Elan Lee

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Elan Lee
Creator and Game Designer
Creator and Game Designer
Born (1975-01-26) January 26, 1975 (age 44)
Los Angeles, California, United States
OccupationGame Designer

Elan Lee born January 26, 1975 is a game designer, developer and creator. Elan has designed games for the Xbox, helped create the world’s first Alternate Reality Games, and in collaboration with Matthew Inman, Elan built the card game 'Exploding Kittens', the most-backed[1] Kickstarter campaign in history.


Lee began his career as a character designer at Industrial Light and Magic, where he worked on several motion pictures including the computer special effects for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Lee was then hired by Microsoft Game Studios as Lead Game Designer, designing and directing games for PC and Xbox. While working for Microsoft he was the Executive Producer and Lead Designer for The Beast, one of the world’s first Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) used to promoted the Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.[2]

Lee has co-founded several start-ups all within the gaming arena. In 2003 he co-founded 42 Entertainment, a design company in the field of alternate reality games (ARGs). 42 has created multiple ARGs, including, I Love Bees to promote the Xbox game Halo 2, and Year Zero, to promote the Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero.He later he co-founded (with Dawne Weisman)EDOC Laundry, a company designed to produce ARGs using clothes as the primary platform. Consumers deciphered codes hidden within garments and entered the results into the game's main website to reveal pieces of a distributed story.

In 2007, Lee founded Fourth Wall Studios, an entertainment studio aiming to develop and publish entertainment experiences of varying scopes. Lee developed a new form of interactive programming that engaged audiences across multiple platforms via new technology he created. Projects such as the Emmy Award-winning series “Dirty Work” brought viewers into the show with interactive elements such as “integrated phone calls, texts and emails” as part of the viewing experience.[3]

Elan returned to Microsoft as the Chief Design Officer for Xbox Entertainment Studios soon after the launch of the Xbox One game console in 2013. By 2014, Elan left Microsoft with the plan to build a new technology-based TV studio and went as far as building a prototype, building a team and successfully raised about $5 million for his new endeavor. Nevertheless, pesky little kittens would prove to quickly change those plans.[4]

In 2015 Elan Lee partnered with Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) and Shane Small to create the card game 'Exploding Kittens', funded on Kickstarter. ‘Exploding Kittens’ (originally called ‘Bomb Squad’) is Kickstarter’s most backed campaign ever with 219,382 backers. Elan said, “When ‘Exploding Kittens’ launched, I thought it would be a side project on the weekend. It’s so weird when the side project dwarfs the scope and scale of the main project. And so I decided to return the money I raised. I realized that if I didn’t turn all my attention to this, it would become the biggest regret of my life.” [5]

Elan again partnered with Inman and Carly McGinnis to for the 2017 game Bears vs. Babies, and 2018's You've Got Crabs.


With Microsoft:

With 42 Entertainment:

  • I Love Bees Lead Designer (2004)
  • Last Call Poker Lead Designer (2005)
  • The Vanishing Point Lead Designer (2007)
  • Year Zero Designer (2007)


Lee and his projects have won several industry awards for both design and marketing.

In 2005 I Love Bees won an Innovation Award from IGDA, and a Webby Award.[citation needed]

In 2008 Year Zero won the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Grand Prix Award for "Viral Marketing"[6] as well as a Silver Award for "Integrated Campaign".[7] The game also won a bronze Clio Award,[8] and two Webbys: Peoples Voice Award (Branded Content)[9] and Peoples Voice Award (Integrated Campaigns).[9]

In 2012 Lee won a Creative Arts Emmy for Original Interactive Programming for the web series Dirty Work.[10] The same year he won the Trailblazer Award from IndieCade.[11]


  1. ^ "Discover » Most Backed — Kickstarter". www.kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  2. ^ Kornblum, Janet (28 June 2001). "The intricate plot behind 'A.I.' Web mystery". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  3. ^ Caulfield, Brian (1 April 2009). "Games That Use The 'Ubernet'". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  4. ^ The Deadline Team (2013-06-20). "Elan Lee Named Chief Design Officer For Nancy Tellem's Xbox Entertainment Studios". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  5. ^ http://explodingkittens.com/#what
  6. ^ "2008 Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners". Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  7. ^ "2008 Cannes Lions Silver Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  8. ^ 2008 Clio Award Winners
  9. ^ a b "2008 Webby Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  10. ^ Dirty Work
  11. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (October 12, 2012). "IndieCade 2012 winners announced, Unmanned takes the top prize". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on February 28, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

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