SGN and The Book of Life: Sugar Smash

BoLSS01For those who have not seen the vibrant cartoon, The Book of Life, it’s out in theaters right now! Even if you are not able to see the movie this very minute, you can still get a hold of this casual puzzle game, The Book of Life: Sugar Smash. Similar to games like the popular Candy Crush Saga, SGN has developed and released games that it knows can engage the vast audience who often have the time for casual gaming.

During the weekend, prior to the release of The Book of Life movie, I was invited to speak with some of the founders of SGN and pick their brain about their views on casual gaming and where gaming is heading. Fox Studio veteran Josh Yguado and MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe were both knowledgeable about their passion and their business. Prior to the interview, Josh and I were able to talk shortly about our appreciation for The Book of Life cartoon and the kind of impact it could have. It is uncommon for Hollywood to spotlight Mexican culture in cartoon form and we both agreed it was done well. Before I could properly set up for the interview, Chris was already holding a conversation with me about my work as press, and I expanded our dialogue to include our ideas on casual gaming.

BoLSS02Josh shared with me how he came to know Chris, having once worked at Fox Studios which acquired MySpace once upon a time. Josh found something special about the mobile gaming platform, pointing it out to Chris and MySpace co-founder Aber Whitcomb, which eventually lead to the development and creation of Social Gaming Network (SGN). When it came to the development and expansion of their business, Josh pointed out to me that he was very particular about the art and design of their products. Coming from a fine arts background (aside from his business degree), Josh understood what was appealing and what appealed to others.

Chris and Josh both shared their interest in the Oculus Rift. Josh noted that in a year, the Oculus would be at a stronger position in the marketplace. Chris also shared that SGN, despite its mobile app gaming orientation, is currently in conception to see what can be done with the Oculus Rift system. While a headset device like the Oculus Rift is something I would attribute to niche gaming (like the Nintendo Virtuaboy), the heads of SGN can see the potential in how this device can change the marketplace since the public interest is there.

BoLSS04When we started discussing the platform of casual gaming, Josh and Chris felt comfortable in making sure that being a gamer wasn’t a realm for the hardcore. While there is certainly much debate over the validity of ‘casual gamers’ as ‘gamers’, the discussion will often fall on deaf ears as the numbers of usage with games like FarmVille, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Kardashian – Hollywood, are hard to ignore. When using the Kardashian game as a frame of reference, I learned that Josh and Chris played it too, while Josh and I had played its previous incarnation – Stardom.

BoLSS05Before I ended the interview, I asked Chris and Josh what their earliest favored game was. Josh admitted to Pac-Man. Chris admitted that whenever MySpace was down for maintenance or updates, the crew would play Pac-Man, which is an awesome factoid!

Which brings us back to Sugar Smash. I don’t play puzzle games usually, so Sugar Smash was very simple and gives you the instant gratification. Switching around pieces to match color and type, executing massive combos to gain more points. Bonuses to execute even greater combinations. Or use a power-up to wipe out a row or column. There are levels that are marked across a journey, using Maria’s pet pig to let you know how far you’ve come. The one thing I enjoy about puzzle games when I do play them is that there’s a bit of organization and strategy required to get that higher score.

The Book of Life: Sugar Smash is currently available on iTunes, and will be released later for Android.

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