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Games Faculty Seven Siegel Recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30

Games faculty Seven Siegel (Photograph by Katherine Taylor.)

The 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list, highlighting 600 “young stars” in 20 different industries, was recently announced, and College of Arts, Media and Design adjunct lecturer Seven Siegel was selected to be one of the 30 young professionals highlighted from the games industry.

For the past two years, Siegel has served as the executive director of Global Game Jam(GGJ), theworld’s largest international game creation event. GGJ aims to encourage exploration and participation in the industry by creating a yearly event where people in an ever-growing list of participating locations have 48 hours to design a game. Northeastern University’s Snell Library is proud to be one of these locations (read about last year’s event here).

Under the careful management of Siegel and the rest of the GGJ team, the event has flourished and is rapidly increasing its impact. The 2018 event, held in January, had locations in 108 countries, with over 8,600 games created in 48 hours by over 42,800 participants. And while Siegel is incredibly honored by the recognition of being named Forbes 30 under 30 for their work at GGJ, they are also quick to point out how crucial the support of the entire GGJ team is.

“This is truly a community effort, and this community is what empowered me to get this award,” Siegel explained. “We want to see a world where everyone has the opportunity to make a game, and everyone has the skills and ability to do so.”

Before joining Northeastern University, Siegel earned a Bachelor of Science in Game Design from Champlain College, and later attended Brandeis University, where they earned a MBA in Nonprofit Management and a Master’s of Public Policy. 

“I was an entrepreneur fresh out of undergrad,” Siegel said candidly, “I didn’t have business knowledge, I didn’t understand any of that… and I ran my own company… into the ground.”

It was this experience that encouraged them to return to school to learn more about business management. Now here at Northeastern, Siegel teaches The Business of Games, a fitting course given their personal experiences with combining knowledge and passion for the games industry with business and nonprofit management. Their background allows them to provide students a foundation of business knowledge in a relatable, relevant, and effective manner.

“The secret’s out! I trick the students,” Siegel said, laughing, “It’s basically ‘Business 101,’ but every example is video-game related.  The class is focused on how to make a game a financial success.” 

Siegel provides students with a plethora of case studies based on real, current examples of financial transactions and situations in the games industry. Students are asked to determine if a game sale is a good choice – and why, or why not. Often, the cases have yet to be settled, allowing students to watch them play out in real time and make predictions about what will happen.

Whether it’s here in the classroom at Northeastern, or at Global Game Jam (where Siegel has been developing new, year round events, including GGJ NEXT, aimed at introducing children to the industry, which successfully ran in 20 countries), Siegel’s priority is creating environments and opportunities that promote creative practice,  experimentation, and development for both veterans of the games industry and those who have little to no experience, but are eager to learn. Global Game Jam has been the ideal opportunity for Siegel to pursue this goal. 

“I want to encourage students to fail, encourage them to explore, encourage them to innovate,” they explained. “Since I’m working at the top level, I see it all happening from 30,000 feet – all of these cultures at one point in time, doing the same thing, coming together through their love of making games. Seeing everyone express themselves through game development is inspiring. We get to see games from cultures that we’ve never experienced. People leave with half-baked projects, but they love them. It’s the feeling of ‘I made this… no matter if it’s broken, no matter if it’s terrible, no matter if it’s the best thing in the world. I made it.’”

Recently, Siegel spoke with two enthusiastic former participants of GGJ. One expressed how excited they were that the game they had created at the event went viral, allowing them to create their own company and continue pursuing their passions – and, as an added bonus, they met their current partner at GGJ. The other student said that they had an amazing experience, despite their game being “terrible,” and having “absolutely nothing work.” Both students, Siegel said, were equally as excited about their very different experiences at the event, and they represent prime examples of how opportunities like GGJ can be beneficial for everyone, regardless of “success” or “failure.”

Siegel is excited about the recognition of Forbes 30 Under 30 for their work at Global Game Jam, but they remained focused on the future. As the event continues to expand (several new countries are participating this year, including the Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, and Kenya), Seven hopes to continue creating more opportunities for those interested in the industry. Siegel points to the popularity of “Nanowrimo” (National Novel Writing Month) as an example of what Global Game Jam could become in the future.

“We want to remove the scariness of making the game, and have everyone participate,” Siegel concluded. “Everyone in the world.”