Confession time: I was a huge dork when I was little. I loved school, would beg my mom to take me to museums during my summer break and pretty much always had a book in my hand, even while walking down the street. I was totally the kid that would rather play Oregon Trail than watch TV, so when I came across Green Door Labs I jumped at the chance to chat with their “Co-founder and Mastermind,” Kellian Adams.
Kellian has a quick laugh and the enthusiast voice of an experienced educator who loves what she does and right now that means trying to revolutionize the educational game world with her new company Green Door Labs.
Launched four months ago with “nothing but deadlines” and a group of friends who were willing to work part time and freelance to help her get going, Green Door Labs is taking off with two projects for very well known partners—the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Girl Scouts of America—under their belts.
With the Met, Kellian and her team produced a game called “Murder at the Met” in which players travel through the American Wing of the museum to figure out who murdered Madame Pierre Gautreau. Their latest project, “Agents of Change,” is a combination online game and interactive experience that places girls in a post-apocalyptic future and charges them with the task of going back in time and collecting objects to bring back to the future in order to repair human society. Girl Scouts in DC can go around to the different museums, but girls at home can participate too through message boards on the game’s website.
I think even grown-up me wants to play.
Can you tell us a little bit about Green Door Labs?
Sure! I always wanted to have a company called Green Door. (laughs) I love the name! It’s my favorite O. Henry story. It’s this awesome story all about this guy who’s a piano salesman and kind of a boring guy but he looks for adventure in everything. When he looks for adventure, he finds it and that’s the whole story, all about how someone hands him a card and it says “The Green Door” and rather than just throwing the card on the ground he’s like, “The green door! I’ve got to find the green door!”
That just always really spoke to me because it’s so easy to make life interesting. There are just adventures everything and that’s something we really wanted to facilitate. We wanted to make learning exciting. I work with these museums and nonprofits with these amazing stories; they’re so interesting! All you need is a little bit of help to make your trip to the museum the most exciting thing you’ve done in ages.
And how about Murder at the Met.
Murder at the Met was the Met’s project and they pulled us on to produce it. This is not so unusual that you’ll get really, really talented creative people in education and culture and they’ll be like, “I have this idea and it’s great and I have no idea how to do it.” Then we come in with our team and we’re like, “Okay, this is the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to do this.” We direct it and produce it.
Murder at the Met was the Met’s artists, the Met’s stories. They had their whole team but we helped to make it real.
And you’re about to release Agents of Change?
Yeah, we actually did release that about five days ago and it’s running right now; you can check it out. It’s adorable. The girls are talking and they’re voting and I just watch it obsessively. That is what you do with your time as a game builder: obsessively watch people play your game.
That game is our own that we built from the ground up. It was Rachel’s storyline [co-founder Rachel Meskin] and my idea of an engine to make it work. Then we had an amazing team of tech people that helped us throw it together in a ridiculously short time frame.
It’s really sort of a beta version because, I mean, it’s a good game, it works, it does what we need it to do. But one thing I know is that sending a game out into the world, untested, is pretty much the stupidest thing we can do. And we did that, because we just didn’t have enough time. Now we’re looking at: what are they responding to? What are they not responding to?
We’d like to make this into something larger, like an engine we could run other games off of.
I have to say that when I was reading about Agents of Change I realized that 10 or 11 year old me would have just died over this.
That’s what I want! That’s what I’m going for! It was so gratifying for me because we had message boards and the girls were writing back and forth about how Agents of Change was the best thing ever and I was like, “Okay. This was all worth it.”
Where do you see your company going in the gaming world?
I see us sort of being a banner waver for the concept of informal education in games. A lot of people are talking about games in K-12 and games in universities and I think it’s really important and useful but at the same time I think that there’s so much opportunity for education in informal settings that’s just not being exploited to the degree that it should be. There’s so much learning that could be happening in these museums and after school programs. I really feel strongly about education that happens in real life.
I don’t know if we’re going to be the next Zynga or billion dollar business but I’d really like us to be leaders in the field of what works with education and fun and spaces and taking games into the real world.
Are you going to make a grown-up version of Agents of Change?
(laughs) That’s really funny! Um… Actually, kind of. I have a lot of ideas of what to do with Agents of Change and one of the things I was kind of interested in was how it could be used for travel. So as people are traveling they could use the dynamic of Agents of Change to share their experiences.
Rather than saying “You live in a post apocalyptic world!” and rather than having people collect things to bring back to the future for technology and education and tools maybe it would be things that were a little more open. Things like, okay, you’re in Italy. Find the bluest blue. Or, here you are in France. What is the most amazing meal? What’s the most beautiful street?
Just this idea of giving someone a platform to share their experiences.
So that would be more like an app?
It would be a little bit more like an app and little bit less like a game.
We’re really interested in the idea of how do you connect the real world with the digital world. Sort of this bridge between an experience you have at a place and the experience of talking about it afterwards. There’s a lot that you can do with that. I’m really interested in the concept of collect and then discuss what you collected. Now what do you do with it?
I have a lot of ideas of what we could do with that.