39
summer
2013
arches
Like most kids, Kevin Kurtz dreamed of work-
ing in the movies. Unlike most, he did. Three
years after graduation Kevin landed at Skywalk-
er Ranch, just west of his Sacramento boyhood
home, managing the marketing of the
Star Wars
and
Indiana Jones
brands for Lucasfilm Ltd., in-
cluding theatrical releases, video/DVD releases,
TV airings, and video games.
Today he’s working even smaller—on the
2-
by-3-inch smartphone screen—at Zynga, the
game giant headquartered in San Francisco. His
goal: bring great content to consumers, wher-
ever they are, whenever they want it.
Forget the introvert pecking away in lonely
isolation—Kevin is all about connection, and
doing that via Words With Friends, Zynga’s
wildly popular Scrabble-like game that is played
with others online. The game has a live-conver-
sation feature. “Players can connect, chat be-
tween moves, send messages within the game,”
he says. “Games are conversation starters; they
build an intimacy beyond just talking on the
Okay, nobody likes to get stuck making such
predictions, but he takes a stab at it. “We’ll have
movies and entertainment where and when
we want—in eyeglasses, in our head, instant
streaming,” he says. “But the future isn’t about
what new thing technology can deliver. It’s
about better experiences. It all goes back to sto-
rytelling. As George Lucas said, ‘Technology is
in service of story and character.’ Whatever the
medium, the future is about delivering enter-
tainment that inspires and connects.”
It’s clear that Kevin is serious about the im-
portance of entertainment, and he has plans to
someday develop a media business that draws
on his broad expertise. “I love how entertain-
ment has become a common language, spoken
and experienced globally on a variety of plat-
forms,” he says. “Soon I’d like to start a company
and contribute something creative of my own to
the lexicon that could inspire and delight audi-
ences around the world.” Kevin pauses, then
adds, “You know, I’ve always been in the enter-
tainment business, but I’ve never lived in L.A.
…,”
his voice trailing off as he glimpses a future
he
can
imagine.
Lynda McDaniel
phone. For years, games have been the stepchild
of entertainment, but now they’re cutting edge.”
Kevin’s movie days are behind him (for
now), but he still flirts with Hollywood. He
tweets (@colonelkurtz) with the likes of Ed-
ward Norton, Kristen Bell, and Eva Longoria,
relationships developed during his brainchild
Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge in
which eight celebrities played for their favorite
charities and raised $500,000.
It’s part of our mission to make games
matter,” Kevin says. “Entertainment is not a
substitute for news, but it
is
another platform
for discussing issues. For example, during the
disasters in Haiti and Japan, we developed
people’s awareness and allowed them to help.”
Through Zynga.org, players have raised more
than $13 million for world social causes.
So what will entertainment look like in
2025?
Kevin smiles a smile that says, “Who
knows? Technology changes so fast it’s almost
impossible to imagine what’s next.”
What we do: Kevin Kurtz ’97
Head of mobile product marketing, Zynga