As a 4-year-old, Jason Anderson was captivated by the Atari classic Pong.
He gawked at the game for hours after his dad brought one home in 1978. Four years later, he was so inspired by Pong that he decided to create his own game — a text adventure on the family’s Timex Sinclair 1000.
Anderson was determined to get his hands on every game he could. From Atari to now Windows and Apple — a lifelong gamer was born.
“Games are a very natural human activity, they’ve been around since the start of civilization,” Anderson said. “It’s exhilarating when you can manipulate the machine to do what you want it to do. There’s no physical world to worry about, it’s a pure intellectual exercise.”
Although gaming may be inherent in nature according to Anderson, not all aspects of life are as thrilling as a game.
In efforts to “gamify” the often tedious research gathering process, Anderson founded Datagame in 2014. The web application aims to engage users through game play, all the while collecting data for research purposes.
“There is a combination of art and science when creating the content.”- Jason Anderson
Anderson said that as little as a 15 percent bump in engagement could equate to as much as $200,000 in savings for the company. He hopes that Datagame can increase response rates in ways traditional surveys cannot.
Datagame currently offers three tools that incorporate traditional aspects of games, including word games, rankings and scales. Using familiar gaming objects like playing cards and dice, the embeddable games aim to be simple enough that any user could catch on while scrolling through a web page. Anderson said that the firm has found no difference in effectiveness due to age or gender and that the game can engage non-gamers as well.
“There is a combination of art and science when creating the content,” Anderson said. “The main difference in how we approach this problem is we start the design process with a research methodology in mind.”
Datagame was founded with strong research roots. Anderson and a team of three researchers founded Insights Meta in Kansas City in 2012 as a research services consultancy, which went on to become the parent company for Datagame. Anderson noticed through his research experience the various complexities and difficulties that come with gathering data, which drove him to come to this solution.
Unlike most games that are created with the intent to engage a user for months at a time, Datagame only needs to engage users for a few minutes. Anderson said that this has eased the creative burden that is typically found in the gaming industry, as his goal is to make games that engage respondents just long enough to gather data.
The platform offers services on a subscription basis with prices varying from $99 a month for personal users or $25,000 a year for enterprise users. Datagame also allows anyone to create one free game for nonscientific purposes if they sign up on the website.
Anderson has seven years of experience working in the gaming industry, which he uses to his advantage. Originally from the Kansas City area, Anderson studied computer science in Massachusetts and went on to receive his MBA at University of California at Berkeley. He then stuck around the Bay area and worked at Microsoft’s Xbox division, managing business intelligence for marketing. Later on, he moved to Blizzard Entertainment to manage global consumer insights.
“In the Midwest there’s more of an understanding and respect for work and life balance. On the West Coast, starting a business is an all or nothing sport.”- Jason Anderson
Moving back to the Kansas City area was a family decision for Anderson. A single dad, he has family in the area and wanted what was best for his six year old son to grow up in the Midwest.
“I wasn’t really comfortable with raising my son in the California school system,” he said. “I felt like this would be a better environment. In the Midwest there’s more of an understanding and respect for work and life balance. On the West Coast, starting a business is an all or nothing sport.”
Anderson said that he believes it is very possible to be a parent and a successful entrepreneur at the same time.
“Life balance to me is important because you have one life, and if you put all of yourself into one thing you will neglect other things that may also be important to you,” he said. “If you aren’t finding ways to recharge yourself physically, mentally or spiritually, you’re not going to excel in any of the things you’re trying to do.”
Although he is happy to be back in the Kansas City area, there have also been challenges.
Anderson said that San Francisco venture capitalists have a different attitude when it comes to risk tolerance than in Kansas City, which has been a challenge for Datagame’s fundraising. Kansas City investors are more conservative and have less diverse investment markets, Anderson said. Because many in the area are less familiar with technology service organizations, Anderson said that there is more education involved when it comes to pitching investors in order to catch them up to speed on all aspects of the industry.
Insights Meta and Datagame has invested $150,000 into its solution and is fundraising for a large seed investment round. Datagame currently makes up about 10 percent of the revenue for Insights Meta, but the team is looking to pivot and focus most of their energy toward growing Datagame. Anderson said Datagame should have two additional games ready to launch within the next three months, one of which is a personality profiling game, and another a pricing game.