Welcome to the latest feature on Mega Dads! Adam Asks will be a new interview feature where I make some new Dad Friends in the video game industry and pick their brains a little bit so that we can all get to know them better. My first interview is with Andrew Reiner of Game Informer magazine. I spend some time asking Andrew both about the professional side of his gaming as well as how he implements gaming in his home life as a dad. I hope everyone enjoys the article, and I hope you all check out Andrew’s work at Game Informer magazine.
Thank you for taking the time to join us. I want to talk to you about the two pillars of what we are here at Mega Dads: video games and parenting. Your magazine, Game Informer just reached a milestone 25 years of operation which is incredible. As a subscriber and long-time reader I want to congratulate you on this great accomplishment. Seeing as how you’re a respected authority on this medium I wanted to start there, with your analysis on the state of the video game industry.
MD- Video games are such an evolutionary medium. What advantage (technology aside) do you think video games have over other forms of entertainment? What magic formula do video games have that allow the experience to change so drastically from generation to generation?
AR- Interaction and immersion are the key differentiators between games and other mediums like movies or books. Being an active participant in adventure is a wonderful experience that brings you closer to the characters and heart of the story. Games, although decades old, are still in an experimental phase of figuring out ways to best express story or interactive moments, which include player choice. Stories don’t just have to be written one way. More and more we’re see seeing developers include branching story arcs and areas where the player can create their own narratives. That’s the magic of games. Storytelling will only continue to improve as the technology does. The next couple of decades are going to be fun!
MD- There was a time when gamers were a small percentage of the population, however we’ve seen that audience explode in numbers over the years. It seems not long ago now that the market was expanding at a rapid pace with inclusive products like the Wii. The door seemed to open wider than ever before for so many people to become a part of the video game scene. But now that the market is so broad, this expansion almost seems to have hit the ceiling. Do you think the gamer demographic boom is over? Or is there still space to grow?
AR- The definition of what a game is is different to many people. Some people only know them as phone games, whereas others know them as lengthy, cinematic experiences. The gap between the different types of games is still large, and likely won’t condense any time soon. I hope people that play games on phone eventually find their way to consoles or PC, but buying new hardware is still a huge stumbling block. With movies, people can just go to the theater to see something they are interested in. Taking a chance on a game you are curious about is an expensive proposition.
MD- Developers seem like they are always looking to expand the core of the gaming experience whether it’s with motion controls, big peripheral experiences like Rock Band, or now with VR. Do you feel like gaming really needs to break free of that central experience? If so, what’s the value in doing so?
AR- Innovation is how games evolve, and it needs to continue to happen. I sometimes think the industry moves too fast, and doesn’t explore ideas long enough. We know virtual reality is going to be a big part of the future of games and all types of entertainment, but my fear is it happened too quickly. The technology isn’t quite there, and ushering it in this year may have doomed it for a generation or two. When innovation hits and is embraced, gaming gets better. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. When it flops, and it has several times recently with peripherals like Kinect and Wii, I think the entire industry is hurt, not just from a loss of interest by consumers, but by developers having to shift gears.
MD- Nintendo Switch. Give us your impressions in ten words or less.
AR- The most promising technology from Nintendo in decades.
MD- What does the next 25 years of Game Informer look like?
AR- Hopefully exactly the same – meaning I don’t age anymore, and games continue to be embraced by millions of people.
MD- Let’s switch over to The parenting side of things now. You’re a parent like most of our audience. Tell us a little bit about what home life is like in the Reiner house.
AR- Enjoyable chaos with a splash of the unexpected. Some days we just hang out and play games or paint or draw for hours on end; other times we bring the dog and bikes to a park for an evening of outdoors fun. That probably sounds like most people’s lives, but the interests of my four-year-old daughter dictate what we do most days. She’s a talented artist, so a lot of what we do has to do with creativity, which also extends to fabricating games and make-believe scenarios.
MD- As gamer dads we’re always trying to find the time to play. Working in the industry it’s your professional obligation to do so. Does that professional element make it easier or more difficult for you to balance gaming and home life? Does the added element of your job make finding time to play more stressful and urgent, or does the necessity of doing so make stepping away for that time easier?
AR- Finding time to stay on top of games has been the most challenging transition as a father. It definitely makes my job more stressful, and sleep less of an option, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to trade it away for anything. The best times of my days are when I’m with my daughter and wife. Games are a close second, but as long as she is awake or wanting to play, that’s where my attention goes. I’m getting more creative with my days off and nights – finding ways to play more – but I’m still way behind where I used to be, and where I want to be in my gaming.
MD- How do you incorporate gaming into your parenting? What does Reiner family game time look like?
AR- I don’t boot up games unless she asks me to, and she does it quite often now that she’s beginning to understand how controllers work. I would say we play games with her for maybe two hours a week, usually in half hour chunks. Her favorite games right now are Unravel and Lumo.
MD- How was playing games a part of your own childhood? Was it a big part of growing up?
AR- I played the living hell out of everything I could get my hands on. From the Atari 2600 to the Commodore 64, I devoured games at an unhealthy pace. I made a few of my own on the Commodore, and thought about going into that as a career, but found I enjoyed writing far more than coding.
MD- Did your own childhood experiences shape how you want your own kids to experience video games?
AR- Definitely. I don’t want my daughter to be as big of a gamer as I was. Like I said, I played way too many of them. She can appreciate games and be a huge gamer by consuming them in moderation. I want her to experience more things in life than just sitting in front of a TV. That way she can figure out what she truly wants to do and be interested in. If that ends up being games, so be it, but I want her to see it all.
MD- Many of the advances in gameplay experiences are aimed where the money is at with more mature experiences like The Last of Us, or Grand Theft Auto. Do you think kids games have seen that same level of innovation? Where would you like to see the future of family friendly gaming go?
AR- The kids gaming scene is next to dead, and publishers don’t see any money in it. We still don’t have any Kids rated games on the current consoles, and I doubt we’ll see any. It’s a shame too, I know many parents like me who want to get their kids familiar with controllers at ages three or four. The options just aren’t there. Parents really need to get creative with how they show games. The best one is Mario Maker on Wii U, which allows you to create your own non-violent levels. I think there’s big money in kids games. We just need a new company to come along, take a chance, and do it right.
MD- If you could impart one lesson to parents about how video games can be beneficial to children today, what would it be?
AR- Keep an eye on what your kids are doing. Plopping the down in front of an iPad or game machine and turning your back on them is a disaster scenario waiting to happen. Pay attention. Become a part of that experience with them.
Thank you for your time, Andrew Reiner. Congratulations on 25 years of Game Informer and we hope to talk to you again soon in the future!