Casey Kuczik ’03 spoke to students Monday about his experiences in the video game industry and discussed how modern video games are rapidly shifting to involve social aspects and appeal to a universal audience.
Kuczik, who majored in film and American studies at Yale and initially hoped to enter the film industry, told around a dozen students at a Pierson College Master’s Tea about his unexpected entrance into the video game industry and about recent trends in the industry. Only a few years ago, he said, video games occupied a niche market, but now they are mass marketed to all types of people.
“I don’t remember anybody, when I was at Yale, viewing video games as a worthwhile activity beyond having a couple of beers and killing a few people,” Kuczik joked.
Kuczik, who has served as a producer, designer, writer and tester at several companies over his career, is currently the head of mobile development at video game developer Bigpoint GmbH and lives in Hamburg, Germany.
Kuczik stressed the importance of social elements of modern video games, explaining that games now focus more on psychology, rewards and social interaction. A diversity of business models and marketing strategies are facilitating the growth of a “new frontier for culture” in which video games no longer target only a specific demographic.
Kuczik played two game television commercials from 1986 and 2010 to prove his point, demonstrating how depictions of gaming culture have dramatically changed. Because we live in a “connected world” now, he said, video games must have social hooks — collaboration, for example, or the ability to share scores with friends online — in order to become successful.
“Virality is really important for free-play games,” he said. “And is it competitive? Is there a social aspect? Is it easy to start and easy to use?”
Kuczik acknowledged that there has been backlash from members of the traditional gaming community who view the modern video games on browsers and iPhones as overly mindless and superficial. They also see the new games as inferior to the original console games, which tend to have more complex designs. Kuczik said the traditional console will always have a special meaning to people who have a “personal relationship” with it, but the industry as a whole is moving away from that design.
Through his career in the video game industry, Kuczik said he quickly learned the importance of foresight, critical thinking and attention to detail. He said video games must be tested for dozens of different logistical issues in order to succeed in a mass market, adding that he once worked as a tester and spent 55 hours a week for eight weeks playing test versions of games to catch their bugs. In addition, launching a game requires collaboration between professionals in a variety of fields.
“[To design a game] you need programmers, artists, game designers, producers to coordinate things at the management level [and] support departments such as marketing and finance,” Kuczik said,
Two students interviewed said they enjoyed hearing about Kuczik’s experiences and learning from his insights into the industry. Sara Miller ’16 said she was particularly interested in hearing about new developments in the field since she grew up playing video games on consoles.
“It was interesting to think about how video games are becoming more a part of our culture,” Sara Miller ’16 said.
Bigpoint GmbH develops massive online multiplayer games and social games with free-to-play models.