Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Ryan Hogan’s Hunt A Killer doesn’t want screens to ship immersive gaming

Ryan Hogan helped start Hunt A Killer in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Hogan)

For Ryan Hogan and the team behind the immersive entertainment company Hunt A Killer, the future of gaming is not coming at us through a screen. It’s coming right to our doorstep.

Hogan is the co-founder and CEO of the 3-year-old monthly subscription box company that delivers rich stories, clues, correspondence, interactive tasks and more all in the pursuit of helping to solve a crime. The company recently sold its 1 millionth box and is rapidly growing.

Hogan, our latest Geek of the Week, spent the last 17 years serving in the United States Navy, separating from active service in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship full-time. For many of the years he was a surface warfare officer, and his service informed some of his current work.

“I went through a training program called S.E.R.E — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape,” Hogan said. “The military did such a great job of distorting reality and making trainees believe they we’re actually behind enemy lines. [Co-founder] Derrick Smith and I have always used those principles to develop experiences that allowed full immersion without relying on suspension of disbelief.”

Hogan was a typical ’80s kid when it came to gaming, playing “Duck Hunt,” “Sonic” and “Mario” and mixing in some standard family fare like “Monopoly” and “Uno.”

The ‘Hunt A Killer” game is one of four properties created by the company of the same name. There are six “episodes” per season, and each box costs between $25 and $30, depending on the subscription type. Players decipher clues and work together to solve a make believe murder mystery.

It’s a “chance to escape reality, and become a character inside a vast universe developed by our world-class creatives,” Hogan said.

Hunt A Killer has 61 employees, with 10 based in Seattle where Hogan lives with his wife and four kids.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Ryan Hogan:

The contents of a “Hunt A Killer” game box. (Hunt A Killer Image)

What do you do, and why do you do it? Our company creates immersive gaming experiences that can be delivered to your doorstep. We have created a total of four brands: “Hunt A Killer,” our murder mystery for true crime fans; “Empty Faces,” our paranormal investigation for horror fanatics; “Escape The Invasion,” our science fiction thriller for those looking to survive an alien apocalypse; and “Team Building Kits,” our business-to-business product that brings corporate teams together and improves company culture through quarterly experiences that create a fun and challenging environment.

Our vision is to build communities around innovative and interactive forms of entertainment. “Hunt A Killer” was a catalyst in discovering both the mechanics of making members a character in stories and understanding that there is a desire for this unique platform of storytelling. Friends and family members can come together to solve mysteries, while also interacting with like-minded strangers through our Facebook community group. This gives people the opportunity to work through the mysteries while getting to know each other.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Passive entertainment spoon-fed through screens is not the future. Immersive, participatory and interactive content will move the industry forward, and over-the-top media services will soon realize multi-sensory engagement and strong communities are needed to compete at the next phase of content.

Where do you find your inspiration? I like to look to people who see things differently. All too often, entrepreneurs find themselves in a constant loop of building features and benefits based on what they believe the end user wants. For me, it’s important to break the cycle, ship the product, and quickly iterate based on direct feedback. We like to find inspiration from our customers, from feedback on surveys, in-person meetings, or our Facebook community. We really like to connect with them to find out what stories pique their interest. From there we get work with our incredible team of world-class writers, editors, game designers and graphic artists to put together intricate stories that really bring our members into the storyline.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? It has to be my iPhone. About 92 percent of things I do digitally can be accomplished with an iPhone. I need to be in constant communication with my teams in Seattle and Baltimore to keep creating innovative storylines that engage our followers. I am constantly on the go, with work and my family, so it’s helpful to stay connected to my team. While it’s not as comfortable as working on my computer, I can get a lot of things done using my phone.

According to our recent “Hunt A Killer” American Pulse Survey though, our can’t-stop-checking-devices behavior has made 51 percent of respondents feel stressed out and anxiety riddled. So maybe I should try and cut back a little bit outside of work. But this is why we create games likes “Hunt A Killer,” to offer people the chance to cut back on their screen time and focus on solving injustice and having quality time together. Our products can provide people with some screen-time relief.

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Hogan)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Our workspace is open, collaborative and has great views of Seattle. With how much is going on, we need an open space to work together and collaborate. We are constantly working across teams to throw ideas around and our workspace cuts through hierarchy. The best ideas win, regardless of title. We also have some fun elements to our space, such as kombucha on tap and video games if we need a mental break. But for the most part we are constantly plugging away to bring our members new and unique stories.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Just take the first step. Often we procrastinate on our work and end up rushing last minute to bust it out in a few hours. If we just took the first step toward completing a task, you’d be surprised at how much you can get done. Once you get the ball rolling it usually becomes much easier to complete an assignment or project.

I like to create a plan or list and knock things off one by one. Usually I’ll start with something small and simple to get started and then once I’m in the zone the bigger tasks are easier to tackle.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time machine, of course!

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … look at everyday items we consume at mass, figure out a sustainable solution, and launch an e-commerce business.

I once waited in line for … Blink182 meet and greet (“Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”).

Your role models: I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs. His entrepreneurial journey, and that of others like him, is fascinating. Finding inspiration while you’re grinding 80-100 hours per week is crucial, and knowing that other people like Jobs, Elon Musk, and Phil Knight all went through similar times, helps me get past the hump.

Greatest game in history: “StarCraft.”

Best gadget ever: Tamagotchi.

First computer: Macintosh Classic II.

Current phone: iPhone 8 Plus.

Favorite app: Superhuman.

Favorite cause: Cold Case Foundation. Every box we sell contributes to this great cause.

Most important technology of 2019 : Autonomous vehicles (or the fact we’re one “unlock” away).

Most important technology of 2021: AI.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Don’t accept status quo. Search for deeper meaning.

Website: Hunt A Killer

Twitter: @ryanehogan

LinkedIn: Ryan Hogan

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