Universal Happymaker
Based in Seattle and Los Angeles

Founding date:


Press / Business contact:

Astronaut The Best


Universal Happymaker builds games that are moral laboratories. We intend to create a world where everyone enjoys our games WITHOUT EXCEPTION.


UHM History

Universal Happymaker began at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media program, as an arts collective of grad students dedicated to experimental narrative games. Years later, members Mike Sennott and David Mershon revived the UHM name as a commercial games studio carrying on its ethos. After several prototypes, they decided to create a management game loosely based on the dilemmas in the book "The Right Stuff," which with the addition witchcraft and other weirdness became Astronaut: The Best in 2015.

For AtB's style, they looked outside the games industry. Julia Y, a Seattle-area gallery artist, and Matt Zapp, a Boston-area musician, soon joined the team. For over eight years, they have worked outside their day jobs to create Astronaut: The Best with no outside funding.

Astronaut: The Best Team

MIKE SENNOTT is one half of the duumvirate that leads AtB’s design, coding, and writing. An ex-member of the American Academy of Poets, he brought his blistering contraband poesy to the world of indie games, where his work has featured at festivals including EGX, PAX, E3, and GDC. Most recently, he wrote, designed, and scored Wintermoor Tactics Club. He has also written a graduate thesis in procedural narrative, and fronted a Seattle-area rock band. He recently left a job as Creative Director at TechSmart, a company dedicated to equitable computer science education, to focus on launching AtB and raising his newborn son.

DAVID MERSHON writes, designs, and codes Astronaut: The Best. In his past life, he was a 3D artist who worked on several AAA titles at Rockstar Games, Sony Online Entertainment, and Pandemic Studios. Escaping the big-studio world for academia, he earned an Interactive Media MFA from the University of Southern California, then served as artist-in-residence at UCLA’s Design Media Arts Game Lab. While making AtB, he has been working part-time as a programmer at Blue Marble Game Co. in Los Angeles, trying to stay current on philosophy, and learning to appreciate Japanese whiskey and shmups.

JULIA Y does all the things involving art. She’s a freelance illustrator and nationally-exhibited gallery artist living in Seattle. Astronaut: The Best is her first game project! She brings to the team the crucial skills of fire-eating and hammering-nails-into-nose, with ten years’ experience as a traveling circus sideshow performer.

MATT ZAPP handles Astronaut: The Best’s music and audio. He’s an audio engineer, musician, and tinkerer based in Malden, Massachusetts. This is his first game project too! His first music project was starting a band with Mike when they were four years old. He currently works as an acoustic engineer, and drums and produces Brooklyn synth-rock band Inland Seas.



Team & Repeating Collaborator

Mike Sennott and David Mershon
Project Leads, Writing, Design, Programming

Julia Y
All of the Art

Matt Zapp
Music and Audio

presskit() by Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) - also thanks to these fine folks