Mauricio García, CEO of The Game Kitchen, answers the questions in this interview from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Canary Islands town where the video game company has opened its headquarters, attracted by the tax incentives that the Canary Islands Government has implemented in its task of attracting leading companies from different sectors to the islands.
For those who don’t know you, what is The Game Kitchen? Briefly tell us your story.
The Game Kitchen is a video game development studio based in Seville and now also has a second headquarters in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is the professional materialization of a collective of creatives, of people who dreamed of dedicating themselves to making video games because it was a medium they loved. After a long career as amateur creators, we have gradually become more professional and, today, we are one of the most relevant Spanish video game development studios.
How many people currently work and what profiles do the workers have at The Game Kitchen? Tell me about the tasks that are carried out in a company like yours?
Currently we are 60 people and we are developing four video games, four different projects simultaneously. Of those 60 people, a dozen of us are managers and the rest are video game developers who are normally divided into several families. There are the artists, there are the sound people, there are the programmers, who are mostly software engineers, there are also the game designers, the game designers, and then there is another role, which is production, which is what gives organization to that work. It is a typology of tasks equivalent to what can be found in a film or audiovisual production company but, obviously, in a different technological field. There are many differences, but for someone coming from a completely unrelated industry, they could find a similarity between the two.
The reality is that most of us who have worked have not had training that is directly related to what we do. There are software engineers and among the artists, some have a degree in Fine Arts. But the reality is that almost 99% of what we have learned to develop our work we have had to do self-taught, especially those of us who are 30 or more years old. And then, among the youngest, those that we have been hiring in recent years, we do find a higher percentage of people who have had some specific training, either through 3D animation and video game training cycles, or through private masters.
Mauricio, a slightly more personal question. How do you feel leading, being the studio director of The Game Kitchen?
I feel good. I am proud of what has been created and the way in which it has been created, from scratch, without any type of investment. We have grown from absolute nothingness, step by step, very gradually and very little by little increasing the scope of our projects and reinvesting 100% of what we have achieved in more development. And the truth is that this gradual way, very attached to reality, is something of which I feel particularly proud. We have gone through many hardships along the way but in the end, when everything finally falls into place, it is very satisfying. I used to dedicate myself exclusively to programming and recently I have been progressing towards the role of CEO, which is a literally opposite job in which you touch on a hundred million different issues throughout the day. It has been a very challenging journey in which I am beginning to enjoy my new position as manager. I don’t miss being there in the trenches as much anymore.
What are the company’s projects in the short and medium term? What are you working on?
The sequel to Blasphemous 2 came out in August. And now we are seeing what new challenges we are going to put to the game team, which represents more or less a third of the team. Blasphemous is already a very ambitious game that has become very big, so we have to maintain a certain secrecy and not reveal our cards.
We are also developing two other projects that I cannot yet give details about, but they will be games of a similar depth and size to Blasphemous itself. The fourth development, this one is 100% public because we started it a year ago with a campaign crowdfunding, It is a very ambitious and very interesting project. It’s not a game per se, but it is a platform to play any board game sold in toy stores and geek stores, so to speak. Any board game can be played in virtual reality. We have created a platform called All on Board, which tries to reproduce that social experience of the board game. We use all the power of virtual reality, you put on a headset and see the avatars of all your friends at the table and you can interact with them using your body language in the same way you would in real life. This project is being built little by little and may represent a small revolution in the world of board games. It is also the project that we have brought to the Canary Islands headquarters.
Additionally, they are now promoting Billete Cohete, a project incubator. They provide training and finance certain projects with 50,000 euros. This is called closing the circle, right?
Billete Cohete is an initiative that was born as the sum of two circumstances. The first is that The Game Kitchen is beginning to be a reference in the world of video game development and we are beginning to be demanded in some incubation and education environments in video game development. They are starting to call us to give talks, courses and to explain to the new generations how we have done things and why some things work and others don’t. And from this experience we began to come into contact with the new generations, people who are doing today what we did 12 or 13 years ago, that same entrepreneurship with great enthusiasm and with very little head sometimes, just like us in the past.
The second aspect has to do with the profits that Blasphemous has provided us, which made us ask ourselves: what do we do? What can we do beyond making more games? And adding one thing to the other, we decided to invest some financial amounts in incubating… incubating teams that have that entrepreneurial initiative, but that lack what we lacked years ago, a strategic and business vision. At Billete Cohete we offer both the economic resources and all the strategic and business knowledge, which is what is never explained to you in schools, so that these teams of young people can have an idyllic first professional development experience, so to speak, with everything you need to maximize your chances of success and also do it in a professional manner.
A little over a month ago he was appointed president of the Spanish Association of Video Game and Entertainment Software Production and Development Companies (DEV). What things, what aspects need to be improved in the video game sector in Spain?
For professional developers, for video game development companies, the key aspect that we have pending and which is where we are putting all the focus, is to achieve legislation that considers the video game as a strategic industry and, therefore, that equips it of specific financing mechanisms. Right now there is absolutely nothing. We believe that being a video game developer is a good job and generates quality of life and wealth and, therefore, it should be considered strategic. It’s something you should invest in. I’m not saying that they give us aid or give us subsidies, it’s not about that, what we need are, specifically, fiscal mechanisms to be able to invest in the sector, so that other industries and/or we ourselves can invest in our developments. It would be something similar to what is being done with cinema, which has caused this sector to take off both in Spain and in Europe. We are working on an economic analysis of the impact that this package of measures would have to present it to the government, so that it can consider it and make it law.
Tell me about the opening of the new headquarters of The Game Kitchen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Why have they settled in the Canary Islands?
Yes. There are already eight people from the study displaced to Tenerife. The reason is simple: in the Canary Islands there are tax measures specifically applicable to the video game industry. These are measures that were designed at the time by the Canary Islands government together with the EU to economically transform the Canary Islands territory. Initially they looked at the audiovisual sector and animation, and established a series of measures that favored and allowed the investment and development of projects of this type in the territory. The initiative worked wonderfully and they managed to attract a lot of animation studios, more than forty. Seeing the achievements, the Canarian regional and regional government extended these benefits to the video game sector. In our case we are with the All on Board project.
What evaluation do you make of the Spanish video game sector, if we compare it, first, with neighboring countries such as France, Italy, the United Kingdom, etc. and then, secondly, in countries like the United States or Japan? How do you see it? How do you place it?
We are a sector that is creatively very cutting-edge, as well as at the level of discourse and content. We have placed ourselves, without any help, among the best in the world. In 2023 the quality of the products that have been launched has been spectacular and incredible. Every month a Spanish game has been released that has been in the Top 5 of the best sellers or the best considered by critics and the public. We began to have a certain structure, the number of companies and their size are no longer so small, so defenseless, and the number of companies like The Game Kitchen has grown. There is an increasing presence in Spain of large studios that come from Europe or the United States and set up headquarters, normally in Madrid and Barcelona. What we need for Spanish video game companies to finish taking shape and catapult us directly to the Top 1 in Europe are fiscal measures. With these measures plus our quality and initiative, we are going to lead Europe in terms of video game development, we are going to be the next Sweden or the next Finland.
Imagine Mauricio that I am a young kid, 18 or 20 years old, I love video games and I am clear that I want to dedicate myself professionally to this, what should I do and what should I not do to achieve my goal?
Today there are many options to study, unfortunately most are private schools that are not available to many people but there are also public education options, which are not bad, such as the 3D Animation training cycles and the Specialization cycle. in Video Game Development, both are good options. I would tell those who are starting out that this is a long-distance career where attitude and psychology are very important, but the key to becoming a professional is always making a portfolio. You have to do a lot of personal work, you have to challenge yourself and dedicate a lot of time to studying and putting into practice what you have learned with personal projects and if these personal projects have a certain degree of specialization, the better, because companies ask for that level of specialization. . You have to know which of all these aspects you like the most (2D Animation, 3D Animation, Game design, etc.) and start creating portfolios of that. And nothing, it’s like any other profession, really, once you train yourself enough and practice it a little, it is relatively easy to end up doing it professionally.