PeopleFun's Jason Leary on the rise of integrated storytelling, highly polished theming and vanity collectables

Find out more at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8

PeopleFun's Jason Leary on the rise of  integrated storytelling, highly polished theming and vanity collectables

Jason Leary is the product owner of Wordscapes Search at PeopleFun.

Jason’s presentation at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8 is titled Theming for Live-Ops Events: The Power of Modularity & Storytelling.

In this presentation, Jason will explore the importance of technical modularity and engaging theming for live-ops events and will share some of his insights and best practices for getting the most out of your themed content in order to create a fun and successful experience for your players. Tell us a bit about your company?

Jason Leary: Two long-time friends, Tony Goodman and John Boog-Scott, formed PeopleFun in 2011 with the vision of creating a studio that would bring together top talent in the industry, all with the drive to create the best family-friendly casual games in the mobile market.

The studio cultivates a creative, encouraging and team-centric environment that has resulted in a monthly player base of more than 25 million and the creation of the number one word game, Wordscapes.

As Tony once told me, “PeopleFun is all about making games with your friends and having fun doing it!”

What does your role entail?

I lead the team and oversee the development of Wordscapes Search, including determining the roadmap, prioritising and designing all new features and live-ops events.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I’ve wanted to work in the games industry as far back as I can remember, from the very first time I put a quarter into a Pac-Man arcade machine and clumsily controlled my little yellow avatar through his all-too-short life.

People have access to professional game engines like Unity and Unreal that anyone can use to teach themselves game development.
Jason Leary

As I grew, so too did my passion for games and the industry as a whole. I watched it evolve to where it is today, standing on the precipice of becoming the most important and influential medium for entertainment and storytelling ever created.

There is nothing in this world that I love more than video games. I’m honoured to be a part of this industry!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the games industry?

The most important thing I could tell them is that it’s possible. The first step is to start developing your own games – right now! You don’t need anyone’s permission.

We live in a world where people have access to professional game engines like Unity and Unreal that anyone can use to teach themselves game development. They have free access to YouTube tutorials, Stack Overflow and other community message boards, all of which are incredible resources for learning how to develop games.

So, to anyone out there reading this, dreaming about becoming a part of the industry: you CAN do it and there’s no better time to get started than RIGHT NOW!

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

The last year has certainly been an exciting time for the industry. We have experienced unprecedented opportunities to allow people to play games together and provide an escape in the midst of a pandemic, as well as unprecedented challenges for our industry as growing privacy requirements and concerns have necessitated some changes in how we position our games in the future.

I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is that we live in a changing world with both opportunity and challenge. It’s up to each of us to capitalise on the opportunities and overcome the challenges to make the best games we possibly can in order to bring joy and fun to our players.

We can’t control everything, so it's important to control what we can and enjoy the ride.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

I definitely see integrated storytelling, highly polished theming and vanity collectables playing a very important role in the mobile game space over the next 12 months. I believe players want to see rewards for the time they spend in our games.

They want souvenirs to remind them of the fun they had and show off as bragging rights to the larger community.

These types of rewards help players become invested in our games. It helps our games transcend from something they play to fill the time to experiences they want to share with their friends and family.

I believe players want to see rewards for the time they spend in our games.
Jason Leary

This increased demand for high-quality content will require a pipeline prepared to handle it, which is why modularity in the creation of themed content is so important for a studio.

It allows you to move quickly and respond to player trends while still maintaining a very high level of polish with much lower technical debt.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

One of the major changes I’ve noticed, especially in the last few years, is the convergence of gaming. There used to be all sorts of divisions and barriers between the different types of games that are slowly falling away.

Even the traditional divisions between PC, console and mobile gaming are falling away with titles such as Hearthstone, Fortnite and Minecraft, which are playable on all device types. What type of device a gamer is playing on is becoming less important than the types of games they want to play.

Then add to that in-app purchases (IAPs). Features that were first pioneered in the mobile space are becoming more commonplace in PC and console games such as Star Wars Battlefront, Overwatch and Call of Duty.

This has led to experimentation in the PC and console space with DOTA 2 and Fortnite’s Battle Pass feature that is now being incorporated into many casual mobile games as well.

It’s exciting for me to see developers take ideas and features first explored in one pocket (pun very much intended) of gaming and then introduce them to a different player base.

As we look to expand into these new markets, theming and storytelling – which are an expected part of life on these other platforms – will become all the more important.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

The thing that excites me the most about the Connects event is getting to hear ideas and learn from the experiences of the experts in our industry. I always enjoy meeting new developers, even if it is virtually.

Imagine what happens when you bring so many smart and talented people together all working towards a common goal of sharing knowledge so we can create the best experiences for our players and make the industry stronger.

There’s something really special about that.

You can find Jason at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8.

Join the conversation

Hear from Jason Leary and more than 250 other expert speakers at PG Connects Digital #8, September 27 - October 1. Don’t forget to check the full conference schedule to see exactly who you could be learning from throughout the week.

It’s the perfect time to register and secure your spot as the MeetToMatch meeting platform is now live, meaning you can hop straight in and start requesting meetings with industry professionals from across the globe today.

Book your ticket now!

Staff Writer

Aaron is the Staff Writer at and has long enjoyed a good turn-based strategy game. He has spent many more hours playing Fire Emblem Heroes than he cares to admit.