Tag of Joy: Games, Fun and Innovation in Lithuania

    Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Conrad Rasmussen, concept designer and copywriter at Tenfour, a creative communications agency based in Töölö.

    I recently met Tag of Joy – the Lithuanian gaming startup –at AppCampus here in Finland. They had come to Espoo to improve their new geo-fighting game, Monster Buster, and join dozens of other developers in the hunt for some accelerator funding.

    In Monster Buster, players search for monsters in their real-world environment – from the streets outside their home, to the park down the road. The goal: find, fight and capture these monsters on their mobile devices.

    “It transforms gaming into an outdoor activity,” says Šarūnas Ledas, Tag of Joy CEO and co-founder. “What makes this game even more exceptional is its visual style. Our twisted, quirky, but also very cute monsters set Monster Buster apart from the rest of the over-saturated colourful mobile gaming crowd.”

    Beside Monster Buster, Tag of Joy recently released a beautiful learning app for Windows Phone, called ABC Book 3D. Each letter has an interactive toy waiting to be discovered, making it the perfect way to engage younger children while they learn their ABCs and some basic words.

    “Our innovation comes from combining different mechanics with advanced technology to make gameplay even more interesting,” explains Šarūnas. “For example, we’ve been working extensively with Augmented Reality and the ways we can use it to add real value to the experience, not just for effect.”

    Šarūnas and Tag of Joy were also quick to promote Vilnius as a vibrant hub of gaming. “There are some larger gaming companies in Vilnius, but there are also about ten gaming startups too. Local game developers have been around for quite a while now. In fact, Vilnius was one of the first cities in the world to host game jams over a decade ago – this was before game jams went global or the startup scene was even born in the region.“

    Tag of Joy is one of the bigger startups with a team of seven, and they’re also one of the most awarded – including Best App of the Year 2012 at Mobile Premier Awards during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    However, Šarūnas says there’s still a lot to be learned in the Vilnius gaming scene. “We try to keep in touch with most of the developers and help each other whenever we can. Some local startups have already published very successful games and we’re still growing into what we’re doing. Most of the local gaming startups can learn a lot from each other’s experiences.”

    “We’re constantly searching for new gaming experiences,” Šarūnas continues. “Making something that’s been done a hundred times before is not our final goal.”