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Originally published Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sandlot aims for games that are just fun to play

A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Sandlot Games

What: Sandlot Games, Bothell

Who: Daniel Bernstein, 37, CEO and founder

Mission: Make the best casual games for the mainstream market.

Just say yes: "Casual" is best defined as a noncompetitive experience for game players of all ages and skill levels. Such games are more about mental acuity than fast reflexes. The greatest measure of a game's success is its ability to make it impossible to resist playing "just one more time."

Safe zone: While some gamer stereotypes portray a tattooed Goth with gunslinger tendencies, Sandlot products seek a different audience. "Cake Mania" and "Super Granny," both with their own four-part series, employ less confrontational templates that embrace the game experience's more feminine side.

Masterpieces: Bernstein calls game design "an art, where you have the opportunity to do something different." He can't say what goes into a great game, any more than a composer can explain how to construct a great song. But like a classic album, the best games will prompt people to spend an hour under its spell and not really notice that time has passed.

Hit parade: Like pop music and movies, a successful game draws imitators and sequels. "That's how the entertainment business works," Bernstein said. "They find something that works and then copy it."

Employees: 50

Financials: The private, self-funded company does not provide any financial details, but said it is profitable. "We've been able to get funding although we haven't needed it," Bernstein said.

Switching channels: Like television, casual games are available free, with embedded advertising, or in paid versions with ads omitted. Bernstein predicted casual games will eventually take the place of TV, at least for those times when the user is in the mood for something more involving. "It's more involving than just sitting in a chair, passively watching images," he said.

— Charles Bermant

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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