The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.

However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials in how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know you network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.

David Stoveld, COO of Armadillo Studios at EveryMatrix, is the latest member to take to the hot seat, elaborating on struggles while growing up, the negative effects of mergers and activations, the joy of pursuing your passion, and much more.

CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences gained outside of the gambling industry? Could your career have taken any different path?

David Stoveld, COO of Armadillo Studios.

David Stoveld: My entire life, I knew I loved to make and play games. As a kid, I would take a couple of board games like Hero Quest and Monopoly and use the pieces to create new games with new rules and convince my brothers to play with me. 

As a teenager, I loved the StarCraft and Warcraft Campaign editors and other video games that offered in-game creation tools. Poker and blackjack also became a lot more fun as I became older.

I also had financial issues growing up. Everything was great until my dad had a heart attack and couldn’t work anymore. At the same time, the real estate market crashed, taking my mom out of work.

It changes you a lot. Life’s obstacles become less about if you can make it, and you become more driven by the stress and adrenaline, reminding that if you fail, there is nothing to fall back on. And a $5/hour job as a farmer couldn’t make it any clearer that working my way through school was the right path.

I knew I was really good at math, and naturally, since I cared a lot about money at that time, eager to get out of credit card and student loan debt as fast as possible. Every math nerd eventually hears the famous recommendation: Be an Actuary. It quickly solved money issues, and the Actuary exams were fun and challenging (like a complex sudoku puzzle, but the reward was even MORE salary money rather than feeling good for finishing a puzzle).

“Do people get paid to come up with ideas until they discover the next best game to create?”

I did find it ironic, at least for the position I had, to be heavily equipped to tackle any problem, only to press buttons 40 hours a day on software that already figured out what all the rates would be…I would have preferred to make that software.

I’m sure, had I chosen a different actuarial firm or position, I would still be content with a career as a fully accredited actuary today, but luckily my career path shifted significantly.

CB: What was it that eventually led you into this industry?

DS: I remember my Dad always said, what could be better than getting paid for something you enjoy doing? He was referring to professional Ice Hockey, but unlike some of our athletically gifted childhood friends like Daniel Vukovic, or my cousin’s childhood teammate Steven Stamkos, I broke every joint in my body from a variety of sports before finishing college. I was nicknamed Rudy by our coach, so that was a clear fold.

But when I read an ad for a game designer position in Reno, I thought, Seriously?!?! Do people get paid to come up with ideas until they discover the next best game to create?!? And they want people that are good in math!? This was the beginning of happiness for me. 

It seemed the only limit to creativity was the ability to solve the ending game model, making all those actuarial exams worthwhile. It was a big plus in the industry to already understood Markov chains like the back of your hand. Or if you could just look at a pick bonus of prizes and know – yeah, we can solve this with the hypergeometric distribution.

Within the first week of training and just getting to know the personalities of others who choose to work in entertainment, I was positive this would be my industry. The days, months, and years have just blown by.

CB: How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers or any standout experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?

DS: When there is a window of opportunity to peruse your passions, please take it. The more passion you have for what you do, the higher the potential for success. One of the most important career decisions I made moved me from Las Vegas to Stockholm, at around half the salary in a country with a significantly higher cost of living and significantly higher taxes.

“Everything seems to have come together for this perfectly timed opportunity”

It was the opportunity to meet and work with the brightest minds in the igaming industry, own the complete vision of the studio’s games from start to finish, and work and travel in several foreign countries.

From a make it big or die mentality to the Swedish Lagom philosophy, I went to experience replacing fat pay checks with 480 days of parental time off for each child, stress leave, 5+ mandatory weeks of vacation and perhaps the most robust job security that exists. It’s nice to reflect and compare how happy you are when you live a simpler life.

My brother would message me about Sweden’s cool initiative for 6-hour workdays. Meanwhile, I took the mandatory bed benefit in every Swedish office as an invitation to save an hour and a half of sleep during all-nighters before each game pitch to Hammon. 

While I’m sure past habits got in the way of wanting more of a work-life balance, the main driving force was that I loved the work so much. This and the friends and relationships built along the way were key in making a name for myself, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am. 

Everything seems to have come together for this perfectly timed opportunity at EveryMatrix to use both US land-based and online igaming experience in Europe to tackle the evolving US igaming market. 

CB: What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.

DS: Well, I would say that all the mergers and acquisitions throughout the years were definitely for the worse, mainly for their effect on the employees.  It’s never fun to see friends and colleagues go, and I still remember each round of layoffs in Nevada felt less like trimming the fat and more like getting down to the bone.

“I would love to have our players become more educated in gaming”

For the better, I would say it’s the effect technology has had on the gaming experience. Graphics sound quality over the decade has really ramped up, and using new software to prototype and compute mechanics opens more possibilities for new game genres we have seen, like clusters, gigablox, megaways, etc. Also, it’s no secret that the desktop to phone ratio shifts toward more time on cell phones every year.

Also, as an extrovert, I am looking forward to meeting friends at a local bar to play some games together. This opens many opportunities for innovations on group play, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these new start-ups, such as Beyond Play, aim to create more of a multiplier gambling experience. It’s incredible to look at the games a decade ago and see how much everything has changed and will continue to do so.

CB: If you could ask the 100 Club any questions or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?

DS: I would love to have our players become more educated in gaming and ensure they understand how to gamble responsibly. Here in Miami, I see propaganda in commercials with such a negative connotation on igaming.

I can imagine this is déjà vu from the past with similar advertising on why alcohol should be illegal. It’s not that alcoholism or problem gambling isn’t real, but completely forbid it clearly isn’t the answer either.

We learn about the effects of alcohol and its consequences on our health if we don’t drink moderately in middle school. As gambling is being approved state by state, it seems natural to push for more education to help enable people to make responsible decisions.

The actual cut from the casinos, especially on the igaming side, is relatively small, and most of the money put into the games over time is simply distributed to some lucky players.

While gambling is not for everyone, and it’s important to expect to lose what you bet, the thrill of what you can win, especially if and when you do, is an incredibly unique experience not just for the money but for the thrill itself.

Whether it’s a brand-new car, world travel, or fancy dining experiences, life is short, and it is up to us to learn and make decisions with our free will for better or worse. 

If you would like to tell your story, or be considered for the CasinoBeats 100 Club, please email us at [email protected]

Launched to give a voice to the industry on a range of key issues, CB100 tackles the tricky questions and shares members’ views across the CasinoBeats network. Have your say by joining the 100 Club.