It was a pivotal moment for Paul J. Iribe ’09. Chatting with a friend and colleague, the friend made a Dungeons & Dragons reference. “And then I just went off waxing poetic about that for about 20 minutes,” Iribe recalls.
Impressed by the vigor of Iribe’s little speech, the friend observed, “You should do something you’re passionate about.” By then in Iribe’s career he already had realized that he wasn’t passionate about his job.
He worked for a great company, but selling financial data feeds had never interested him very much. Living in Boston, knowing Hamilton grads who had changed directions to do greater things, he wanted to reach for more, too. He was confident that college had set him up for success. “Betting on myself was a big part of it, too,” Iribe says.
So he left his job and in September 2019 launched a video-game company, Adaptive Realms, with a high-school friend. It’s a lean company, financed for now, by them. “Just the two of us, for the purpose of living that lifelong goal and dream of ours to make video games that we’ve loved so much,” Iribe explains.
They spent their first year learning on the fly, especially coding, iterating and reiterating to create their first game. Iribe is now doing most of the coding, his partner, is the primary story-teller. In August, they brought a third person into the company.
Iribe has just arrived at another pivotal moment. He and his team completed their first prototype — they’ve developed a fantasy naval combat adventure game in which the player captains a ship armed with cannons and magic. Iribe pledges that the game will be socially responsible, with combat directed at the ships. “I don’t want to reward bad behavior,” as he puts it.
This is a philosophy we have for our company and every game we make as a whole, Iribe explains. The original idea for the naval game was focused on pirates, he said, but that was too connected with slavery, looting, and thieving, so he pivoted to a more classic hero’s journey.
The prototype will test the “core game loop,” which means ensuring that the basic elements of the game create a rewarding experience for the player. An elaborate story and more details will come later. First, the developers, plus any friends and relatives they can recruit, will play and play and play to see if the game is enjoyable. If it is, the team will tweak and flesh out the game. The goal is by year’s end or early 2021 to have a small but fully-developed game to release on a limited scale.
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For the last year, Iribe says, he gets up each day looking forward to what he does. The passion is there. He started Adaptive Realms to live a dream, he says, and because he’d grown tired of the corporate dogma that treats people like numbers.
“It doesn't need to be that way. So I’m very much starting this company with the philosophy that you can do well in business while treating others like humans. There really is such a thing as a work-life balance,” he says.