Putting the ‘super’ into gaming – how Christelle D’cruz transitioned from game developer to co-founder of SuperGaming
As a child, Christelle D’cruz would often see her father work till late on his computer. He belonged to the first generation of computer programmers who had seen the transition to punch card-based programming to what we have today.
“I got a taste of programming in school. We had to write simple programs, but that was enough for me to fall in love with it. To be honest, my father gave me a disclaimer - don’t get into programming unless you have a passion for it and are willing to put in hard work. Since I was genuinely interested in the field, I pursued it,” she recalls.
The SuperGaming Team
After completing her Computer Engineering degree from the University of Mumbai, Christelle went to the US to do her master’s in Computer Science at Colorado State University.
As an early employee at TapToLearn, a YCombinator-funded company, Christelle saw the power of games and how they brought people together.
Her career trajectory before being elevated as the co-founder ofis admirable.
From developer to co-founder
She met her co-founders at various stages of her career. She met Roby John (CEO of SuperGaming) and Sreejit Jayanthan (COO) when she joined TapToLearn as an educational game developer before the company got into YCombinator.
After TapToLearn, they started building multiplayer games at June Gaming and Navneet Waraich (current CTO of SuperGaming) joined them. Navneet helped build the real-time infrastructure of running multiplayer games.
When they finally started SuperGaming, Sanket Nadhani brought in his consumer product background and marketing to build a solid team of founders.
“One of the important things is transitioning from being a developer to a co-founder. The developer is mostly in a do-mode. As a co-founder, I have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. This has been an interesting experience for me and enriching,” says Christelle.
The founding team has been building mobile games for over a decade. The global mobile gaming market is an $85 billion industry (as of 2020) and is poised to grow further with increased spending power and deeper penetration of smartphones.
“Being on top of trends, we realised there’s an opportunity to build hyperscale, real-time multiplayer games. The integration of audio chat in our multiplayer games has greatly enhanced the experience. Since games are a great place for people to get to know each other better, we want our games to become a social network where one can come in to hang out and not just play,” she adds.
Building a social network
SuperGaming has a portfolio of games that span many genres. These include:
- MaskGun - real-time multiplayer first-person shooter game that has crossed 50 million downloads.
- Devil Amongst Us - a real-time hide and seek online multiplayer game with 10M+ downloads
- Tower Conquest - a tower defence strategy game with 10M+ installs
- Bored - a suite of games for remote teams that over 2,500 companies across the world use
- Indus - a battle royale game under development slated for release in early 2022
In addition, SuperGaming has built its gaming engine for running hyper-scale, real-time multiplayer games that include the official PAC-MAN game.
The games are played by people across the world across various age groups. MaskGun and Devil Amongst Us are popular in the US, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South East Asia.
SuperGaming builds free-to-play (F2P). Like most F2P games around the world, players can experience most of the games for free. A majority of its revenues are through in-app purchases and the rest through ads.
Christelle believes very few companies globally have such a broad set of games under a single banner. Hence, they don’t see competitors on a company level. Instead, each game competes with titles from other companies.
SuperGaming recently raised a $5.5M Series A round of funding from Skycatcher, AET Fund (the venture arm of Akatsuki), BAce Capital, Dream Incubator, 1Up Ventures, and Monish Darda. Previously, it had raised a seed round of $1.3M from Dream Incubator, AET Fund, and Better Capital.
One of her memorable experiences as a developer was when she saw Devil Amongst Us grow to millions in just a few months.
“We wanted to make a game where players could have fun with their friends despite social distancing. The game started small with a group of designers and developers coming up with various ideas for modes that could be played. To test out our game, we even had a physical version of the game in our office to see how much fun it would be and ended up building hide and seek, Cops and Robbers, and audio chat on top of social deduction modes. Our game has reached 10M downloads and continues to increase and is the fastest-growing game that we have now built at SuperGaming,” she says.
Till a few years ago, Christelle says the gaming industry was perceived as primarily a male-dominated industry. A woman’s role in the gaming industry would be on the game support functions rather than the primary game development space. Even today, some people are surprised to see a female lead on a core game development team.
On the other end, she points out that female character representation in video games is still low. At times, they’re objectified or portrayed as innocent and helpless and maybe as accessories.
“We recently released a powerful female character in our game. We wanted to make sure that it made our women gamers feel powerful and super, and it has been well received. One of the key things that we have seen is the increase of female gamers now playing our game in larger numbers,” she adds.
With the increasing number of women gamers in India, Christelle hopes to see a new generation of gamers, game developers, and streamers emerging.
“Talent is not gender-biased. We are starting to see talented women as game artists, technical artists, game designers, game developers, game testers, and marketing leads. These are all roles currently taken up by women employees at SuperGaming. Having more women in the industry adds more value to the team by bringing in their ideas and unique perspectives,” she says.
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