As a result of increasing incidents of hacker breaches, from JPMorgan Chase to Slack, business has become a battlefield. It’s no surprise, then, that it took Craig Stronberg–a director at PwC who spent 20 years working in the U.S. intelligence community–to help create a solution to prepare corporations for cyberattacks. Game Of Threats is an iPad-based game that simulates a real-time cyberattack, during which executives must play out attack-versus-counterattack strategies against each other. To heighten the realism, players have 90 seconds to react and must deftly manage their resources (IT hires, funds for antivirus software) to protect their valuables (client data, intellectual property). There’s even a “social feed” that might show damning news about the company’s site going down. “There is tremendous pressure that companies are going to feel in the midst of a breach,” says Stronberg. “They have to feel that pressure when they play the game, too.” Available since last year, the game has been played by about 100 companies globally.
Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?
I see creative inspiration in the combination of things that I think a lot of people look at separately and finding a new way and an innovative way to make things work. I’ll give you an example: Game Of Threats is really two things. When most people play the game they think instantaneously that it’s gamification. It is gamification, which is the feel, the interface, the rewarding, the feedback, but it’s game theory, too. Doing things like people like John Nash, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for game theory, and how they tried to educate about how you make decisions carefully and strategically–that part of it is really interesting to me, how you’re able to combine academic theory and even military theory and intelligence theory with cutting-edge technology and the client doesn’t need to understand that. What they get is the experience of both, so instead of just playing a game and being rewarded, they’re learning how to make better decisions on a key issue.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
My son is the center of my life. First thing is, I go into his room and get him up and get him going and we have breakfast together every morning and talk about who won and who lost the previous night at the Nationals. He got an Xbox for christmas and could not be more excited that I’m actually making games for a living; he thinks that’s the coolest thing. That’s what really drives me, seeing his joy, and the connection that I have with him. I am very grateful that I have a job that now is part of his life. I’m able to be his room parent and his Little League coach, and I couldn’t before because any time something serious happened globally I had to go behind a locked door. Three years into this, I relish that I can do that and have that time.
What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?
I think it would surprise people that we are actually doing some of the more innovative things that we are doing with technology. We got a lot of really good press about the Game Of Threats and many of the people we played with from the media were surprised. Many people, when they think of PwC, they think of the areas that started the firm. People think of accountants and assurance. What we are doing, including this game, nobody else does what we’re doing including my old places of work. They just don’t do it. They weren’t able to put together the need and the right team of people.
What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?
That’s pretty hard to pick a favorite Twitter account. I use Twitter for so much in terms of getting information. But there are some individuals and groups that think differently and creatively about how to shape future outcomes:
- The National Intelligence Council (the NIC) @ODNI_NIC
- The Forum for the Future @Forum4theFuture
- MIT Media Lab @medialab
What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?
I have colleagues who think about issues very differently from me. When I’m in a rut, or I think I’ve really got a winning idea but need to test it, I have informal discussions with these people. I’ve found they challenge my thinking and assumptions and help me get out of dead ends and to make my ideas more robust.
Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?
Makers of short films and even commercials. I am captivated by the ability to capture people’s attention and tell a compelling story in a short space of time. There’s a website that collects the short films and commercials of well-known and obscure filmmakers. The variety of approaches and strategies to telling a story fascinates me and also gives me new ideas in how to present games to audiences in a short space of time.