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Art by Clark Miller. Photo of Lee By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images
Art by Clark Miller. Photo of Lee By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

Elan Lee Wants to Explode More Than Kittens

The CEO of tabletop game maker Exploding Kittens quit his videogame job to counter digital loneliness. Now he’s betting that Netflix and VR can help us experience joy together.

July 28, 2023 8:46 AM PDT

Exploding Kittens CEO Elan Lee still remembers the exact moment when he realized that he had to quit his job at Microsoft.

Back in 2014, when he was chief design officer for the company’s Xbox Entertainment Studios division, Lee was visiting his younger brother for a small family reunion, only to find his niece and nephew zoned out in front of the TV. “They were both staring at the screen, playing on the Xbox, and did not even acknowledge that I was there,” Lee recalled during a Zoom call from his home in Toronto. “They weren’t interacting with each other. They weren’t appreciating the family that was in the room with them.” And to add insult to injury, they were playing Halo, a game Lee himself had worked on.

Lee decided then and there that he was in the wrong business. “I was part of the problem instead of part of the solution,” he said. “I kept putting screens in front of kids. That just felt like the wrong direction.” Within two weeks, he had resigned from his very well-paying job at Microsoft and decided to instead “put a silly card game on Kickstarter.”

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