Elina Halonen of the Irrational Agency (left) and me after Jessica's interview on 9th Jan.

Elina Halonen of the Irrational Agency (left) and me after Jessica’s interview on 9th Jan.

Today, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Harper’s Bazaar at Work breakfast (at the Dorchester hotel, no less!) where I was listening to Jessica Ennis, Olympic gold medal winner and athlete, talk about her training, her feelings of pride and how she came to be where she is today.

I’m surrounded by inspiring men and women, so although I wasn’t on the floor with close-proximity-celebrity fever, I was really interested in how simple Jessica made it all seem. She’s very down-to-earth and a lot of the time, she just ‘got on with it’. She’s very clear headed it seems, and part of that seems to be knowing very well ‘who she is’ and who she wants to be. Part of doing this is understanding where we’ve been, and where we want to go.

My cousin Nichola, always wise and insightful, makes a habit of writing down everything she’s achieved in the past year around Christmas time. She’s also the kind of person who writes lists about all the things that make her happy, and that she’s grateful for. As her younger cousin and often inspired by her actions, I also took to the habit of recollecting what I’ve done in the past year thinking about what I’m grateful for, and I feel businesses can benefit from practicing this too. Looking behind us, and looking ahead; isn’t that what next year’s projections are for?


For Research Through Gaming, 2013 has been a truly fantastic year. And the word fantastic also incorporates the downs as well as the ups, as each lesson learned is really a blessing in itself. I turned 28 this year (getting old!) and as an entrepreneur under 30, I’m still learning as I grow, and as I grow older and hopefully a little wiser (I started RTG just before my 25th birthday, in my opinion people are still growing at 24/25!) I hope to still always have the sound support and advice that I’ve always had by people who believe in me, and in Research Through Gaming. This in itself is something on my ‘grateful’ list.

In 2013, we produced Rezzzpondents; a tongue-in-cheek online game showing researchers and brands how we can help change bored respondents/zombies (hence Rezzzpondents) into alert and engaged human beings. We also hired Will, our CTO and Paul, our Creative Director. We had two interns; Saara Petker and David Wiszniowski – both wonderful people to work with who will have fantastic careers in front of them. We worked with IMPRINTS Futures, producing two of the best (in my humble opinion) bespoke ResearchGames we’ve created to date, and I was lucky in 2013 to still be asked to fly around the world to share this work and other work with researchers and UX designers at conferences.

We also sponsored the NewMR Explode-a-Myth event and were Gold Sponsors, together with Surveys Analytics, of the Festival of NewMR in December. I’ve always been a massive fan of NewMR and really believe in what it stands for, so it was a huge pleasure to be part of that.

We also made The Islanders, a ResearchGame which does away with standard Employee Satisfaction surveys and now, makes it into an interesting game to play. Later on in 2013, we also introduced Chris Shaw to our Board of Advisors and Gordon Petrie to our Sales team; their roles have already proven invaluable.

What 2013 was for me, personally

On a personal note, I’ve made some important decisions for Research Through Gaming as its’ CEO and Founder; decisions which affect me personally and the business commercially. I decided last year to stop saying that ‘we do Gamification’ (much to the dismay of our SEO) but rather say what I started saying back in 2011 – that we carry out research through gaming (hence the name of the business), and we will continue to make ResearchGames and EDUCATE people on how to use Games in Research. I also decided to put much more time aside for my book AND found a publisher (hence why it’s not been published yet – April 2014 is the new due date!) and made an important decision to pursue an academic route – but more on this in another blog!

In 2013, I joined the ASC Conference Committee as one of their members where you can all expect to see some interesting changes, and I was also invited (and accepted) a role as Advisory Board member to game start-up Kissaah, headed up by a Harvard Business academic. I also joined a collective of game designers, artists and academics which will naturally help evolve the way we develop ResearchGames here. In a way, I’ve decided to not just be ‘Betty CEO and Founder of RTG’ but also Betty, the creative person I am inside, who is always curious and wants to make things other people will love. I used to get frustrated sometimes for not doing anything creative for days, or weeks. But now I’m drawing more than I used to and going back to doing what I loved doing in the first place – making games for research. Not just running a business.

2013 hadn’t all been plain sailing though. As anyone will testify; running a business of your own and doing what you love is absolutely thrilling but there are also many learning curves, and hindsight is always so clear. I had to do some things I dreaded doing as I saw that these actions would mean that I’ve failed in some way. When I look back, I see that me worrying about the decisions I would have to make almost made me ill, more than the actual decision itself, and that’s not the way to do things. Without trying to sound purposefully cryptic and vague, I can tell you that these were hard decisions for my business, and so I’m very thankful for a) the support I’ve had from my team and b) the outcome of those decisions, which has turned out to be ok.


So in 2014, what I hope for as a growing entrepreneur is not to try and avoid “mistakes”, but to try and embrace them, as Jessica Ennis and the Harpers Bazaar editor spoke so frankly about this morning. And also, to stop beating myself up all the time about things I’m not doing and trust I will get round to them, just not all at the same time! I also hope that as a young businesswoman, to grow as an entrepreneur, manager and as a ResearchGame designer.
This year, I also hope that some of the business and personal decisions I made in 2013 will come to fruition in 2014 (decisions which will do great things for RTG!) allowing us to work with the brands, companies and non-profit organizations we love.

But going back to my cousin Nichola, and her list of gratitudes; my list of gratitudes is so long, I have had SO much to be grateful for, for the brilliant year we had in 2013. Without sounding too much like I’m giving an Oscar acceptance speech, I would sincerely like to thank my fiancé and colleague Paul McGhie, and my colleagues Will Poynter and David Wiszniowski (although our David has flown the nest!). I’d also like to thank the students who email me to tell me they’re taking up research games as a thesis: you make me very proud and want to do more work! And of course I want to say thank you to the conference organizers, the clients and the collaborators we’ve been working with; not just in 2013 but since RTG began.

I look forward to the creative and successful fun-fair that I think 2014 will be, and wish all of you a prosperous New Year and a whole lot of fun 🙂

– Betty