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John Vechey
PopCap co-founder John Vechey

PopCap co-founder and General Manager John Vechey sat down to an Ask Me Anything Q&A session on Reddit today, and the results were interesting.

Vechey, who recently took the reins of the company from Dave Roberts, who retired earlier this year, is known for his outspoken, energetic personality, which came in handy as he answered all manner of questions on subjects ranging from microtransactions to toilet paper use.

Seattle-based PopCap has built up a major following among gamers for its casual titles like Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle and Bejeweled. Most recently, they launched Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a casual, third-person shooter that is based on characters from its popular franchise that pits botanical forces against the undead.

In addition, PopCap recently launched a special Humble Bundle that allows users to pay what they want for a group of classic PopCap games. All of the proceeds will be donated to the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Melanoma Research Alliance.

Here are the most interesting tidbits from his chat with the internet:

On how PopCap got its name:We were Sexy Action Cool, but thought it wasn’t the most mass market brand. We needed a name that was easy to spell and that we could buy the domain for.”

On his best life advice: “Empathy. Everyone has a lot going on, their own personal stories, and it’s so easy to forget that we’re all human, all with insecurities and fears, and all have our struggles on the inside.”

On his favorite strategy in Plants vs. Zombies: “I put my sunflowers way in front and build my offense in the back.”

On what it’s like to work for Electronic Arts, PopCap’s parent company, when EA is often the target of criticism: “I think in the last couple of years EA has been improving, even if not quite perfect, and the internal conversations about being a consumer first organization are huge – but it is a slow ship to turn.”

On his feelings about in-app purchases and microtransactions: “I love in app purchases when done right. They have to be aligned with the fun of the game, the game has to be fun to play for free, and the in app purchases have to fuel the creation of more customer value.

On his biggest failure, and how he learned from it: 

“At some point in the early days I left PopCap. I was the CEO at the time, we were doing well, but I left to go “make movies” and spent about a year and a half doing short films. Ultimately we hired a CEO and he encouraged me to come back, and it was the best decision of my life.

For me the failure was not realizing that it had nothing to do with the movies or wanting to direct movies, it was that I was in over my head. I had a lot of natural leadership skills, but I didn’t have the experience or emotional maturity. While I will never direct a movie, I am so grateful I came back to PopCap and will continue for many years to come.

What I learned was this: shit is hard. Really hard. And knowing why it’s hard, and knowing yourself, is key. It’s also key to stick with stuff when it gets hard, as the reward and benefits come after. I’ll be honest, being an EA executive isn’t always easy, but my past experience helps me power through the tough times, because I know EA can be great, and know that PopCap has its part in that going forward.”

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