Q&A: Niantic’s Kellee Santiago talks video game development

Q&A: Niantic’s Kellee Santiago talks video game development


Kellee Santiago is a big name in the video game world. She co-founded thatgamecompany, one of the breakout indie studios of the PlayStation 3 era, and her work with Jenova Chen got the small team attention with titles such as “Flow” and “Flower” before soaring to widespread acclaim with “Journey.”

Her latest job at Niantic, the San Francisco-based company that began as an internal start-up at Google, puts her at the heart of one of the Bay Area’s most promising, pioneering video game companies. The maker of “Ingress,” “Pokemon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” Niantic has leveraged its augmented reality and geo-location technology to create some of the most wildly popular games for smartphones.

“One of the things I love about games (like Pokemon Go),” Santiago says, “is the way they can bring people together, break down walls between us and let us just be playful.

Naturally, we had questions.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your experiences with thatgamecompany, Ouya and the others? 

A: Games are hard to make. To embark on creating a video game that was unlike anything you have seen before requires a lot of courage. It can be very hard to see where you are at the beginning – like in “Journey,” an online console game that leaves you with a renewed faith in community. It’s a tumultuous process, and you have to have a lot of faith. You start on a project in unknown territory.

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