Gameflow Turns 5

October 5, 2018

Today marks 5 years since we founded Gameflow Interactive.

I like to joke about our website that “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” and – while this news feed is a key example of that saying in action – I thought it was about time that this cobbler took some stock of the shoes that we have put out into the world in the last five years.

We built Gameflow with the vision that organizations with cultural impact needed better options and strategy to activate their audiences.  We also knew that there was huge value in the strategy that arts admins with humanities backgrounds could bring to technology implementation.  Websites and support for performing arts organizations, film festivals, and museums seem to be perpetually frustrating, unreliable and inadequate from the point of view of the audience – and admins, of course.  Over the years of our experience, the reasons for this became clear – the work these companies do with insufficient resources is already a miracle of efficiency, but there isn’t a single tool on the market that fits the purpose, variety, and flexibility of their operations.  With the broad and complex needs for ticketing, marketing, audience analysis and data collection, space rental, and educational programs, it was always a tall order to get these organizations better tools with the products available on the market.

In five years, we’ve made an impact helping our clients streamline their workflows, saving precious time each day to devote more time and resources towards creatively improve their operations.  That streamlining, in many cases, has naturally resulted in company and audience growth, and big increases in community impact.

In early 2017, we released the next generation of our Events Management & Calendar plugin Groundplan Pro and began an aggressive development schedule.  Groundplan Pro still offers an easy way to get a fully-featured events calendar on your WordPress site, and that support now includes calendars for festivals, class registration, artist to event connections, and a host of other features.

In June 2017, we launched our first Groundplan Theme and managed hosting service website for Porchlight Music Theatre (a Chicago theatre I mixed for back when I was a wee sound engineer hanging mics off the grid in the old Theatre Building). The Groundplan Theme is a purpose-built full-stack web service to empower mid-sized arts organizations with a fully-featured website at a reduced cost.  It’s a way we’ve come up with to help provide Performing Arts-focused websites plus ongoing support worth over $35K for less than $8K, so that the project will fit in most mid-sized theatre annual budgets without the need for a capital campaign.

We’ve deepened our key partnership with PatronManager, releasing a Groundplan add-on for PatronManager clients that streamlines their data entry process and improves audience experience without sacrificing security.  We also helped their clients build some advanced customizations in the Salesforce environment

In 2016 we became a remote-work company, with our team based all over the U.S – and now Australia.  Remote work has made us hyper-focused on both process and results, sharpened our communication habits, and allowed us to balance work and life flexibly.

We’ve grown our team of experts – Christine Toohey (now our Client Success Manager) is our air-traffic controller, coordinating our efforts to best serve our clients’ business goals and digital strategies; Sam Freney (our Senior Developer) develops complex features like our recent Education Add-On and the back end interfaces that make it easy to use each site; Shawn Hazen and Clint May (Interactive Designers) lay out beautiful and balanced designs to give breath and life to your content; and our newest teammate Mike Poisel (our Front End Developer) makes every design and interaction all come together on every device and browser combination that the market can throw at us.

Our team has developed processes, documented best practices, and built web components for the most valuable tools that are used by any organization that needs to activate an audience – Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Mailchimp, Emma, Mouseflow, Google Ads and Facebook Ads, customer data privacy policy, social sharing, interactive Maps, content management tools, and CRMs.  And it’d do no good if we didn’t also implement these tools with strategy and training in mind to make a modular solution that helps each organization get the most out of their tools.

That brings us back to the cornerstone of our work: Web design and web platform development.  We’ve built great websites for cultural organizations that tie all of these tools together in an impactful and strategic audience experience.

2018 marks the first year where we’ve been hired back to design second generation websites from some of our founding clients who have retained us as trusted technology consultants.  The Paramount Theatre Aurora’s new site (just launched a few months ago with a second phase rolling out before the end of the year) reflects their expanding footprint as the cultural hub of Aurora, Illinois – a new School of the Arts, expanding Wedding and Corporate rental options for their historic and convenient downtown venues, at over 39,000 subscribers, one of the largest subscriber bases in the country (that’s up from 17K when we first started working with their team in 2013).

We also designed and launched a second website for another Chicago institution, the Neo-Futurists. This time we modeled navigation through their deep archives of plays, news, productions and classes on the mechanism of their rebranded late-night show, the Infinite Wrench.  Go ahead – play, and make their upcoming news your own.

And we’re proud of our design work that has coupled aesthetics and strategy for organizations across the country:

  • we built American Shakespeare Center more streamlined workflows to attract national and regional tourism and scholarship to their home in the Shenandoah Valley and tours across the country;
  • Glimmerglass Opera’s picturesque venue and emotionally stunning work got a more immersive showcase to motivate their audience to plan multi-event trips to the countryside of Cooperstown, NY;
  • we helped Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with their challenge of getting their audience to beat the traffic to catch world-class musicians in their backyard;
  • New Spire Arts, a startup cultural and arts education hub in Frederick, MD, got a streamlined workflow and sleek new design to support class registration, event ticketing, and space rental;
  • we built tailored festival and conference schedules for New Orleans Film Festival, PatronManager and (launching in just a few days) Philadelphia Film Festival and made the tool available to other developers through the Groundplan Pro plugin;
  • we built class registration and search workflows for the Bemis School of Art at Colorado College, and the busy Peoples Improv Theatre (The PIT) in NYC;
  • we helped the National Alliance for Musical Theatre present industry-wide data sets and directories to its membership, including a New Works map showcasing New Musical productions across the country;
  • the immersive educational mock-city game Journey World for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, where 7-16 year olds collaborate and compete to found and develop a functioning city and economy;
  • web platforms for personal and business coaches – who have inspired and focused our work and practice – from Hot Coffee Coaching to the exciting startup and coaching magazine Happy Spectacular
  • Over 50 clients who we’ve served and supported since we hung out our shingle on the cloud.

Cultural organizations and services that improve the lives of people are an under-appreciated sector in the economy. If you step back and actually measure their impact, our clients are the people building lasting communities and providing gathering places and programming that provide overflowing benefits beyond the sale of a ticket – from increased business and foot traffic to enriched lives.

There’s nothing that gives me more pride than helping the people who have this impact in their communities the tools they need to scale up their efforts.  Even if they’re underfunded and understaffed, a little well-applied technology and digital strategy can turn the tide and help these companies make all of our lives a little richer, a little more full of discovery.

I’m excited to see what we will achieve in the next five years.