This Entrepreneur Is Helping Save Lives With His Video Games
By Jessica Abo
If you ask Sam Glassenberg how his company, Level Ex, came to be, the founder and CEO will admit it was an accident.
“I’ve spent my entire career in the video games industry, but I come from a line of doctors and my grandfather, parents, wife, everybody’s doctors. I’m the black sheep who never went to medical school,” he told Jessica Abo at the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles. “Back in 2012, my father, he’s an anesthesiologist, told me to put all this video game nonsense to good use and make them something to train his colleagues to do a fiber optic intubation, a specific procedure that’s very difficult. You use it rarely and even experienced anesthesiologists struggle with it. He asked me to build a video game that would run on his friends’ iPads. So I did.”
Glassenberg sat down for three weekends with some video game technology and uploaded what he created to the App Store, so his father’s colleagues could download it. He went back to his day job and two years later, his dad asked how many people downloaded his game.
“I had no idea how many of his friends downloaded his game. I went and I checked, and we had 100,000 doctors, nurses and airway specialists who were playing the game. At that point, I typed it into Google, and I discovered they’d been doing efficacy studies on this game around the world that showed that it actually improved physician performance. At that point I realized, ‘Wow, clearly there’s a lot of physician demand for this sort of thing. What if we put together a team of game developers, experts in all these disciplines to work with the top doctors in the country and do this at scale?’”
In any discipline where you’re trying to deliver something new that doesn’t exist to an audience, having members of that audience participate in the development process is really crucial for success.
Today, the company is working with 500,000 medical professionals in the United States who are playing video games to enhance their skills in dealing with rare and difficult clinical and procedural scenarios. When it comes to his advice for other entrepreneurs, Glassenberg says, “You need to be working with your audience. In our case, it’s a team of 50 video game developers delivering products for doctors.
“The way we make that work is by having multiple MDs on staff full-time. We also are bringing in doctors into our studio every single day. We have over 150 physician advisers and hundreds of doctors submitting content. At any given day at the Level Ex studio, you’ll have doctors doing play tests with our latest game mechanics. There’ll be standing over an artist’s shoulder telling them, ‘Oh, that should bleed more, that should be squishier,’ or standing next to an engineer to figure out how to recreate reality on a phone.
“For us, working with doctors has been crucial in order to figure out exactly what kinds of content we should be creating to fulfill demand. In any discipline where you’re trying to deliver something new that doesn’t exist to an audience, having members of that audience participate in the development process is really crucial for success.”