Written by Penny Baud (original story on Medium.com)
Photo by Aimee Paye of Capture This With Me
Always strive to do something new. Don’t imitate a popular game or mechanic because it is popular. Try to add something new and unique every time.Nintendo is the master of this. With every release of the Mario platform series, they add new mechanics and gameplay elements that expand what defines the platforming genre. Not every idea works, but if they didn’t try to create new things, they would be letting their audience down. Take calculated risks.
L. Anthony Gaud, CEO and Co-Founder of G3 Esports. Gaud is an Emmy Award-winning entrepreneur and media executive with a 25-year career working with top-level entertainment, gaming and technology companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Comcast, Microsoft Games, Discovery Networks, Hasbro, and Nexon South Korea.
Anthony’s accomplishments encompass $55M in exits, investments and acquisitions for startups that include a free-to-play game development studio, an intellectual property development company, and a children’s VOD and digital platform partnership with Comcast. His projects have won and been nominated for multiple Emmy, Hugo and Pulcinella awards.
In 2020, G3 helped facilitate the first legal esports betting event in New Jersey in conjunction with Allied Esports. The CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) Legend Series tournament took place in September and drew 1.7 million unique viewers.
The announcement allowing legal esports betting in the state was made by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and was facilitated by G3.
Gaud also founded Conference One, a national varsity-level collegiate esports organization featuring competitions with over 75 universities. In 2019, Gaud secured the first public-private esports partnership in the country with Atlantic City’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority with events that included the 2019 CSL Grand Finals, the Halo Classic and the Esports Travel Summit.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
For as long as I can remember, I didn’t just want to read about something exciting, I wanted to try it out and experience it for myself. Because of that, this is not an easy question to answer! Growing up, like many kids in the 1980s, I loved cartoons, science-fiction and video games. I had a talent for drawing and spent my free time copying my favorite vehicles from the shows and movies that I watched, especially Star Wars and The Transformers. That passion lead me to pursue studying Industrial Design at the University of Cincinnati.
A few days after graduation, I landed a job at Hasbro Toys, which had partnered with Mainframe Entertainment to create a CGI tv-show based on a new Transformers property called Beast Wars. Serving as one of the design leads on that project led to me taking a job as Art Director for Mainframe, where I worked on several TV shows, including the final season of ReBoot, which was the first-ever fully CGI television show.
While working on ReBoot, I got the opportunity to work with Electronic Arts on a PlayStation game based on the show, which made me want to try my hand in the gaming industry. I took a job as Art Director for a Boston-based game company where I worked on several games, including Asheron’s Call, one of the first online multiplayer games.
Subsequently, I started my own studio where I designed intellectual property and bespoke product pitches for clients, which included game studios and television show concepts. Along with a few business partners, I sold through three award-winning television shows which resulted in the creation of Kabillion, one of the first video-on-demand networks on Comcast. I sold the VOD network and subsequently co-founded a US-South Korean game company, which was acquired by Disney Interactive. After the acquisition, I served as Disney’s Creative Director for several years, often traveling to Japan and South Korea for projects. During one trip to Seoul, I learned about esports, which was incredibly popular in that region, being the equivalent of their national pastime.
Seeing the magnitude of esports overseas, I saw an opportunity stateside. So, in 2018, I started G3 Esports in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will be one of the first companies to allow wagering on video games and esports events in the United States.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Each chapter of my journey thus far has been interesting to me in many different ways, so I don’t have a singular story to share, and I believe the ultimate story of my career is still being written. Throughout my life, I’ve been deeply involved in everything I’ve worked on and find interest in even the smallest details of a project, whether it’s the beats of a new story, the design of a new character, the mechanics of a new game, or the strategy of a new business. I take great joy in learning about and participating in as many aspects of each project as possible, all of which I find fascinating.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It would take me an extremely long time to thank all the people who have contributed to my successes thus far. Whenever I’ve needed mentorship or an assist in my career, there has always been someone there to offer sage advice or lend a helping hand along the way. I’m eternally grateful for everyone who has taken me under their wing and it’s created a great love for humanity within me because deep down, I believe we all want good things for those we know.
While it’s tough to name individuals, for fear of leaving someone deserving out, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Steven J. Batzer, a retired New Jersey businessman, who provided me with invaluable advice on how to navigate the political landscape when I was launching G3 Esports. It’s funny, because the first thing he said to me when we met was, “What the f — — is esports?” Fortunately, our conversation and relationship improved from that point!
Since then, Steve has taught me so many aspects about leadership, how to consider all options on the table (and some off) before finally landing on a decision, and how to approach professional partnerships with the same considerations that one approaches personal relationships. His business and people skills are phenomenal and, even though I met him late in my life, he has left a bigger impact on me than almost anyone else.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I interviewed at Hasbro, then Vice President of Boys Toys Kevin Mowrer asked why I wanted to be a toy designer. It made me think back to my childhood in the Bronx. My family didn’t have much money and we lived in a tenement building. One day, my parents took me to see Star Wars and when I came home, I was overjoyed to see Star Wars toys in my bedroom. It was an amazing surprise by my parents and one of the most memorable moments of my young life.
It wasn’t until was doing that Hasbro interview that it hit home how much my parents had to save to buy those toys for me, and I actually started crying during the interview! While it might sound cliché, the thought of how much my parents saved just to make me happy made me realize that we all have an opportunity to bring joy into other people’s lives — even as a toy designer.
Working in the entertainment industry, I truly believe the most important part of your job is caring about what makes your audience and customers happy.
This goes for toys, video games, television shows and even our current esports and wagering projects. I believe we have a moral responsibility to make the lives of our customers better when they engage with our entertainment products.
If bringing joy to your customers isn’t your primary motivation for being in this business, you’ve chosen the wrong profession.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?
G3 Esports is working with leading technology companies to pioneer a first-of-its-kind regulated esports and video game wagering platform. As with my other successful start-ups, we’re following a strategy of partnering with the best in the world to create genre-defining products and experiences.
We will soon announce our project partners but suffice it to say that they are well-known names in the technology space and among the most successful companies in the world. Several of our technology partners asked to be a part of this project once they received the initial brief. The fact that our partners share the same enthusiasm and excitement for bringing this project to reality brings me great joy.
We expect to release announcements about our partnerships and more information on the project starting as soon as fall 2021.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
What we are working on is not evolution on processes currently in use, it’s a revolutionary concept for the igaming and esports industries that will change the way that video games are developed, published and how game developers generate revenue.
An important part of the project is looking to change the way social media is connected to gaming. Presently, social media is outside of the main gaming experience, but we look at it as an internal aspect of how video games are enjoyed and experienced. The G3 Esports team is developing methods for content and media creators to be as integral to the gaming experience as the games themselves.
There are very few moments when revolutionary change can be made to an established industry. I’ve had the benefit of being at the forefront of when video-on-demand (VOD) and free-to-play gaming were introduced, both of which changed their respective industries forever. We believe our project will signal a bigger change than either of them.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?
My personal philosophy is that the concept of playing, be it with toys or with games, is to improve your life. As I mentioned previously, as a boy I used toys to escape the harsh reality of my surroundings. For every product and production, I have been a part of, the concept of bringing joy to others has been fundamental. If you aren’t making the world a better, happier place with everything you do, what is the point of doing it?
There is another important moral requirement that comes with this, which is responsibility. I see it similar to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics in that our products cannot bring harm to a user, or provide a means for a product to harm a user, directly or indirectly.
G3 Esports believes that responsibility is the number one project priority and I look forward to discussing this in detail soon.
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
Gamification has been shown to vastly improve learning in schools and even the workplace. In a simplified view, gamification is a way to break down large tasks into smaller, easier to accomplish tasks. Users are rewarded for completing the smaller tasks while still understanding that there is a larger goal at hand.
Every video game requires trial and error to succeed in any given task. Similarly, gamifying the learning experience means that there isn’t simply a pass or fail for each task, but that a try-this-way or try-that-way methodology is employed until you succeed.
Gamification is much more how the real world works than how schools presently operate and I believe it will better prepare students for the real world.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
As the Toy Story movies showed, if it brings joy into your life, a toy is a success. Today, competing against digital media, iPhones and iPads, toys have a much tougher challenge than ever before. One of the products that have risen to meet this challenge is Funko’s POP! figures which simultaneously appeal to adult collectors, teens and children alike. Funko understands that toys are a pathway to fantasy and that those fantasies are wildly varied for each customer.
As an example, Funko makes POP! Star Wars characters that appeal to me, Disney characters that appeal to my wife, anime characters that appeal to one of our sons, and real-world musicians that appeal to our other son.
Funko products serve a wide appeal and that is why they have such mass-market appeal and have fostered such a devoted fan base across all ages and demographic groups.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
These are just my opinions, and any game developer will have their criteria for what makes a game successful in their given genre.
Keep it simple. If players can’t understand the way a game is supposed to be played without a lengthy explanation, the game will be a failure. If game levels require players to first receive detailed instructions on how to complete a given task, it will be a boring and frustrating experience.
Make your game appealing. Characters, environments, and storylines need to be visually and emotionally appealing, engaging and ultimately uplifting. Even in post-apocalyptic, dystopian worlds such as the ones featured in Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76, the player’s motivation is to be part of something that will help make the world a better place.
Take absolutely nothing for granted. A certain percentage of people will not understand some aspect of any given game. It isn’t that these users are less intelligent, but they are coming from a different set of life experiences that may not coincide with those of the designers. Always make sure to test every aspect of a game as much as possible before release.
Always strive to do something new. Don’t imitate a popular game or mechanic because it is popular. Try to add something new and unique every time. Nintendo is the master of this. With every release of the Mario platform series, they add new mechanics and gameplay elements that expand what defines the platforming genre. Not every idea works, but if they didn’t try to create new things, they would be letting their audience down. Take calculated risks.
Introductions are important. The first 5 minutes of engagement with your game will either win over new players or lose them forever. Try to provide as much entertainment and as little friction as possible in the user’s first contact with your product. With so many options to choose from, there are rarely second chances.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The only movement I want to inspire is to be good to other people. If each of us did this the world will be a much better place. Oftentimes people vilify others, but we aren’t as different as the media make us out to be. Don’t focus on what makes us different, focus on the things we all share and value in common. This is why I see entertainment as a unifying force in the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I was very upset after a bad project review at the University of Cincinnati, and I (briefly) considered dropping out of school. Upset, I called my dad, who said that he was against me giving up, but if I didn’t feel I was up to the challenge, he would support me no matter what, even if it means dropping out.
I hung up the phone and realized that our school janitor had heard the conversation and was looking at me with disdain. He came up to me and said many people would kill to be in my position and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself.
He then pointed to his head and said, “If you don’t see it in here,” then he pointed out to the studio I had just dejectedly walked out from, “you will never see it in there,” meaning that I had to first see success in my mind before I saw it in the real world.
I will never forget what he said, and it is still the most inspirational thing anyone has ever said to me. After hearing that, I stayed in college and graduated on time.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m not overly active on social media, but if you want to reach out, please use the following channels:
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.