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EGD News #66 — Game Industry Parenting

EGD News #66 — Game Industry Parenting
young woman lying on bed and using laptop while daughter playing with wooden constructor
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Sent on January 29th 2021.

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Hi there,

It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!

Yesterday, I did a webinar with a bunch of folks who are looking to build better pitch decks for the game studios. The recording of the webinar is now live on the EGD website and you can also get my presentation by going there.

I did a Q&A session at the end of the webinar, but I’m still getting lots of questions over Twitter and LinkedIn DMs. I’ll return to those in next week’s EGD News.

In the meantime, watch the recording and get the presentation from here.

Now, let’s get into the news​

🧒 Game Industry Parenting

I recently did a poll on LinkedIn. There I asked this question:

“For parents who work in the games industry: how many hours a day do you allow your kids to play video games?”

The results of 261 votes came in without much surprises to me, who is a dad of two boys of 9 and 5.

  • 1 to 2 hours, 52%
  • 3 to 4 hours, 19%
  • 5 or more hours, 13%
  • I don’t allow video games, 16%

I got dozens of comments into the thread. Here are some interesting ones.

“Am I the only one with kids who are not into gaming at all? My two daughters (3 and 8) will play with me on the Switch from time to time but I feel it’s more to indulge me than anything else… My wife doesn’t play and from what my 8yo one is telling me, gaming is still very much considered a « boy » thing at school. In the end, gaming remains daddy’s thing and that makes daddy sad…”

“I think 1-2hrs per day is unavoidable for most working parents. For our 7 year old it’s not to difficult to limit, as he has school work to complete. But for our 3 year old screen time is the only thing that keeps him quiet, especially when my wife and I both have meetings and work to do.”

“We’ve noticed that long sessions of screens make them irritable, whether games or telly. A morning of screens means we really need to get them outside in the afternoon. The weekday ban is about avoiding the perpetual “Can I have screens” question. The biggest issue is that we, as an industry, are really good at on-Ramps into fun. Toys, art, imagination games are much less so. The screen limits are there to nudge them into playing things they really enjoy but require more effort or willpower to start.”

As I was reading these comments, there was an interesting podcast episode released by the Knowledge Project, where the host is interviewing Dr. Jane McGonigal, around the topic of The Psychology of Gaming. Jane McGonigal has written lots of papers and books around the topic of how games are good for us.

In this podcast, they talked about gaming and kids, so I wanted to highlight a few things from the discussion.

Question: How should parents think about gaming with kids? There’s a lot of questions around screen time and whether I should let my kids play certain video games or not?

“Number one thing is, you have to be in conversation with your kids around what they’re playing. There are powerful questions that I ask my kids about their favorite game:”

  • What does it take to be good at this game?
  • What skills does it require?
  • What kind of personality or temperament does it require?
  • What have you gotten better at since you started playing this game?
  • What’s the hardest thing you’ve accomplished in this game? Ask them to tell you about how they did it—what did you have to do in order to meet that challenge?

“It turns out that people who can talk about what they’ve gotten better at, what real skills, whether it’s managing breathing or heart rate under pressure, or it’s creativity… Maybe it’s that ‘I don’t give up when things are hard’, or it’s communication in stressful situations with my teammates, or that I’m a really good information finder.”

“Whatever it is, people who can talk about that, tend to bring those skills to their work, to their learning, to their relationships, to their hobbies. And all you have to do to get somebody to transfer the benefits of games to real life.

“Just have that conversation. You could do it with yourself: just have a little game journal. Every time you play a new game, you’re like, What am I getting better after playing this game? What’s the hardest thing that I’ve achieved when I’ve been playing this game, and what did it take to do it?”

Regarding screen time and what they are playing?

“If you’re having those conversations with your kids, I don’t care what they’re playing. I don’t care if you’re playing Fortnite, for 20 hours a week. By the way, 21 hours a week is the tipping point where we do start to see it could get in the way of physical health or mental health. So, less than 21 hours a week is OK.”

“But other than that, it could be anything. Killing zombies, it’s the stuff that you don’t understand why they enjoy it. You could still ask those questions, and you could still have that conversation.”

Best time of day for kids to play?

“There’s a really counterintuitive study that showed the opposite of what most parents assume is true. If you want kids to retain what they study better, you should have them play video games first and then do their homework and then study before they go to sleep. Because if you study first and then as your reward, you get to play games. When you go to sleep, your brain is going to focus on the most salient problem it was recently trying to solve.”

“You go to sleep and your brain starts working on whatever you were just fixated on. You want the brain to be fixated on calculus or whatever the foreign words you’re studying are. Not on the level that you were trying to solve in a game.”

“The key is to set a hard time limit so that they play for 90 minutes and they switch to homework.”

Listen to this great podcast by going here.

🎙 Interview with Ilkka Paananen

I also recently bumped into this awesome interview with Ilkka Paananen, the co-founder and CEO of Supercell.

Ilkka has talked about these things over the years, but I believe he hasn’t been as concise in explaining the origin story of the Supercell culture before.

Here are my favorite takeaways from the show.

Question: You once said, “I am the least powerful CEO in the world.” Why did you say that? What does it mean for Supercell’s culture?

“To summarize: I believe that the more decisions that teams make and the less I make, the better. In an ideal world, if I make no decisions, then that would make me the least powerful CEO. The whole idea about Supercell and what is at the core of our culture is this idea of small and independent teams that we call Cells. The way to think about them is to think about smaller startups within the greater company. That’s how we think about them.”

Your experiences that you brought from Sumea, Digital Chocolate to Supercell?

“The thing that I learned was that ultimately, it’s all about the people”

“The reality is that the people who know what is best for the games and for the players, those people are actually the people who are building the game. It’s not the leadership team, not people like me.”

“And over the years, I realized our job as leaders should be to enable creative people to do their work better. Not try to control them. We spend so much time hiring the best people in the world. Why on earth would you try to control them? Why don’t you just trust them?”

“One of the things that made me fully realize this was at some point I started looking back at our hit games. What are the common denominators of these games?”

“1) There’s amazing people and great teams behind the games.”

“2) Most of these games had nothing to do with all of these fantastic processes that we’d designed. The usual story was: we didn’t have anything else for these guys to do. They’re sitting somewhere in the corner of the office, and they’re just doing whatever they wanted to do. They were flying under the radar, so to speak, and then the next thing, you know, this amazing game comes out.”

“Then I started to think that ‘Wow, these amazing games come out, not because of me, or the processes that we put together. They come out, despite all the things that we’ve done here. And that was a lucky, interesting moment, when I realized that.”

“3) I remember seeing the very first version of the Netflix culture deck and they’re talking about this culture of freedom and responsibility. But there they talk more from an individual’s perspective, about the employees themselves. Something struck me about that, that if we’d ever start a new company, this must be the idea, but we’d take the idea further. Instead of thinking about the freedom and responsibility of individuals, we’d start to talk about the freedom and responsibility of teams. And that led to the idea of Supercell.”

How do you make sure that the teams kill games themselves when they aren’t good enough?

“It’s funny what happens when you trust people and you trust the teams because then they get this enormous sense of responsibility. They really think that ‘this is my game, it’s my responsibility.’ How they think about responsibility is that it’s not that these people would need to feel a sense of responsibility for example, towards me as the CEO. They feel a sense of responsibility towards everybody at Supercell.”

There’s so much more to this episode. You can listen to it here.

🎙 Anton Gauffin, Huuuge Games

In this latest podcast episode, I’m talking with Anton Gauffin, founder and CEO of Huuuge Games. In this episode, we talk about leadership, company mission and vision and how Anton has grown to lead a 600 employee company.

“I think there’s been this vision, early on, that mobile gaming can become quite big. But back then, I don’t think I could have afforded to have a massively big mission or vision what we have now with Huuuge Games. Gradually, when there’s been more success, it has allowed the ambition to grow.”

Listen to the full episode by going here.

📃 Articles worth reading

Aligning Your Calendar With What Matters Most — “Once I began to align my calendar with what I value most, there was a massive shift in my priorities, energy, happiness, and creative output. I began to recognize and realize my full potential as a coach, creator, father, and human.”

Balancing your game systems and releasing content — “”Mobile games – like all other forms of entertainment – need to periodically introduce change and novelty to keep users engaged. So, finding a way to keep your game balanced while introducing new content is key for its long-term success.

The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class — “I’m happy to finally share a thesis I’ve been chewing on for a little while. I call it The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class, which states: The higher you ascend the ladder of the Educated Gentry class, the more you become Michael Scott.”

💬 Quote that I’m thinking about

“It absolutely wasn’t the right amount. It was either way too high or way too low and I’ll tell you in 10 years.”

— Eric Schmidt, in 2006 after being asked if $1.5B was the right amount to pay for Youtube

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That’s all for this week. Take care and stay safe!