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Iron Game Design Challenge – CHALLENGE DAY!

March 29, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

it’s time for the Iron Game Design Challenge with the first teams of developers:

Team A: Jessica Creane, Akira Thompson, Nat Mesnard
Team B: Tommy Maranges, Aven Gonzalez, Janet K. Howe

Joined by Tracy Fullerton and Gordon Bellamy as judges!

Jessica Creane is an interactive experience designer and the founder of IKantKoan, a game studio for intensely curious people. Jessica is a Professor of Game Design at Drexel University and CUNY City Tech, a climate change game designer with The National Parks Service, and she recently gave a TEDx talk on embracing uncertainty through play. Her work has been presented at The World Economic Forum, UPENN’s Environmental Storytelling Summit, Tanween Creativity Festival, BostonFIG, and on KQED San Fransisco. Her New York Times recommended playable theater show, CHAOS THEORY, recently won the Best Social Immersion Award from Immersion Nation.

Nat Mesnard is a published writer and game designer based in NYC, where they teach Narrative Design and Game Design at Pratt Institute and co-host a podcast on apocalyptic books, movies, and games, Queers at the End of the World. Nat designs tabletop games as the “Noodle” of Oat & Noodle Studios, and released a high-concept TTRPG, Business Wizards, with 9th Level Games in 2020. In video games, Nat has taught Unity dev and created game making curricula for E-Line Media, the studio behind Beyond Blue and The Endless Mission.

Tommy Maranges is a game designer in Chicago, IL. He is the co-creator of the game Inhuman Conditions, a game about robots attempting to pass as humans, which won Best of Tabletop at IndieCade in 2019. His first game was Secret Hitler, and he’s very sorry about the whole game-becoming-real Jumanji situation it seemed to cause. Before that, he wrote Philosophy Bro, a blog that culminated with the book Descartes’ Meditations, Bro. You can learn more at his website,

Aven is one of the designers behind IndieCade alumni game “Cantankerous Cats” and the upcoming “Prosperitea.” They are based in Los Angeles, but their heart is in Seattle and its bustling indie arts and board game communities.

Aven is a “theme first” game designer that places an emphasis on the narrative and emotional impact of their games. Their goal is to bring joy and diversity to as many projects as possible through their personal and freelance work.

Prosperitea is also aiming to pioneer an environmentally sustainable approach to board game publishing by using Zero Plastic and 100% recycled materials.


Janet K Howe (They/Them) is a non-binary creator working at the intersection of theatre and games. Their work focuses on creating positive change and learning through playful theatrical experiences and games. Janet has directed/created in five countries and is the former Artistic Director of Chicago’s (re)discover theatre. Their work includes full building immersive take overs, intimate one-on-one experiences, and board games. Janet has trained with Punchdrunk, Third Rail Projects and worked with interactive companies such as Coney, ZU-UK, and Blast Theory. Janet’s current remote work is with Totally Human who are definitely, absolutely a group of actual humans.

Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer, professor, author and founding director (emeritus) of the USC Games program. Her research center, the Game Innovation Lab, has produced a number of influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Night Journey and Walden, a game, which was named “Game of the Year” at Games for Change 2017 and “Developer Choice” at IndieCade 2017. Tracy is the author of “Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games,” a design textbook used at game programs worldwide, and holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment.

Gordon is a Professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts at USC and leads the USC Bridge incubator program, helping to cultivate the next generation of leaders in our craft. He has played key business and product leadership roles at Tencent, Electronic Arts, as a designer on Madden NFL Football, and MTV Networks.

In 2020, Bellamy was honored by Games for Change as their Vanguard Award winner for his contributions to the craft.

Iron Game Design Challenge is a challenge show inspired by Iron Chef and sessions of Iron Game Designer run by Eric Zimmerman, Tracy Fullerton, and IndieCade at past physical festivals, Iron Game Design Challenge pits two teams of three game designers against one another to use simple free tools to create games over the course of the show based around the inspiration of a secret ingredient. Produced by Ryan Omega, hosted by Sam Roberts, and featuring a jury panel.

The challenge show happens every 7 weeks, and the six weeks between each episode will feature each one of the competing designers streaming a game and being interviewed.


March 29, 2021
10:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT
Event Category:
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