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2013 November

Response to NPR: Third-Graders React To Video Games Tracking Their Play

Original Story

Below is my response in the comments section to this story, posted on NPR this morning, which I found quite offensive and misleading.

I am a 6 year professional game designer that uses analytics to make my games more fun. I do collect various anonymous data — for instance, I gather the aggregate number of players that will visit a particular game area in a day. If that area (or character, or mechanic) proves to be unpopular, I ask myself why, and use that iterative process to create more enriching and fun experiences. My goal is to become better at my art, and yes, like anyone, I want to create experiences and products that people will pay for.

What I do -not- do is “watch” and “track” your children playing games so I can make them more “addicted”. Those are loaded words that imply an intent that does not exist. I entered this industry to create experiences that are enjoyable, provide engaging challenges, and ignite the imagination. To best do that, I often do need to gather broad, behavioral feedback of what players do en masse… which, is a pretty common thing to do in just about any service or humanities directed profession.

Did you know that your local grocery store “watches” what you buy so they can stock their shelves with stuff that you’ll be more “addicted” to? Unlike me, they even video tape you doing it!

If a child gets to play my game for an hour, I’m going to give him or her the most amazing hour I can. I’m going to make sure he or she has the time of their life. That’s my job, and I’m so proud to do it. Fun and play are deeply rewarding and enriching parts of the human experience for everyone, in many different forms.

What I can not do from my position as a game designer, is discipline children to forego fun for more productive ends. I’ll provide the fun, but unless I really do “watch” your children, I can’t be the one to tell them when to stop.