The CEO of Victoria's Codename Entertainment shares his thoughts on why video games are good for children–and for B.C.'S economy
Eric Jordan expected to be debt-ridden and unemployable when he graduated from Uvic with a fine arts degree, specializing in painting, in 1993. Instead, he co-founded an enterprise software company, Pureedge Solutions Inc., which sold to IBM Corp. 12 years later. Jordan joined founders David Whittaker and Justin Stocks as a partner in Victoriabased Codename Entertainment Inc. in 2012. This summer the 18-employee video game studio announced a licensing agreement with Seattle-based Wizards of the Coast LLC to produce its own title under the Dungeons & Dragons brand.
Jordan has shared his passion for the video game industry as a board member and chair of VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council) and as a director of Digibc. As president of the Premier's Technology Council in 2010, he helped author a report outlining a vision for K-12 education that informed the Ministry of Education's redesigned curriculum.
What does this deal with Wizards of the Coast mean to your company?
It's fantastic because the reach of Wizards is so much broader than Codename has, so the ability to work with them and ride their coattails somewhat in terms of distribution, reach and awareness around the brand is really great. Dungeons & Dragons is such an iconic brand. It was the first role-playing game, so if you think of games like World of Warcraft or Skyrim or Witcher, the ideas on which they're based originated in D&D.
This is full circle for you, returning to a game from your childhood.
That was definitely a big part of our ability to have Wizards feel comfortable. They felt that we really got this brand. Also, the kind of genre of game we're making, idle clickers, our Crusaders of the Lost Idols has done really well. So we could talk about that game and how we felt it was a good fit with D&D.
Are video games bad for kids?
I think we're at a point where there are two narratives around video games in our society. One, they are bad for you or at best neutral, and that's the dominant narrative that gets replayed by media. And then there is another narrative arising from research, and that is that not only are these games not neutral, they're positive, and you actually learn a huge amount. So let's take that stereotype of the reclusive boy in his parents' basement playing video games. Odds are that he's playing a social game, and he has quite a network of people he's playing with. Let's say he's playing World of Warcraft, and he is doing that with a raiding guild [a group of players focused on completing a raid], and they have roles, and he's learning leadership and working with groups of people.
What was Pureedge Solutions, the company you sold to IBM before joining Codename Entertainment?
At the beginning we weren't quite sure what we were. My partner [David Manning] and I started it as a university research project. But what we grew into was an enterprise software company selling highly specialized electronic form software, which would manage very complex transactions that required lots of security.
How is running a video game company different from selling enterprise software?
At Pureedge we would do two software releases a year. Here we push updates to our games every week. So I wanted to be in a world where we could focus on our players and iterate really quickly on the feedback from players. And that seemed to me like the best model that you could really scale and grow. So I thought, “Hey, this thing I love, gaming, now can fit within the things I'm looking for in a business model.”
Your studio partners with Victoria School District on an internship program that lets students work in different aspects of the company. Why do you do that?
For years I worked in enterprise software, and any time I talked to someone in high school about, “You know, tech's actually a great place to work,” they're like, “What do you do?” “Oh, well, really complicated electronic form software.” And they're like, “Oh, please don't talk to me anymore.” But when you talk to them about video games, you can hold their interest.
In terms of the growth in the B.C. tech sector, unquestionably we have labour shortages projected for the future. So in my mind, that's where video games have a key role. Maybe only 5,000 work in video games out of over 100,000 people in tech, but it's the gateway to the rest of those jobs.
How is the Victoria tech community different from Vancouver?
In Vancouver, you've got Digibc, you've got Lifesciences BC, you've got BC Tech, and you've got other satellite groups as well. Whereas in Victoria, we've got VIATEC, and it was very intentional to have an embrace-all philosophy so we could keep VIATEC as the central point of the tech industry. One thing we were able to do a few years ago was to buy a building where we now have incubation space for startup companies as well as a space that is used by all sorts of organizations. It's a space that the whole community can get behind. One of the things that I'm really proud about is that the community has not fractured.
What's with the kilt?
A few years ago I bought these cool boots that lace up on the side. I wanted something that allowed people to see my boots, and my wife suggested a kilt. I tried it, and it was incredibly comfortable. Other than when I'm playing paintball, I pretty much always wear a kilt.