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What Father's Day Means To Game Developers


June 15, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next
 

Gamasutra had a chance to talk with a multitude of game developers who play games with, talk about games with, or are just influenced in their thinking thanks to their kids, leading up to this Sunday's Father's Day.

In talking to each of them about how being a father has changed the way they do business and make games, it became clear that proud parents think in completely different ways about the video game development and play process. Here are their stories.

Mike Sellers
Father to Samantha, 26, Justin, 24, Jason, 22, Jessica, 20, Vanessa, 16, and Nathan, 13
(CEO and Chief Alchemist, Online Alchemy)

I’ve worked in the games industry since 1994: three startups (two acquired, one current), 3DO, and Electronic Arts (Maxis and Origin). Life balance has always been and remains a huge issue. In some ways, working in games has given me more points of contact with my kids, but it’s also made me more aware of what games get made and what I’m willing to make.

Early in the life of my second startup, we were offered a lot of money to make online porn games. We turned it down, even though the company needed the money; that’s not who we were. I would have this turned this down even without my kids, but they do highlight such situations – what am I representing, and how can I help make my industry a less seamy, violent, adolescent-male-fantasy place?

We’re also working on advanced AI for “believable characters.” Having raised several kids, I can tell you that “natural intelligence” is a lot easier to foster than AI. But both my family life and my work have informed each other – I look at my kids’ development in my work, and vice versa.

Finally, I’m pretty deeply rooted in my family, my church, and my community. I think this has helped me avoid some of the more pernicious ego-inflating aspects of working in games, where you can be the celebrated flavor of the month, and then just as quickly yesterday’s news. Aside from just making me a better person, this also helps me weather the ups and downs of working in games with, I hope, a better perspective and more equanimity than I might otherwise have.

Currently Playing
We play lots of games. My youngest son and I still enjoy Katamari Damacy together. I try to play Star Wars Battlefront with him, or DDR with my youngest daughter, but both beat me easily. As a family, though, we regularly play a wide variety of non-digital games like Settlers of Catan, Set, San Juan, Civilization, Carcassone, Apples to Apples, and old standbys like Monopoly. And somehow we’ve evolved this tradition where every Christmas, I run a D&D adventure.


Bruce Nesmith
Father to Jessica, 20, Danielle, 18, and Michaela, 14
(Director of Design, Bethesda)

Two things they've taught me are, one, I don't always have to win. I can enjoy playing a game with my kids, and let them win or help them win. It's okay. I don't have to go for the kill. Two, they’ve taught me a deeper understanding of the social play that girls enjoy vs. boys. It's not as simple as guns vs. dolls, but there is an aspect of that to it.

Currently Playing
My kids love word games, trivia games, and reflex games. Boggle, Scrabble, Cranium, Slap Jack (card game). On the computer they play The Sims (of course), loved Curse of Monkey Island games, and Zoo Tycoon.

--

Noah Falstein
Father to Mara, 17
(Game Designer, The Inspiracy)

My daughter Mara has affected my work quite significantly a number of times. I was approached by some people to do a design for a game for Playboy (an earlier version of what became The Mansion) and in talking it over with my wife and daughter, I realized that I just couldn't do the work justice and look them straight in the eye - so I, with some relief, turned down the job. But more profoundly, when I was at Dreamworks Interactive I worked on a game called Chaos Island, an RTS game based on the movie The Lost World, and aimed at 10-12 year-olds.

My daughter was only 7 when I finished the game, but she enjoyed playing around with it and meeting the people who built it. Then a few years later when she was in the right age range, she rediscovered the game on her own and I came home one day to find her several missions in, and excited about asking me how to tackle the next level. I'd previously been energized and elated to imagine abstractly the millions of people that have played games I've worked on - but that experience made me realize (like the old Hollywood cliche), "this time, it's personal."

Having her as a potential audience for my games has made me think hard about a lot of things I used to take for granted, everything from issues of moral implications of the games to just wanting to make it fun - for her. I've read that some authors write their novels with a family member in mind as the audience, and ever since that day I've understood how profoundly that can influence their creative process for the better.

There's also an amusing story of what happened when I carefully let her, at age 10, play Diablo 2 – and the consequences when, unknown to me, she shared it with her best friends, also ten-year-old girls – but that's another tale.

Seth Spaulding
Father to Seth Richard, 20 months
(Art Director, Firaxis)

My father worked as a salesman all his life to support his family. He was a talented artist, but never did much commercially with it. I know that he was very proud that I was able to make a living while doing something that I loved and I hope to encourage my son to do the same. Beyond that, I'm particularly happy with the games that Firaxis and Cyberlore have made that can be played together by families and that can be enjoyed by people of almost any age.

Currently Playing
Hide and Seek, working on Catch

--

Joe Minton
Father to Orion Minton, 2.5
(Partner, Digital Development Management)

Having a child hasn’t changed the way I approach game development. I was already cognizant of not wanting to put material into the world that I felt could be damaging as well as the importance of a work-life balance.

Currently Playing
Wii Sports
!


Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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