This morning on the radio (KQED!), I heard a dad’s reflection on a time where he brought his son to a Pokemon card game tournament. As a gamer, I found it oddly touching. Often, we who enjoy our private gaming worlds share a language that others find gibberish, get excited about things that others scratch their heads at and think, “What’s the big deal?”
There is still a persistent lack of empathy for what nerdlings love, be it a Pokemon card game, a D&D session, or the latest video game. It goes both ways, I’ll admit. A lot of fellow gamers I’ve met don’t seem to understand that they’re not being understood when they speak of their passions. On the other hand, those who don’t understand the feeling that designer Jane McGonigal has described as “fiero”, are often dismissive. Yet one dad decided to take a glimpse into his own son’s life and gave it some recognition, and had it broadcasted on radio.
You can hear this Perspective here: http://www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201109160735
Since Red Seraphim’s current work in progress, Kymera Keeper, is about to go into beta in a few weeks, I took a little while to reflect on the long journey the company has taken in making this game. My roundabout reflections start with the impetus for joining Red Seraphim to a game in the first place.
Facebook games are notorious for their pull. Whether you’re constructing a farm, a city, or trying to take down your friend’s empire, all Facebook games are constructed in such a way where the player achieves small, incremental goals. But I sincerely believe that games on social networks, while very addictive, are limited in how they define the goals that can be achieved. Yes, a player could complete quests where they plant three flowers and build a house. Through learning the game’s systems, they could eventually build a grand farm, city, empire, garden, set of pets, aquarium, restaurant, and so forth… but there’s not much else to it after a while. There are so many other reasons people play games. Some want to experience a story. Some want to find an activity and master it. Some simply want to win. And yet others (and Facebook has tapped into this very well, I think) want to nurture something and feel rewarded for it. What also makes games more fun is if you can accomplish all these things with your friends, or even a community.
Social games are in an awkward position right now. They’re games – but they still aren’t “legitimate” in the eyes of mainstream gamers because so many of the above aspects are neglected right now. At the same time, they’re a significant part of the gaming life of casual gamers who have shied away from mainstream games because they are approachable and do not require a big time commitment. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t trying to make Kymera Keeper casual enough for people to pick up right away and enjoy, and not hardcore enough to be a deep and competitive game. In a perfect world, I hope Kymera Keeper can be living proof that social games do not need to be insipid and simple, and a game with competition does not need to alienate those who aren’t out to compete.
Red Seraphim started with the lack of opportunity. When you think about it, it’s actually very funny, since endeavors are about opportunities exploited by clever (or lucky) individuals. Not so with Red Seraphim.
So what’s Red Seraphim? It’s a gaming startup, where I am a co-founder.
Quite a few of my friends and people I met in the MBA program at Santa Clara University were interested in getting into gaming. Every opening we ran into either required us to be a QA tester for years and years, and maybe move up the ladder. If we wanted to make the games themselves, we needed experience with a launched game title. So how the heck do you have experience with a launch when the entry level positions require previous experience?
Fine. If no doors are open, we make one. And Red Seraphim is that door for all of us, founder, manager, or intern.
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
-Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV
These are the words of an accomplished man, and I’m trying to be an accomplished man. After getting a lot of dirt under my fingernails, am I going to repeat these words in my mind?
Is it actually worth giving things a shot, even if everything is meaningless? There’s only one way to find out – by climbing to the top, and that’s what I intend to do… or go down trying.