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The company was founded in 2006 by two USC grads who had a goal of making games that evoke a specific feeling. The company's first title was flOw, which was part of cofounder Jenova Chen's thesis for graduation from the Interactive Media Division.
Creative director Jenova Chen graduated from USC in 2006, where he helped develop flOw and concept the as-yet unrealized Cloud; after graduation, he worked at Maxis for a brief period of time but left to continue on full-time with thatgamecompany.
Kellee Santiago, who is the president and cofounder of thatgamecompany, worked with Chen on Cloud; she also was involved with developing Darfur is Dying, which highlighted the plight of Darfur refugees and received a grant from MTVu.
Thatgamecompany's first release, flOw, which has gamers evolving an organism over a series of levels, began as a student project for graduation. Based on the theory of Active Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (ADDA), the game was built with the idea that players should be able to adjust the difficulty of a game without having to exit to a menu or start over.
The project eventually led to a three-game deal with Sony for PlayStation Network, the first of which was flOw, which was released in the spring of 2007; the game was later ported to the PSP in 2008.
The developer's next game, Flower, continues the themes of flOw -- both in terms of its naturalistic world, and its innovative, technology-driven gameplay. It will be released later this year.
"The company's single release, flOw, has gotten lots of press, not just for its thoughtful approach to casual game design, but also as early proof of the PlayStation Network's worth as a service. As a company, thatgamecompany is different, from its unassuming name to its small-team structure and lofty goals.
TGC is one of a new breed of students-turned-professional-developers, with plenty of theory under the members' collective belts, and a different approach to what constitutes "fun".
The next release, Flower, should prove the company is not just a one-trick pony. Not
that I know anything about it..."
- Brandon Sheffield