The Immersive Growing Game Called Grow Show

Brian Mackay - Grow Show

Learn about the immersive, social game called Grow Show. This game will allow you to grow plants online with friends, earn virtual funds, and even pass the peace pipe.

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Key Takeaways:
[1:14] – What is Grow Show
[1:27] – Brian talks about his background
[3:00] – What do players do in Grow Show
[3:59] – Brian talks about how realistic cannabis grow
[5:41] – Brian talks about the quality of the graphics in the game
[7:05] – How do you create an addictive quality to a game
[8:11] – Brian’s experience at the ArcView Investors Conference
[9:42] – What platforms will Grow Show be available on
[12:19] – Be a successful Grow Show player
[14:12] – Are you still looking for investors
[14:39] – Contact details

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you looking for a fulfilling and lucrative career in the cannabis industry? Visit www.cannainsider.com/careers. That’s www.cannainsider.com/careers. Now here’s your program.

Our next guest is Brian MacKay, the CEO and Cofounder of Grey Zone Entertainment a gaming company that is producing an immersive social game called Grow Show about cultivating cannabis. Welcome to CannaInsider Brian.

Brian: Hey thanks for having me Matt.

Matthew: Can you give us a sense of geography? Where are you in the world today?

Brian: Sure yeah. We’re located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Matthew: Great well you probably know a lot about cannabis because it seems like there’s a lot going on in the cannabis community up in British Columbia.

Brian: Oh yeah absolutely Matt, I mean everyone knows about BC Bud right.

Matthew: Yeah. And can you give us a high level overview of what Grow Show is?

Brian: For sure. Grow Show at the highest level is like the Farmville meets Clash of Clans for cannabis.

Matthew: Interesting. And what’s your background? How did you get into this type of career with the immersive gaming?

Brian: You know that’s a really interesting story actually. I started making games when I was about 6 or 7 years old. You know, my dad brought a computer home and I was pretty much hooked on, you know, using any tool I could to make interactive stuff happen. And then as a teenager I started getting into building online communities, multiplayer games. I mean these were all text based things. These were before the days of the Everquest and World of Warcraft. And then at the same time I kind of discovered cannabis as an alternative to taking anti-depressants. And the more I sort of spent time in both of those spaces, both the cannabis space and the gaming space, the more I just felt like you know there’s got to be an opportunity here to build something that brings these things together.

And you know I ended up working for a large gaming company for a while and you know, really didn’t have the best experience there. Really ran into, you know, a lot of the large corporate bureaucracy that you run into with any big company. Then started thinking oh, maybe I want to get into the cannabis industry, but that wasn’t even you know remotely a possibility at the time unless I wanted to build some sort of big underground grow operation. So you know I ended up with a group of friends and we were talking about this and we said why not give people the experience of running a grow without all of the headaches of trying to set something up and run it. And you know since then that’s just sort of evolved into Grow Show as it is today.

Matthew: What will some of the things players be able to do in Grow Show?

Brian: So the main premise of Grow Show is that everybody’s building their own virtual grow rooms, and then they’re competing to grow the best cannabis, the most cannabis, have the best grow rooms. They’re also able to share their harvest with friends. So they’re able to pass virtual bongs and vaporizers around between each other. And each of those virtual strains actually comes with kind of a little surprise. Like each one will have a different effect in the game. You know it might give you a little bit of a boost or it might just make the game look kind of crazy for a little while.

And then we’re also going to let players sort of interact with a wide variety of different products, and that’s a big part of how we see
Grow Show working is, you know, there’s tons of new vaporizers, grow equipment, lights, fertilizers, all sorts of cool stuff coming out all the time. And so we’ve been developing some partnerships with other brands and products out there so that people can actually see them sort of in use in a virtual world. So they don’t have to go to a website or look at a catalog. They can actually play with the products right in front of them.

Matthew: Now how realistic is this to true growing feeling?

Brian: So the thing that we’ve wanted to do with Grow Show was sort of take away all the really challenging parts of growing cannabis which is the constant maintenance and having to be always sort of on top your plants and wondering about soil ph and you know looking after all the minutiae. I mean, you know, we don’t want virtual players having to sit there for six or eight weeks waiting for their plants to grow.

So it’s really much more about capturing the essence of cannabis growing. You know there’s the setting up of the rooms and tuning out your gear and figuring out exactly what type of equipment you want to use. What type of grow you want to run. But the time scale has been really compressed. So you know we have some plants that grow in a minute. You know, we have some plants that grow in an hour. Some of the plants that grow in 24 hours, but the idea is to let people be coming back regularly and keep kind of, you know, interacting with their grow on a more regular basis.

Matthew: Yeah I’m glad you don’t use the actual grow cycle. That would be for the ultra endurance, patient people.

Brian: For sure. And I mean there’s nothing stopping us from making sort of a pro version of Grow Show at some point in the future, you know, when we’ve got all the tools that are in place, but the thing is our target market isn’t really cannabis growers per se. I mean like yeah we want growers to come in and play it, but we want the average person to be able to get in and have fun without having to worry about learning all of the steps of how to actually run an actual grow op.

Matthew: Now your graphics, I haven’t seen anything beyond what’s on your website, but I mean the graphics are really stunning. You see just really close up details of trichomes and leaves and stuff. How visually will the graphics and the art look in the game?

Brian: You know we’ve been targeting the highest level of production that we can manage. You know we’ve got a really great team with us and Marc Streifling who is our Chief Creative Officer, he’s got tons of experience at you know sort of the Hollywood level producing 3D graphics. So we’re going for really lush, vivid, beautiful, rendered 3D graphics because honestly I see a lot of people maybe hanging out, you know, with their vaporizer and the iPad and enjoying the game and just really getting sucked into the beauty of the plants and you know really enjoying all the artwork. That’s a big part of what we want people to do is sort of the unlocking of new stuff and discovering new grow locations and really enjoying the sort of immersive experience.

There’s a lot of games that have sort of shied away from really investing their time and energy into making something beautiful and that’s the first thing people see. That’s the first thing before they even play the game. They see screen shots. They see content that’s posted. People sharing pictures of their grows that they’ve built. So we want that to be something that people look at and go wow what is this, like how do I get this thing.

Matthew: Now how do you engineer a game to be addictive? Because we’ve all played games that are fun and you enjoy them, but they’re pretty easy to put down, and then there’s other games where you know you feel so immersed in it. How do you create that addictive quality?

Brian: Yeah I mean the biggest thing I’ve found making something really addictive is you have to give people a reason to come back to it over and over again. You know a lot of games they kind of let you sort of walk away, and you go oh well, you know, maybe I’ll play something different or maybe I’ll go check out this other thing. And you know with Grow Show we’ve designed it so that you can always come back and do a little bit of something, and your plants are always growing whether you’re there or not. So similar to the way that Farmville did their whole thing where you’d set your plants up and then go away and you’d be thinking okay man, I’ve got three hours until those plants are done. I’m going to have to log back in again and make sure that I harvest my plants. So that’s a mechanic that’s been really proven to work really well is this sort of, you know, as long as stuff is running in the back you’re always kind of thinking to yourself, oh man did I set that up the right way. Are there bugs on my plants? Is something going to burn down? That type of pressure is enough to make people want to come back regularly over and over again.

Matthew: Now you recently pitched at the ArcView investors conference in San Francisco. What was that like?

Brian: That was a really really interesting experience. I mean when we first started going around looking for investment, talking people about Grow Show, I mean people thought we were insane. They were like actually like you guys are crazy, like what are you doing. And so usually that’s a sign that you’re on to something. But we had sort of an option. We said okay well we can do one of two things. We can try and go and convince traditional tech and gaming investors that cannabis is a great idea and it’s going to be this big market and you should get involved, or we can go and talk to people who are already comfortable with cannabis and say hey games are a great idea you should check it out. You should be involved.

And so I think we made the right choice. And ArcView is really, you know, a place where you have the highest density of people who are going to be interested in investing in cannabis businesses anywhere I’ve been today and probably anywhere in general. And the caliber of people is something that really blows me away as well. I think a lot of people in the cannabis industry worry that the industry is going to suffer from, you know, the sort of stoner burnout stereotype, and that is definitely not the case. When you walk into a room there, I mean, you have people in suits and everyone’s really serious and focused and you know they want to see this happen just like any other business. So I would strongly encourage any entrepreneur who is getting into the cannabis space and wants to get in front of a huge group of investors like that to try their hand at ArcView for sure.

Matthew: Now what platforms will Grow Show be available on?

Brian: So the way that we’re building Grow Show is going to allow us to actually publish it onto a wide variety of platforms. So it’s going to be available on ios and Android, both tablets and mobile phones, but it will also be playable over the web. So users can pretty much log in directly through the website and start playing the game.

Matthew: And how will you be able to interact with your friends or other people at all?

Brian: So that’s a huge part of what we’ve actually built Grow Show around is that social aspect of it. You know, social games, the term is thrown around really loosely, but you know just forcing your friends to come play your game by spamming them with invites doesn’t make a game social. So a big part of what we wanted to do was figure out okay, cannabis is an inherently social substance. It’s something you share with your friends. It’s something that, you know, people stand in a circle and pass the vaporizer or the joint or the bong around. I mean that’s been going on for as long as cannabis has been around pretty much.

And so we’re like how do we capture that essence and so we’ve done a couple of things with that. One is the passing system. And the passing system is, you know, where you’re able to take your virtual harvest and you’re able to buy virtual bongs, virtual vaporizers, stuff that becomes yours. It’s like this virtual item that exists in the virtual space but it has your name on it and it gets passed around. And the really cool thing about that is that everyone it gets passed to has the opportunity to see everybody that it’s been passed to before. You can add a little message or throw a photo in there. So your virtual pipe over the six months might get passed around to 5,000 people all over the world and really connect you with those people. I mean you now have something that’s been a shared experience for all of those people that it’s been passed to.

And then we’re also letting players sort of for their own teams. You can create a crew of growers and you can all sort of help each other out. So similar to the way Clash of Clans does things. You know it gives you that team mechanic which again goes back to the addictiveness factor. You know if you have a group of people that you’re playing a game with, you don’t want to be the guy that’s letting everybody down. If you’re the one guy on the team who’s not pulling his weight, you’re going to feel that sort of sense of man I’ve got to get back in there and do my thing. So we’re really trying to engineer as many parts of the game to be social as possible.

Matthew: How do we play this game successfully. So if I were to do a great job and have an awesome, what were the steps that I have done to get there?

Brian: So the really cool thing that we’ve done is we ran a prototype at one point. We said okay let’s just build like the most basic form of the game and see what people do. And what we found is that people discovered really quickly like okay here’s the best way to grow plants in the game period. You know once that’s figured out that’s the only thing people do. They’re just like we’re gonna just do this one thing over and over and over again. Now strangely enough people did that for three months straight, but we realized okay we have to make it more dynamic and more interesting.

So we’ve created a system where you earn points just based on different types of grows, different types of plants that you harvest. So it’s really about understanding the different ways that you can set things up in Grow Show. So you might have a hydroponic grow that you grow a specific strain in, and once you’ve hit 100 or 1,000 pounds out of that system, you’re not going to be earning points anymore so you’re going to have to go and switch your setup and you know change it over to maybe a soil grow in a different location. So it’s really about, you know, getting players to understand the whole breadth of what’s available to them in the game and getting them to experiment with different stuff and figure out what’s the most, you know, successful configurations that I can use to earn the most points in any given week.

Matthew: Wow, that’s interesting. Go ahead sorry.

Brian: Oh I was going to say yeah, another big part of what we’re doing too is because we really saw the competitive aspect as being something that people really liked. Our plan is to be running sort bigger competitions for bigger prizes. You know we’ve been developing some really cool relationships with other product manufacturers, and so we’re going to have opportunities for people to win some really awesome prize packages just by kicking ass at Grow Show.

Matthew: That’s great. Are you still looking for accredited investors to invest in Grey Zone or Grow Show?

Brian: Absolutely. I mean we’re always going to be looking for investors, you know, even if it’s just from a partnership perspective. You know it’s not all about the money. It’s also about the connections that people can bring to the table and their sort of positioning within the cannabis industry And we’re also, you know, always on the lookout for partnerships with other businesses that are interested in promoting their products via our platform.

Matthew: How can potential partners or investors reach out to you?

Brian: The easiest way is for them to just email me directly. My email is brian@greyzone.com. That’s the easiest way.

Matthew: And for the non-Canadians out there, is that a Z?

Brian: Yes. Yeah. I do forget about that one.

Matthew: What’s your website? How can people find out more about Grow Show?

Brian: So the website’s www.growshowgame.com and you can check out the website. You can sign up to become a beta tester, and we’re actually going to be running a large contest giving away some really cool prizes in the near future here. So definitely go there and check it out. We’ve got screen shots and all sorts of cool information about the game.

Matthew: Awesome. Well Brian, thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today.

Brian: Yeah thanks a lot for having me Matt.

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