Jesse Schell


Jesse Schell is the founder and CEO of Schell Games. Since starting Schell Games in 2002, Jesse has grown it into the largest full-service educational and entertainment game development company in the United States. Under his leadership, Schell Games has produced an amazing array of innovative and award-winning educational and entertainment experiences, including the I Expect You To Die, Happy Atoms, SuperChem VR, and some of the most popular interactive theme park attractions in the world.

He is the author of 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. A second edition of the book was published in November 2014.

Jesse also serves as Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University. Since 2006, Professor Schell has taught the Building Virtual Worlds class, created by ETC Co-Founder and The Last Lecture author Randy Pausch.

Jesse has worked on a wide variety of innovative game and simulation projects for both entertainment and education, but he is also known for his predictions about the future of gaming technology. 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 a previous chair of the International Game Developers Association.

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 been recognized for his numerous achievements, including the following:

  • Received the KAPi Pioneer Award (2019)
  • Honored as a Pioneer of Immersive Reality at the Immersive Perspectives Awards (2018)
  • Named to Inaugural Fellowship Class for Video Game Education (2017)
  • Honored as 'CEO of the Year' at Tech 50 awards ceremony (2016)
  • Named to Pittsburgh's 'Most Admired CEOs List (2016)
  • Received a 'Creator of the Year' award (2016)
  • Named to 'Most Powerful Pittsburgher' List (2015)
  • Received the Carnegie Science Award in the Entrepreneur category (2015)
  • Chosen as a SMART 50 Award winner (2014 and 2015)
  • 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