“I PLUNGED INTO THIS STRANGE NEW WORLD”
PHILOMENA SCHWAB Switzerland’s rising star in the gaming world. is a
Ms. Schwab, you grew up in Schwamendingen. Last year, as a game designer, you were named on the Forbes list of the 30 most influential people under age 30 in Europe. How did you manage that feat?
I found a way to do what truly interests me, and it includes everything I enjoy: drawing, telling stories, programming and biology. At first I wanted to become an illustrator, then a writer… And now I do some of everything. It’s the perfect combination.
Your selection of themes is your trademark. In your most successful game, “Niche,” the goal is to rescue a species from extinction. What led you to choose genetics as the theme for a game?
Genetics follows certain laws that can easily be translated into the rules of a game. It’s like in biology class, where we played “mailman’s kid.” Based on blood type, you had to determine who a child’s parents were.
Many parents are not particularly pleased when their kids get into gaming – how was it in your case?
I got my first Game Boy when I was nine years old, and immediately plunged into this strange new world. But before long my mother and I made a deal: I was allowed to play for one or two hours a day. It’s certainly reasonable to set such limits. For most people, the phase of intensive gaming ends naturally. And ultimately it also depends on how exciting your life is otherwise. (She laughs.)
What can children learn from gaming?
A game like “Niche” helps children learn about science – it’s about biology, evolution and strategy. Many games also teach empathy, leadership skills and communication. I would even argue that if you can control your clan in “World of Warcraft,” you’ll also be able to survive a job as a manager.
Philomena Schwab, 28, helped to develop the video game “Niche: a genetics survival game” and is a cofounder of the startup Stray Fawn Studio. She graduated from Zurich University of the Arts with a master of arts degree in game design.