Chris Hatala has been running the second largest tournament in the world for years, bringing people together from all over the world to share their love of gaming, and after deciding to take a leap found himself running one of Cleveland’s many companies adding to the growing tech scene. Join as we learn what led Chris to begin Games Done Legit and how he uses his passion to run an amazing business!
Spotlight: Games Done Legit
What is your first memory of Games Done Legit?
We started what became the second biggest tournament in the world for the kind of video game that I’ve liked since I was a little kid.
So I ran the event and I got to know all these people from all across the world through our shared love of gaming- people from all walks of life, and every different kind of background that you can imagine.
From there, I learned about the special events industry and saw a lot of interesting things from local business owners who run their own companies here!
How does that compare to what the company has become today?
I’ve realized that the reason that you start a business has nothing to do with the skills that you need to run the business. Now I’ve got policies in place. [I’ve created] this machine that can run without me, the owner, and that leaves me free as the CEO to inspire and show my passion and to be the face of the company and to help guide it toward the future.
I can do this thing that I love to do and I can find ways to get paid for it without having to work for a company.
What has surprised you most about being a business owner?
I guess just the fact that I’m even doing it because I never had a personality that would take a big risk like that. I didn’t feel like I had the skill set or really the personality like maybe like an A-type personality I envision like a CEO.
I never really saw myself like that. Some people just know that “oh I’m going to run a business someday.” And I just never felt like that. I would never have thought I would be running my own business, setting my own pay and pursuing something that I was just really passionate about.
Who are some of the coolest people you’ve met since you started?
I love doing shoutouts because I wouldn’t be here without all of the amazing people around Cleveland especially that influenced me in such positive ways. Matt Radicelli, owner and founder of Rock The House Entertainment Group, has been great.
Some DJ companies look at me as kind of a competitor but Matt, since day one I told him I wanted to be an event coordinator, has helped me with business advice, like how to structure a business thing for me to set financial goals.
And you know he just does so many amazing things for entrepreneurs by sharing his advice. He’s a pretty amazing guy.
Wayne Bergman, who I actually connected with because he was Matt’s business coach. Wayne is now running his own business coach consultancy. He’s an amazing person! He’s not industry specific to special events, but his knowledge is about how to create a business.The most important thing is to find a problem you can solve for someone else and understand their needs. Wayne has been phenomenal in helping me take those next steps.
This isn’t people specific but there are just so many great networking organizations, too!
What might we be surprised to learn about Games Done Legit?
Well for a lot of decision makers in the workplace, just the fact that video gaming is a key part of culture really has been since kids were growing up in the 1970s.
This is not an idea that really we’ve seen another company in North America do- marry gaming with professional job training.
And of course now we’re very involved in virtual reality and VR doesn’t have this kind of stigma among some decision makers that video gaming does!
VR has enabled us to kind of get more in the door and just show people because people need to see and experience what we do to understand how it makes work more fun and why they might need it for their companies.
I would say that that’s really the biggest surprise for people.
So how do you guys use that virtual reality in your business?
Basically, anything that you can imagine, virtual reality makes you feel like you’re there.
That’s something that doesn’t translate in a screen shot or even a video. When you put this headset on and you’re looking down and you’ve got a lightsaber from the Star Wars in your hands and you’re able to you’re still able to see yourself swinging it around. It’s a feeling that there’s has never been in entertainment or media and virtual reality is capable of it.
It’s got the capacity to change how we work, how we play, and everything!
So we’re looking at not only what’s fun and amazing, for example putting yourself in the matrix and dodging bullets and things like that like that, but the educational power of VR.
So you can see you know great works of art and you can get close to them and see every fine detail in them instead of having to see to see a picture in a book or you know watch a YouTube video on your phone.
The educational opportunity is really like job training like be able to treat people much faster because you’re doing it instead of just you know reading about it or having someone else show you how to do it. Yeah. It’s got the capacity to completely change how we work in an amazing way.
Case Western Reserve here developed the the hollow lens with Microsoft and they’re already using that for surgery so you can have a man on the table and the lens overlays all of the organs on top of it and interacts with that, but there’s literally just a dummy on the table in real life.
So that’s how all this stuff can really have an impact on how we can work safer and better.
I bring the VR with me everywhere because now we’ll show people The Cavs winning the 2016 Finals and we show them The Block & The Shot in VR and it’s like you’re looking around the court like you’re really there.
And then you’re sitting next to LeBron in the parade. it helps people understand what this stuff is about.
So what are your goals with things Games Done Legit?
The goal was always to put something new into the world.
I’ve always been afraid to really be a creator. I mean, I play music, I sing, I used to draw.
With creation, you have to have the guts to do that, but you also have to deal with people not liking what you produce. And I was always afraid of that.
I always just felt like I need to have a positive impact on the world, and you see that in video games a lot too- people saving the world. That’s had an effect on me as I’ve become and adult.
We’re setting financial goals and I’m focused on building a business but the most important thing for us is to just bring something unique to the world and show people new experiences and bring people together in a fun way.
What are you working on this year?
We’re trying to activate sponsorships and we’re talking to various organizations like the Browns and the Akron Art Museum about how we can use cell phones to engage people through apps. We’re basically making stuff on the wall come alive through you know a smartphone app. That’s just going to be bigger and bigger! It’s something that we’re actively working on right now just to leverage the fact that everyone has a smartphone, not the headsets we have to get that hardware.
So why did you choose to start your business in Cleveland?
Oh, I’m from Cleveland. I love the city. I love the opportunities that I have to travel and experience different major American cities because I mean most are bigger than us.
People are just exceptional in the midwest. We have a great local events community we’ve got a thriving special event scene here in Cleveland!