she spent 10 years exploring what a games company for women might be. Sharon believes that games can be entertaining for teen and adult women while also inspiring them.