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TURBO’s founders made a conscious decision to locate their start-up video game-development studio in Brooklyn, New York, instead of one of the gaming industry hotbeds on the West Coast. Then they worked with Herman Miller to transform their converted warehouse space into an open, collaborative environment that supports the team-based, non-linear nature of their work.
As Yohei Ishii and Brandon Laurino tell the story of how their game-development studio came to be, the elephant in the room is called DUMBO.
The historically industrial Brooklyn neighbourhood, whose name was originally an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is an unlikely home base for a video-game-design enterprise. But being located outside the centre of their industry, which is primarily on the West Coast (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver), was a conscious decision for Ishii and Laurino.
A multifunctional workshop can host the entire TURBO team for collaborative sessions. Reconfigurable Everywhere tables, Swoop lounge furniture and Sayl chairs allow the space to support a variety of modes of work.
“Both of us have been part of the traditional gaming space, which is not centred here in New York”, said Ishii, whose background is in strategy and business development.
“But what happens when you have a group of companies and a group of people in the same space? They obviously start doing similar things. We wanted to break out from that.”
The bold choice of location is fitting, considering the studio’s ambitious first project. Their concept leverages the mobile platform that has made casual gamers of practically anyone with a smartphone or tablet and uses it to deliver a deeper experience, designed to engage the core gaming community.
“Our mission is not to make games that gamers look at and say, ‘That’s pretty good for a mobile game”, said Laurino, who leads TURBO’s production and development efforts. “We want to make games that will make gamers say, ‘That is an awesome game’ — regardless of the platform.”
Laurino and Ishii assembled their dream team of game designers and developers to launch TURBO, successfully luring talent from more established companies, such as Nintendo and Zynga, thanks to a recruiting pitch built on passion and place.
“Games are like music or movies”, Laurino said. “To make great stuff is a passionate endeavour, and we want people who are passionate about it. If you have people in the mix who aren’t passionate about it, especially at a small studio, that can really drag the whole enterprise down.”
As the TURBO team began coming together, the studio’s location in DUMBO became a screening tool, weeding out the more risk-averse candidates they pursued. While half of those who were recruited didn’t want to leave the West Coast, the other half were intrigued by a game-development opportunity that would take them to Brooklyn.
“We wanted people who had that spirit to go on an adventure, to embark, to explore, to get out of their comfort zone”, Laurino said. “It was a good test to see if they have the grit to do the start-up thing.”
In addition to the studio’s location, its physical space also encourages different ways of working.
On the main floor of their studio, TURBO's business development and administration teams share a Hive of workspaces created with Canvas Office Landscape and outfitted with Aeron chairs.
“Video game development, especially the types of games that we’re working on, is not a linear path”, Ishii said. “There are so many moving pieces, and that’s why it goes back to the importance of having a space and structure where communication and collaboration are easy-flowing.
“We wanted to make sure we had a work environment that was conducive to that, and by working with Herman Miller, what we have been able to achieve together is pretty phenomenal.”
Yohei Ishii (left) leads TURBO’s strategy and business development efforts, while Brandon Laurino (right) heads up production and development. Former high school classmates from Connecticut, the duo founded TURBO in 2013.