Stupid Stupid Games: Helsinki is the place to be when you design games

Stupid Stupid Games: Helsinki is the place to be when you design games. It is like Paris in the 1920s with artists.

03_StupidStupidGames3_webThe founders of Stupid Stupid Games Suvi Kiviniemi and Jussi Kyrönseppä are product designers who get inspiration from games, sci-fi, fantasy world and mythology. They have recently moved to their new office in Lauttasaari. As the morning sunbeams come through the big windows and the strong smell of coffee occupies the meeting room they talk about the company´s vision and Scent of herbs.

The indie game company Stupid Stupid Games is founded in 2010. While other product designers-to-be were exercising in the sports center, four of them were drinking beer in a hotel lobby. “That was when I said `I want to start a game company´” Jussi smiles. They have studied the market from product designers` point of view for 1.5 year. Their research aimed to establish a sustainable company by finding answers to “What is? What is happening? What are the problems and how can we fix it?”

“We are living in the dream”

Jussi liberated himself when he started leading such a company. He would not change a day. ”I had a day job at a bookstore and it was horrible. I loved the books, people, customers and talking about books but everything was so monogamous. It was like working in a factory. You had to be there at a particular day, you had to smile, they told you what to think, what to do.” Stupid Stupid Games is trying to do exact opposite. “If they were smart, we would be stupid. We are living in the dream. We are doing things that we really love to do.”

“I am proud to call myself a dreamer,” as Suvi writers on her personal webpage. She regards work as a tool for personal development and self-expression, for meaningful life, even for universal love.


Scent of Herbs is rooted in the creative process

Suvi and Jussi believe that imagination plays a big part of their company. Creativity is a process. It is a habit that people have to develop. “Every week basically you have to make sure you are putting stuff in the machine. Stuff that you find inspirational. I call it scent of herbs,” Jussi begins explaining what it means.

Scent of herbs comes from the story of a restaurateur in New York. The restauranteur owns an herb garden, where every morning he goes to water. The scent of herbs is so intensive that he has to run back to his restaurant to start making food. “You have to find scent of herbs if you want to be creative. You need to feed it. You have to figure out things that ignite your brain, so that it would absolutely explode and make you say I have to do this,” Jussi says.

Listening is the first basic skill to find out where scent of herbs is. For Suvi and Jussi it has a lot to do with games, sci-fi, fantasy world and mythology. They are inspired by the type of stories where people are not exactly equipped to face the challenges that they are about to face. They face them anyway and they beat the odds. Kindness is another thing that inspires them.

“A lot of really creative stuff, what people normally call creative such as characters and stories, I come up in my dream. It does not happen because I am built in that way. It happens because I`ve built it that way. In the evenings before I go to sleep, I feed it (scent of herbs). I will write down couple of things, so I will have these things in my subconscious. When I wake up I will have the weirdest dream. I will write it down. Sometimes I won`t understand but later I will figure out that it belongs to the puzzle. It’s one way to do it. I find it very useful,” Jussi says.

Suvi`s scent of herbs works differently. It serves to the company´s management and things that makes the company better such as how to make things faster and creative solutions to fix problems for the team. “We have 10 people working for us. Nobody gets paid right now. How do we get these people work for free? Why do they believe in us so much that they think that one day they will be paid? We have this cultivated culture of trust. Everybody is working happily.”

Getting feedback is essential to create a community

Suvi and Jussi are learning all the time. They have expertise in world design, transmedia and intellectual property. Thus, they have planned 7 games; 5 digital games, a board and an rpg game. “That’s one of the things we’re good at. We design these story worlds in a way that it actually makes sense when you play it as digital game, role play game or board game. It always looks the same and feels the same. It has same kind of rules. It`s easy to switch between the games and players have several access.”

The company has been designed to be sustainable for a long time. For example, they have published early gameplay demo of Johnny Graves in order to get feedback and to create a community. “We need to create this community to work with us. We want to make our customers co-creators instead of taking their money.”

People need new ways of thinking, Jussi believes. These days playfulness speaks to people. They want to be more creative instead of being part of the machine. “We want to liberate ourselves. Games give us that. It gives us freedom, it breaks the boundaries.”


The game industry is in need of mentorship

Even though the company seems to be building slowly and they are always behind the schedule a lot of people has been inspired by this project, for example their investor. “He was listening to us and he was thinking `I think this is crazy. This is a huge project. Why anybody else doesn’t think this big` He liked the ambition. We seemed good enough. He has been with us. He sits on the board. We are meeting basically every week. Sometimes we go for a beer,” Jussi tells.

Their investor has an extensive background in business. “We have the IT- skills, game design and writing skills. We can design and build but we are not good at business.” The investor explains how to follow up the marketing plans, how to get customers, how to attack investors, how to behave in a negotiation. “He always reminds us how the pipe line is going. He brings certain level of professionalism.”

There is a collaboration in Finland´s growing game industry. However, the industry is in need of mentorship. Jussi suggests making this issue into a public debate because a lot of companies are just starting out but some of them are dying even before launching a game. “Helsinki is the place to be when you design games. It is like Paris in the 20s with artists. Everybody is here,” Jussi states.

Stupid Stupid Games had a lot to benefit from Haaga-Helia StartUp School. “We wouldn’t be a serious company without the Startup School. They are kicking us to the right direction. When you want to be an entrepreneur you have to deal with products, market, bureaucracy…” Suvi and Jussi strongly believe in division of labor. Individually they concentrate on something. For the rest, they find people to work with. “StartUp School gives you contacts and like-minded people. It gives you information that you would not learn otherwise.”

Jussi explains 3 game terminologies which Stupid Stupid Games uses the most:

Build: Playable demo when executable file is made. A playable game.

Frame rate: How many times it refreshes the screen. How much info it can load up. If it is too much it starts lagging and it doesn’t move smoothly.

Concept design: Everything has to be built on a system or a prototype.

Stupid Stupid Games


Text and photos: Cisil Heltimoinen