American Frank Yu has been living and breathing videogames for as long as he can remember. A Harvard graduate, Yu is the Chief Operating Officer for Shouji Mobile Entertainment, and his career has spanned the globe from Russia to Korea. His resume reads like a Who’s Who of the videogame world – Yu was the Asia Business Manager for Xbox, a program manager for Microsoft and even spent some time as a videogame columnist.
Whether it’s a racing car game for your Xbox or paper-scissors-rock on your mobile phone, Yu has probably had a hand in designing it. He answered questions from Grade 4 students at the Beijing City International School and reveals the secret to a best-selling videogame – a woman’s touch.
Ramona, 9, Libyan
What was the first computer game you ever played?
When I was a kid there were no computer games – you had to program them yourself. I played these simple games that I created.
Vivian, 12, Korean
Why did you choose to be a game designer?
Game designing is half-business, half-art. I wanted to do something that I liked to do, but I wanted it to have a market – that means there are people who want to buy what you make.
Aisha, 10, American
How did you get your job?
It’s very hard to get into the videogame industry. I got into videogames from the technology side; I used to write software. Now I work more on the conceptual side of videogames, since there are better programmers out there.
Maggie, 9, Taiwan province
Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, but it’s not easy. Nothing is ever perfect. The best part is seeing people play my games.
Sean, 10, Chinese
What was the first game you made?
Everyone used to play a game called Dungeons and Dragons. I tried to program one of those games but it was very difficult. Then I decided I wanted to design games, not program them.
Erik, 9, Indonesian
How many games have you invented?
A game is made by a team of people, including artists, musicians, and programmers. I’ve worked on 30-40 games, but no one makes one by themselves. In that way, designing a videogame is a lot like making a movie.
Brendan, 10, American
What type of games do you design?
I design a lot of racing car games, but I like social games where there’s more than one person playing, and you can talk.
Malwina, 10, Polish
How did you get the ideas to make the games?
A lot of games now are copies of Japanese games from the ‘70s. Videogame designers copy the concept but try to make it a little better each time. For instance, there are several racing car games, but they’re all the same concept.
Sean, 10, Chinese
How do you know what types of games people like?
When we make the games, we get too good at playing the game to know if other people will like playing it, so we research what people like and talk to people like you. To test the game, we bring in Play Testers who play the games and then give us feedback. Sometimes if the person gives really good feedback, we consider offering them a job.
Carin, 9, Taiwan province
What types of videogames are the most popular?
There are hardcore games, like Halo and Gears of War, and casual games, like Minesweeper or Solitaire. The videogame world is divided into men and women, who both play different types games. My theory is that women play more videogames than men, like puzzle games and The Sims. What’s popular in China right now is Audition, the dancing game.
Angela, 11, South Korean
How do games become popular?
A game becomes a hit if it appeals to women, like The Sims. Most games only appeal to certain types of men, which isn’t a big market. From a business standpoint it makes more sense to market games that women would like to play. More women have started working in the gaming industry to help us develop games they would like to play.
Francis, 9, Thai
How you persuade people to buy your videogames?
Advertising and marketing. In the US, we have beautiful packaging to attract people, but in China it’s word of mouth. We also have our games reviewed so people can read about them.
Atharva, 10, Indian
Who buys the most videogames?
Fifteen- to 22-year-olds because they have more free time. The older you get, even though you might like videogames, you just don’t have enough time. You get too busy with dating or you get married and start work and suddenly, you don’t play as often as you did. My colleagues and I don’t even have as much time to play as we used to.
Taiho, 12, Korean
What is your favorite videogame that you have designed?
Rock-paper-scissors. It’s very simple – it only took two months to make, and we launched it in 33 countries.
Skyler, 10, American
How have videogames changed over time?
The first videogames were in the US and Europe; they were arcade-style games. Then there were PCs that were larger and more complex. Videogames now are becoming more like movie. You can even use them to train people – people in the army use videogames as part of their training program.