-Who We Are-

GLS Studios is a fully-functioning game studio with over 15 veteran game developers from AAA, indie, and academic backgrounds. Spun out of the GLS Center directed by Dr. Kurt Squire, GLS Studios combines industry quality-game development talent with the resources of a world-renown university. Lead developer Brian Pelletier brings over 20 years game experience to GLS. We leverage our unique position on UW-Madison campus to forge strong relationships with UW researchers, draw curriculum design talent from UW’s School of Education, and leverage the GLS community for access to subject-matter experts, parents, teachers, K-12 schools, and gamers of all ages. Our partners include internationally-renown museums, media companies that sell directly to consumers, and academic researchers across many disciplines.


Our top secret plan

The GLS Studio team has collectively over 150 years experience designing and producing games from early stage concept to fully developed properties. We work closely with partners to plan strategically for diverse audiences and platforms in addition to designing and developing products. Our team is known for developing quality products that leverage knowledge and practices derived from academic research, but also reflect industry-standard development practices. Our hybrid lab of learning scientists and game developers enable us to employ design, animation, audio, and artwork to translate learning goals through game play. Our production diversity includes 2D and 3D games across a variety of platforms, and also includes learning analytic platforms and web development.

We use whatever technologies best suit a project, but typically, we use:

  1. The Unity engine environment and/or HTML 5.0 to develop and deploy games across platforms.
  2. Ruby on Rails for all our server-side games, web architecture, and ADAGE (Assessment Data Aggregator for Gaming Environments), our open source learning analytic platform and tools.

In addition, we have full web development capabilities for a variety of uses.

GLS Studios leadership is experienced in securing, retaining and appropriately utilizing staff and other resources to creatively complete projects. Our partner relationships allow us to staff up for larger projects and special needs:

  1. Subject Matter Experts for informing and vetting on learning content, including Systems Biology, Racial Equality, Neuroscience, Ecology, Regenerative Medicine and more.
  2. Local industry veteran contractors in Audio, Art, and Programming.
  3. Interns from 3 local colleges for Art, Animation and Programming.
  4. Motion Capture for realistic human animation.
  5. A network of teachers and after-school groups cultivated over the past decade.

GLS Studios has a solid track record and successful, proven systems to plan and execute quality projects within time and budget. We achieve these results through, among other things, detailed, upfront planning, rapid prototyping, continuous playtesting with target audiences, and creative flexibility as needed throughout production. Our seasoned team is personally invested in delivering strong results.


Creative Director and Founder, Kurt Squire

Kurt Squire, is a Creative Director and founder of the development studio. He continues to rally and inspire the teams around his passion and vision for innovation in games for learning. Kurt is a Professor of Digital Media in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and Co-Director of the Games+Learning+Society Center in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Squire is the author or editor of three books, and over 75 publications on learning with technology. Squire has directed several game-based learning projects, ranging from ARIS, a tool for place-based mobile app development, to ProgenitorX, a game about saving the world from zombies through stem cell technology. Squire's research has been supported by nearly $10 million in grants and gifts from the MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Institute for Health, The Gates Foundation, the Department of Education, The AMD Foundation, and Microsoft. Squire is also a co-founder of joystick101.org, a former columnist for Computer Games magazine, and a former Montessori teacher.

Brian Pelletier, is Creative Director and Head of Game Development, applying his 21 years of game development experience ensuring smooth production on all projects for Learners of all ages, at home, classrooms, museums, across mobile and other applications. Pelletier has extensive experience in developing video game design and artistic direction for high quality console and PC games, including XBOX, Playstation, and Nintendo. In addition, Brian has extensive experience creating highly acclaimed games. He has lead the development and design of numerous retail games that have received many top rankings in “best-of” lists including:

  1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine being named the Best Superhero Video Game of All Time in 2009 by G4TV.com
  2. X-men: Legends franchise of games in top 5 rankings for Best Superhero games
  3. Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is named the Best Star Trek Game on many reputable websites and is the highest ranking Star Trek game on Metacritic.com


Reviewing facial animation

Our team is a diverse, talented, creative, and colorful group of game developers who enjoy the challenges of taking educational content and creating fun meaningful games that have impact. Occupying what was once a blues night club, our studio creates an informal work environment in a pod style configuration where artists, programmers, former teachers, graduate students, and subject matter experts sit side-by-side and collaborate as tightly knit teams. We cultivate a salon-style atmosphere and frequently host colleagues from around Madison and beyond.

Our teams are characterized by genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for this work. We come from diverse backgrounds and talents, but all share a common passion for games that inspire, entertain, and will transform how we learn. We are committed to an open, family-friendly environment. Children (our own or others’), pets (like the Squire’s 120 lb Newfoundland), and friends, spouses or colleagues can frequently be found hanging out. We offer hotel space for friends, colleagues, and visitors to enjoy long or short sabbaticals, which frequently generates new ideas and projects.

Our brightly painted walls, comic book and sci-fi movie themed conference rooms, Nerf gun armory and maker-space add to the informal and fun atmosphere. Sounds of guitar playing emanates from a conference room while lunch-time gaming and talk of raising kids fill the air. Our diversity, varied educational backgrounds and life experience meld into an enjoyable work and play atmosphere that contributes to professional growth and development.


Constance Steinkhueler reviewing preliminary game design with Richie Davidson and Mathieu Ricard

GGLS Studios began as the in-house development shop to complement GLS research. GLS Studios is the “D” in R&D. We:

  1. Execute grant-funded work for UW-Madison faculty
  2. Create new funding opportunities through contracts, product revenue, and other sources
  3. Enable new mechanisms for partnering with private and public entities.
  4. Inform theory and research on game play and design

GLS Studios formally began in the basement of UW-Madison’s Teacher Education Building in early 2010. Dr. Sangtae Kim, Executive Director of the Morgridge Institute for Research supported Squire, Dr. Susan Millar, and Dr. Richard Halverson in developing an in-house shop to build games based on research at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID). Morgridge post doc Nathan Patterson (who since founded Radiant Fabrication with UW-Madison graduate and team member Kevin Harris) recruited current GLS project lead Mike Beall (who Kurt interviewed while changing 2-month old Warner’s diaper) to help build Virulent, our first iPad game. The success of Virulent created an interest in Dr. Rock Mackie to create Anatomy Pro Am, which enabled us to add Greg Vaughan (TDS), Ted Lauterbach (Rotten Tater), Jacob Ruesch (Design Concepts), and post doc Ben Shapiro (Northwestern).

In late 2010, Dr. Molly Carnes approached us to collaborate on an NIH-funded game (Fair Play) on mitigating racial and gender bias. Not only was it an important topic, but Fair Play enabled us to experiment with partnering with external PIs and begin fleshing out a full development team. We worked closely with award winning indie developer Erin Robinson (LivelyIvy), hired Allison Salmon (Raven Software) as a full-time programmer, and continued hiring developer-students (Dennis Paiz-Ramirez & Adam Mechtley). Our integrated R&D approach was working and we were learning how to build commercial quality games through academic contexts.

In 2011, we were awarded an NSF grant for researching and developing online games and analytics which enabled us to grow to our current size of 15 full-time developers and a $1.5m annual budget. Seeing the panic on my face, Rock Mackie advised to “ find someone from Raven who is better at this than you and can manage larger teams and budgets.” We found Brian Pelletier (Raven), who became Head of Game Development. We also added Aaron Bahr (Raven), John Karczewski (Volition), Jason Palmer (independent), and Clem Samson-Samuel (graduate student and Raven). We forged new partnerships with Richie Davidson’s lab in the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (funded by the Gates Foundation), the University of Oklahoma (IARPA grant), Microsoft (Studio K), and AMD (Studio K) and recruited Becky Torrisi from the UW-Madison to help run all of this. We were a fully functioning studio.

In 2012 we outgrew our space and purpose at Morgridge, so we moved across the street to the “Purple Building”. We retained our WID affiliation, but our lab became “powered by Learning Games Network,” the non-profit that employs the majority of our development staff. Isaac Goodin (Clockworkgiant), Devon Klompmaker (Mad Mammoth), and Mark Stenerson (Iowa State) all joined the team.

In the past 2 years, we have expanded our private partners and now take on a number of external grants and contracts. We work with partners on everything from strategic planning and consulting to building games for assessment. We are currently exploring several revenue and licensing sharing models and anticipate forming a for profit entity before the end of 2014 to explore new revenue streams.


GLS Studios is located on the beautiful UW Madison Campus in Madison, Wisconsin.

GLS Studios is located at the heart of the University of Wisconsin Madison Campus, within seconds or minutes walk to UW-Madison’s Discovery building, School of Education, School of Engineering, and Computer Science buildings. Our location provides accessibility to our UW Partners and Subject Matter Experts, opportunities to integrate students into design teams, and access to colleagues in the Discovery building. We share our studio space with the Games+Learning+Society Center, a theme of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, where we interact with UW Professors, Post Docs, Researchers, Statisticians and Outreach specialists, working together towards our mission of designing and creating transformative games that entertain and engage. Our games reach thousands of people every year through the Discovery building’s Town Center which is a resource we leverage for frequent play tests.

As both home to UW-Madison and the Wisconsin state capitol, Madison, Wisconsin is culturally diverse, educated (the most highly educated city in America), and lively. Although the Madison area population is about 500,000, it boasts low unemployment, low crime rates, a strong education infrastructure, and average commute times of about 15 minutes. Nestled among 4 Lakes, Madison has been named by Money magazine “the best place to live in America,” described by ESPN as “the best college sports town in America” and awarded “healthiest city in America” by Men’s Journal magazine. Madison is also close to Milwaukee (90 minutes) and Chicago (2 ½ hours), and is served by an airport that creates easy access to and from the east and west coast. Madison is home of many Game Development Studios, including AAA, indie and learning game studios. 3 colleges within Madison offer game development programs, creating excellent internship opportunities.

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