eric knapp

eric knapp

Well, I am Eric Knapp. I am 61 years old. I live in Wisconsin, where I teach at a college. I teach computer programming at a college, and I am the program director for one of our degrees at the college.

But, first, I'll start with how I got into gaming because it's probably a little bit unique. I got into gaming with my children. When my kids were young and we got -- I think the GameCube was the first console. And I would sit with my kids because they wanted me to and I just did, and every once in a while when there was a scary scene, they'd throw the control at me and say, "You do it, daddy!"

It actually got me into it at that point.

[Laughs.]

I would solve the hard problems and beat the big nasty bosses, for a while, until they got going and of course pretty quickly surpassed me.

That's what got me into it. I think that's a good way to get into gaming, I think. [Laughs.] We liked it, we had good fun.

I continued to play myself, with several games. I think I stopped in the middle of Shadow of the Colossus. I think I was in the middle of that game when I stopped, and the reason I stopped is I am a busy teacher and father and I really, through a lot of circumstances, just wanted to play music again. I was a semi-pro musician when I was younger. Played in a lot of bands. I obviously wasn't going to be a full-time musician and make a living at it and sort of dropped away from it.

At that point, then, in the middle of Shadow of the Colossus, the desire to get back into music just overwhelmed me. I was not happy with a lot of the games. They just did not speak to me in any way. The games I really don't like are the hyper-violent games. I really just don't like them. I don't like what they represent and they always turned me off, and that seemed to be the main focus of gaming. It was too violent. I just decided to move on and go back to music, and because of my time constraints, I just had no more time for gaming.

So I just put the controller down one day and said, "I want to play music again."

I've gotten back into it and I have friends and the Internet allows you to connect with musicians all over the world now more than they did when I was young. I even asked a few musicians: "Have you ever had this experience where you're sitting, doing something, entertaining something. TV, movies, gaming, or whatever, and all of a sudden you say to yourself, 'I could be practicing!'?" And everyone I've asked that has said the same thing. They all laughed and said, "Oh yeah, that's the musician's experience right there." [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

And some of them say if they have an instrument that they can play quietly, they'll do some exercises while they watch TV. But a lot of them have a much-reduced experience using other entertainments because music really is fun. For someone who really wants to be a musician, very little else will satisfy on that level.

I'm also a musician, so I understand it. But I think there's also a difference between creating and consuming. And I guess there's been a rise of games that are meant to enable creativity. Are you familiar with, like, LittleBigPlanet?

I think I've not played it. I think I've seen it. That's not one that my kids are into. I think that the concept of creation versus consumption is really interesting. I have these kind of talks with my wife, who loves to read fiction. I don't get the same enjoyment out of it.

I think those of us who say we're makers and we don't like to just consume -- I had discussions where people push back at that. I think, very legitimately, where they're say reading a book or enjoying a movie or enjoying a videogame is a creative process. It is causing all kinds of creative experiences in your mind that most people are extending the entertainment experience in their minds, in a creative way. I think that's absolutely legitimate. I think that that's a creative experience -- that can be a creative experience.

I think I'm more leaning now to the idea that it's not creation versus consumption, in my mind. It's how we want to create. And also something came out about this that I find interesting. People have told me, "I do it to relax. That's my relaxation." Maybe work gets you revved up or makes you tense. What may be externally a consumption of entertainment media -- they do it to relax.

That really hit home with me because I realized that is not what happens with me when I play videogames. They were not relaxing in any way whatsoever. They were a fun experience and they were sometimes a very -- I really enjoyed them. I'm a computer programmer myself and so there's a lot about a game that I can really appreciate the craft that has gone into the games, but I realized that was one of the parts of deciding to move on: They are not relaxing. They can be a really good experience, but for me they do not relax me. They actually raise my tension level.

I think some of that has to do with your age. I experienced that recently. I don't know what erodes inside of us, but there's barriers to certain types of sensitivity that you just don't notice when you're younger. I was stunned playing a game a couple weeks ago, just the level of intensity that it made me feel. I don't ever remember that as a kid. I don't know what that is.
What do you think it is about the aging process that makes games seem a little bit more intense? Or do your kids disprove this notion, and you see them probably getting that tense and just not realizing it?

No. They're not getting the tension level that I am in anyway. Matter of fact, I doubt very many people do.

Well, I mean, you quit.

At the end of intense things, I've been known to be drenching because I'm so tense I'm sweating. It is partly related to age, I think. A cynical person might say that one of the things that happens to people -- especially males -- over time is our testosterone level falls as we age. So, it may be that we're not as aggressive. We don't really care anymore. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

But also, I think that it's becoming more aware of our surroundings. More aware of people suffering, that everybody's going through something. A teacher who is paying attention starts becoming aware of the issues that students are facing.

I teach adults, and so I become more and more aware over time that adults are struggling. As I become aware of that, the games just didn't connect with that. Yes, I'm old. But I'm an old dad. People were having grandchildren when I was having children, so I have a slightly different experience because I'm still around kids. Well, my youngest is now 15. And they're brilliant gamers, but they do not like violent games. They have never liked violent games.

They like Tales of the Abyss. That's one of their favorite games. They like Psychonauts. My favorite of all time was Wind Waker. I connected with that game better. It just had a different ethic and just had a different look and feel. I really enjoyed Wind Waker. I thought it was a great game.

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How long was your run playing videogames? It sounds like you probably quit within the last decade.

Right. It was several years. They even bought me a PS2 for Christmas one year so I could play Shadow of the Colossus because I had been interested in it.

Was that gift really just for you?

Maybe. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

It started out that way. Our family -- we like fun games. I think Katamari Damacy was a favorite of the family. That's kind of a wacky game. [Laughs.] So, yes, I think it was for me originally. That was the only game we had at first, and then we started getting other games, and then they took it over. But that's okay.

The other thing that I noticed about games over time that I think is different between children and adults is -- especially with having a musician's perspective -- is how long it takes to really get good at them and how much focus is needed and how much time doing repetitive tasks is needed in order to get good at a game. That is really very similar to the kind of effort needed to be able to play music.

I'm an educator, so there's very few things we can do that we've been able to figure out that will cause children to focus as much and practice as much as videogames. I live in a town with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and there is some research going on here. There's a lot of interest and a lot of data, a lot of science behind the notion that this is probably good for children at some level. Getting them to focus hard and getting them to think and do things in a repetitive way. We used to be able to force them to. A lot of people are finding that modern kids are a little bit harder to force to practice the piano and so forth now.

So, what is the difference in time between how long it takes children and adults to get good at games? What have you noticed about that?

I don’t know of any hard data on this. My instinct is that it is roughly comparable. Some may feel adults will need more time. I think adults don’t have the time necessary but if they did, and focused as hard as kids do, they would learn just as fast.

You've mentioned a couple games already. What other types of games did you play and what did you think you were enjoying about them?

I was enjoying the problem-solving. I was enjoying the adventure, the sense of adventure that we could point our boat in a direction and just sail and see what came up. I like that about some games, where we can just walk around. Shadow of the Colossus, sometimes I actually wasn't in a hurry to get to the next stage because I'd just ride the horse around and look. It was a beautifully done game from an artistic standpoint. So, I like the sense that -- we humans like to explore. We like to look and see what's around the next hill. What's at the end of this river?

We don't get to do that very much in real life. Being able to do that, to have a moment where we can explore -- and it's a directed explore at some level. Some games really do not allow you to just go off in any direction you want. But the way good games are done, I think, is that there is that aspect of they don't just tell you what to do. "Here's a world. You have to explore it and figure out what to do."

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I think that aspect is very fascinating to me, to be able to just wander. Then, problem-solve. It's like, "Okay. I have to get in this door." [Laughs.] Like, I can't get in the door, how do I get in the door?

I really resisted going online and trying to find: "How do you open this door?" I really wanted to find it myself. I think that was what got me intrigued, because I was curious. If the game could hook my curiosity and let me explore and it wasn't just about beat-'em-up and it wasn't just about following this trail of coins, I found it much more interesting. The games that were much more guided -- in other words, had a much more one-dimensional aspect where you just follow this path and dealt with what came to you, those kinds of games are not as interesting to me.

You may have already answered this, but is there some form of fulfillment you used to get from games that you just stopped?

I think the part of the fulfillment was that there was a lot of magic. There was a lot of wonder and magic involved. I am a computer programmer, and so as I started becoming aware of how games were written and the techniques that are used and the game engines, I started seeing the patterns. I started seeing, "Oh, this is just that. This is just that engine with this variation. They're using this shading." [Laughs.]

I started being critical of it from a creation standpoint, and for me, I realize, in the beginning it was really cool because it was so unknown. But after a while I realized, "Oh, I know how they did this, I know how they did that." It started losing the magic to me, I guess.

Do you feel like you just see less creativity or less experimentation to recapture that magic?

I don't know. I think that when I hear my students talk about a game that they really are enjoying, that's really different and new, my guess as I'm listening to them talk -- and I'm not trying to listen in on their conversations, but they're just talking about gaming under class a lot when I'm setting up and stuff. I think that is part of it. They're really intrigued that something that's interesting that grabs their attention that's not something they're familiar with -- it's one of those things that as I teach my students. I teach iPhone development as my primary area. As we go through the learning how to do it, they're going to start looking at their iPhone and they're gonna see apps and they're gonna start saying, "Oh, I know how they do that." [Laughs.]

And so as they learn, your use of the tool is going to change because you will now know how to do it. And you're gonna hear people say, "Man, I wish there was an app that did this." And one day all of a sudden in your mind you're gonna say, "Wow, I think I could write that app." [Laughs.]

So it changes when you know how to do it. I cannot listen to music the way non-musicians listen to it. It's a different experience. Like, my wife is a writer. She's the former journalist trying to come up with a new world, new life. And she's a writer and when she reads a really good book, she's appreciating it at a level I can't. The construction of language is a beautiful thing to her, and the craftsmanship of a good writer is a huge part of enjoyment for her. Where, I can't see that very well. I'm reading it for the plot and for the experience of what the characters are going through. But the actual writing? I don't really notice that.

And so the same thing with music for me. I listen to music very differently. I used to have arguments with friends who love to listen to music and they could tell I was bored, and they would push back at me and I'd finally just say, "As you grow as a music listener, over time you will want to have more rhythmic and harmonic complexity and surprises. That will happen to you."

[Laughs.]

And they would push back and say, "No, no." Then years later a couple of them would say, "You know, that music we loved back then? It really is boring now." [Laughs.]

Yeah. Did you turn them onto Yes or something?

I'm into jazz, too, but Yes is very much music that was a different level of rock than what was there.

A lot of it was jazz, where I was wanting to hear more interesting music. And it's like, "Okay, I want to see Chick Corea when he was in town." They're like, "That's really boring stuff." [Laughs.]

Do you feel something similar happens in videogames?

I think absolutely. I think that's where I'm heading here. I think absolutely that's what's happening. You become more selective. You become more of a critic. Your critical ability raises over time. That happens naturally with aging, and I think that also happens with experience. So I think if you combine those with aging and experience -- and by aging I don't mean growing old, I mean just going from 10 to 15 to 25 -- things look different, they feel different, they sound different.

I mean, I tell my programming students, "If you look at code you've written a year ago and aren't embarrassed, then you aren't growing." So we need to keep moving forward and learning. I think that as people become -- as they grow up with gaming, they naturally become more critical of it. My 21-year-old daughter is also now becoming a programmer and she's an incredible gamer. She really is able to critique them, and now that she's learning how to program, she is now into that -- she's now enjoying games on a different level. She's enjoying the craftsmanship, too. She can see the craftsmanship, and she likes the story. She can tell when the story has a mature storyline and when you combine craftsmanship and storytelling and art all together, you have a high entertainment experience. She really enjoys it on all that level. I think that's great.

What do you notice about the way that your students or children talk about videogames? What do you notice happens to them as they talk about videogames?

Boy, good question. Well, one thing that I think that's really interesting is they're a little defensive. [Laughs.] I find that a little bit fascinating.

Defensive? How so?

"Yes, I play videogames. Deal with it!" [Laughs.]

But then they're able to -- I have smart students. Smart adult students who enjoy videogames, and so they're comparing and contrasting. They are talking about the high points and critiquing the gameplay and they're able to say, "This part of this game is really good, but man, they really goofed up in this area." I mean, they're critics, and they're critics in the sense of critics who love what they are critiquing. I don't know if there's a better name for that. [Laughs.]

I've talked about and observed this same defensiveness, and it's my nature to ask: "Why? Where does this come from? Will this go away? Does it need to?" But it seems so core to the identity here, and it can't just be because games have been long blamed for a bunch of things over the last few decades. I mean, a lot of those things have been disproven or understood to be laughably out of step.
A new colleague I made out at E3 told me she felt the game industry is unable to be embarrassed. And I've been thinking about that.
Something that can't be embarrassed has no sense of identity. So what does that mean?

That really is an interesting concept. I think the No. 1 defensiveness comes from the idea that games are for children and that you're supposed to grow out of them when you get a little bit older, and the reality is that people don't. They're playing games -- all ages are playing games. But I think that's part of it.

I think the next thing is -- you're right. There's a stigma involved in it.

I taught history. I was a high-school teacher, and I taught history. And so I'd sometimes bore my students. "Okay, I'm a high-school teacher. You're gonna get a history lesson every once in a while." The idea that everything that has come along has gone through this same period: rock 'n' roll, movies, radio, everything.

Books.

Books. Everything has gone through this thing. And gaming is not even the next one, I think it's almost last generation's one, now. I know the numbers. I know how big the gaming industry is. This is the entertainment industry. It is gaming. It's much bigger -- I think a lot of people are shocked when they realize what the numbers are.

Well, those numbers are a fudged with, if you're talking about the "bigger than Hollywood" thing, because they're also including hardware in there. I'm pretty sure if Hollywood also included the cost of film, equipment, and insurance, it would be a different perspective.

That sounds about right to me.

That's true.

It's big, though. There's a lot of money being spent on it, and there's a lot of money being spent to try to capture that money. I think that's another thing that's happening.

My first degree was in economics. You have to follow the money. Now that there's serious money in it, the serious-money people move into an area when there's serious money.

Part of the problem with -- I don't know Gamergate issues well enough, but it seems like it could be a predictable symptom of growth. Anything that gets big is going to get co-opted by the money, and that means you lose control. It changes. And change is inevitable. There's no way to stop it and we want change, but the idea is that the concept of gaming is changing. What gaming means is changing. I really followed the whole Roger Ebert "games are not art thing" with great fascination. Does gaming reach something that we can say is art? That same discussion happened with movies. [Laughs.] That same discussion happened with radio plays.

It's on and on. "What is art? And is this art?" To me, that's part of the evolution, that's part of the growth of the industry that's not really a young industry but it's not a mature thing yet. It also is going to change really fast. All of a sudden, out of the blue, mobile devices come along and upset everything. We're all trying to figure out how to adjust to mobile devices, and mobile devices have the potential -- they're very disruptive to the gaming industry. We can see that.

But I think they also do things that -- I do play, once in a while, somebody hooks me into playing a casual game on an iPhone or an iPad. Frequently that'll happen around a holiday. "Oh, it's Christmas break, dad's playing a game." But they're not the big games, the big console-level games. Now I can't even remember the name, I'll have to look it up.

But the very beautiful game, that was Monument Valley. That kind of game, I went through it and I really enjoyed it.

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I also had a student write a beautiful little game, which got her an internship at Apple, which then got her employed by Apple. Her game was really fun. But I reach a point with every game I play -- either the game ends like Monument Valley. It's a short game. It's a couple-hour game. It's not a 30- or 50-hour game. It's a couple-hour game. And it's beautiful and it's fun and it's got all the things that I like, which is problem-solving and you aren't quite sure what it's gonna do. And then it's done. Either the game finishes or I reach a point where I realize, "Okay, time to put this game down."

It's hard to tell you why I get to that point. I haven't looked at my own data. I haven't really been aware of it. It may just be I've spent two or three hours on it and that's enough. [Laughs.]

So there's a whole group of people like that. I'm suspecting there's a whole bunch of people like me who don't want to get too involved in it.

I've been talking to a lot of them. [Laughs.]

Okay, so, give me something that I can do that's interesting for a couple of hours and you may get me. Monument Valley did that.

Did you express an interest in videogames earlier in your life?

Yes. Matter of fact, I always joke about this with my friends. When I was in college, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The computer system that was used a lot in a college had this game called Star Trek that was just a command-line game. I don't know if you remember this, but people just played this game. [Laughs.] I had a friend who was getting his PhD in computer science at that point and he told me how much everybody hated it, because they were clogging up the computers. They would try to find every copy and delete it and then people would type it back in. [Laughs.]

I was sitting there one day and I noticed, "Boy, people sure put a lot of time and energy into trying to play this game."

The next thing that should've happened was, "Maybe I oughta learn how to do this. There might be a future in this!" [Laughs.]

That was that. So, I realized, at that point, I had my first taste of what people will do to play these games and what the potential was. I thought , "Man, that was really interesting." Then, when the personal computers started coming out and I noticed the gaming in it, I was really fascinated from a technical perspective all along. I just never really had time or never got into doing it myself at the time.

But I've always been following it, because I think that as a teacher of children at first and then adults, we're constantly looking for something to do. I mean, that's the battle cry of youth around the world, and especially American youth: "Give me something to do!"

"I'm bored."

"I'm bored!"

And classically, boredom is actually a natural thing in humans. It's the thing that tells us to get up and go do something. We don't let kids do enough. They don't have enough stimulation. They don't have enough freedom to do things. So, games have given them something to do and I think that's an important thing.

This is not something that is like recorded music, music on the radio. Yes, it's evolving, but it's not going away. Movies are not going away. Nothing is going away. We're adding to it. I listened to a fascinating talk from Levar Burton a few years ago at Apple's big developer conference where he talked about he thought we're in the transition to an app culture, that that was really important. What was probably taking over the importance of TV was apps and gaming -- taking over from TV, the role of cultural driver. I think that's a really important point. If that's true, and I think it's true, then it means it's an important thing.

It's not something that's going to go away. It's something that needs to evolve and I think that quality experiences that -- entertainment doesn't have to educate. I'm not an educator that would ever say it has to. But even as a teacher, I think part of my job is to hook people into learning, anyway. [Laughs.]

It's funny because I feel like -- we talked about the defensiveness, insecurity in games. I feel like there's a lot of over-intellectualization around games to maybe try to make them mean something more than they do, because they can't just be something we spend time on to have fun.

[Laughs.]

Absolutely some of them can mean something, but do they all have to mean something? Do all movies mean something?

No.

Like, what is the deeper reading of Scary Movie?

I'm gonna loop this back to maybe the age aspect. Why do people go to see things like Scary Movie and why do they play games? Part of it is to raise your energy level. It gives you a buzz. It raises your emotional flywheel. It spins it up and gives you an experience. I can tell you from experience that one of the things for older people is that the flywheel takes a while longer to slow down, now. And, I don't really need to spin it up. I don't really need to get to have to that buzz, that increase in emotional response. I don't need that anymore.

For me, that's a big deal. Things that are emotionally intense.

I'll tie this back in. And this is a personal thing. But when you've lost loved ones, and the older you get, the more loved ones you lose, frankly. You realize that -- I can just sit alone and remember friends who are gone. That's enough. [Laughs.] I don't need -- the idea is that part of it I want a quieter experience. I don't need to buzz up quite as much.

Talking to my friends as we age, and my family as we age, my father's about to turn 99. He's very much with it. He's writing poetry and painting and he wants to -- it's a very different experience. As he would say, he doesn't need the shouting. He wants quiet discussion now. [Laughs.]

Did you ever run into the notion or expectation that it's kinda weird that you're playing games at the age you were doing it, or that you should've moved on by now? Or not really, because of your job?

No, not really because of my job. And also, I come from a long line of individualists who have ignored that kind of stuff. That was never the motivation. Actually, and frankly, if I had had the games that are available to kids these days when I was a kid, I woulda been all over it. There's no doubt. Because it actually does something. My kids, I noticed something really early: My kids were not interested in static entertainment. With TV, they just didn't watch a lot. And the reason why is it didn't do anything. [Laughs.] They couldn't interact with it, they couldn't affect it. They liked being able to -- they know they're not in control of a game, but they're a part of it and they're actually doing stuff. They really like that. They like the active experience much better than the fully passive thing of my youth where all we did was watch TV.

When you were more actively involved with games, and purchasing them, did you engage with games media? Did you subscribe to any magazines or seek out information about games?

A little bit. But not magazines. A lot of it was I had an almost infinite supply of young people around me that I could just ask.

[Laughs.] True.

[Laughs.] But, online, every once in a while. We didn't heavily check out games before our children played them. We didn't have to because they had opinions very early about the games that they liked and didn't like, and the ones they didn't like were the ones we probably would've had a problem with them watching. Matter of fact, they are the ones who censor the games from me now. [Laughs.] "No, dad. You wouldn't want this one."

[Laughs.] It's a good system.

If I wanted to know -- I could just go to my classroom and say, "What's a good game right now that has these elements?" And I can get two or three really good opinions very quickly from students and my kids. So, to me, I'm in a fairly unique situation. And they're always talking about it. You hear it. When there's a new game out of some sort that's popular, I hear it all the time. So, I hear it immediately.

In the little bit you've looked at of games media, what trends did you notice in the things those places would write about or not write about?

Well, I was looking online and I saw that -- I sensed a very youthful bias in what I was reading online, and they really were talking to younger people than me. Also, I think that there wasn't enough discussion for me of the craft of assembling a game. I would have loved more and more about that. I would like to know what was the design goal of Colossus? Who drew all those beautiful backgrounds? How did that happen?

For me, I would love to know more about that. Because that's a beautiful game and there's lots of games about that. How did Wind Waker end up being fully cartoony versus the Skyward Sword, which looks a lot different. They're both cartoons of course, but you know what I'm talking about I suspect.

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Of course.

How did that happen? What was the background on that? I would have loved to have known more about that. Again, my perspective is: How did they do this? [Laughs.]

I don't know. I'd like to know those things, too, but there seems to be a tightfistedness to lots of information around videogames, including basic things like that let you appreciate and understand it on a deeper level. And I think the lack of transparency has let a lot of weird stuff brew. But, like, the intersection of the Internet and videogames was weird before last year, right?

Yeah. Oh yeah. [Laughs.]

What do you remember pre-2014?

I was worried. I even asked Brianna Wu if she -- this was before any of this. This was before Revolution 60. I knew it would probably get some attention. I even asked her -- she may not remember that conversation. It was just an aside, but if she was prepared for what might happen. I'm in the IT industry. I'm very much involved and aware of the issues of women in IT. I have been teaching for almost 15 years. I have helped several hundred women become IT professionals. I have a slightly different perspective. I have lots of colleagues who are women. In my career as a programmer -- if you talk to people who are a little older, women programmers were the norm for a long time. Grace Hopper is one of my heroes.

So, I was aware of these issues and have talked to her about this. I was wondering if something was afoot. I was worried. I had no idea. Anything. I was just wondering. Something seems something. I couldn't even say it. I just asked her if she was aware, if she was prepared for the possibility that attracting attention would be interesting. [Laughs.]

What signals were you picking up?

Well, part of it is general history. People who get to a level of fame attract attention, and women who get to a level of a fame attract a lot of attention. That's not a great comment on our world, but I even pointed it out to some people. I point it out to many people when Emma Watson graduated from college -- it was a woman who looked a little bit more mature than most college students, sitting next to her in a gown, and it turned out she was an armed guard. She had a weapon on her. She couldn't sit in a crowd at her own graduation without an armed guard next to her. She reached a level of fame and perceived wealth -- actually it turns out she is wealthy. [Laughs.]

But it's the attention. People that get to a level of fame get a level of attention that some of them crave, others hate. But it's there. And if you want to stay in an industry that gives you a lot of exposure, you have to prepare for that. I didn't think that maybe women in gaming -- there's no mentors to help you get prepared for that.

Then, when it hit, it was horrible.

Don't you think that a responsible, professional games industry would --

Would help? Absolutely. They should.

I was going to say, just, even do something. Acknowledge it.

Do something. So, I'm enough of an academic to say, "What does the book industry do? What does television do? What do movies do? Now we have a new star -- what happens? Do they do anything?"

I think we saw a similar form of cowardice happen when that Sony hack happened last year.

Sure.

I remember George Clooney came out and said something. I'm trying to remember. The main thing I remember about that story is that news of the Sony hack and that movie overshadowed reports of America doing torture. People were much more focused on seeing a Seth Rogen movie.

Yeah, yeah. I'm the old history teacher, so don't get me started on that. That's absolutely true.

But there's a part of me wants to say, "Well, what were you expecting to happen?" I don't know if -- I would like something to have happened. I would have liked some groups to just have stood up and done something. I don't know the industry well enough or the players well enough to be able to comment on it. But I was hoping.

With the Sony thing or the game industry?

Both. I would've loved something to have happened.

Brianna's a pretty cool person and would not have -- she's had to go through a lot of stuff, and she's different because of it. She's more knowledgeable because of it. I believe that she may help the next one. But I think the pioneers are going to have a harder time, because they don't get mentors.

What do you think the games media could be doing to help improve the industry?

Well, reporting it accurately I think. Part of the problem we have now, is just in general: How do you pay the reporters? If you want high-quality reporting, it has to be a career. And so how do you pay the reporters? I don't think we've figured that out in any area right now. But I think that knowledge is a big part of it, and how do you get the knowledge?

High-quality writing and high-quality reporting requires an effort. I don't know who's there to do it. I know that we're seeing problems everywhere with high-quality people losing their careers because the industry has changed so much. We just had a big massive layoff at -- there used to be a big newspaper in Madison. There's no money. They have no money.

I mean, hi.

I feel bad about it. Everybody's trying to find their own way. They're trying to find a way to do this, and at a time when everyone's kind of struggling to find their own way, there's an issue that needs the light of journalism shed on it and there are no journalists.

The profile of the people who have been really being not nice in this time period -- and I use that very much aware of how understated that is. How many are there? I think we're at a point where it doesn't really matter. It could be a tiny amount of people. It could be one person for all we know. But it's not one. There's a group of people.

But the point is they're able to make enough noise that it's hurting people. To me that's unacceptable that you would hurt people. How do you fix that? I think we're seeing -- there's been a lot of research in dealing with trolls in general and there's not a lot of good answers because what they actually really want is for people to go away and let them have the way their world was before. I don't -- obviously, we can never go back. That never works. And that's not gonna happen.

The history of any kind of prejudice almost always means people dying off. People moving out of the culture and the new people coming in who don't have the same feelings. That's why it was really interesting: The data that Americans change of their mind about marriage equality. It wasn't a generational shift. They actually changed their mind. This was amazing. If you look at the data, it's absolutely clear. In 2000, the majority of Americans were very much opposed to it. And now the majority is in favor of it. There's not enough generational shift to explain that. They changed their mind. So, it's possible for people to change their mind and not just have to have a generational shift.

But I think the gamer stuff? I don't know what it's going to take.

I think part of it is -- I think the people who would like gaming to go back to where it was are not aware of all the pressures in the industry. I think their complaints are being leveled at the wrong people. Even if they have valid complaints, they're barking up the wrong tree here. I mean, the pressures to change gaming are really coming from lots of directions. For them to then choose women to beat up on is just astonishing. It's not unsurprising, but it's still incredible to me.

And let's be honest. It's also a lot of people who are not white.

Absolutely. And it's a group of people who -- they are the ones who will end up having to move on, because the rest of the world is not going to change. This is a valid form of artistic endeavor and entertainment. As it grows, as the hardware grows, as the ability to write the software comes -- when it comes down to it, the successful games of the next generation have to tell a good story. If they don't tell a good story, they're not going to be successful. We've moved beyond merely a technical thing. We've moved beyond being -- we've reached storytelling. Good storytelling is hard to find and hard to make. And it changes everything.

To me it's quite valid. My 15-year-old and I are making a cosplay costume for her. I'm the sewer in the family, and we're making a cosplay costume for her for a videogame character who's also an anime character. The reason why my daughters like that game is it really tells a good story.

Do you feel like some people who play videogames lean on them too much, on a personal level?

There's no doubt. Those of us with addictive personalities will find something to be addicted to and we'll get way too much. I think that that'll never change. I understand the real positive aspects of what videogames can do for people and how they make people think and how they exercise the brain. I feel very positive about them. I think that the potential for them is really wonderful. Again, you look at kids play them: Kids will actually focus and do things. They'll focus and they'll think and they'll grow in incredible ways. It's really good for people to enter that level of focus that we used to only be able to measure in athletes. It's really good for kids to get there, and we don't know any other way to do it, really.

It also gives them an active experience. It looks passive from the outside. That's one of the issues, I think. It looks passive if you're just watching somebody play a videogame. But it's not. People are very much engaged in it. It's like when you're watching somebody reading a book: That's pretty boring, to watch somebody read a book.

But the reality is, incredible things are going on. They've entered a world -- this is a big part of human experience. We tell stories and we record stories and we write down stories for other people to be able to enjoy, and that's a good part of it. I don't object to videogames. I just realized it wasn't my story anymore.

It's almost as if the things a lot of people are pushing for online -- if games were a little bit broader, told a greater variety of stories. It's not as if they'd be perfect, but it's almost like they wouldn't have to apologize for themselves anymore.

Absolutely.

Well, so, when I started this, I thought stories like yours would be much more prevalent: People just quitting games cold turkey. But you're the unicorn, the white whale.
I'll just ask, because a lot of people I talk to who have quit games really haven't, they just play a lot less: Do you feel like you're mourning the loss of anything by giving up games?

I was hoping you might ask something close to that, because gaming wasn't all I stopped to get music back into my life. I don't watch TV anymore, either. I know that saying you've quit gaming is the new saying you've quit TV.

[Laughs.]

When people talk like that, I get really quiet because I actually have quit both of them. And it was for the same reason: I realized that for me was not creativity. I'll never deny anyone else's creative experience. It's perfectly valid. I see in my students and in my children that it is part of their creative experience. It enhances their creativity in ways that could be researched pretty strongly. It makes them more creative, probably. It is, itself, a creative experience just experiencing videogames.

But, for me, I realized it's just not my story. My story is -- one of the things, before I was a computer guy, I had to go back to school for computer stuff. I was a cabinet maker. I made furniture for a living. That's how I found out how bad my asthma really was. [Laughs.]

I needed to find a new career, so I decided to check out this new computer stuff and went back to school for that. I have to be building and creating in a different way. I have a different story that I need to create. That's really all it is for me. I'm actually a fan of videogames and a fan of what it is. There's bad books and bad movies and bad TV and there's bad everything. But overall it is a very interesting, very cool, new way for humans to tell stories that we are inviting other people to experience. I think that's great.

What I see -- the people who don't find the mainstream forms of entertainment to be really theirs anymore, we tend to go quiet about it because we know that we don't want to be perceived as telling people that they're doing something wrong. And so you might have a hard time finding people because we grow quiet and we just go off and read our books and we play our music. We go quiet and have our own experience and our own moments.

I bid everybody well in this pursuit to make gaming more inclusive because I look at my mother-in-law who passed on several years ago -- she loved playing Tetris on a little handheld thing. She just loved that idea.

This is not for young men and boys. This is everything. This is everybody.

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