The Self-Made Man: Dee Brown
It’s not talked about often, but the video game industry is a hotbed of entrepreneurs. It feels like there’s a new indie game start-up every week (which will be bought wholesale by a larger company the following week), and anyone into video game culture probably knows at least one coder/programmer who regularly stays up until 4am for work or pleasure. Video game entrepreneurs dedicate themselves to their industry’s lifestyle with a zeal that their contemporaries in other fields just can’t match.
Beenox Studio founder Dominique “Dee” Brown is one of those people. He also shares a name with like 300 other notable men, but that’s neither here nor there. He was difficult to research, is all I’m saying.
Brown, who has eight younger siblings, was determined to start his own video game company when he was 11, and was a good enough programmer to make his own games by the time he got to high school, which was also when he got his business license. He started Beenox when he was 21, and modestly predicted that it would rise to the top of the industry. “I sounded completely crazy,” he admitted in an interview with The Globe and Mail, but he added that he also tried to “make sure that the people around me understand that vision and always shoot for it.”
Brown’s primary goal for Beenox was simple, but still disruptive; in his own words, he wanted to “make games that leave an impact and not necessarily games that always cost a lot to create.” Rather than just throw money into projects, Brown wanted to make games that communicated with the people who played them, which is a much healthier attitude.
To that end, Brown nurtured a culture of innovation and strong developmental skills among his employees, encouraging them to do more than create within set genres, and to focus their efforts on clean game design with as few bugs as possible. Lofty standards, yes, but Brown understands that a studio “has really only one chance when it launches its own game and it has to make sure that the stars are properly aligned.” Beenox also owns its development tools, and keeps a quality assurance department on site to make sure those standards are met.
Beenox spent its first few years as a porting house, adapting existing games for different consoles and operating systems. After the company was bought by Activision in 2005, they started making original game development, churning out titles like Bee Movie Game, a handful of Spiderman games, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Guitar Hero Smash Hits, just to name a few.
Brown left Beenox last year, to “pursue new personal challenges,” so his entrepreneurial spirit is far from dead. TSB is sure that his next project, whatever it is, will be as impressive as his work ethic and ambition demand it to be. I’ll leave you with this interview about his working relationship with Activision, which he lauded as a positive experience all around.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.