A Thinking Ape: When Games are Not Just Games

June 8, 2012

3:00 pm

A Thinking Ape’s social games are “thin veils over really amazing chat rooms,” says cofounder Kenshi Arasaki, a former Amazon engineer. “Our games are just excuses for people to socialize.”

vancouver games

A Thinking Ape cofounders Wilkins Chung, Kenshi Arasaki, and Eric Diep

The Vancouver startup is the creator of games like Kingdoms at War and Party in My Dorm. When I asked Arasaki what he enjoys most about work, he paused for a few seconds. Then he said, “The idea that we’re doing work that has this massive impact on the world.”

Arasaki has seen wedding photos that include their game in the shot, because the couple met while playing. Players have taken trips together to Disneyland. And to benefit Japan after the tsunami, they helped A Thinking Ape raise $50,000 in two days by buying “health crystals” in Kingdoms at War.

Perhaps the most moving was how the community rallied around one player who had cancer:

“He was talking about it in our forums and the players were trying to comfort him, and eventually he stopped talking,” recalls Arasaki. “And eventually the mom came on and she started saying, ‘Oh, he’s too sick to type, but I’m typing what he says. He’s so grateful that you guys are here for him; he doesn’t have any friends in real life. Thank you so much. He couldn’t get through this without you.'

“That’s amazing, and this wouldn’t have happened if these people hadn’t met in what most people consider a trivial pursuit.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact