Our Parenting World Interview Series: Exclusive Interview with Lauri Järvilehto, CEO, Lightneer Inc
Lauri Järvilehto is the CEO and Co-Founder of Lightneer, setting out to bring high quality learning to everybody everywhere. Lauri is a serial entrepreneur, a learning enthusiast and a Sherlock Holmes fan. He has a PhD in theoretical philosophy and has written several bestselling books on learning and thinking.
Before Lightneer, Lauri worked as the Fun Learning Expert for Rovio Ltd., the creator of the highly successful Angry Birds franchise. He helped Rovio’s learning unit to develop a unique fun learning philosophy, whose main theses are published in his book Learning as Fun (Rovio Visions 2014).
Lauri has founded or co-founded four companies, including a research and consulting company Academy of Philosophy, a technology startup Extended Mind Technologies and a music studio Underwater Music. His passion is to scale the inclusivity of the Finnish education system to everybody in the world.
Our Parenting World (OPW) team is very honoured to be able to interview Lauri Järvilehto (LJ) where he shared with us more about the launch of Big Bang Legends, his journey in developing game and more!
1. OPW: Congratulations on the launch of Big Bang Legends! Please share with us, what makes you decide to come up with Big Bang Legends?
LJ: We’d been trying to figure out how to make great learning games since 2011. I even wrote a book in 2012 called Learning as Fun that lays down the foundation for what we’ve been after. A few years ago me, Lauri Konttori and a few other people started tossing around ideas about a particle physics learning game. We’d got to know Rolf Landua and a few other physics experts from CERN and felt it would be great to do something with them. Also it struck us that if we can teach kids particle physics, we can teach them anything else too. In the summer of 2015 the pieces clicked in place and we took the findings to Peter Vesterbacka and Niklas Hed from Rovio. Eventually that led to the four of us founding Lightneer.
2. OPW: What are your views of using games as a learning platform and how can parents strike a balance to ensure that their kids can benefit from games such as Big Bang Legends?
LJ: We think games are not a replacement for traditional education but rather a missing link from it. If kids are interested, traditional classroom education works just fine. The challenge is how to get kids interested in, say, particle physics. Kids play on average two hours a day so if we can put something out there that is as compelling as the best games they now play, we could take a chunk of that two hours to direct it to something more useful for them. Once we’re successful in striking this balance right, it will be good as much to the kid as to the parent.
3. OPW: Who and what inspired you to become a game developer?
LJ: I must admit I ended sort of accidentally in the gaming business. My background is in academia, and I started with learning games in the role of a researcher and author. But as we kept on diving deeper I realized learning games can help realize one of my oldest dreams: to give a fair chance of happiness, success and a good life to everybody on the planet, not just us in the more well-off countries. I believe that learning games can be a literal game-changer in inspiring millions of people in developed and developing countries to love to learn more about our world and thus have a better chance of living a fulfilling life. In terms of inspiring people, I look highly up to my older brothers Aki and Petri who are both gaming industry veterans in Finland. Also, the CEO of Supercell, Ilkka Paananen has a leadership philosophy of humility that I find tremendously inspiring.
4. OPW: Any advice to kids who inspire to become a game developer and what are the important skills that they must have?
LJ: First of all, do what you love to do. If you try to force yourself into a trade, you’ll never be happy. Second, gaming industry is highly versatile in the skillsets that it demands. If you love art, story, music, animation or programming, you may well find a great way to work with games. For any kid who is intrigued by games I would first encourage them to dive into programming, and especially figuring out the Unity game engine, as it is a pretty intuitive way to get started creating your own games. In a nutshell, if games really inspire you, don’t wait, but get started straight away. Dive into Unity, download a free Photoshop clone and just give it a spin. Also, go into local IGDA meetings, watch Youtube videos and tap into the web resources like Codecademy to keep you going.
5. OPW: As a parent, can you share with us what kind of skills do you feel is a necessity for kids to start developing at a young age?
LJ: I think it’s most important to let each kid develop at their own pace. Demanding age-related learning goals from kids will simply lead to self esteem problems, as every person is an individual who develops in their own pace depending on how they’re built and what they’re interested in. Sometimes development may be slow – and then skyrocket. Einstein, for example, learned to speak late – some say at around four years old –, but then went on to revolutionize how we think about the world. Let kids play and explore, and when you see their eyes light up, give them more to dive deeper.
6. OPW: As the CEO of Lightneer, how do you select your team members and what qualities /personalities/characteristics do you look out for?
LJ: The most important thing for me is to hire learners. I’ve often said we employ superheroes and those who will soon grow to be superheroes. What I mean by that is that we’ve been lucky to recruit a core team of some of the most successful game developers in the world. At the same time we also want to get people who are able to think differently and give us new food for thought. It is crucial that our people dare to dream big, understand that the goal we’ve set for ourselves is something nobody has been able to do before and realize that we need to be both humble and courageous at tackling this goal. This requires a genuine sense of curiosity and willingness to learn and update one’s skillset.
7. OPW: Following the success of Big Bang Legends, what’s your next plan?
LJ: We want to put the love of learning in the hands of everybody in the world. We envision hundreds of millions of people playing learning games and finding new inspiring things to study in the coming years. Our plan is to expand the Big Bang Legends universe to various learning topics, ranging from physics to chemistry, from biology to history. We are also planning at looking into literacy language learning at some time, as I believe that once we get a great literacy game out there, its impact on the well being of the people in the world will be massive.
8. OPW: Please share with us some of the key lessons you have learnt to be where you are today?
LJ: One of the key things is that first of all, making a great game is notoriously difficult. Second, making a great game with further goals like learning is even more so. To succeed in this, you need to find the right combination of people who truly want to rise to this challenge, both in terms of game design and learning content. We have been lucky to team up with experts from institutions such as CERN and Oxford in addition to building an amazing team to tackle this. Another key lesson is that as the challenge we’ve set to ourselves – creating the world’s first learning game with mainstream appeal – is something nobody’s done yet, we need to remain humble by it. What I mean is that we really need to keep our minds open in exploring the terrain to figure out how to best emphasize gaming fun and learning to find just the right balance.
9. OPW: What are some of the must-visits places in Finland that you would like to recommend to our readers especially this year is a significant year for Finland, as Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence in 2017.
LJ: For somebody interested in Finnish education, I would encourage to visit one of our schools, for example the Saunalahti school in Espoo is a quite amazing pioneering institution here. To get a hang of the diversity of Finland as a country, I’d say visiting in the winter and going all the way up north to Rovaniemi to meet Santa Claus can be magical. Equally so, driving or biking around the southern archipelago in the summertime can be amazing. And of course, our capital Helsinki is a great place to visit, with a lot of interesting things to explore in figuring out how our country has come to be as a kind of a mixture of Northern European and Slavic cultures.
10. OPW: Lastly, do you have anything to add on and share with our readers about Big Bang Legends and Finland?
LJ: I’d love for your readers to take the game out for a spin and tell us what they think about it. We’ve seen five-year-olds become conversant in things like quarks and protons after playing the game, and we’re only getting started. And if you happen to drop by Finland, come say hi at our studio in central Helsinki.
Thank you Lauri Järvilehto for taking our interview!
Try out Big Bang Legends today and is now available from App Store in Singapore. Details as follows:
LINK TO GAME: http://m.onelink.me/a600d14d
GAME VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smrKq638IVc
HASHTAGS: #madeofatoms #bigbanglegends