DURHAM -- In the basement of the American Tobacco campus, you'll find Joystick Labs, a videogame-startup accelerator. There is a big difference between what Joystick does, and what other similar organizations do, John Austin, the outfit's managing director explains.
"The difference between an accelerator like Joystick Labs and accelerators like YCombinator and TechStars is that those places are trying to get things started. Because we're funding mostly mobile games for iOS that only take months to develop, we can actually help people get things finished."
Austin is like the greatest Little League coach you ever had -- and he does, in fact, coach baseball in his spare time. He worked in games for decades before deciding to head up the accelerator.
But I have to confess that we really fell for the second team. wefiends was founded by Nick and Kevin Barrios, along with their friend, Samantha Fung, who creates original music. The team, shy and self-effacing, recently moved from Los Angeles to Durham because of Joystick Lab's support. Their game looked wonderful. It was a time-management game in the style of the Sims or Diner Dash that puts you in control of "making a movie." The graphics are slick and the demo of the gameplay had that out-of-control feedback loop quality that seems to make those kinds of games impossibly addictive. We particularly liked Fung's music, which will play after you complete a movie in the game, and changes based on the kind of movie you were nominally making. In the embedded video, we hear the epic and western tracks.