Sharing Artistic Pride With NYT's Jeff Petriello

Published Jun 5, 2024

Hello! Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Hi everyone! I’m Jeff Petriello and I’m currently the Games Producer for the New York Times. If you’re into Wordle, Connections and other well-known daily games, then the NYT game selection is your place to be!

I’m also the founder of Half Centaur LLC, my creative production and consulting company, and I’m also currently teaching at the New York University Game Center—where I also got my Master of Fine Arts back in 2019. Aside from that, I’ve been working on creatives and content for a long time, and I’ve done projects for HBO, Mashable, NowThis, Bleacher Report and many more.

One of the more well-known games I’ve recently worked on, aside from the NYT ones, is IMMORTALITY from Half Mermaid Productions, the video game production company founded by Sam Barlow. So if you’re into narrative-driven storytelling in games, then check it out when you can!

What’s your favorite game to play these days?

Oh, I definitely prepared multiple answers for this question! One of them is definitely Backgammon. I play Backgammon dozens of times a day on my phone any chance I get, and I've been doing that for years. So Backgammon is definitely my favorite game to play, generally by myself, I guess I should caveat that. And then my favorite game right now… Can I give a tabletop and a digital answer?

Like for tabletops right now, I've been playing Frosthaven for months since it came out, and despite some of the haters, I have been having a really great time. Why? ‘Cause it really does enable me to yell at my friends, which is my favorite part of tabletop games and my favorite digital game. Right now I'm judging the innovation award for the big festival.

It's a European game festival, and I'm getting to play a ton of interesting games, and one that I really was into, although I haven't finished playing all of them, so this is not an indication of my bias, one of them was Cryptmaster. I'm not sure if any of you have heard of Cryptmaster yet. It's a really, really cool game.

I had a ton of good times playing it. It's basically like a dungeon crawler, but it's blended with a word game, like a typing game, essentially. And the voice acting is incredible. The art is so beautiful and grayscale. It's really recommendable. The story is really mysterious and interesting. It's funny, it's scary. It's hard. That game has been really cool to play.

How did you start your gaming journey?

Games have always been a part of my life. I was very lucky to be always encouraged to play by my family. I think they saw playing as a way to connect with other people, both in my age group and intergenerationally. And so we always had board games out at my house, whether it was Scrabble or Monopoly.

My parents were by no means hobbyists, not like we were, you know, even playing something like Diplomacy at home or anything like that. We were playing the basics, but it was always the center of a lot of social interactions. And that was always really exciting to me because as a queer man growing up, you're constantly sort of, like, dealing with, figuring out how you're different and how you relate to other people. And when I would play a game with other people, we sort of all opted into this set of rules, this set of limits and expectations for each other that we agreed upon. And that, in hindsight, was an incredibly comforting and enabling experience to go through all the time.

I’m joking a bit here, but, like, Dungeons and Dragons in fourth grade was one of the few ways that I could really truly relate and build relationships with, like, other straight guys in my class. I'm still best friends with my best friend from first grade who I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons with since 1994. So these games were, for me, fun, interesting and I have sort of like, an intellectual temperament. I think that attunes me to sort of like getting excited about games and logic and how these things work out, systemic thinking, all of that.

But ultimately, at the end of the day, as Frank Lantz wrote in the inscription to my copy of The Beauty of Games, the beauty of games is people. And I think that's always been something that I've known and has literally affected my life since I was a little kid. So understanding that and building those experiences for others… that matters to me. So pursuing games was kind of a no-brainer.

Can you tell us more about your path of locking into game creation?

So when I went to undergrad, you really couldn't study games in school unless you went to, like, a trade school for video game art or something. So I didn't have to think about it, which was cool. I studied philosophy as an undergrad, which makes a lot of sense if you follow Frank Lantz’s aesthetic theory of games. But, yeah, that wasn't really something I even thought about. I remember when I was graduating from undergrad I talked about how I dreamed of writing video games.

I definitely remember having that ambition in my late teens and early twenties, thinking there was something really powerful about the stories I've experienced playing games. And I think there's a lot to explore and do, and I want to be a part of that. But I didn't really pursue it in any practical form. So I went into production.

I started writing right out of school. I started writing a screenplay. I'm talking about, like, literally the summer I graduated. And I stopped after two weeks of working on it and was like, I have no idea how people make movies. This seems like a bad idea to write a screenplay without having any idea how movies are made.

So I signed up to be a production assistant on an NYU student film. And that was it. Like, I glowed on that set. I loved the idea of problem-solving things that needed to be problem-solved immediately. I loved this sort of shared delusion of everyone working on one story so intensely and literally together for so long, in such a concentrated period of time.

Working in film and production

So that really was very inspiring to me. And I wound up working in film for, like, the next three years again, just because of that passion for bringing people together to figure out how we tell a story together. And so, yeah, I managed to work for a very big Hollywood producer. His name was Scott Rudin. He's kind of infamous.

He was, like, canceled a couple of years ago for being abusive to his employees. I was one of those employees. It was a really, truly unique experience, and it made me want to leave the industry. I did not want to be involved with people like that. And so I thought about what else I could do, and I realized, like, I had a passion.

I have always had a passion for technology. I was like the kid waiting online at midnight for the Nintendo Wii. I was getting an iPod the second it was out. Like, getting it from the backdoor of a CompUSA from a staff member I found on Reddit. That was my vibe.

So I was like, maybe I could do something with that. And that's when I wound up meeting a guy named Ken Lerer, who is a venture capitalist in the city. And he wanted to start what he called the first social media news network. And I became the first employee of this company that would become NowThis News. That's how I got into digital media production.

I did that for about six years. And then at Mashable, I had an amazing experience there. But after that, I really had this desire. I had this urge to work with engineers. In Mashable, I was able to work with motion graphic designers, animators, photographers, graphic designers, other producers, writers… This incredible mini creative agency, if you will, that I got to build and manage there. 

There seemed to be this really thick wall for executives—between those people and engineers—which made no sense to me because engineers are basically just creative technologists. They are using logic to make things out of nothing. To me, that's not that different than a visual designer from an aesthetic standpoint. So that really, really frustrated me.

Learning how to code and returning to school

Even though I was working with our CT and our product people every day testing their products, actually getting an engineer to work on my team was seemingly impossible. And so I decided that I needed to do something about that. So I went back to school at night. I went to an immersive coding boot camp called Fullstack Academy, where I learned Fullstack and did that for about six months before deciding that I was going to really shift out of digital media. 

I used that coding experience to sort of boost my confidence in applying to grad programs that would incorporate engineering more directly into creation. I did that so that I could avoid the issue that I ran into at that point in my career.

And so I was looking at places like the MIT Media Lab and the  ITP at NYU, which I jokingly refer to as, like, the Hogwarts of technology. And I also wound up looking at the Game Center, though I was not intending to study games. I was like, I'm going to go back to school but not for games, just to study, is all..

It was really an intro talk by Frank Lantz that completely convinced me that this is where I should be and that that was what I wanted to do. So, yeah, Frank Lantz, you know, changed my life very, very directly. There were a few things about the Game Center that really spoke to me. One is that they had a more rigid curriculum. So your first year at the game center is almost entirely required courses. Like, they had a track that they wanted you to go through.

And ITP, in contrast, even though it's in the same department of NYU at Tisch, was totally almost the opposite, almost completely freeform. And I need structure as a person. I really prefer that. So that was a huge draw for me, I loved that. 

But then also this idea, which is really core to the design philosophy of the Game Center. The idea is that a game like chess or Go is the same as a game like Fortnite. And that, to me, was something I felt in my bones to be true. And I loved that these people were confident in that and exploring it. And that's what I'm interested in making.

I'm interested in the line of thought that we've been playing even before, even when society was still just being established. And video games are just kind of this, like, gorgeous new incarnation of that thing that incorporates engineers, software engineers specifically.

I loved all of that.

What are the commonalities between all the roles you’ve had in your career thus far?

Yeah, that's a very insightful question because the similarities are many, and I don't think that that is something that people really realize. I mean, as a producer, my particular role in producing games is not that different than it is from producing a film in its core, in its fundamentals, in like, the skills and knowledge that I need to acquire the experience that's helpful to me when I'm applying it. The particulars are always different. And I think the reason why that similarity I feel so strongly about is because the particulars are always different, even when you're working within the same medium. So, like, one film is not like producing another film.

Of course, the more you do, the more you learn, the better you get at it. But there are always unique problems. There are always different people working on it. And that to me was what was interesting about production. And so at the end of the day, I'm bringing people together to create something. It's like you have all of these disparate parts, both physical and conceptual, but most importantly interpersonal. And you're trying to output one thing and that is not easy. And figuring out how to do that is like, the core of production to me, and is not changing regardless of what I'm working on.

Can you tell us about your teaching career?

I am so grateful to be a teacher. It is one of the things I hold most dear. While I was at the Game Center getting my MFA, I had work study. I wound up TA-ing. I TA'd for Eric Zimmerman, who is at the Game Center.

He leads sort of like the sub-department of Game Design specifically. And he used to teach Game Design, Intro to Game Design and a bunch of those fundamental design classes. And so I TA'd for him for I think two semesters? And then when I left, I couldn't find a job, and Eric was kind enough to reach out to me and say, “Hey, do you have availability?” And I was like, boy, do I!

And he's like, “Well, we need someone to teach Intro to Game Design. Would you be interested? And I've been teaching every year since. So this coming fall is actually going to be the start of my sixth year teaching at the Game Center, which is wild.

Changes in the students and their learning

I mean, last year was the first year that I sat down to meet with a group and talk about their prototype. Their coder was there listening to what we were saying and then just talking to ChatGPT to try to make changes to it immediately, which was amazing. 

That was the first time I saw that and was like, this is with all the problems that are coming along with AI, which there are many. But this is cool. This is awesome that you can just type out, “Hey, write me a C# script that creates an 8x8 grid with sliding tiles. And you like, you know, you're not going to get 100% there just yet, but you're not starting from zero. And that was like so cool. 

So that was a huge shift, I thought, that I've noticed in the last year or two. I also think another big thing is weirdly the pandemic. Like the result of the pandemic. I am not trying to diminish the obvious and observable negative effect it had on education in America.

But for my grad students at NYU, for instance, there are some lessons that have come out of the pandemic that I think are really interesting and are different than before. And one of those is production. Like the idea of how do we coordinate a project? Who is doing what, when and where? Everyone is used to now dealing with people who aren't physically there, who might have gotten sick all of a sudden or whatever like we're used to.

Unlike before, we're not just agreeing at this time that everyone should be here every week. It's now understood that variables actually do exist. They existed before. I just think we kind of like tried to force people through them.

Right now, people are much more conscious about being like, “Oh, well, that doesn't work for you. What does work for us?” And so the idea of working agreements, which is like an AGILE practice that I live by, that is almost, almost natural now to people in a way that it wasn't before. And I think that has been really, really cool and interesting and made my job easier. Trying to explain the value of that stuff is a lot more obvious than it felt like it used to be.

It's classic, honestly, like lessons that we should have learned from the disability rights movement a million years ago. Accommodate, and you produce better than trying to force all people to behave exactly the same. So I think that's becoming a lot more instinctual for people.

And I mean, like, for example, the New York Times games team has a lot of remote workers. We're like a fully hybrid endeavor. So I think those are skills that are really important. In fact, if I look back at my teaching, this is wild to say, but I actually think one of my best classes, one of my greatest experiences teaching was the fully remote semester of 2021.

Those game design students were incredible. They made such cool stuff all working remotely together, never having met. They were freshmen. They were incredible. I mean, you know, sometimes classes are just special. Like, maybe it was just those groups of people, but that was a wild dream.

How did you start working in the New York Times?

The journey to the New York Times, that's a wild story. It is one of my most, I don't know, proof of my Scorpio birth chart. I would say the journey to the Times was like a six-year journey. So remember I was telling you that point where I got frustrated that I couldn't have engineers, I couldn't get approval to work with engineers?

So at that time, I started looking for other jobs. I was at Mashable, this was, like, 2016, and I applied for a job at the Times, and I got through, like, three rounds of interviews. I actually got to go to the building, and I interviewed with what at the time was called the beta team. It was a very small team, and it's what would wind up becoming the Games team, which is wild. They were working on The Crossword.

And so I actually kind of got interviewed for this job back before I even decided to, like, go back to school or do any of that. I didn't get that job because I hadn't had direct experience with engineers on paper, which drove me crazy and was part of the reason that I went back to school. It was one of the inciting incidents. So after I went back to school and did all this, I applied for, like, three more jobs at the Times. I got through two more interviews.

Always got rejected by the end of it. And here at this time, I had a ton of friends who worked there from my previous digital media experience. I was like, what is going on? Because I know you're kind of interested in me or you wouldn't keep interviewing me. It was very hot and cold with the Times for a while.

And when I actually applied for the job, now as a Producer on the Games team, I walked into the interview with this story that I’ve basically gone into six figures of debt because you told me I didn't have the experience I needed, and I went to go get it, and I'm back, and I really want to work here. Extremely compelling argument, I think. In fact, once I got the job, my boss, our executive producer, Zoe Bell, told me she was like, “Honestly, I wasn't sure you were gonna like it, but you seemed incredibly persistent. You clearly really wanted to work here.” And so that made me feel better about that feeling.

So, yeah, I spent a ton of money to manifest this position for myself by going back to school and not giving up. So when people ask me, like, what can I do? I don't want to tell you. It's not reasonable. It's actually not reasonable at all.

Burnout from digital media roles

Well, another thing with it was that I was kind of burned from my time in digital media, I loved the companies I worked for. But let me tell you, working in the early to mid-2010s in digital media in New York, there were obviously a ton of perks to it. People were getting a ton of money. There was a lot of excitement and investment.

But you were basically being wagged around by social media platforms, like every month, legitimately. There was one moment when this guy from Facebook that I had never met in my entire life, and who I would never meet again, walked into my office, and basically told me what my job was going to be for the next six months. And my bosses sat there and were like, “Yeah. You do that.” And at that moment, I was like, I gotta get out of here.

This is crazy. This is not the environment I want to be in. I don't want to be at the beck and call of people who do not even care if I have a job, let alone are actually thinking about what I'm doing. So I wanted to get out of digital media, and I made a promise to myself that the only media company I would ever work for again was the New York Times. Because at that time, I remember we just saw them denying all of it.

They were just like, nope, we're not going to do it. We don't care. We're going to do our own thing over and over and over again. And I was just like, some people called it really conservative and out of touch, but having been on the other side of it, I was like, no, those people are right. Like, that is 100% what we should be doing. We are not going to win this war over here. So I think I kind of manifested it when I made that promise to myself.

Going to work in the NYT

I joined in July of that year. So about six months early right after. When I joined the Times, we were in the middle of finishing the process of bringing Wordle fully into the New York Times. Spelling Bee debuted in May of 2018. In my impression, it was really like the first big game that the New York Times Games Team sort of developed and put out. I obviously wasn't there, but I know that was a really big moment, a kind of big shift.

I'm particularly proud of Strands because one of the two teams I work with at the New York Times is called the New Games Squad, which is a group of people, it's made up of engineers, a puzzle designer and a visual designer. We're all working together to sort of prototype what could be the next new game for the Times. So, you know, we're constantly throwing stuff out. Some of it gets red-lit, like, pretty early on. Other stuff gets green-lit to keep going through this development process. And Strands was really the first game that the current iteration of the team brought from what we would call phase two of the green light process at the Times to the public.

When I started on new games, it was like right when we were beginning the process of bringing Connections to the public, but I joined after the initial development of Connections, so we were still figuring out stuff about the game. But it was kind of a third of the way through the process already and then a lot of other people joined. So Strands is really special to me because it's the first time this team that I work with every single day was really there from the start to sort of the finish of the new games period, which is the end of this beta coming up. So that was incredibly exciting. And, yeah, the process is both structured and flexible enough to really let us be creative and explore what makes this game interesting, what makes this game fun. Another reason I'm particularly proud of Strands is that the Strands that you are playing now is not the original pitch.

And so we iterated a lot design-wise to land where we are today. And that's something that I'm particularly proud of. So, yeah, it was a really interesting process, but anything you want to know more about, I'm happy to share.

Working with the NYT teams

To me, one of the things I am most proud of for working at the New York Times and working with our games team is that we actually invest in people who create these puzzles every day. And that is, I would say, one of the largest parallels to the Times as an organization. When you subscribe to the New York Times games, you are actually contributing to paying people to sit down and make this game for you every day by hand, literally. And that's, you know, not dissimilar from reading the news and subscribing to it because you want to pay those journalists to keep going out there and creating news themselves.

It's not that disparate structurally. So I love that. And it's something that I think really is at the heart of the value of what we produce every single day. In terms of how the puzzle editors are related to the new game's development, it's interesting. So basically, we don't involve the puzzle editor at the very beginning of the process.

We're just kind of figuring out things ourselves. In the new game squad, we would, like, create sample puzzles that we think are representational of this gameplay. I'm talking a handful, just to see if this thing is working out. If our stakeholders, we call them the concept committee at the New York Times—which is a subsection of our leadership on the mission team—vote if prototypes are going to be green-lit through this process once it gets to a certain point. That point is like, when we've made a few puzzles, we've tested them with potential players and they're liking it. We've got some kinks. We feel like, okay, these are a good example. 

At that point, we'll start collaborating with editorial and say, “Hey, this thing is coming up that, like, actually may have some legs! We should talk about what it would look like at scale.” What does it mean? Would this be something that you would be able to handle with your current team? Are we talking about, you know, committing to needing additional support on editorial to be able to support this at scale? Is there something on here that as a puzzle editor, you see as being like, not actually that editorial that we're doing by hand and we should look into automatizing it or engineering a solution? 

And, you know, through those conversations, we'll sort of like hunker down on what makes sense. And then one of the biggest things that happen to a game once it's out of this sort of beta period is that we will invest a lot of resources in developing an internal editorial tool for that specific puzzle to make puzzle editors' jobs more straightforward and reliable. And we have a lot of cool tools to help them check for things like unintentional slurs or double solutions and things like that. So all sorts of like, fun tools that help make their job easier.

But at the end of the day, you know, depending on the puzzle, it's going to be different, the relationship between that process and the editorial team.

NYT tool: Shortz Mode and testing

Well, we have this… we call it Shortz mode, after Will Shortz, which is like, if you have certain permissions, you can access things like debug modes and all sorts of ways to zip through puzzles and things like that. So that's one fun tool we have and that's accessible to anyone at the times who like, wants it pretty much. 

I think everyone on the Games Team at least has it. And then, yeah, in terms of the prototypes, we will solicit feedback from all sorts of people. We will go out to the entire organization for playtesting and we also have a really incredible audience insight group that runs external testing for us throughout this process. So we have to be constantly creating places for those playtests to happen.

In terms of numbers, how much traffic does the NYT usually have?

Yeah, yeah, I would love to give some highlights, for sure. Like, we have tens of millions of people playing our puzzles every day, which is incredibly exciting. I mean, it's one of the main reasons I get up in the morning knowing that, you know, everyone and their mom—in America at least—is aware of our games, which is really cool. You know, we also had a huge change in the last year and a half in user behavior from the web to our apps. So the New York Times Games app was downloaded, like, 10 million times last year, which was huge.

If you asked me when I started if I thought we were going to be #2 on the Apple App Store chart for free word games, like, no, I did not think that was gonna happen. So that was really cool. And then, just the sheer volume of puzzles played is pretty wild to think about. I mean, our puzzles were played more than 8 billion times last year in 2023, which is like, almost once per every human on the planet. So that's wild.

Wordle alone was played 4.8 billion times. So that thing just keeps on trucking. It's wild. And Connections, which I was super happy to produce the beta launch of, it's not even a year old and that thing’s already reaching around 2.3 billion plays. So it's really exciting to work on these puzzles that have a real cultural impact at this moment. It's really cool.

Buy versus build, which way does the NYT really lean towards?

The Times, first and foremost, is trying to develop its own games internally. We have a number of systems, the new game squad just being one of them, that are in place to sort of generate our ideas within the team and the organization at large. So, like, that is 100% where our focus and the vast majority of our effort goes. You know, I wasn't there for the Wordle acquisition.

I think it was an incredibly smart move, obviously, but from what I understand, the way I've heard folks talk about it, it was like a lightning-in-the-bottle moment. Like, here was a game that almost was already a sort of Times-ian game. It fits this pattern of something, that daily thing that you do, that you could do with your cup of coffee in the morning while you read your paper. It was a word game. So it fits into what we already were doing with spelling me in The Crossword.

And it had this mass appeal to a large audience, which is also what we're trying to do with all of our content. So it really just was sort of like, I mean, how often is the most viral game of the year going to have those things? Not very often. So I think it just was an extremely lucky experience. And working at the Times now, I meet tons of people who are working on incredibly cool, interesting daily puzzles, you know, hitting me up after I meet them in the GDC or whatever.

I’d get things like, “Do you think there's any way, like, the Times would be interested in this?” And I get that because you look at Wordle and you're like, “Yeah, I could do something like that.” But truly, the value of Wordle is not just the gameplay, which is intuitive, amazing and clearly appealing to people, it is also what it was doing in the world when it emerged.

The experience it was creating between people, and how it was bringing people together through media. That was also a part of it. So I try to remind people, it wasn't just the gameplay that we were interested in. It was also what it brought along with it, which was this passion, this sort of mass passion for word games and all of these people who are interested in that. So I think it was a pretty unique experience.

I do know that there are folks on the leadership team at the Times who are always talking about external opportunities, looking for the next thing that could be great for us to go into. But, yeah, generally speaking, 90% of our effort is developing internally.

What makes the NYT Crossword different from the paper version of old newspapers, in your opinion?

Well, one thing that's very different is that you don't have to read the paper if you're playing online, right? Whereas, like, if you want to get the crossword in the paper, you're buying the whole paper. And, you know, we hope that you do that at the Times. I think you're not only getting the paper anymore, but you also get Cooking, The Athletic, Wirecutter and all of these amazing products, you know?

So we've changed that as well. But there is also the option of just getting a game subscription. You won’t need to be really worrying about the rest if it's not, you know, for you. So that's one big change.

I will say you go back and look at any thrift store, you will find the New York Times Crossword Anthology on the bookshelf for a dollar or two. They were printing it in other ways, for sure, but, yeah, I mean, I definitely think that providing value for your audience in a number of diversified ways is definitely one tried and true method of increasing retention and creating value. 

To me for instance, growing up, the paper was part of my routine. Every single morning, I would be like, “Mom, can I please have the comic book page?”

How different would it be if the acquisitions NYT has done were made by a different group or brand?

There is an excellent talk by my boss, Zoe Bell, in the GDC vault from GDC 2023, about this very thing, and I encourage folks to check it out if you're interested in more. We basically have this philosophy of do no harm. And I definitely think that in the hands of another organization, like, who knows what would have happened? So I think a lot of the value that Wordle has retained is definitely due to the strategic decisions that my leadership has made, and I'm really proud of that for sure.

The significance of Wordle under NYT

I'm really proud of the improvements and player-centric additions and adjustments we made to Wordle. So much of it is just on the back end, ensuring that we are creating a quality product that knows your streaks and your stats and all that, and integrating that in with the rest of the Times. That was a lot of work, and I can't underemphasize that. 

But also, the Wordle archive, which dropped this week, is one of the reasons I'm most proud to produce for the gameplay squad. We're just constantly working on stuff that adds value to your subscription. It makes me feel good.

On predatory practices of other studios

If I were working for another mobile game studio, a lot of times I'd be working on, you know, features that are designed to extract more money from you all the time. And it feels really nice to be developing something that's like, no, we're going to release this thing and it’s just that for people to enjoy. And if you're subscribed, your subscription price isn't changing, but you just got access to a thousand more puzzles.

Like, I love that stuff. And I'm proud to always be working towards that to bring value to our players. Like, that is very exciting. And I think the Wordle archive is a great example of that. It's like if you never look at it, which I hope is not the case, you know, you still have that Wordle experience that you've always had since before we acquired it.

But if you want more, we have it there for you. And hopefully, its beauty and quality are a reason for you to stick around.

Is there anything you’d change about your career back then if you could?

I think I wasted a lot of time in my career chasing a “dream job”, and I got several of those dream jobs, and most of them were the worst jobs I've ever had. And I don't think that that's a lesson I could have learned any other way than doing it. But what I will say is, don't be distracted by that. Your heroes are your heroes in part because you do not know them. And learning more about them is maybe not necessarily going to be the greatest thing.

So, like, if you want to work at this place and you just feel like until I do that, I haven't made it, like, I encourage you, figure out, literally, the work you like to do, find people that you actually enjoy working with and can survive working with, because that is so much more important to your own well being. To you, being able to actually produce something of value to generate.

And honestly, good karma and good relationships follow what is actually working, not some thought in your head of what's cool or who you want to be like. To me, those experiences have wound up being really disillusioning and discouraging. If anything, I wish I had more confidence earlier on in my career to follow and create my own path and not try to, like, chase the things that I admired or loved so much. I think it's a weird piece of advice, maybe, but that's what I would say.

What’s next for you? Any ongoing projects?

Yeah. So about two years ago, I launched a Kickstarter for a tarot deck called the Pasta Tarot, and it wound up being pretty successful. It was published by a division of Penguin Random House in 2022. I was very proud of it. And so I am working on thinking about what I can do next with that.

Maybe making pasta? So I'm learning about making pasta, and I'm learning about what it might mean to, like, create a business that's, like, much more consumer-focused than anything I've ever done. So that's a project I'm working on right now that's teasing, like, a new part of my brain and is pretty cool. 

I will say one thing I love about it is finding a job that you care about and love and can handle, but at the same time, respects your work-life balance, which I am so grateful for in the Times. We have a great culture of, there's, like, no crunch at the New York Times, basically.

And so that enables you to have sort of, like, side hustles. If you are the type of person who's interested in doing other things, that allows you to explore new skills, like, without pressure. That's my favorite part about a side hustle, is that I don't have a deadline. No one's yelling at me to do it a certain way by a certain time.

Like, you can take the Pasta Tarot took me, like, two and a half years to design that thing and get it out. And I just kept telling myself the whole time, like, “This is a privilege. Just enjoy doing things exactly how you like them and don't really worry about how long it's going to take you.” 

That's one of my favorite parts of the stability of, like, working a full-time day job, for sure.

Where can we go to learn more about you and your work?

To be honest, nowhere. I am over being found on the internet, but if you would like to connect with me, I definitely am a fan of LinkedIn, especially for everything in the games industry, because I'll frequently repost job opportunities I see or things like that. So if you're approaching me around game stuff, find me on LinkedIn.

Have a game to sell?

Let’s find out if we play well together.