About 20 years ago, Jesse Schell, a former Disney Imagineer, started doing video game and theme park consulting here in Pittsburgh. Within a year, he hired a few folks to help out with some bigger projects — and then he kept on hiring engineers, designers, AI specialists and storytellers. Today there are more than 100 employees at the Schell Games offices in Station Square.
Shawn Patton was one of those first hires and has worked with Jesse for 19 of those 20 years. He’s now a principal designer at the company and met us in the lobby to give us a special tour of their unique, colorful and occasionally labyrinth-like office.
It was clear from the beginning of the tour that this is no standard workplace. We encountered secret doors leading to hidden rooms, giant gumball dispensers, closets packed with hundreds of board games, player pianos, a giant gong, antique arcade games and lots and lots of VR headsets.
There were also a few off-limits areas that Shawn couldn’t show us — that’s where they’re currently developing some secret experiential projects for theme parks.
Schell Games is constantly experimenting with the latest technology. Shawn introduced me to a few of his colleagues who were able to tell me about some of their recent innovations.
For example, Rob Gordon just finished developing a game called “Cloudbreakers,” which is meant to be played with a VR headset while sitting in the back of a car. As the car moves, the graphics in the game will respond to that movement so it feels like you’re flying through a video game universe at the speed of traffic. “Cloudbreakers” is already available in parts of Europe, and it should be available in the U.S. in the next year or two.
If you’d like to check out the Schell Games offices yourself, you can sign up to be a play tester. If you get picked, you’ll get to test out some of their newest games and be asked to share your feedback.