2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: A Gamer's Guide to Parenting

Written by Megan Simpson | January 24, 2014

At SXSW 2014, Carla Fisher talks about kids and games

Dr. Carla Fisher is back for this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival. In 2012, she educated audiences with her panel, “What Left 4 Dead Can Teach Us About Kids Games”, which featured ideas about how to make games developmentally appropriate for children. This year, she will expand on that topic with her solo presentation, “A Gamer's Guide to Parenting,”. When she’s not presenting at SXSW, Dr. Fisher can be found tweeting at @NoCrusts and designing games for kids of all ages at her firm, No Crusts Interactive. Recently, we caught up with her to bring you today’s Session Spotlight.

SXSW: What can you tell us about your session? Who should attend?
Fisher: Gamers grow up and become parents. But society values make gamers feel bad about time spent gaming, prompting players to retire controllers once babies are born. Anything less compromises your ability as an A+ parent. But gamers do not have to choose between being a parent or a gamer. They can leverage their gaming skills to unlock hidden levels of awesome in kids, thanks to The Gamers’ Guide to Parenting. Parents, gamers, game designers, and other people with digital interests will definitely want to attend.

SXSW: With so many interesting panels at SXSW, what makes your session a “must-see?”
Fisher: How to use digital products, especially games, with your kids is a very personal issue for parents. Some resources say don't do it at all and yet the kids are practically begging for the devices. It's very easy to become scared by the media reports of games inducing violence or causing ADHD. But there is an approach that doesn't compromise your sanity. I plan to help attendees think through that balance from the perspective of parent as well as content developer. Attendees will take away some basic developmental psychology and educational theory as well as a list of games or products that they might enjoy exploring further. Together, these ideas will blend into principles that the attendee can use in everyday interactions with children as well as in product development.

SXSW: Tell us about your relationship to this topic.
Fisher: Everything I'm speaking about is what I do every day – as gamer, game designer, mom, and geek. I've been in children's media development for fifteen years and more than 300 games have my fingerprints on them, including beloved brands like Sesame Street, Highlights for Children, and PBS KIDS. I also hold a doctorate in education, specializing in instructional technology and media, from Columbia University.

SXSW: At an event like SXSW, do you tend to hang out with old friends or try to meet new people?
Fisher: I like to do a mix of seeing old friends and meeting new people. I've met amazing people by simply wandering around or riding the bus. Sometimes it's a great future connection. Sometimes we have a conversation that spurs a new idea.

SXSW: What inspires your creativity?
Fisher: I spend a lot of time reading online articles, blogs, and sources – the weirder and more afield, the better. Inspiration comes for me from lots pulling ideas from unusual places.

SXSW: What’s something we wouldn’t know about you from your official bio?
Fisher: I originally studied to be a concert bassoonist. Classical music was my life. I still play, but it's a hobby now.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “A Gamer's Guide to Parenting,” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.