Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Who's Your Daddy?

Erin Hoffman | 26 Dec 2006 07:04
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Parenting and politics are two things you don't talk about in polite company because they reach down into the core of human issues that provide driving forces in our lives. These two topics have only begun to germinate in the gaming world, and it's a sure bet that they start fires wherever they go.

In a recent Slashdot discussion responding to a student who asks whether he should get a Master's degree in game development or computer science, one commenter notes that "[t]he fact of life in the videogame industry is that once you been in the industry for 10 years and/or over 30 years old [sic], you're no good to the cheap bean counters who run a lot of these game companies."

This sentiment runs deep through game development, and with over half of developers expecting to leave the industry within the next 10 years, a frightening mass exodus has already begun. While many studios are working to deliberately create a family-friendly environment for the benefit of their family-minded game-makers, no one really talks about why studios ought to be stepping up to the plate for families for the benefit of their games.

And they should. Parents tend to be more in tune with target game demographic trends, enforce saner development practices that provably improve reliable product delivery and keep a project focused to achieve goals faster - so that they can go home. We ought to be talking about this, and we also ought to be talking about how game developers make some of the best parents around.

Trend Setter, Bellwether
Gamers and kids have an intuition for what's "in" that borders on being a sixth sense. Developers are frequently working way too hard to keep up with all of the latest games, much as we try. Ask around - the number of years a person has spent in the industry will be inversely proportional to the number of new titles on their shelves, unless that developer has kids. We "free agents" try, and we're always aware of the big ones, but no one knows trends like a tween, and parents absorb that knowledge through sheer (often unwilling!) osmosis.

Kids typically figure out games faster and play games more thoroughly than adults. Simply by virtue of having been raised on the technology, children are adapting with startling quickness to new forms of gameplay and game control; we are witnessing another phase in intellectual evolution in the rapidness with which they take up new technologies. Defender was a challenge back in the day, but now? I stand in awe to think of the future capacities of a kid raised on Gradius V.

Tobi Saulnier, CEO of 1st Playable Productions, notes that kids have an edge on creativity. "Young children have a way of keeping you creative since they see things without as many layers of rules: as my daughter once speculated: 'A long time ago people didn't have cars and roads, so ... they had to fly everywhere!' Hearing the way your kids look at things helps stimulate your imagination and be willing to disregard convention." Kenneth Yeast, Director of Engineering at Los Angeles-based 7 Studios, agrees; having kids, he says, gives developers "a place to see play in a way that they don't see it in the adult environment."

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