I'm Co-Founder and Lead Developer for Itzy Interactive. Growing up in rural Alberta, I've been an avid gamer since my first days of playing Gorf on my Commodore Vic-20. After spending countless hours entering and modifying game code from Compute’s Gazette magazines on my C-64 as a boy, I never lost my love for gaming even as I eventually fell into a career in finance. After a decade in the brokerage industry, a layoff, and an uncertain economy, I re-evaluated my career goals. I went back to school, retrained and started Itzy Interactive with a few like minded individuals and now I'm set on fulfilling a childhood dream by making some video games. Father, movie geek and indie game developer. You can check out our current projects at (www.itzyinteractive.com) or visit us on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/ItzyInteractive)
Posts by Kyle-Kulyk
  1. Mobile game review sites are a waste of time ( Counting comments... )
  2. "App Of The Day" type apps can help indies with app discovery ( Counting comments... )
  3. Android piracy still sucks ( Counting comments... )
  4. Launch Day 2.0 ( Counting comments... )
  5. Vexing puzzle design ( Counting comments... )
  6. Playing with my kids helps me make better games ( Counting comments... )
  7. Would you pay to have your app reviewed? ( Counting comments... )
  8. The Home Stretch ( Counting comments... )
  9. Why we chose Freemium ( Counting comments... )
  10. How not to go insane while working from home ( Counting comments... )
  11. How we manage the virtual team ( Counting comments... )
  12. The devolution of gaming culture ( Counting comments... )
  13. Game Engines for Indies ( Counting comments... )
  14. There are eight million blogs about Mass Effect’s ending. This is one of them. ( Counting comments... )
  15. Indie devs, the odds are against you ( Counting comments... )
  16. Feedback loop ( Counting comments... )
  17. Performance Anxiety 3 – Road Blocks ( Counting comments... )
  18. An Indie marketing story ( Counting comments... )
  19. Launch Day ( Counting comments... )
  20. It’s ready when it’s ready, dammit! ( Counting comments... )
  21. Cyberbullying and gamers ( Counting comments... )
  22. Present this! ( Counting comments... )
  23. Teachers open doors ( Counting comments... )
  24. Along came a spider... ( Counting comments... )
  25. How’d I get here? ( Counting comments... )
  26. Should we be worried about Nintendo? ( Counting comments... )
  27. Performance Anxiety 2: You’re doing it wrong ( Counting comments... )
  28. My top 5 games of childhood ( Counting comments... )
  29. What this Indie developer needs ( Counting comments... )
  30. Performance anxiety ( Counting comments... )
  31. For Indies, a demo is a must ( Counting comments... )
Advocacy / Game Design /

A funny thing happened to me smack in the middle of my transition from the brokerage industry to the games industry. People tell you how everything changes when you become a parent. Friends of mine tried to explain the feeling, their eyes taking on a bit of a faraway look as if they were describing an unnatural love of unicorns or some sort of mythical being while I smiled and said “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.” I often joked that agents would slip into parent’s houses at night and pump them full of endorphins while they slept because it was the only way to describe the wonder I saw in those faces at the arrival of those little, pooping, screaming, sleep deprivation units. “Everything changes,” they’d tell me and I’d nod without a shred of comprehension. Then after years of difficulties it finally happened to my wife and I and I got it. I understood why so many I knew couldn't really put the experience into words aside from the fact that everything changes and that it’s wonderful. I don’t even bother to describe the experience to people without children now, other than to offer a genuine smile and say “Hopefully, you’ll understand one day.”

I was never around children from the time I left home until nearly 20 years later when I had kids of my own. When I was faced with other people’s children, I often found the experience awkward and a bit uncomfortable. I had no idea how to relate to kids of any age or how to interact with them. Now with children of my own I can hardly remember a time where I didn't know how to play with children, and in return my kids have opened my eyes to why we find certain things “fun”. I hope I can describe this idea in a way that could prove useful to aspiring developers.

Playing video games in my twenties and thirties I think I lost some of the understanding of why I found games fun to play when I was a kid. Video games to me were about roleplaying or they were about competition and if you had asked me why video games were fun even three years ago, I probably would have described some combination of those two factors but over the years I’d forgotten something. Perhaps not forgotten so much as overlooked. While roleplay and competition can be factors in why games are appealing long term I think what makes video games fun is much more fundamental to the way we learn. Watching my children grow and play has helped me remember what drew me to video games as a child and what still keeps me coming back now. It has to do with learning and the feeling of accomplishment when you finally master a challenging game.

From a very early age, babies love patterns. Nothing quite locks an infant’s gaze like faces and patterns. As they get older it doesn't stop. We find patterns all around us all the time even when confronted with something that doesn't seemingly have a pattern. We see shapes in clouds and we instantly look for some sort of familiar arrangement in a jumble of letters or numbers. I watched my son stare at a wooden puzzle, then progress to dumping the pieces and creating chaos only to then restore order. He would continue to play in this manner until eventually it’s no longer challenging to solve that particular puzzle and suddenly that toy is forgotten for good (or until his little sister picks up a piece). He moves onto the next challenge and that’s his day with the exception of naps and meal time.

To me, right there I see two fundamental pieces of what keeps us coming back to a good video game. One factor is some sort of pattern recognition mechanic and the other is a challenge. When I started looking at the video games I enjoyed as a kid and that I enjoyed now they all have, at their core, some sort of pattern recognition element and they all had increasing levels of difficulty. I’d play until I either mastered the game and it became too easy or until the difficulty became such that I grew frustrated and no longer found the experience entertaining. I see the same behaviours in the way my toddler plays. It’s fun unless the task is too difficult, and it’s fun until the task becomes too easy.

When I was a kid I remember spending quite a bit of time on Space Ace, among others games at my local arcade. Space Ace was a cartoon, laser disk based game along the lines of Dragon Slayer. A series of events would play out on the screen and a visual cue would signal the move to make with the timing becoming more challenging as the game progressed. Mastering a game like this in a time before strategy guides and the internet took trial and error, a good memory and a pocketful of quarters and I loved that game. That was, until I beat it. Shortly after I memorized the patterns, I moved onto the next game only occasionally popping in a quarter to feel important when throngs of kids who would gather when they’d see “that kid who can beat Space Ace” start a new game.

Whether it’s timing involved in arcade fighting games or if it’s strategy in an on-line shooter, when you break it down video games are all about recognizing patterns and using them within the confines of the game's rules.  It’s an understanding of game development that in retrospect I feel I poorly implemented in the first game my team released in our efforts to appeal to a wider audience. Each level of the game was unique, but the challenge of the game, the pattern required to win didn't vary enough and looking back at the testing, our players enjoyed the game but the question we didn't ask was “for how long will they enjoy it?” It’s a choice we made in the interest of appealing to a broader base, but I think this choice didn't do us any favours and by the time we realized this and updated the title with different ways to play our window of opportunity had already closed. It’s something that seems so basic a notion in hindsight but hopefully by bringing this up I can encourage other new developers to take a look at their product differently.

Playing games with a two and a half year old also helped me rethink control schemes as well. My son loves to pick up a controller and ask “Sack-boy, Daddy?” but a Playstation 3 controller and LittleBigPlanet is a bit beyond him currently. However, I sat him down with Angry Birds - Star Wars and within seconds he was flinging birds at piggies and loving it. The same goes playing “Digit Chase” on the Playstation Vita, a quick demo that has users tap numbers on the screen in sequence. There’s something undeniably intuitive about touch screen input as illustrated by how quickly children take to them, but often mobile developers try to shoehorn controller type controls into their mobile games. I'm not saying there’s anything wrong with modern game controllers, but controls needs to be intuitive. That doesn't mean they have to be toddler approved simple, I just think the basic controls should be straightforward. This was a lesson we learned developing our first game and reaffirmed by watching my son play. Just because you have variety of ways to control your game doesn't mean you should just throw everything in because you can. It’s tempting to do. I know because I did it.

I can thank the time I spend playing with my little guy for bringing me back to the basics and helping understand why we find games fun. It’s not about simplifying the games themselves, but it’s recognizing that under everything we’re always searching for patterns and looking to challenge ourselves, because that’s how we learn. It’s not about making controls dead simple, but it couldn't hurt to imagine a scenario where your game is being played by a gamer who’s never gamed before. Will your controls confuse or will they help the player become comfortable before becoming challenging? It’s easy to lose focus on basic game-play mechanics underneath everything else that makes up modern gaming, especially for experienced gamers. Watching children play and learn helped me realize this and I look forward to gaming with both my kids for years to come, and I look forward to what they have to teach me.