The Download: Matt Schembari, Co-Founder & CEO, Lightforge Games

Matt Schembari is Co-Founder and CEO of Lightforge Games Inc., an all-remote video game studio with its heart in Raleigh. Since the company’s founding in early 2020, he’s worn many hats within the organization from programmer to fundraiser to recruiter.

As an all-remote studio, Lightforge spans from Hawaii to Scotland. This puts extra pressure on company culture, which has been a real focus for the team. Lightforge fully embraces work-from-home with non-linear workdays, and they practice an open salary policy to hold the company accountable to fair and equitable compensation.

Previously, Matt was the Director of UI at Cary’s Epic Games and a Lead Engineer at Blizzard Entertainment where he worked on games such as Fortnite, StarCraft 2 and World of Warcraft. Matt has always been a bit of a hybrid programmer, enjoying all aspects of game development across a variety of teams and disciplines.

In addition to development, Matt is passionate about company culture and psychological safety in the workplace. He also prides himself in his ability to bring new players of all stripes into one of his favorite hobbies, tabletop RPGs (role-playing games).

  1. What is in your pockets?

I currently have absolutely nothing in my pockets. They are fully empty. I hate having stuff in my pockets if I’m not needing to carry them. My phone’s on my desk and keys are upstairs. Yeah—fully, fully empty.

  1. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Lightforge is a new video game studio founded by a bunch of folks who have worked at places like Epic and Blizzard and other places like that. We announced the company back in May and our goal is to rethink or reinvent how people play RPGs, especially when it comes to things that are highly social and highly creative.

The biggest thing is that over the last few weeks or months, really, we’ve been able to play-test our game a ton more. We’ve been making lots of adventures, playing the game, having fun and getting feedback. Some of it’s friends and family, some of it’s strangers. We’ve been doing what we call our UX tests or our play tests, where we bring in all sorts of different kinds of people of different cohorts and play the game and see what their reaction is and respond to that feedback. It’s gone really well and we’ve got really positive feedback, too. It’s exciting to see everyone reacting positively to our hard work, to the idea of the game. That’s just been uplifting over the last few months.

  1. What is your favorite coffee spot?

I like Chanticleer in Cary.  It’s very near where I live and it’s a great place with lots of good outdoor seating for morning coffee or lunch. That place is my go-to.

  1. What keeps you up at night?

We’re a small startup, so there’s just always a thousand things to do and not enough time or people to do all the things you wanted to do. It can sometimes be a ruminating list of all the things that are still remaining. The truth is we’re doing a pretty good job of doing what’s most important and we’ll never do all the things, but I can’t help but want to think about all the things that need to get done.

  1. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

I love Death and Taxes (in Raleigh). Death and Taxes is great. It’s one of the only places you can get oysters and bone marrow. They’ve got a crazy menu and it’s always, always, always really good. They tend to have a char-grilled steak on the menu, or “slice of meat” is what they call it there. It’s just amazing. And it’s rare for me to order steak out because I make good steak at home. So, they do a great job with that. I love that place.

  1. What is next for you or your organization?

We’ve got our serious fundraising happening right now and the goal of that is to accelerate our hiring plan. We’re working on finishing up the fundraising and then we should be opening up lots and lots of positions to get to a full production team.

About Brooks Malone 75 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.