We constantly hear about the "perils" of gaming and the "corrupting" influence our favorite hobby has on young generations, but the positive side of gaming rarely gets its time in the spotlight. I recently had a quick chat with Tom Purdue, a new community manager for KingsIsle--the dev team behind Wizard101 and Pirate101 --where we chatted about the positive influence that parents playing videogames with their kids can have.
Tom Purdue has been blogging about Wizard101 for several years and was just picked up by KingsIsle last week to manage their community, mostly consisting of kids, grandparents and parents who play the game together. He has three kids that he plays games with regularly.
PC Gamer: I very fondly remember playing Kings Quest IV with my dad and brother when I was growing up. We drew maps, we planned routes and had a great time together. I know you play videogames with your three kids as well. Obviously we like it, but do you think it's actually important to play games with your children?
Tom Purdue: If you come from the philosophy that the computer has never been a very good babysitter and your children are far smarter than you give them credit for, you'll fully understand why it's important to play the same online games your kids do. There's so much you can discover about your children by watching the choices they make, laughing at the same jokes on the screen and immersing yourself in something they find highly important. It gives you an opportunity to both learn from them and guide them in a way that's fun. The ultimate hope of a gaming dad is that it's no longer a game about pirates and swashbuckling, but it becomes a game about history, math, and social studies.
My father once bought me a game of Atari Pac-man and he played it all day while I was at school before he gave it to me. He wanted to beat me at my own game. I came home from school and was overjoyed. My dad and I played, and I smoked him on the first try. He never played a video game with me again. I wish games like Wizard101 and Pirate101 would have been around when I was a kid because I think they balance the playing field a bit. They aren't about twitch accuracy and reflex speed. I wish I had more memories of my dad playing the games I liked with me.
PCG: So you're about to go from managing three kids in a game to managing millions as the community manager at KingsIsle. Is the role of a community manager different in a family-focused online game?
TP: Yes, it's highly important. I'm just starting out here in this job, but from my interactions with fans of Wizard101 through my blog, I can tell you that you're talking to both grandma and her grandkids. All generations of players are equally important, but there are legal rules and company policies that govern our social interactions. I can tell you this though: as a really cool side benefit, you get to receive fridge-worthy fan art from kids all over the globe!
PCG: Kids can be a handful. Can you talk a bit about why you pursued this career so long?
TP: I didn't start out wanting a job at KingsIsle, but it grew in that direction when I saw that there was an enormous amount of creativity and opportunity there. I love the people that love their games. They're a genuinely fun bunch of people that tend to not take themselves too seriously while simultaneously taking their pastime of choice to new heights. If I can tap into an ounce of that magic, I think I'll be a completely satisfied community manager.
PCG: So why did you want to work at KingsIsle in particular?
TP: It's funny because I've had a few long time readers of my blog ask me, “Why hasn't KingsIsle scooped you up yet?” Working at KingsIsle was as natural a fit for me as playing Wizard101. The moment I started playing the game, I couldn't stop myself from writing about it. I'm a father who loves to game alongside his kids, and Wizard101 solved so many of the issues I had with MMO gaming and kids in general.
To me personally, KingsIsle has always appeared to be a game company with a huge heart. They respect loyalty, they avoid crunch when they can and they're both young at heart and wise at the same time. On top of that, they make games I can support and feel proud of. Seriously, I could gush about KingsIsle all day long.
PCG: Well, I won't take up your whole day. Thanks for your time!