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Father's Day Week: Zipper's Byrne, Xenopi's Cha

Gamasutra is posting mini-Q&As with developers leading up to this Sunday's Father's Day - this time, we talk to author and Zipper Interactive lead designer Ed Byrne (SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs), and Xenopi Studios' Eric Cha (The Dark Legions) ab
Gamasutra is posting mini-Q&As with game developers who play games with their kids, leading up to this Sunday's Father's Day. In this second installment, we talk to author and Zipper Interactive lead designer Ed Byrne (SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs), and Xenopi Studios' Eric Cha (The Dark Legions) about how being a father has changed the way they do business and make games. --- Ed Byrne Father to Ciaran, 6, Willow, 3, and Eleanor, 6 months (Zipper Interactive, Lead Designer, Author of Game Level Design published by Charles River Media) One of the pivotal moments of my career intersecting with being a parent was when I was working on Harry Potter at Amaze. I was tooling around in UnrealEd working on a level when my son Ciaran (he was 2) came wandering in, to see what I was doing. He was fascinated by these magic chests that spawned jellybeans, and so I built a new level for him - just a bunch of connected rooms with chests in them that would spawn hundreds of jelly beans when he cast a spell on them. A simple matter of about 10 minutes of copying and pasting kept him enthralled for hours - he still remembers that level, and talks about it as we work on a game he's been designing at home. It made me realise both the amount of joy kids have in just interacting and exploring, and how we often forget that as developers, in our rush to be the first title to use all 18 gazillion teraflops of the GPU to render photorealistic shell casings. It also made me realise how impressionable the things we make are to kids - like it or not, we bear some responsibility in the kind of content we create that may be exposed to youngsters. It certainly makes making casual games a more tempting proposition when you've got kids around you all hours of the day :) Fundamentally though, having kids has made me all too aware of the fact that I won't allow them to play the games I make right now, just because so much violence is necessary for success. This has led me to strive constantly to allow players a moral choice in my games, no matter what the genre or rating. In my most recent project we added non-lethal weapons, as a way for players to complete their missions without shooting everything that moved. We also added civilians for the same reasons. It's harder to play the game trying to capture - rather than kill - enemies, but the rewards are much greater. That's a conscious design framework I don't think I would have arrived at without being a father. Currently Playing My oldest kid loves his DS, but recently he's playing Rampart with my wife and I (figures I'd use a $600 console to play an arcade game from 1990) and Katamari Damacy. My older daughter plays a seemingly endless array of web games on Nickelodeon.com and Noggin. Eleanor isn't old enough to play games - or even hold a controller - but I suspect she'll be whipping my ass in Mario Kart in a few years the ways she's been eying the GameCube lately. --- Eric Cha Father to Natalie, 5, and, Ethan, 2.5 (Programmer & Designer, Xenopi Studios) You know, having kids hasn't had a huge overt effect on my game work, but I would probably say that I am more interested in creating games which have more "meaning" to them (be that better story-telling, educational elements, emotional components, or problem-solving elements). I'm not sure why this is, but I guess I having kids reminds me what it is like to be a kid, and why I became enamored with games in the first place. Currently Playing Occasionally, we will play web games together or Disney games. Mostly, I take them to the park or children's museum or other outdoorsy type stuff. My son particularly enjoys this, and while my daughter much prefers to read (been reading since before the age of 2). I want her to enjoy extroverted activities as well as introverted. [Gamasutra would like to thank Brenda Brathwaite, game designer and professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, for arranging these series of Q&As to honor Father's Day. We'll be posting installments throughout the week, with a full feature, including many not-yet-printed tributes, on Friday.]

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