Small Business Spotlight: Workinman

July 31, 2019 06:24 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- You know the characters: from Spongebob Squarepants to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turns out, they're featured in games created right here in the Rochester studios of Workinman. Jason Arena, a Gates native, started the company.


"Workinman is a game company that focuses on the youth market," Arena said.

Arena had plans to be an art teacher, but after being swept up in the mid 90s by a new thing called the internet, he went to work instead for Nickelodeon in New York City.

"When I moved back a lot of those people still wanted me to do work. So I was able to turn that into a freelance business and people kept asking me to do more work," Arena explained. "So eventually the entrepreneur in me said I should probably start hiring people and that's how Workinman really began."

Don't be fooled by the austere working environment. This is not a start-up company. Workinman has been around for a dozen years and has created more than 1,000 games. And the client list is impressive.

"So we make games for Nickelodeon, Walt Disney, Fisher Price, Mattel, Sesame Street --those are some of our big name clients," he said.

You'll find their games on websites, in mobile apps, or on gaming systems.

Arena now has about two dozen people working for him. They are designers and animators, illustrators and project managers working on games for learning, games for casual users, and games for serious players.

"The great thing is we have 12 years of experience doing this," Arena said. "So we've built up an engine and work flow that makes us pretty efficient, but it's still a lot of work. One thing I say to people who want to get into this industry is, playing games is a lot of fun, making games is a lot of work."

Most projects generally take eight to 12 weeks to develop, but more complex games can take up to a year to complete. And their most popular game to date? That would be Super Brawl which was featured on Nickelodeon's website.

"I forget the number, but I believe 35 million kids over the span of its lifetime on the website played that game. That's a lot of kids," Arena said.

Most recently, they developed a game for Atari called Food Truck Frenzy. While most of the games they work on are for contracted clients, they have some of their own properties -- like "Deathstate" and "Slam Land."

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: "What's the best part of your job?"

Jason Arena: "Being creative. There's just so much room for creativity in this business."

In an increasingly competitive industry, Arena says he has an advantage in that there is a pipeline of creative talent in Rochester. The majority of Workinman's employees are RIT graduates.

"I'm also an RIT professor, so we're able to leverage the raw talent coming out of RIT and the ability to graph new technology and put it right to work here at Workinman."

As the company continues to grow, Arena says they are looking to be part of downtown Rochester's renaissance. Which explains the modest office environment. They are working in temporary space on the 9th floor at 1 East Avenue while they wait for their permanent offices on the 5th floor to be renovated.

"We're trying to make more of a presence and we're trying to get more involved and I believe that's why we wanted to be downtown and say, hey, we're here."

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Brett Davidsen

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