Industry Evangelist

Hank H.


Q: Who are you? Where are you from?

A: My name is Hank (he/him/his.) I was born in Brooklyn, NY, the oldest of five: four boys with our sister in the middle. We moved to Huntington, Long Island in 1972, where my Mom still lives. She just turned 93, and is quite healthy and mentally sharp, as was my Dad prior to his passing in 2017, which I hope bodes well for me. Even though I’ve worked in tech for most of my professional life, I grew up interested in the humanities through college. I am -- probably more like “was,” at this point -- a fair athlete as well. I have always been outgoing. I never recognized it as a potentially valuable professional feature until, well, until I became a working professional. My wife, Kathy, and I have lived together in the greater Boston area since graduating from Bates College. We have two girls: Alix, our oldest, who is currently an attorney with the Federal government’s Small Business Administration, and our youngest, Mackenzie, who is a bio-chemistry major (which she obviously gets from her mother) entering her senior year at Hobart & William Smith College. We currently live in Hull, MA.

Q: What’s your background? What did you do before Modulate?

A: After graduating from Bates and working for a few years, I earned my MBA at the Boston College Carroll (Graduate) School of Management. I went to work at a Boston ad agency as an account executive, interfacing directly with clients. But I had always loved playing games; first board games, especially military board games from Avalon Hill and Strategy & Tactics. Then I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, and that was a revelation.

I was also always a great reader of fantasy. My favorite fantasy work was and remains J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and related works. The above all came together when I took a job as product manager for Spinnaker’s LoTR’s computer game “The Riders of Rohan.” After Spinnaker, I worked in sales for Toshiba, in business development for Ziff Davis Interchange (trying to create the web. Netscape took care of that), then Restrac, Inc., an automated resume-review and database company.

In 1998, I was one of four individuals who founded Blue Fang Games, where we went on to create the Zoo Tycoon series of PC games in partnership with Microsoft, and where I functioned as its President. Blue Fang was in operation for 13 years, most of which were among the most enjoyable of my professional career. Many of us Blue Fangers are still good friends today, and we get together as often as we can. I joined Disruptor Beam (DB), Inc. in mid-2012 as its 8th employee. DB specialized in creating social/mobile games around big intellectual properties: Game of Thrones, Star Trek and others. We had a pretty good run, and I left DB in 2018, again having made many great friends who still get together.

Q: What first got you into the gaming industry? Did you always plan to be working in games?

A: It was always high on my list to work in the computer games industry. While working in advertising, I answered a Spinnaker Software job listing for a product manager position, working in their Games Division on a JRR Tolkien-based game, with a license specifically for The Riders of Rohan. I immediately joined Spinnaker and we started work. That’s where I developed a long-lasting friendship with my then boss, Phil Redmond, and my colleague, Adam Levesque. I remain great friends with both to this day, and the three of us, in addition to my brother Geoff (who lives in Reading, MA) and two of my friends from high school, comprise our role-playing group which still gets together once or twice a year, and we often play over an entire weekend.

Q: Why are you joining Modulate?

A: I was introduced to Mike and Carter by my friend, Mike Dornbrook, who is an investor and a Modulate board member. Given that Modulate was targeting multi-player online games for the first application(s) of its technology, and given my decades-long residence in the game industry with emphasis on business development, I was uniquely positioned and very much inclined to join them and help them jump start their business development efforts. I’d also add that once the technology was demo’ed to me, I was hooked. It’s so cool and fascinating that you just KNOW it’s going to be in wide use at some point.

Q: What’s the voice skin you’re most excited to use, and how do you plan to use it?

A: I’d love to play a game using a female voice. For starters, I’d like to get a sense of what women might at times have to deal with in a multi-player environment, both the good and the not-so-good.

Q: What’s your ideal work environment? Any special strategies you use to stay effective?

A: Having spent much of my initial work career in a private office, I was somewhat surprised to learn that I don’t at all mind a more open office environment. I usually have no trouble concentrating, but if for some reason I find it might be getting a little noisy or distracting, or if I’m just in the mood for music, I have no problem putting on a set of headphones and continuing to work away. I also find that I like a mix of working-from-home and coming into the office. Humans in general are social, and I am no different. I enjoy the personal interaction with my colleagues. At the same time, working from home a couple of days a week allows me to focus on specific tasks where interacting with colleagues is not required, and/or saving on commute time, or just allowing me to get those midweek appointments done and still be productive work-wise.

Q: What’s your favorite part of working with a new game or project?

A: Well, if you’d told me when I was just getting started in business that I’d end up having spent the vast majority of my career at start-ups, I’d have thought you were nuts, but lo and behold… I guess that it turns out I like helping to build things from the ground up, having at least some say in how and why things are done, seeing success build over time, and knowing that to a large degree, we as a team will have beaten the odds, since the vast majority of startups fail. None of the ones I’ve founded or participated in have met an early or untimely demise, and I personally have always ultimately been seen as a “force for good,” which I suppose is at least somewhat evident given the many friendships I have today that have stemmed from my professional work.

Q: Who are you outside of work?

A: I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music played in hi fidelity, and great wines from around the world. Otherwise, and as others have written: son, brother, father, husband, friend, and colleague. I generally like people, which no doubt helps with my professional work. I really enjoy walking and hiking, and I usually walk at least 20 miles in a given week.

Q: What’s something you’re great at that few people realize?

A: I coached girls soccer teams on the south shore of MA for over 25 years (both of my daughters played), and we enjoyed our fair share of success. We won a number of Coastal League titles, and took four of our teams to the Massachusetts State Championship tournament. In addition, my youngest daughter was the starting goalie on the Hingham High School State Champions her senior year. She was always a combination field player and goalie (it’s often the coach’s kid that has to spend at least some time in goal.) We switched her to playing goalie full time in her junior year of H.S., seeing that there would likely be a strong need for a front-line goalie the following year. We were correct! Still my greatest and most satisfying player-coaching call. While I always coached competitively, I learned relatively early on in my coaching career that the most important thing was to ensure that the players enjoy playing the game, and encouraged the camaraderie and teamwork that team sports can engender. Both of my daughters still have great friendships that were begun and solidified during their time playing the game, as do Kathy and I with both them and their parents. I still watch games whenever I can.

Q: Leave us with a fun tidbit - a favorite joke, a story from your past, an obscure riddle, whatever you like!

A: OK then, a riddle in the dark: “What have I got in my pocket?” ;-)