More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft
More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft

Games Lift: People make the Incubator

The Games Lift Incubator can only exist because many experts support it, teach and coach in it, and keep networking in it. Over 35 veterans from all areas of the games industry are with us. We have asked them why they are doing it and what keeps them coming back.

Photo above: The Games Lift Teams of 2022 were already meeting some of their mentors at the kick off event | Photo: Jan-Marius Komorek, Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft

Steffen Rühl stops to collect his thoughts: After successfully founding studios and companies, after years of teaching and coaching, hasn’t he seen it all? Do the projects start to feel like they are repeating?


“As a player,” he knows the feeling. When it hits, he may even pause playing for a while. “But when it comes to working with founders, to starting new projects, not at all.,” Rühl says. What keeps giving him energy and enthusiasm? “The people.”

Experienced Games Consultant Steffen Rühl | Photo: Steffen Rühl

For Gamecity Hamburg, winning over seasoned professionals for our incubator is vital. We ask them to share their learnings, to help new people in the industry to develop their budding projects and to take the next step. The most direct way to do that is in our workshops. Steffen Rühl’s workshop is an introduction to pitching projects.

A deciding factor in every studio, project and incubator are the people involved. They are a point Steffen Rühl keeps coming back to. It’s easy to tell when talking to him that he is not just interested in a good pitch, but that he sees the people making it. When they act insecurely, when they run into difficulties, he sees avenues for “personal growth.”“It’s about the people. That’s why this job is always exciting,” Rühl says.


Take a hint

Cassia Curran too is “amazed and inspired” by the teams and their “innovative, interesting games.” Curran is a veteran in business development and investment, now leading her own agency, where she advises independent game studios. In her workshop about market analysis, she provides teams with an important reality check: Teams get to understand, “how a publisher or investor might analyze their game's market positioning.” She openly admits that it “can be brutal,” but there is a clear benefit – “it saves studios plenty of time in the long run.” For a commercial project, this can be essential.

Cassia Curran, specializing in Business Development Consulting for Indie Devs | Photo: Cassia Curran

A vital aspect – but just one of many. Curran and Rühl are two out of more than 35 people helping us out as coaches, contacts, teachers, and in countless other functions. Gamecity Hamburg has gathered experts from all areas of the industry who share one important trait: They love connecting with young talents. They are here to share their knowledge.

To Ole Jürgensen, one interaction during the Incubator is still important today. The alum of our 2020 program is developing his VR roguelike Crumbling, scheduled for release in 2023. In the game, players hold their avatar like a virtual action figure. His mentor was the co-founder and creative director of successful german games studio KING Art. “Jan Theysen helped us thinking our concept through and getting to its logical conclusion,” Jürgensen explains. Theysen proposed making “unboxing the toy” and “pulling it out of the blister pack” part of the game. Today, the moment is prominently featured in Crumbling’s trailer. Jürgensen still regards it “one of our top features.” To him, it has been the “experience and intuition” of veterans like Theysen that made the mentoring valuable.

VR Developer Ole Jürgensen | Photo: Selim Sudheimer

Make a contact

Making contacts that have an impact – that's one of Gamecity’s declared goals inside and outside of the incubator. Johannes Kuhlmann is Technical Director at FISHLABS, a Hamburg-based studio with almost 80 professionals working on console, pc and mobile games. He can attest to the benefits he sees on his side of the equation. On the one hand, there is “huge potential” available in Hamburg that he wants to support. But he is also happy just “meeting cool people.” He can give back some of his experience in the incubator and gets to “see exciting new ideas and to think outside the box” at the same time.

Johannes Kuhlmann, Technical Director at FISHLABS | Photo: Jan Kaluza

Kuhlmann knows from personal experience that making connections works both ways. He takes an interest in teams and their projects even after the program has ended. In a specific case, when his studio was looking for competent help, “it turned out that an alumnus from the incubator was being considered,” Kuhlmann explains. “Since I had seen what he was capable of, I was able to recommend him for the project without reservations.”

This is a way to summarize what the Games Lift Incubator and Gamecity Hamburg as a whole are all about: When we get people to express their creativity, to help each other, to tackle challenges with realism and confidence, great things can happen. And some of them may last longer than this incubator.


More Games Lift News

Pitch Level Up 2023: Boost your pitch with expert feedback!

After the successful premiere last year, the Pitch Level Up is back on April 13, 11 am - 6 pm: Get individual feedback on your pitch deck from seasoned games industry professionals with different perspectives - to optimize your pitch for publishers, media, investors or funding institutions.

3 years of Games Lift: Getting better with age

Three successful years lie behind the Games Lift Incubator. Before we start the fourth one, we take a look back. Our alumni have a lot to show.

Games Lift Incubator: Grown together

The graduation pitch has marked the finale of Games Lift Incubator 2022. All five teams got to present what they achieved in the last three months. Not an easy task – but everyone came well-prepared. The setting was relaxed, the presentations strong.

Games Lift: Team Marty aim outside the box

The heroine may seem young and hot-headed, but there is an experienced team standing behind her: Babsi Bullet is an action-packed puzzle platformer for touchscreens. Team Marty are pouring their hearts into the game – and real craftsmanship.

Games Lift: Team ACAS get along with nuts and sledgehammers

Few games look as disarming from a distance: About Cannons & Sparrows is a metroidvania that starts with a small cannon hatching from an inconspicuous egg. The seasoned animation pros of Team ACAS may not have a finished game yet, but they do have a strong vision.

Games Lift: Elin Meinecke on sowing diversity

One person is behind farming sim RPG Evergreen Garden: Elin Meinecke is solely responsible for the art and game design of her project. She brings a degree in illustration to her work in the incubator – and inspiration from her garden.

Games Lift: Team Metacore is up for a challenge

Their hands are full. Their goals are big. But that is no reason to fret for Team Metacore. During our conversation, finding good answers comes to them as easily as sharing a laugh. The mood might make it into their project.

Games Lift: Team Godcomplex have thought this through

Would you have guessed that Team Godcomplex are already working on their third game? The four young professionals found each other at the university and have worked together ever since. With their party action game Stack’em up, they want to show what they have learned.

Games Lift: Quick Start in Year 3

Wait – the third iteration of the Games Lift Incubator is already well underway. How is it going? Like clockwork. Bolstered by two years of experience, the program has had an intensive start. Fortunately, this time there also is a break coming up.

Games Lift 2022: These are the five teams

​​​​​​​Five teams have convinced the Games Lift awarding committee of the promising potential of their games projects with their pitch. They will start on September 12 with a three-month workshop and mentoring program with international industry experts, 15,000 euros in financial support and places in a Hamburg co-working space. Congratulation to all teams, and we are very much looking forward to seeing your projects evolve!

Games Lift: Good for you?

If things go well here, we like to keep them going. That is certainly the plan with our Games Lift Incubator. After two successful runs, preparations for the third are well underway. We are still open for teams with a strong vision and ambitious goals. But there’s only a few days left.

Games Lift Incubator - The Alumni's Experiences

The Games Lift Incubator is going into the third edition in 2022 already, so we took the opportunity to ask three alumni of the past two years about their experience with the program. These are three very different projects so we were especially curious about their impressions. You can currently apply to the 2022 edition of the Games Lift Incubator until June 14. We hope these reports on the Incubator will help you with your decision to apply.   

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