#MeetIronGalaxy – Michael Perez

Published by
Keenan Moralicz
May 16, 2024
Michael Perez Blog Header Image

Video game development brings a lot of skills and talents together during a chaotic creative process. At the center of that storm, you'll find the designers, weaving all those disciplines into a playable experience. To thrive in that space, they need to know how art, code, and technology work with each other. One of these multi-talented individuals is Michael Perez. Today, we're talking to him about how he learned everything he needs to know to do what he does today.

Iron Galaxy: Hey there, Michael. Tell us who you are and what you do here at Iron Galaxy.

Michael Perez: I'm Michael Perez and I've been at Iron Galaxy for three and a half years now working as a Monetization Designer. My day-to-day can vary greatly depending on the current project and I've been fortunate enough to wear many hats during my time here. I’ve worked on everything from balancing game economies, to collaborating with UI and UX Designers on improvements to the player experience, to supporting leadership and business development teams with reports on market trends, player behaviors, and more.


IG: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

MP: Monetization can often be a difficult topic to broach, especially at a company where we're all invested in games as developers and players. From an outside perspective, it may seem like you'd have to put aside your thoughts as a player to prioritize business goals. However, one of the main things that attracted me to work at Iron Galaxy was the emphasis of taking a holistic approach to monetization design. This means taking both quantitative and qualitative data into consideration when making decisions; implementing a certain feature may result in greater engagement or retention metrics, but is there a potential for the player experience to be negatively impacted as a result? If so, what can we do to mitigate or otherwise eliminate that risk? This sort of due diligence demands time and effort to see through, but I believe our commitment to doing so makes us all the better for it as a company.

IG: Interesting context about a complex topic. What’s the best thing about working at a video game development company?

MP: I really love the diversity of people and roles here at IG. As someone relatively early in their career it's great to work alongside folks at all different stages of their own lives and careers. I've made many friends here and consider myself lucky to always be learning new things from them, whether it's about their area of expertise in the industry or sharing music and book recommendations.

IG: How is your specific job unique when compared to other roles in our company.

MP: I get to work on projects at every stage of the development cycle, from inception to post-launch. This grants me the opportunity to work alongside people from every department, from business development to art and engineering. It can be challenging as it requires at least a basic understanding of the work that other disciplines do, but I find it to be incredibly rewarding.

IG: That must provide interesting insight that helps you grow from each project you work on. How has your unique insight gained from working on mobile games been a benefit to the projects you’ve gotten to work on at Iron Galaxy?

MP: The mobile space is incredibly fast-paced and requires both a broad and deep understanding of game genres and how they evolve over time. I learned how to quickly dissect a game and break it down into its core components as a means of diagnosing its success. Or at the very least, evaluating the execution of those components and determining the potential for success. At a surface level, a lot of mobile games in any given genre may seem like copies of one another but it's the small tweaks that make a world of a difference out in the market. I've been able to leverage these insights at IG by sharing best practices from past works and how they could be adapted to the projects we're working on. The mobile space moves much quicker than console and there's a lot of great learnings that can carry over between the two.

IG: When reflecting on your time in the industry, across the mobile and console space, what are your thoughts on the future of game development business models?

MP: My hope is that we see a shift in both the industry and the market demand that allows more room for smaller, weirder games. It feels as if we're trending towards a future that only allows room for massive, AAA experiences and smaller indie works while the stretch in between is deserted. As a developer, games are expensive and time-consuming to make. As a consumer, games are expensive to purchase and time-consuming to play. While I believe there'll always be a healthy demand for games in the middle (in terms of quality, cost, length, etc.), the bigger conundrum is how to sustainably make those games without going under as a business. How do you strike the balance in maintaining your artistic integrity while creating something that is commercially viable? I don’t believe these are diametrically opposed but that doesn’t make it any easier to reconcile the demands of the two. To be fair, I think that's a question that's being asked at development studios of every size across the industry right now.

IG: Reflective and considerate points. Let’s get to know you on a more personal level. You moved to Chicago from New York. How has the move treated you so far?

MP: I just hit my one-year mark of living in Chicago in March! I'll admit it's taken a lot longer to get used to than I'd first expected. It's an entirely different pace of living but I’m finally warming up to it. The winter is much slower and quieter in Chicago, but it builds up to a very lively summer. I lived in NYC for seven years and loved every minute, but it was hard for me to see far into the future there. There's this feeling of needing to be 'on' all the time, or else you risk losing the plot and being left in the dust. That sort of pressure was both exhilarating and exhausting. Not to mention unsustainable, at least for me. I do miss walking as much as I used to, though! In NYC I’d often go out for a walk before noon and not get back to my apartment until after the sun set. The city is so compact that I could do most everything without setting foot on a train let alone a cab. Here, the neighborhoods are more spread out. It may just be a sign that I’ve got to take up biking. Also, I can't not say it, in fact I'll say it every time the Chicago vs NYC topic comes up…rent is SO MUCH cheaper in Chicago! That’s at least 40% of my existential dread gone already.

IG: Both wonderful places for their own reasons. Internally, you sparked a company wide discussion about Iron Galaxy’s favorite COLORS performances. Do you have a go to playlist that’ll set you in the mood for the weekend?

MP: Tierra Whack's Whack World! Technically it’s not a playlist but an album. I’ve always been the kind of person that listens to a snippet of a song to get to my favorite part and skips to the next one. My mind tends to wander so listening to music helps keep me in focus. The way this album is put together, fifteen songs in fifteen minutes, eliminates the need for me to skip tracks. Each one has been whittled down to the best bits, hitting every emotional beat across the album; it's absurdist, mundane, biting, and melancholy all at once. Like a musical version of a fashion montage where a character tries on a ton of different outfits before landing on the perfect look. The album helps me to recalibrate or "lock in," as the kids say. I come out the other end feeling focused, refreshed, and a little more like myself.

Album cover art for Whack World

IG: Thanks! Our readers now have some jams to bump into the weekend. What place do you call home?

MP: 305! Born and raised in Homestead, Florida. My parents immigrated to the US from Cuba in the early 90s and had me shortly afterward. When I was in middle school, we made the jump from city to swamp, moving to the outskirts of Naples on the West coast of Florida, where my parents still live.

IG: What’s something you feel everyone must do once in their life?

MP: Visit a country where you don't speak the native language and English isn't commonly spoken. The experience of being a complete outsider is an incredibly humbling one. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo for a semester, which was amazing, but I went without knowing any Japanese. I knew going into it that I'd have to venture outside of my shell if I wanted to make the most of my time there. It helped me better appreciate the struggles my parents have gone through moving to the US without knowing any English, especially during a time where smartphones and translation apps weren't a thing.

IG: Brave endeavor! What’s something you’ve always wanted to create?

MP: A card game! Or any sort of board game, really. I have a lot of love for digital games but there's something about sitting across a table from someone and playing a game face-to-face, whether it's collaborative or competitive, that really inspires and excites me as a designer. For our undergrad capstone at NYU, my friends and I made a card-based fighting game where players would bid on magical street wear items and put together powerful outfits before dueling each other.

An image of Michael and his friends posing for a picture enjoying their capstone project together

IG: Sounds like a fun game. If you have a copy leftover, bring it around the studio some time if you’re up for it. What’s a favorite travel destination that you’ve visited?

MP: Cinque Terre, Italy! I hiked along the Blue Trail that connects several coastal villages for the better part of a day, stopping at each village to take in the sights, swim in the beautiful beaches, and inhale far more focaccia than one reasonably should in a single day. Before this trip I'd never hiked a day in my life and would not have considered myself to be a beach person. Although I haven't made as much of an effort to hike since, I've really taken to swimming! Fun fact: The town of Pontorosso from the film Luca was heavily inspired by the five towns in Cinque Terre!

A collage of two images from Michael's hike in Cinque Terre, Italy

IG: Silenzio Bruno! What were your favorite series to binge?

MP: Don't Trust the B In Apartment 23 and Broad City! I've always said that Don't Trust the B is a great depiction of the 'fantasy' of living in NYC, while Broad City nails the reality of living there.

IG: We all know a Bevers, whether we like it or not. What was the last concert you saw?

MP: Amaarae at House of Blues! It was one of the most packed concerts I've been to in a while. Before that, I was at the same venue to see Keke Palmer perform!

A picture of Keke Palmer performing during her concert

IG: A Chicago staple. What game have you spent the most time playing?

MP: Probably Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite. The series has consumed a hefty chunk of my life. It combines all my favorite things in one neat package: eclectic fashions, weird creatures, and powerful weapons. I still remember the day I went to GameStop as a kid and picked out a copy of the first game in the series. Lifelong fan ever since!

IG: What movie have you seen the most times?

MP: Confessions of a Shopaholic. I've seen it at least fifty times, and my love for the movie has only grown with each watch. I feel a certain kinship with Rebecca as she comes to grips with who she is and carves out a niche for herself where her unique perspective can shine.

Stills from the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, with two text boxes that say "Because when I shop, the world gets better," and "And then it's not anymore. And I need to do it again."

IG: The admiration for media featuring fashion is a consistent for you. Maybe that also explains your respect for the monetization space? What’s one superpower that you would like to have?

MP: Practically speaking, I would love to be able to teleport to distant locations. I get motion sick very easily, so I almost exclusively opt for taking the train or walking to places. One bad Uber or bus ride can ruin a whole night for me if I'm not careful. Neighborhoods in Chicago are pretty spread out so being able to teleport to the North side to see my friends would make life much easier. I could easily pop down to FL to visit my parents for dinner, hit up my friends in NYC for a drink, and be back in Wicker Park doing my nighttime skincare routine by midnight!

IG: Great choice with smart application. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

MP: Navy blue. It’s been my favorite color for as long as I can remember!

IG: What competition show would you want to compete in? Do you think you could win?

MP: If it ever got a second season, I would LOVE to be on Netflix's The Big Flower Fight. Do I know anything, practically or conceptually, about making floral installations? No! Do I think I could figure it out on the fly? Maybe! I sure as heck would put my heart and soul into it, though. And hey, you compete in pairs, so I'd make sure to work with someone that rounds out my skillset. I've also considered applying for Netflix's The Circle…so who knows that the future may hold!

IG: We’ll keep our eyes peeled on Netflix’s next competition. If you weren’t working in games, what would you be doing instead?

MP: Back in college I took a year of special effects make-up courses and was obsessed with it. I was considering enrolling in an SFX make-up program after graduation but then I landed my first job in the games industry. I could see myself enjoying a career in make-up or something fashion related.

Examples of special effects make-up

Thanks for taking us on your journey from the East Coast to the Midwest, Michael. Chicago is happy to have you and Iron Galaxy appreciates your talent in the design department. We’ll have our ears ready for your next playlist suggestion and remain eager to hear developments about your next board game.

Intrigued to work with our clever design team? Join our team in Chicago, Austin, Nashville, or Orlando as a software or rendering engineer. Openings can be spotted at a mid and senior level on our Careers Page.