At 14, Darion Lowenstein landed a job in the video game industry. That simple fact said two things about him. His upbringing was anything but normal. And his initial employment laid the groundwork for his current position as chief marketing officer for Gamblit Gaming, one of the companies developing skill-based games for the casino industry.
“I grew up being home-schooled and graduated high school at 14,” Lowenstein says.
Over a 20-year period, the Oregon native worked his way up from reviewer, to tester, producer, director, vice president and now CMO. During that time, Lowenstein helped develop 10 No. 1 mobile games and 14 top-five console hits. “I’ve worked on big name titles ranging from ‘The Simpsons’ to ‘Transformers,’ at companies like Electronic Arts, Rockstar Games and Activision. All that experience gave me a strong understanding of not only how to make a hit entertainment experience, but how to sell it—and make sure people hear about it,” he says.
At Gamblit, Lowenstein handles marketing, public relations, publishing and games business development and licensing.
“While it’s a lot to juggle, I have an incredibly talented, hard-working group of people on my team that make everything happen. I’m a firm believer that you are only as strong as your team.”
Because the company has partners all over the world developing games, there’s always something for him to do, from tackling emails to conference calls and more than six hours of meetings.
Lowenstein credits his own experience with shaping the importance of skill-based games. He and friends and co-workers would visit Las Vegas several times a year. “Almost none of us gambled, and the few that did played table games.”
But they often went to Dave & Busters and other local bars to play games. His generation needed a challenge beyond pressing a button to see what rolls up on the screen. “Now that we are live on the floor, we see consumers becoming our own ambassadors, bringing their friends in and explaining these new types of innovative games,” says Lowenstein, who immerses himself in television, movies, music and, yes, video games in his down time.
Executives depend on mentors they meet along the way.
“I met Neil Haldar when I was 16 at my second job testing games at Dynamix,” says Lowenstein. “He’s been incredibly insightful into how the industry works and where to take my career. In the casino industry, my biggest mentor has been my boss, Eric Meyerhofer, who has taught me a lot about the ins and outs of this world.”
Lowenstein has words of advice for those thinking about entering this segment of the gaming industry. “Treat everyone with respect and kindness. The person who is testing games today could be a hiring manager at a company where you want to work for in a few years. And keep up with the industry to stay informed—subscribe to all the magazines and newsletters, watch trends, see which resorts/markets/manufacturers are doing well, and why.
“And don’t forget you work in entertainment at the end of the day. Have fun with it.”