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Planet of Sound: Talking Art, Noise, and Games with EA's Robi Kauker
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Planet of Sound: Talking Art, Noise, and Games with EA's Robi Kauker


April 13, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5
 

One of the major things about The Sims that I think sets it apart is that it appeals to men and women equally.

RK: Worldwide. It's a culture, worldwide, men and women. From the very beginning, working at Maxis I didn't realize the game industry was so male-dominated until I went to a Game Developers Conference. Because the people I worked with were mixed all over the place. Designers, engineers, artists -- the audio team now at the Sims label is half and half, men and women in all roles. There is no role dominated by one or the other.

That has got to make a difference.

RK: It does. It makes two differences, actually. One is that when we make a sound it's taken into account that the effectiveness of the sound plays both ways. Men and women hear differently. They think differently. They react to different things. Music is a different animal. Having that gender balance -- not even intentionally, it just naturally evolved -- continually adds to it.

Secondly, it makes the workplace a lot different and a lot more relaxed. I have worked with all male teams in record labels, the record industry, and music. Mostly the music and audio world is male-dominated and there is no reason other than history. Physiology says women hear better than men, and for a longer period. The music, the art, the craft of sound is better when it's not just a whole bunch of guys beating their chests.

I've never tried to put my finger on it. I just hire the best people for my team. For my team it's just worked out that it's grown that way. Maybe it's because of that experimental music background that most of my people have. All of them have an interest in it. That they continue to come through and I just happen to get the cream of the crop and the cream of the crop just happens to be gender neutral. I don't know what it is. It's a great joy. Gaming across the board would benefit from taking a wider perspective of things.

We do our yearly salary survey of game developers and it's always disappointing to see how females make up such a small percentage of the talent side. However, they're very well represented in the business side.

RK: They've broken the barrier over in Marketing. It's a very odd thing in the gaming industry because the rest of the art world doesn't reflect that. The film world doesn't really reflect that as much, although preproduction film maybe does reflect it. It's a very odd thing and a very old thing. It's almost like our version of suit and tie.

We're hanging on to this because that's the way it been. Or maybe we're so narrow minded that we're not attracting the best talent. We're only attracting half of the best talent. Maybe were not attracting the best talent at all, we're only attracting the talent that's interesting in what we are already. It's an interesting problem and it's a developing problem because we're reaching mainstream status. We're no longer a niche market. To reach mainstream status you have to reach everybody.

You can't just look at half of it.

RK: It doesn't matter what type of title it is, you have to really reach out. It's great what Nintendo is doing with their games and their platforms. The Wii Fit, I think, is the most interesting product that I've put in my house in quite awhile.

My wife is a complete tech-Luddite, and doesn't even know how to turn it on, while my 14-year-old son is a complete tech geek. The two of them are playing with the Wii Fit, skiing, or something like that. Then they're playing tennis together on the Wii. There is no way in the world I would have ever imagined that. My wife's idea of a videogame is a pinball machine.

If the iPod only sold to guys it wouldn't be a mass-market product. The PS3 will never be a huge, mass-market product. The Xbox 360 will never be a huge mass-market product. Not until everybody's wife wants one in their room. Not only because it's a great gaming machine but because it doesn't make the rest of the room look like shit. [Laughter]

Right, a weird black slab of something.

RK: You have a 30-year-old wife, she not going to be to into it if she's not already into hardcore gaming. Why does the gaming console have to stick out like a sore thumb and be so macho and beat its chest at you? I don't get it. That's my take on it. I don't know how true it is...


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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