“I PLUNGED INTO THIS STRANGE NEW WORLD”

PHILOMENA SCHWAB Switzer­land’s ris­ing star in the gam­ing world. is a

Bulletin - - Contents - By David Sch­napp

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.

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