For using videogames to tackle tough social issues—and boring corporate training programs
"Once you know how to develop a project, you can do anything," says Tom Giovanetti. Following that mantra has allowed him to live out a childhood dream of using gaming to make the world a better place.
“My real passion is to help people change their behavior in a positive way while doing something they love,” he says. “There are billions of people who enjoy playing videogames and also billions of people who really can change their habits and become a better citizen.”
At 16, he began turning that bold idea into reality, founding TGA Entertainment. To build his technical acumen and forge ties with collaborators, he joined online developer communities. One of the folks he met was social media creator Jordi, who helped teach Giovanetti how to create games. First up: You Deserve, a title aimed squarely at helping kids “understand why bullying is wrong—while simultaneously playing and having fun,” Giovanetti says. Despite a modest project budget of ARS15,000, it sold more than 25,000 copies and briefly snagged the top global sales spot for new releases at online videogame store Steam when the game debuted in 2016.
Soon after, the Argentinian expanded the startup’s portfolio to training games for corporate clients—pivoting from a promising junior tennis career to make his mark in what was then still an emerging field. Like many a newbie, he faced some serious skepticism.
“One of the biggest challenges facing young project leaders is gaining the respect of more experienced team members and investors,” he says. “In my case, gamification was something new and disruptive for the top management of companies. Being very young and talking about something very new was a huge challenge.”
To fuel momentum, Giovanetti brought in influential partners, including Julio Alfonsin, former CFO for Arcos Dorados S.A. , Mario Dell’Acqua, former CEO of Aerolíneas Argentinas, and Marcelo Rolandelli, former director for IBM. He also built relationships with entrepreneurs like Nicolas Tibaudin (now chief marketing officer) and Agustina Kicillof (now chief product officer). With their help, Giovanetti added regional partners like Deloitte for cybersecurity training. He has also managed to attract corporate clients in need of training solutions, including Bayer, Bimbo, FEMSA, Nestlé and Novartis. For Spanish delivery company Seur, TGA created El Juego de la Última Milla, a title that uses gamified tests designed to put job applicants more at ease so their skills can shine through.
“We’re trying to change all of the typical and boring training within organizations by transforming that content into fun and innovative videogame experiences,” Giovanetti says.
Now 24, he’s built a team of nearly 100 people, and more than 500,000 people have played TGA games.
It’s nowhere near game over for this rising leader.
Q&A: Tomás Giovanetti on agile ways of working and surrounding yourself with the right people
What’s your project management superpower?
Being able to read people and recognize when someone is a good fit for the job. By having this ability, I can avoid wasting valuable time and resources. Furthermore, this superpower helps me surround myself with great professionals who help my company become more successful and efficient.
How are young people changing the world of projects now?
We are bringing new perspectives, skills and tools to drive innovation and transform the way projects are managed. Young people are also more likely to be familiar with agile ways of working that prioritize flexibility, collaboration and rapid iteration.