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USA 2014Video Coverage

Vicky Rideout Believes in the Power of Media | Casual Connect Video

August 12, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Many believe that technology has been helpful to families, but “parents don’t think devices make parenting easier,” Vicky Rideout explained during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014.

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Vicky Rideout is a leading researcher in the field of children’s media use and has authored numerous studies for academic and non-profit organizations. She approaches the games industry from the perspective of a children’s advocate rather than from a business perspective. In addition, she has worked many years for children’s advocacy groups and public health organizations as well as working on social policy issues for political candidates and office holders.

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Vicky Rideout, President, VJR Consulting, during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014

The Power of Media

After leaving politics and government, she gave considerable thought to what moved her most. She had always believed in the power of media: to entertain, to educate, to distract, to inspire, to addict, to connect, and to inform. However, she was disturbed by the role models available to girls in media. She felt inspired to work on issues concerning children and media so she founded the “Children & Media” program at the national advocacy group, Children Now.

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She felt inspired to work on issues concerning children and media so she founded the “Children & Media” program at the national advocacy group, Children Now.

She says, “I’ve always been offended by orthodoxy and political correctness in the advocacy world; and also by loosely lobbed charges of censorship and moral panic from the industry, intended to shut down discussions before they begin.” She decided to focus instead on research, grounding the work in objective, methodologically-sound, fairly-reported data. This research informed their policy work and helped put a spotlight on the importance of media in children’s lives.

The Echo Chamber

But she recognizes that too often advocacy groups operate in an echo chamber, talking only to themselves. Instead, Rideout tries hard to reach out to those working in the media industries, encouraging high quality media for children and searching for common solutions to problems.

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VJR Consulting worked with a coalition of domestic violence and sexual assault organizations to help create the NO MORE campaign, and to partner with USA and Viacom networks to air the ads.

The Program for the Study of Media and Health for the Kaiser Family Foundation was another of Rideout’s creations. This organization created partnerships with media companies, including MTV, BET, FOX and MySpace, to use the power of the media to communicate with youth on issues like HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy. In the process they won several Emmys. They also worked with popular TV programs, such as Grey’s Anatomy, to embed public health information in an entertainment context, a sort of product placement for social and health issues, and their research documented the impact they had.

Today Rideout works with groups like Sesame Workshop and PBS Kids, advises media companies on their pro-social campaigns, and helps non-profits create media-based public education strategies. She emphasizes, “I continue to conduct research that keeps the spotlight on children and their well-being in this brave new media world.”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Kim Verbon: “Geek is the new Pink” | Casual Connect Video

August 7, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Kim Verbon talked about designing games for tween girls during her session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “If you’re going to develop for a wider children’s audience, destroy the stereotypes,” she advised.

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Kim Verbon, Founder, YamSam

Kim Verbon, founder of YamSam, loves the endless possibilities in the ever-changing landscape that is the games industry. There are new mechanics and trends emerging around every corner, and she has the opportunity to decide if she should stand still and let them pass by, or dive deep and go for it. She says, “The industry itself has become a game of skilled surfers riding the waves of trends, mechanics, and platforms, trying not to be eaten by sharks, sometimes paddling against the stream and, in the best scenario, being sold to a whale.” And for someone who enjoys games as much as she does, what could be more fun than riding this wave?

The Joy Of Bringing Joy

The greatest satisfaction she gets through her work comes from seeing children enjoying the games she has worked on. After releasing 50 games she designed herself and more than 200 her teams created, she declares, “It’s amazing to see the children play, or read the comments they give, or hear them talk out loud to the game; seeing children enjoy your game, that’s magical!” She emphasizes that this is why she keeps creating: the moment of tension questioning whether they will like it, and the broad smile and proud feeling if they pick up or point out the little jokes, new mechanics, or puzzles she put in there.

The Next Level

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Kim spoke about game design for tween girls during Casual Connect USA.

YamSam is Kim’s latest creation; she founded the company in June 2014. After she decided to leave Spil Games, where she had worked for seven years and on many games for children, she immediately received several requests for game and strategy consultancy and game design work. So she founded YamSam, and she’s currently working with several clients. She is also working on her own project, now in the concept phase, a game for tweens full of experiments and exploring. She expects to have the high concept level ready to show by the end of the year. YamSam offers consultancy on games for children as well as gamification for educational products.

Fragmentation Challenges

Kim believes the biggest challenge facing the games industry today is the enormous fragmentation of platforms, and the number of choices to be made that seem old by the time you come to a decision. She responds by making clear and conscious decisions, and then following through on them. Otherwise, she claims, “If you keep turning back, you’ll never release anything because you’ll be stuck in the circle of trends and buzzwords forever.” She feels the market for children is still very open if you make decisions based on your target audience and game subject, but it is essential to make clear decisions and not necessarily follow the big hits of the day.

Experimenting Outside Of Work

The enjoyment Kim finds in creating and experimenting in her career also comes through in her free time activities. She loves to experiment with cake and cookie baking, using the ingredients she has on hand, although she also enjoys using a recipe. And baking with her pre-schooler is an experiment in itself, answering the important questions in life, such as “How do you get as much flour in the bowl as on the floor?” or “How do you keep the yummy dough from magically disappearing in a tummy?” But any cookies that do make it to the oven are delicious! And besides baking, she enjoys pub quizzing, photography, swimming, writing stories, polka dots, and, of course, petting unicorns with her two daughters.

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Kim with her two daughters

For her gaming, she plays whatever she likes wherever she finds it. Currently, she is playing Mario Kart 8, where she is trying to get better than her husband, Monument Valley, which she considers the best game of 2014, Scribblenauts for the funny solutions you can create, Little Inferno for the thrill of setting things on fire, and lots of kids’ titles for both research and fun.

And she keeps a truly eclectic collection of consoles, PS2, PS3, Wii, Wii U, Gameboy, Nintendo DS, Nexus tablet, iPad, iPhone, even Atari and ColecoVision, although she avoids mentioning these last two to her brother who is actually their owner. And, of course, her PC.

 

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