President and CEO of Blue Planet Software Maya Rogers ups her game.
VIDEO GAMES ALWAYS WERE A PART OF MAYA ROGERS' LIFE. SHE SPENT HER FORMATIVE YEARS IN JAPAN at a time when Nintendo's Game Boy was making its breakthrough and video games started popping up all over the place.
Add to that the fact that dad Henk Rogers ( known for his catapulting affiliation with securing the rights to Tetris and the establishment of Blue Planet Software, the sole agent of the Tetris brand) brought home video game consoles on the regular, and it isn't hard to see why Rogers' fascination with video games now has become her passion.
“We grew up playing them,” she recalls. “And Tetris was a big part of that.”
In her current capacity as president and CEO with Blue Planet Software, Rogers focuses most of her efforts on branding and licensing. Currently, the company has anywhere from 60 to 80 different Tetris licensees, ranging from electronic games on mobile phones to gaming consoles, as well as merchandising items like T-shirts and coffee mugs.
“At the core of it, it's a great game,” she says of Tetris. “There's this inherent need to create order out of chaos, stacking things and seeing it clear in front of you. It's a game that anyone can play, and it's easy to play but hard to master.”
While licensing and branding seem lightyears away from the physicality of the game she grew up with, her role with the company is perpetuating it for generations to come. But don't misunderstand, Rogers still is a Tetris master. “As I tell people, ‘I will kick your butt for sure,'” she adds. Rogers also is a co-founding partner— along with Henk and Chenoa Farnsworth—for venture accelerator Blue Startups, which helps foster tech entrepreneurs locally, nationally and overseas (everywhere from Singapore to Korea to Portugal). While people come from all over the world, 50 percent of participating companies are local.
“We're trying to be an example for the state,” Rogers explains. “It's a long-term vision that we have for Hawai‘i to be a place that can compete with the rest of the world in terms of talent and jobs.
“Being able to have our family grow up in Hawai‘i was a big thing, and that's why we're based in Hawai‘i.”
Twice a year, tech companies and their leaders head to Hawai‘i for 14 weeks to take part in Blue Startups full-time mentorship program, and since its inception in May 2012, Blue Startups has invested in more than 60 scalable tech companies.
Rogers' foray into the video game trade and tech industry stems from seeing the passion her parents (Henk and Akemi) lived. Her upbringing was instrumental in forging her own path, which she did soon after graduating from Pepperdine University in 2000.
After a stint as a logistics analyst for American Honda in the early 2000s, her path took a turn toward the industry she's become so well-known for. She joined Sony Computer Entertainment America in 2003 as a localization producer and recalls working on a racing game on the project management side of the effort.
“I went from real cars to virtual cars,” she adds.
She also set aside time to further her education, earning her executive MBA from Pepperdine University, The George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management in 2009.
The years during and after college saw Rogers add arsenal to her tool belt, as she always felt she would one day be a part of Blue Planet Software in one capacity or another.
Since her appointment to head of the company, she has been forging new paths to take it and the Tetris brand to higher levels.
The future, it seems, is looking up. The company just launched a title on Nintendo Switch and ran a successful collaboration campaign with Target. And, in addition to panning out details on a feature film (which for now is being kept under wraps), the company is looking forward to Scientific Games Corporation's Tetris Super Jackpots, which hopefully will hit casino floors this year.
With the culmination of such big projects—and with new ones in the works—it's also the perfect time for Rogers to reflect on her journey thus far.
“I think we're at a time and age today where you can work from anywhere in the world because we're virtually connected,” she says. “I travel a lot [ for work], but I'm really grateful we're able to be based here in Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i is our home.” Visit blueplanetsoftware.com or bluestartups. com for more information on the companies, and to play a game of Tetris, visit tetris.com.