- Jesse Schell
Chief Executive Officer
Since starting Schell Games in 2002, Jesse has grown it into the largest and most successful game development company in Pennsylvania. Under his leadership, Schell Games has produced an amazing array of innovative, family-friendly entertainment experiences including the Disney Fairies MMO, Pixie Hollow, the award-winning Toy Story Mania TV Game, and some of the most popular interactive theme park attractions in the world.
Jesse also currently holds a faculty position as Professor at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University where he teaches classes in Game Design and serves as advisor on a multitude of innovative projects. Since 2006, Professor Schell has taught the Building Virtual Worlds class, created by ETC Co-Founder and The Last Lecture author, Randy Pausch.
Jesse authored the critically acclaimed book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. The book captured Game Developer magazine’s coveted “Front Line Award” for 2008.
Prior to starting Schell Games, Jesse was the Creative Director of the Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, where he worked and played for seven years as designer, programmer, and manager on numerous projects for Disney theme parks and DisneyQuest.
He is perhaps most celebrated for his design of Disney’s Toontown Online, the first massively multiplayer game for kids. Toontown Online has won several awards, including the following:
- Computer Gaming World – “2003 MMORPG Game of the Year”
- Webby Awards – “2003 People’s Voice Award, Kids Category”
- Parents’ Choice Foundation – “2003 Silver Honor”
- Children’s Software Review – “2003 All Star Software Award”
- WiredKids – “2005 Safe Gaming Award”
- 2005 Webby Awards – “Webby Worthy Selection Award”
In addition to his award-winning work at The Walt Disney Company, Jesse has achieved numerous accomplishments, including the following:
- Selected as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2009 Finalist for Upstate NY, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia region
- Named one of the world’s Top 100 Young Innovators by MIT’s Technology Review (2004)
- Served as Director and Chairman of the International Game Developers Association (2003-2005)
- Lead designer of “2001 Thea Award” winner, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Buccaneer Gold, a virtual reality attraction within Disney’s theme park
- Cut his technical teeth as a Software Engineer for IBM and Bell Communications Research
- Earned a Master’s Degree in Information Networking from Carnegie Mellon University
- Earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
- Plied his creative skills as writer, director, performer, juggler, comedian, and circus artist for both Freihofer’s Mime Circus and the Juggler’s Guild
- Jake Witherell
Chief Operating Officer
Jake Witherell has over 15 years of experience in founding, managing, advising, and investing in companies within the high technology, telecommunications, retail, and business services industries.
Jake is Chief Operating Officer of Schell Games, where he oversees the operations and business development efforts of the company. Jake was previously a co-founder and Managing Partner of M Park Capital, a private investment firm focused on acquiring and operating lower middle market companies.
Prior to M Park Capital, Jake was Chief Operating Officer of a division of Premiere Global Services (NYSE:PGI), a global provider of communications solutions that automate and improve business processes. Prior to Premiere Global Services, Jake held the position of Chief Operating Officer of Netspoke, Inc., an integrated web and audio conferencing service provider. Netspoke was twice named to the prestigious INC 500, the fastest growing private companies in the United States.
Before Netspoke, Jake was co-founder and President of iMeet, Inc., an internet communications service provider. There he grew it into a $10MM company and oversaw the successful merger with audio conferencing provider Netspoke, Inc. Jake also was the VP of Marketing and Business Development at internet start-up SneakerLabs, Inc. Jake is a past or current Director of iMeet, Netspoke, StonyCreek Trading, M Park Capital, and HeartPrints Center for Early Education. Jake holds a BA in Economics from Tufts University and an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. He also earned a certification from the Entrepreneurial Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Reagan Heller
Vice President of Art
As the Vice President of Art at Schell Games, Reagan sets the overall artistic vision for each project and oversees the Art team as well as assists with general studio staffing and management.
Reagan Heller began her foray into entertainment technology as an undergrad, working on visual direction and asset creation for masters level game design projects. After completing her undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Carnegie Mellon University with a minor in Art with Digital Concentration- she joined the Human Computer Interaction lab’s Stage 3 ALICE team. This experience prompted her to enroll at the Entertainment Technology Center at CMU to pursue a master’s degree- as well as complete an interim internship with Disney’s VR Studios team. Upon completing her masters, Reagan joined Schell Games as one of the first employees and began to create and guide the visual direction for the company.
With Schell Games, Reagan has worked with the growing art team on a wide range of projects- acting in various roles and working directly with many of our clients such as Disney/PIXAR, Microsoft, and Raytheon. Each project offers a new challenge and fresh aesthetic approach she guides rallying the team behind with a strong vision.
In her spare time, Reagan enjoys battling the undead and preparing for the impending apocalypse.
- Chuck Hoover
Vice President of Production
As a Vice President of Production at Schell Games, Chuck manages everything from project milestones, staff workload, and communication within project teams. He has managed Schell Games’ relationships with clients such as Disney, Microsoft, and Electronic Arts among others. He was lead studio producer on the interactive theme park attraction, Toy Story Mania (recipient of the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement for an Attraction), as well as Pixie Hollow Online (winner of the 2009 Parents Choice Award, Silver Honor).
Chuck graduated from Virginia Tech magna cum laude with a degree in Architecture and Design from Virginia Tech. Post graduation he utilized his degree as an adjunct course instructor teaching 3D modeling and heading up the design and production of the Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon house. His love of managing complex projects and providing teams with everything they need to succeed led him to the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, where he received his Masters of Entertainment Technology.
Prior to joining Schell Games, Chuck worked as a producer for Electronic Arts on the Sims2 Pets. He also co-founded Airship Studios and acts as Producer and 3D artist for the independent massively multiplayer online game, Skyrates (winner of Wizards of the Coast Gleemax Award for strategic gameplay).
A passion for the game and entertainment industry has influenced Chuck both in and out of the work place. In addition to being an active member of his local IGDA chapter, he has recently been named as a committee member for the annual IGDA Leadership forum. When he does need a break from spreadsheets and scrum meetings, Chuck fills his free time outdoors, backpacking and adventure racing with his wife Sarah and their dog Fredrick.
- Matt Mahon
Vice President of Engineering
At Schell Games, Matt is responsible for managing the project programming teams, where he utilizes his managerial and technical skill sets. He establishes conventions and work flow processes, assigns tasks and responsibilities, and oversees the technical design of the projects. Additionally he is the first point of contact for other groups dealing with the tech team. Matt works closely with both the Art and Design teams to ensure that the technical aspects of both teams are taken into account and opportunities are exploited. Matt is also the primary technical contact for external partners.
Most recently Matt was Technical Director for Disney’s Pixie Hollow Online (winner of the 2009 Parents Choice Award, Silver Honor), an MMO based on the Tinkerbell franchise. As a 15-year veteran of the game industry, Matt shares his experience across the company, acts as a sounding board for issues while lending insight from past experience, helps with hiring and company growth issues, and tells long rambling stories about the old days.
In 1995 Matt got his start working with Ron Gilbert at Humongous Entertainment. Hired as a programmer, Matt worked on a number of award winning titles including Freddi Fish2: Case of the missing Kelp Seeds, Let’s Explore the Farm, Let’s Explore the Airport, and Let’s Explore the Jungle. Matt then worked as a Programming lead and co-designer on Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, Pajama Sam2: Thunder and Lighting aren’t so Frightening, Backyard Football, and Blues Clues: Reading Time. Matt was involved in every aspect of these projects; scheduling, production, design, script revisions, writing filler dialog, casting and directing voice talent, and more. Matt represented the company at several E3 conventions showcasing the products to the press. He attended the 2000 AIAS award show where Backyard Football was nominated for PC sports game of the year. Matt was also sent to the NFL office in New York City to pitch the treatment of the NFL license integration into the Backyard Sports franchise.
In 2003 Matt joined Chris Taylor at Gas Powered Games. Hired as a technical level designer for Dungeon Siege2 (RPG of the Year 2005, Gamespy, PC Gamer), Matt was responsible for creating environments that reflected the epic scope of the game. With his background in programming, Matt was also responsible for much of the event and quest scripting in the game. Through the systems he put in place, usability of the scripting language was expanded, allowing less tech-savvy designers to use the language. Matt assumed the role of Lead Level Designer for the Broken World expansion. Later Matt transitioned to Supreme Commander (PC Gamers Editors Choice 91%) as the Content Engineering Manager. Over the last six months of the project, he helped turn around and organize a department facing serious production challenges, transforming the single player campaign from a weakness to a strength. Matt also represented Gas Powered Games at the E3 Conference.
Outside of work Matt spends time with his wife and 2 children. Still an avid gamer, Matt never passes up a chance to play a good board game, plays Minecraft with the kids, and plays his games after they go to sleep.
- Paul Stephanouk
Vice President of Design
Paul Stephanouk joined Schell Games in June 2013 as Vice President of Design. In this role he works closely with Jesse Schell in leading the design team and directing the vision for the company’s varied projects.
Previously he served as Executive Producer at Zynga’s East Coast studio in Baltimore, Maryland, which he helped establish in 2009. He led the production of the online hit ‘FrontierVille’ and other notable games during his tenure there. Prior to his stint with Zynga, Stephanouk served in leadership roles at Big Huge Games, where he honed his experience in producing and designing video games for consoles, PCs and the web, including Catan! for Xbox Live and the award-winning Rise of Nations.
When Paul isn’t building games he’s playing them with his family and friends, building things with Lego and collecting space program memorabilia. He also likes robots. A lot.
- Sheri Graner Ray
Sheri Graner Ray
Senior Design Advisor
Sheri Graner Ray has been in the game industry since 1989. She started at Origin Systems where she was a writer and designer on the original Ultima PC game series.
In 1993 she went on to work at American Laser Games (ALG) where she helped start Her Interactive. As Director of Product Development she carried the vision for the division and became a regular speaker on the topic of girls and games at major industry events. In addition, Sheri served as Creative Director on Vampire Diaries and Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill.
Her book, Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market was released in 2003. It received a Game Developers Choice nomination for book of the year and is regularly included on “Books all Designers Should Own” lists.
In 2003, Sheri started work as a Senior Designer for Sony Online Entertainment. She worked as lead designer on an original IP title for 18 months. In 2004 she became Content Lead on the flagship title Star Wars Galaxies where she and her team of seven designers revamped the game tutorial and produced 30 new levels of content for all 9 player classes.
In December of 2005 Sheri left Sony Online Entertainment to begin working with numerous clients, including Cartoon Network’s FusionFall, an MMO based upon major Cartoon Network properties. She also worked with such groups as TellTale Games (CSI-Hard Evidence), Fresh Games (Cubix), CCP/Whitewolf (Eve Online and an unannounced title), KingsIsle (Wizards 101), Kraft Foods (advergaming) and the US Military (GeoCommander – 2008 Serious Game of the Year/ Gov’t category).
Sheri’s work in gender and games has been widely recognized. In 2005 she was awarded the IGDA’s Game Developers Choice award for community. In 2004 she was listed by Hollywood Reporter as one of the top 50 Most Influential Women in Computer Entertainment and in 2006 she was listed on Next Gen’s list of 100 Most Influential Women in Computer Games.
In 2000 Sheri co-founded and currently serves as the Executive Chair for Women in Games International (WIGI). This organization is dedicated to raising awareness of issues surrounding women in the game industry. WIGI currently sponsors numerous happy hours and networking events around the country.
Currently Sheri is working with Schell Games as Senior Design Advisor. One of her areas of focus is the design and structure of tutorials and how they can be used to increase player accessibility and retention.
While she has worked as everything from a writer/designer to head of a non-profit organization, her first love is game design and she describes herself as a “hard-core gamer.” She currently lives in Austin, Texas where she and her husband, Tim, spend their weekends participating in high performance driving events in their Corvettes.