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I Am American Business

Trip Hawkins

Producer Notes

I don't generally think of video games as bringing people together or creating a sense of community. When I was preparing to interview Trip Hawkins, I was expecting him to focus on new games and applications for mobile phones. Trip has always worked with the newest technology. Hard-core gamers revere him for founding Electronic Arts and for creating the now defunct 3DO console. But Trip's message surprised me. He's concerned with people's increasing isolation. With his new company, Digital Chocolate he's now making games that connect people to each other, first through the game, and then with the option of meeting in real life. He told me he's moved his wife and kids from an isolated house to a friendlier neighborhood. He's really trying in his personal life and in his business to bring people together, an interesting perspective for a video game creator. While we were shooting he passed a couple of relaxed moments playing his favorite "social" game, MLSN Sports Picks. You know he's playing with other people. They are all (below him) on the leader board. But does that count?

Video Interview

When I First Saw a Computer
These Guys Thought Like Artists
Business is a Necessary Evil
If You Get Knocked Down, Get Up Again
The Bigger Mission Has Always Been Making Social Connections

The "I Am" Q&A


What kind of car do you drive?
I drive a Lexus LS 400 sedan and to me, it's just the most efficient tool there is. I don't really care about how clean it is on the outside. It's got scratches, but when I'm in that thing, it's really quiet. I've got plenty of seating. I've got my kids baby seat in the back seat. I got lots of trunk room, and it can go really fast.

What's your favorite place to go?
Favorite place to go? Wow, well, maybe Yosemite, which of course is a good drive and just extraordinary landscape.

What website do you like to visit?
What website do I like to visit? You know, I'm a sports, stats junkie, so I'm frequently at the MLB scoreboard part of ESPN and some parts of USA today where they have the team stats.

What was your worst moment in business?
Worst moment in business, probably when 3DO finally went bankrupt.

What's your favorite drink?
Favorite drink? When I go out, I like to have a Cosmo, and its all my wife's fault. She introduces me to all the foofy, sugary drinks, and I got hooked on that one.

What's your favorite food?
The lamb curry the way my mother used to make it and that's unfortunately now, a lost recipe.

What's your idea of fun?
Playing games with my kids.

What's your idea of fun at work?
I like it when I feel like I'm caught up on everything. You know, when you have hundreds of unread emails you're always worried about what's in there that's really important, so it feels good when I can go home when I feel like I'm caught up. And I love getting together and having large meetings with a lot of the employees where we are kind of sharing what is going on and celebrating some of our progress.

What personal weaknesses do you forgive?
For myself, I give myself a little bit of permission to not have the trains always run on time because I'm always trying to pack a lot of stuff in, and I like to stay in the moment with whatever is going on and whoever I happen to be with and kind of honor that even if it means I'm going to be a little late to the next thing, and I really appreciate when people are tolerant about that.

Do I forgive in myself or in others?
Both.

What business weaknesses do you forgive?
Well in myself, you cant try to be all things to all people. Its very important to have a team that's complimentary, so I really appreciate when I can focus on the big picture and the strategies and the ideas and I love having business partners that are really good at the day to day executions, so of course that means if my business partners, if all they want to talk about ideas, that's a problem. Somebody has to actually get stuff done, and I like to get stuff done too, but I know what my role should be.

What movie star do you like?
Oh, I have lots of heroes. I would say…movie stars…Sean Connery would be my all time favorite because I was a complete and total nut for his version of James Bond.

Who's a business hero of yours?
Walt Disney would be right up there although I have a lot of them. Thomas Edison, another one. Both of them incredible inventors. Edison was maybe a little bit mean and nasty as a businessman sometimes. Walt didn't have to get so much into the dirtier bits of the business because he had his brother, Roy, leading the charge on the operations, but I just love the vision that Walt had and the way that he stuck with it. He is just such a role model in terms of passion.

What personal qualities do you admire?
I love people that are passionate. I like people that are socially capable of getting to deep meaningful conversation very quickly. I love people that have empathy and are kind of self-aware, so they are kind of at peace with themselves, and they are not preoccupied with power. I think for everybody there is a very big choice between love and power, and I'm much more interested in people that are interested in love and that's what they want to bring the world.

And in business?
You know, on my team, what's really crucial in accountability. People have to be willing to make commitments and stick with them and be willing to be held accountable for what happens or what doesn't happen. What drives me crazy is the opposite of that. People are reluctant to make commitments because they are afraid of sticking their neck out and when they don't deliver they want to make excuses or they want to blame someone else.

Are you doing anything green? Anything for the environment?
You know, I want to do a lot more. This is something that I am just now beginning to get a lot more interested in. As a personal consumer, I'm doing a lot. I live in a much smaller house now. I drive a lot less. I'm a fanatic for shutting off machinery and lights and equipment and keeping things kind of batten down. I moved my family much closer to the center of the town so that we could do a lot more walking, a lot more biking. So if I can walk somewhere, I do. If I can bike somewhere, I do. So that's a personal level. At a similar, more professional level, this is probably something that I have in front of me before I'm done and even probably helping my children appreciate how to do more in this direction, but one of the things I like about Silicon Valley is that generally these are pretty green industries. We are helping people have a lot of bang for the buck with a very small cell phone that doesn't generate a lot of energy and even the manufacturing of that phone didn't burn up a lot of energy.

What was your greatest moment in business?
I've had a few really peak moments. One of them is when I signed a contract with Sega after spending two years on an incredibly stealthy project, reverse engineer of the 60 bit Sega Genesis. And as soon as I had signed that contract with them where I knew that I had completely crushed them in these negotiations and out maneuvered them, and I knew that I had basically guaranteed the success of Electronic Arts. And I knew it. And basically in the two years that followed that moment. The value of that company went from $60 million, and it was at an all time low as a public company and it reached $2 billion within two years.

And what was your greatest moment in life?
Meeting my wife. It was definitely one of those situations where I knew there was something magic right away. And you know, I've been married now for over eleven years, and its just as great as it ever was.

What's the most unusual thing in your wallet?
The most unusual thing in my wallet? You know, I just removed it finally, but for about 20 years I was carrying around a Malibu Grand Prix Drivers License figuring that I might use it again, and after a while I realized, you know, I don't really need to carry this around.

What is your dream?
What is my dream? I want to grow old and stay close to my children, and I want to be part of the generation that actually fixes the global warming problem. I want to help my generation and my kids how critical it is that we do that.

Do you have a motto?
I have so many mottos I don't know where to start. Shall I just rattle off a few? "Creativity is the rearranging of the old in a new way." "If you can't fix it, feature it." The Outward Bound motto is, "If you can't get out of it, get into it."

What's Digital Chocolates?
Actually here is a good one because its kind of long, and it's more about me. Carl Deutsch said this, "We are all torn between the will to live and the wish to die. And the wish to die becomes strong when we are no longer willing to continue to change"

What is your present state of mind?
My present state of mind is I'm very excited about where things are going, and I mean that in just about every possible dimension. It's been a lot of hard work and toil and a certain amount of suffering that has gone on in the last 4 or 5 years, and I feel like I am right on the brink of a lot of really great things.

Transcript

CNBC:
Can you talk about how you've always been interested in games?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Well, when I was a kid it was the golden age of television when “Leave it to Beaver” was on and I just noticed with my friends that everyone wanted to watch TV, and I thought TV was kind of slow and not very interactive. As much as we all love TV for some things, I wanted to be more active. And I noticed from playing board games, that I was really thinking and more involved really using my brain. I sort of personally stumbled onto the concept that you learn by doing. And of course, I thought, "Hey, this is really cool. This is a great way to learn," and when I first saw a computer I thought, "Hey, that’ s perfect because you can put all the machinery inside out of view, and give people interesting experiences without having to do that much heavy lifting."

CNBC:
How do you feel about non-computer games?

TRIP HAWKINS:
The thing about being human is that we’re built to play. All mammals are, and we’ve got this huge limbic brain. We have a lot of emotional capacity, so we play as a way of learning how to survive, but also as a way of interacting socially with other people. So play is incredibly integral to life. And of course, games are a way of creating a format for play that’s more consumable. You can create fantasies. You can simulate things. You can pretty much learn about any topic you want in that format. And it’s just a great way to get back to our roots in terms of what we’re really all about. When I was a kid, obviously, we’re, we’re all trying to make our way in the world. We're all trying to connect with other people. We’re trying to figure out what we’re good at. And, I realize that I loved to have ideas, and then see those ideas brought to life. And I love to use games as a way of connecting with other people. So I’ve just been on this journey my whole life using games as the grist for the mill help all of my social connections work. And it started happening for me as a kid when I became a sports fan. And I really got into following football and baseball, and looking at the statistics, and I sort of discovered how numbers work. I remember when I got a board game, and it had dice. I studied the dice, and I realized, "Wow, there was more ways to roll a seven, than to roll a 12," and, "Hey, that means the probability is different," and I started breaking it down and essentially figured out how probability theory works on my own. And then I was able to start applying that kind of knowledge to designing my own games. I don’t think I could live without games. It’s so fundamental to how I want to interact with people and how I think. I love to read, and I love to enjoy other media, but really nothing is up there with games.

CNBC:
Do you still play games?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I have probably the best personal collection of games you’re going to find anywhere. And of course I have games in all media. And for many years I’ve just been a nut for almost any form of software, but games especially whether it’s card games, board games, computer games, video games, I’ve just got a spectacular collection. And of course now I have four kids that are at different ages, so when we want to play, boy, we just got a fantastic set of choices.

CNBC:
When you saw your first computer, you made some connection. At the time, games didn’t really exist on the computer, so how did you make that connection?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I played a lot of different kinds of games as a kid but the ones that I really liked were simulations, where they were trying to recreate something within the real world. The problem with simulation is there’s a lot of machinery that has to get operated. And if you do it by hand, and a good example would be Dungeons and Dragons, or war games, it’s really just too much work for most people to play. People feel like they have to be the computer, and that’s not really what they’re there for. They want the fantasy of the experience. They don’t want to do all the work. And when I saw a computer I realized that we could actually put the work inside the machine, and on the screen, we could make a picture of what we wanted you to interact with. And it’ll turn into real life in a box.

CNBC:
How old were you when you saw your first computer, and did you know you were having a big thought when you realized this?

TRIP HAWKINS:
By the time I saw a computer I was about, 16 or 17, and I already knew I wanted to make games and do that as a profession. And I was just struggling with the media at that time because there were no computers. So when I first saw a computer, I thought, "Great, this is the answer. I just have to wait for this technology to get cheap enough that it gets into homes."

CNBC:
So you knew when you saw a computer that you could do that?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Absolutely. When I first saw a computer, I knew, this was the answer for me. I was going to be able to make real life in a box and expose the kind of games I wanted to play to the public. I knew I could make games for them, and it was just a matter of how are the prices going to come down and how are these devices and technologies going to get into homes.

CNBC:
Can you tell us about the start of Electronic Arts?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I founded Electronic Arts in 1982 but I really started thinking about in 1972, 10 years beforehand, when I saw computers. I started thinking about what I wanted to do for them. And then I went off to college that fall of 1972, and got a chance to take a computer class and really get my hands on a computer and start writing computer games for myself. Then over the years I thought, "Okay, how do I differentiate my business ideas from other people’s? I can’t just do the same thing everybody else is doing." I went to business school and I studied a lot of different things, and I worked for other people to try to learn how to run my own company. I had this epiphany in 1975. I was working for a big computer software lab in Santa Monica, and a co-worker of mine came back from lunch and told me that he’d been in a retail store, where you could actually rent one of these old terminals, take it home for $10 an hour, and have it tie back into your mainframe computer at the office. I thought, "Wow, that’s really cool because if that’s going on, then eventually more and more people will do that and they’ll have computer access at home." And then he said, "Well that’s not all. I just read about this company, Intel that has put a whole computer on a chip." So he and I were sitting there going, "Wow, so you’ll be able to have your own computer in the home." And that just completely fried my afternoon. I went back to my desk, sat down with a piece of paper, and I basically thought about how long will it take for these technologies I’ve just heard about to be commercially and widely available to the public. And I decided that it would take a certain number of years, and then it would take me a little while to get things going. So basically, in the summer of ’75, I decided that I would found Electronic Arts in 1982. And by then of course I had already struggled with some of my own business ideas, and I thought, "Well, I need to go finish my education. I need to make sure that I’m learning the things that I need to learn, and then I need to go help somebody else build a company, so I know how to build one before I have to try to do it myself." And sure enough by the time 1982 rolled around, it was definitely time to get going, and I founded Electronic Arts and got on with it.

CNBC:
It's amazing to think about the fact that none of this existed, and that you had the foresight to see it existing.

TRIP HAWKINS:
Well one thing I can say is I have a tremendous amount of patience and willingness to look many, many years ahead, and plan and wait for things to work out.

CNBC:
Do you think you had the idea for Electronic Arts in your head, in some way when you saw your first computer?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Yeah, the big dream that I had as a kid is that I wanted to make simulations of football and baseball. Those were my two favorite sports. So as a game designer, that’s kind of where I got started, and of course, when I saw my first computer, I realized that this was the platform I needed, to really turn this into a commercial business. So really the ideas behind Electronic Arts got started as much as 10 years ahead of when I founded the company.

CNBC:
When you started Electronic Arts, you had a concept about bringing the artistic vision that had gone into other art forms to the computer. Can you talk a little bit about that?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Before Electronic Arts, I was at Apple, and I had the opportunity to work with these incredibly brilliant software engineers. And I appreciated the fact that these guys thought like artists, and they acted like artists. And in mainstream entertainment, which I very much wanted computer games to become, the leading creative people in those fields, they were artists. They were treated that way, and their work was treated as an art form. That's not how people at that time thought about engineering of any kind. And that’s really what I wanted to do is to bring that level of recognition to it, and also to create a computer personality, where you could attract the best creative people because they appreciated how you were going to treat them. I thought, "Okay, what's going to be my edge, and how am I going to define what I’m doing differently?" Once I had that key idea of the software developer as an artist, once I had that idea, a whole bunch of other ideas flowed from that, because I realized that I need to go study the music industry, I need to study the book publishing and Hollywood and figure out how they do things, why they do them that way, and then I need to borrow, and rearrange, the things that they’re doing to fit my industry so that I can invent and create this new industry. When I founded Electronic Arts, the big idea was to treat the developer as an artist. And call them software artists, and really treat them as if they were the Rolling Stones.

CNBC:
What is the new frontier of games?

TRIP HAWKINS:
What's happened with media over the years, we’ve gone from a lot of passive playback media, to media that’s more involving and where the people themselves are shaping it. McLuhan said that the medium is the message. I think today the consumer is the message, and computers of course started that because they’re interactive. Now, we’re seeing it exploding in all these different forms. It’s not just the PC, it’s the PC on the Internet, and it’s not just that, we also have dedicated consoles and hand-held games and laptop computers, and of course now, mobile phones. Where the mobile phone fits in, it’s the social computer. The reason people carry it is because they want to be socially connected. And it’s not just a talk, with the voice capability. They’re sending text messages, they’re using the Internet on their phone, and they’re also engaged in chat and other social capabilities. In fact almost everything that people are doing with their mobile phone has a social aspect to it.

CNBC:
So how does that fit with your game philosophy?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I think in the early days for me with games I was thinking that it was about a competition with television. And television had photorealism, and games needed to improve the graphics to compete with that. So the game industry has been on this 30-year march to make the 3-D graphics better and the experience more immersive and that’s kind of the defining characteristic of major games like John Madden Football and Grand Theft Auto. But, what I’m realizing now, in hindsight is that, for me the bigger mission has always been making social connections with people. And what I’m finding about the public is that for the most part they don’t really want to have an extremely deep, complicated game experience. They want something more casual that’s more accessible, something more convenient and simpler. And of course, if you look at mass-market gaming phenomena, whether it’s going to a Super Bowl party, going to Las Vegas, watching a TV game show, etc, those are all consumed by these very, very large audiences, and they tend to do it as a group. It’s a group experience. Really, the game play is just, whatever you need to get the process going and get the party started. And now, the mobile phone picks up on that because it’s the one platform that you always have with you. And it’s what really connects you with other people.

CNBC:
Why do you think it is so important for media to start focusing on becoming social media?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I grew up in a golden age of television where it was so exciting to have this medium come into the home, and it’s almost like we went from the fireplace as the hearth to the television as the new hearth. I think what’s happened in the last few decades though is that people are beginning to feel a social loss. If you compare what we were like 100 years ago, everybody lived in a small village, and they had a perfect social life. They spent the whole day with their family; they saw the same intimate friends every day. You didn’t have to think about it, but your social life was perfect. And today, people live in a big city, they don’t know their neighbors, they go out in public, and they’re surrounded by strangers. They spend too much time in their car by themselves; they’re watching too much television by themselves. So people are feeling increasingly isolated from a social standpoint, and this now finally being chronicled. 50 years ago, we didn’t even know that cigarette smoking was dangerous, so we’re just now beginning to catch on how dangerous it is to have this decline in social capital. But it’s starting to get measured. Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, he actually isolated some variables. He determined that if you’re a smoker, and you’re not a member of a club, you can lower your mortality rate in half if you stop smoking. Or, you can keep on puffing away, and join a club, and have the same reduction. So that’s astonishing, and I think today people have a hard time believing it, probably the same way 50 years they didn’t want to believe that smoking was dangerous. But having a bad social life is probably even worse than smoking.

CNBC:
So are you saying that social games are going to take over?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I would sort of broaden that just to say social media in general. Okay, so if you have a medium that does in fact have some social, uh, connections that it—that it comes with, there’s just going be increasing bias that the public will opt for that instead of traditional content media where the whole idea is just killing time being amused by yourself. So for example, I've got a 12-year-old son. If he has his buddies over, and if it was 10 years ago, they’d spend all their time playing a Playstation game. You know, taking turns. Now what they do is they do a little bit of that, but then they also look at YouTube videos together and laugh together. Or they introduce each other to stuff or they’ll play some other casual thing on the Internet. And then they’ve got their mobile phones and their iPods. I mean, there’s just much more of a sense of community around that type of media and I guess the point I’m trying to make about mobile games specifically, is that a mobile game that doesn’t connect you with people, in my opinion that’s obsolete now. Whereas a game where you can send a message from the phone to your friend about it or invite your friend to join you in playing it or have that game connect into a community that has a sense of place, an enjoyable fantasy to go to that place and have kind of that virtual experience. That’s a much better way to go with mobile games.

CNBC:
How are we seeing media move towards becoming social media?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I’ll tell you. The big trend that it’s part of is that when the world got to digital, a lot of media became disconnected from this eternal march towards higher fidelity. And, again you have a classic case of disruptive products where the consumer started opting for convenience and simplicity and social contact. Therefore you have things like the iTunes store and the iPod and playlists and sense of community around sharing songs and sharing playlists, replacing the good old days of an audio CD that has music quality so good the human ear can’t even tell how, how high-fidelity it is. And the same thing, you have a lot of people looking at cable TV that isn’t a good-quality signal compared to what it could’ve been if it was VHS video quality, or even a good-quality NTSC signal for that matter. And you have a lot of people doing crummier video stuff on the Internet, because it’s more convenient, more accessible, and it’s easier to share with other people. There’s just a huge, huge shift going on towards media that is really more at your disposal and it gives you the opportunity to connect socially. So that’s what the whole mobile platform is about. If you thought of the mobile phone as having to really compete with a 70-millimeter film, or against a TV, it can't. It’s not a big screen. It’s not a big box with a lot of really powerful electronics in it, but it is this really convenient form factor. You can take it with you anywhere. You can use it anywhere, and in fact, you can even use it in more places in the home. You can be in bed, you can be in the shower, and literally, I’ve heard stories about guys playing a game in the shower with the mobile phone inside a plastic bag. So you’ve got this convenience, but it’s not competing on the basis of fidelity any more than text messaging is competing with email. On that basis, it’s just not. It wins because of convenience, and it wins because of social value.

CNBC:
What did you see back in the ‘70s and ‘80s that happened, and how did that compare with what’s happening now with mobile phones?

TRIP HAWKINS:
What I first saw with computers early in my career was the interactive potential and learning by doing and giving people more control over their media. And I thought, "Hey, this is going to be a big deal," and it certainly has been. Most recently, I have started looking at mobile phones and thinking about where the mobile phone fits into this. What you see in the mobile phone is it’s not just for voice; you have people adapting things like ringtones because they want to change their social identity. They’re defined, almost like a fashion statement, by what ringtone people around them hear when they’re out in public and by what picture is on their screen. And then they’re willing to adopt these very primitive things like triple tapping out a text message. It’s not just enough to just make voice calls. They’re looking for other ways to express themselves, other ways to define social identity, other ways to connect with people, and they’re very rapidly adopting all of these new things. So what was clear to me about the mobile phone is that it wasn’t a traditional platform where it was going to be driven by fidelity and was gonna be driven by entertainment value, where you’re just having a passive entertainment experience killing time by yourself. Where the mobile phone would really perform and excel was going to be as the social computer, the computer that really ties you together to your social world.

CNBC:
Did you always know that you wanted to be in business for yourself?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I have to honestly say that I’m in business, but I basically just tolerate it. I don’t really want to be in business per se. It’s just that, in order for me to do what I enjoy doing and to really get it out there and to have it be as appreciated by as many people as it can be, it’s got to be done in the context of a commercial, capitalist enterprise. And it’s kind of a necessary evil. It’s not like business for me is a hobby that I’m especially passionate about. I have a lot of skills and experience at it, but I’m really there more for the art of what I’m doing and the social contribution that hopefully comes along with. A business is obviously a sophisticated game, and I like to play that game as much as anyone, but for me, it’s a means to an end. The real purpose of what I’m doing is the creative expression, seeing your ideas come to life, helping people, and helping people that I work with. I love to see people develop and have a great career and help their families. I love to see consumers having a great time and having all these people be really passionate about these new things the way I am.

CNBC:
Have you always been Interested In working with new technology?

TRIP HAWKINS:
As it happens I always find myself out on the leading edge of these new media, and since I’ve done it now for so long, I feel very comfortable out there, being out on the frontier where it’s, it’s rough and, and unclear and a lotta things have to be sorted out, and I don’t mind making that longer-term investment and figuring things out and waiting for it all to come around. And there’s always a lot of confusion in the beginning and different ways of thinking about it as a business. And that’s what I’ve always loved doing is being out there on the front, figuring that out for the first time. Today, the new frontier is social computing, and you see it exploding on the Internet, and it’s also about to explode on the mobile phone. Obviously on the Internet we have this succession where it’s not enough to have YouTube, you’ve gotta have Google, and that doesn’t prevent there from being a need for YouTube or MySpace, or Facebook or Neopets, there’s always different expressions of these different communities that allow people to connect. And, all we’ve really seen so far with the mobile phone, is text messaging. We’re just really at the very starting point with mobile phones that are in fact a much larger number of computers on a much bigger and more ubiquitous network, I mean we have two billion people with these mobile phones today, it’s gonna get to three billion pretty quickly here in the next year or two. Whereas with a PCs we’re talking about hundreds of millions, it’s a much larger market with mobile phones.

CNBC:
So did people think you were crazy back when you first started?

TRIP HAWKINS:
No matter what I tend to be doing, generally people always think I’m crazy, first of all because I’m always talking about things in the future that haven’t happened yet and people have a hard time believing what’s gonna happen. And then secondly, I’m almost always a contrarian, what—whatever direction everybody else is going in, I’m probably figuring out a way to go in a completely opposite direction. Although, I don’t like to do everything completely new, I always look for reference points. I think that history does repeat itself. And I always try to figure out, what has happened before in history, that I can borrow from that would apply to this situation, that would help me figure out how to move forward.

CNBC:
So let’s talk a little bit about a couple of the new social games.

TRIP HAWKINS:
I think today you have a lot of people that would like to expand their social network, stay in touch with their friends and also meet new people, and they’re looking for fun, playful themes that they can grab onto. In some ways they’re looking for plausible deniability, maybe they don’t want it to be obvious that, that they’re feeling kind of socially needy. So with AvaPeeps, we let you create an avatar. And you can decide what the avatar looks like and how they dress but we also let you program their personality. And so it’s sort of a psychology application. And then what you do, you send your avatar out to various virtual locations that we’ve created, and you run into other avatars there, and then you can meet them and go out on dates with them. And then our server generates stories, based on your personalities, it’ll generate a story about what happened on your date. And if two avatars really hit it off, then they’ll get more points and they’ll rank higher on the leader board in things like “charm” and, and so on, and then, they can actually start messaging with each other. And when we watch the trial of AvaPeeps, within a couple of days we found that the average customer is sending about 12 messages a day. So a huge amount of messaging traffic. And also, it only took about four or five days before real users were telling us that they had met, and had real dates in real life, from having their avatars meet in the game. You can also send messages to your friends, uh, with your avatar jumping up and down to wish them a happy birthday. So it’s a very casual form of game-play, that generates a lotta social contact for people.

CNBC:
So, in general, what really gets you excited about what you do?

TRIP HAWKINS:
There are two big, big motivators for me in my work, one is just helping people, and I really enjoy building organizations and helping people advance in their careers. And of course I also love seeing customers get excited about the products. The other thing for me is just seeing ideas come to life, it’s just a real thrill, to just dream something up that never existed and then put it out there and have the public embrace it. I mean that’s just really fantastic.

CNBC:
So if you had to give a pep talk to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would you say to them?

TRIP HAWKINS:
You know, you can’t get anywhere without incredible passion, because if you’re an entrepreneur, there’s gonna be a lotta bumps in the road. And you’ve gotta be able to have a high tolerance for change and ambiguity, and you have to be really tough and really determined. So it comes back to passion, and entrepreneurship is very much like art. I mean a great artist has to do their art, there’s nothing that can stop them from doing it. They just have to get it out, they have to put it out there. It’s the same thing for an entrepreneur, if you don’t feel that way, then you’re probably not really an entrepreneur. It’s gonna be difficult, you’re trying to do new things, there’s gonna be mistakes. And you’re dealing with a highly dynamic situation, a lot of conventional thinkers are gonna tell you that you’re wrong. So if you don’t have a lot of passion for it, you’re not gonna make it. And that’s I think the big test.

CNBC:
So how do you get back up, start something from scratch after seeing one of your great ideas blown out of the water.

TRIP HAWKINS:
I have a number of famous quotes and one of them is, if you get knocked down, get back up again. I don’t really feel like I want to let anything ultimately defeat me. But at the same time I’ve always felt like I’ve learned more from failure than from success. And, you know, you’re gonna have failures, there’s no way to avoid it. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re doing something new, of course they’re gonna be mistakes, how can you not make mistakes, you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s an uncharted territory, there’s gonna be mistakes. You have to have the kind of personality where you— you’re resilient and you can get up and keep moving, and learn what there is. What I tell my employees, is, I want you to make mistakes, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. But, when we make a mistake let’s all study it. Let’s all learn from it. We don’t want to keep making the same mistakes, we want to learn, so we can move forward.

CNBC:
Is that part of the excitement for you, doing something that’s never been done before?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Oh, absolutely. It’s back to that cult of idea, when you’re talking about ideas, you’re talking about doing things that haven’t been done before. And it’s a real thrill to just create something new that nobody’s ever thought of or heard of or didn’t know they needed.

TRIP HAWKINS:
We’re in the era of social computing. And, I think for the next 20-30 years this is gonna be the big trend in every dimension of computing, where people are getting more and more social value out of it. And what I wanna do is have the mobile phone, turn into the hearth that’s in your hand, and have people increasingly find new ways to depend on that device really connecting them with all these different social worlds.

CNBC:
How much time do you spend playing your own games?

TRIP HAWKINS:
Well, each game goes through kind of a cycle. So you’ll play a game until you know, just like a song, you get to a point where you think okay, I’m ready to move on to a new song. But there’s one game for me that is a sports game, called MLSN Sports Picks. And of course, that one was my idea and it’s consistent with my lifelong interest in sports. And I’ve been playing that steadily now for about two years. And, and I’ll keep playing it until we take it off the air. [LAUGHS]

CNBC:
So do you think you’re a game addict?

TRIP HAWKINS:
I’m a total game addict, and of course I play games in all kinds of different forms. And obviously the mobile phone just happens to be the most convenient way to play today.

CNBC:
Do you think you just made games for mobile phones so you can play them more?

TRIP HAWKINS:
You know, my oldest friends have always said that the reason I started Electronic Arts was just to make games that I wanted to play for myself. And there’s, there’s a lot of truth in that, I mean I grew up wanting to make these, sports simulations so I could play them myself and, certainly Madden Football would be one expression of that passion. My friends always used to say that EA’s just an excuse for Trip to make Madden Football. And some people probably today think that Digital Chocolate is an excuse to make MLSN Sports Picks. But at a larger level, I really enjoy making applications that everybody can enjoy.

CNBC:
Tell us about some of the social applications you are working on now at Digital Chocolate.

TRIP HAWKINS:
If you use a mobile phone today to go find a game, what you have to do is you have to know how to navigate around on the phone, find the little retail store on the phone that’s kind of a vending machine. And then you can pick a ringtone or a game and then, then it’ll download it over the air into the phone. And that’s actually kind of an advanced behavior that a lot of people haven’t figured out yet. And, even there, the games are mostly just to amuse yourself by yourself. It’s really just for killing time. So what we aspire to, is to make it a much more relevant experience, and to have it involve other people. One stepping stone to that is what we call the Café Series. So in the Café Series we’ll have a product line of different games, and they’ll be games that people are familiar with. You know, card games, board games, puzzle games. And with any of these games it ties you in to this café. And very much like Starbuck’s has become kind of a third place that people love to go to, ‘cause it’s a warm, social atmosphere, and where they feel kind of special, what we’re trying to do is create a virtual café situation with the phone where you're playing this game and competing and chatting. And then we’ve built a bunch of technologies so that from the game, you can recruit your friends to play with you. So your friends don’t have to know how to find it on their phone, we’ll do that for them. So your friend can receive an email link from you, they could receive an MMS message or an SMS message and they get it on their phone, and they see, oh, here look, here’s a link I can click on, and they click on it, and then they get a free demo of a game. And now you and your friend are playing games as part of the same café system.

CNBC:
Do you think all games are becoming more "social"?

TRIP HAWKINS:
In fact, this is a funny thing, the buzz-word “social community” is very popular now. A few years ago it wasn’t used in the game industry. A few years ago in the game industry if you wanted to play head-to-head multi-player games, they built a thing that they would call the arena. So the traditional game industry, they’re coming from this idea that, hey, we’re all hardcore gamers and we wanna beat each other’s brains in, and it’s all about vicious competition and domination. So if we’re gonna get together the place where we’re gonna get together is gonna be an arena. How's that for a competitive metaphor. And they weren’t really thinking so much about the social value of it. And even now the state of the art with the game companies is something like X-Box Live which in my view is very functional. They’ve got a profile, they’ve got chat, they’ve got rankings and leader boards and a lobby where you can meet other players to play games. It’s kinda functional the way an airport is kinda functional. But the difference between McDonald’s and Starbuck’s, is that McDonald’s is functional, and Starbuck’s is social. And in fact at Starbuck’s now the, the cost of the employee health benefits is greater than the cost of the coffee. And they’re really selling something other than just the coffee, that’s really clear, and that’s what we aspire to with mobile. We’re thinking hey, it’s—it’s gonna be much more than just about the game play. And that’s why it’s important for these social environments on mobile to have a sense of place, to feel like you’re actually going to a virtual destination that has an emotional quality to it, to let people invest emotionally in it, the way they do when they go into a Starbuck’s.