Animation fest presenter breaks gamer stereotype

  • By Theresa Goffredo Herald writer
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 5:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Microsoft game producer Kathie Flood said one of her career goals is to work on games that don’t have guns or explosives or excessive amounts of blood.

“I love to work on some games that are not geared to 16- to 26-year-old males,” Flood said. “There’s a whole untapped market of an underserved audience out there and nearly all the publishers are looking for ways to broaden the appeal.”

Flood went on to say that most people who are not boys or young men don’t play games. These are among the same people who don’t watch television. But these people will watch the Discovery channel. Flood believes there’s an itch somewhere in there that could be scratched by the right kind of games.

“There are other ways of having fun other than killing things,” she said. “It sounds so obvious and now we are looking for what can we give them.”

Some of those new choices for games involve people creating simulated environments, or race car games in which drivers traverse streets in beautifully crafted cities. And though speed may kill, it doesn’t in these games.

Flood is among the presenters for this weekend’s “2D or Not 2D Animated Film Festival” that runs tonight and all day Saturday at historic Everett Theatre in Everett. The festival is presented by the Animaticus Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, teaching and evolving the art of traditional animation in a digital age.

Flood is speaking tonight during the event’s “Girls Night In (Animation)” segment. Other presenters include Nancy Beiman, an ex-Disney animator, and Kureha Yokoo, a Pixar animator for nine years and supervising animator of the new short film scheduled to appear on the forthcoming “Ratatouille” DVD.

Keynote speakers for the event include Don Hahn, an award-winning producer for Disney and Tim Burton, and internationally syndicated artist Michel Gagne.

Besides the speakers, there are also more than 75 animated film entries — twice as many as last year — giving audiences a feast of emergent contemporary work.

For just a taste of what’s in store, the titles include “Alien for Christmas,” “Geirald The 5 Legged Spider,” “I am Pillow Cat,” and “Invaders from Inner Space.”

“This year’s going to be great,” said festival director and Animaticus co-founder Ken Rowe. “The real point of the festival is that there is some really great artwork being done in the world of animation and this festival is there to showcase it.

“And we run the whole gamut with every kind of animation. From real beautiful family-oriented things to experimental dark, weird stuff and funny stuff.”

Rowe said the dark, weird stuff will air tonight, as sort of the adult portion of the festival. But Saturday during the day is all family fun, cartoons and other kid-friendly entertainment.

The idea of dedicating a portion of the festival to women was also to showcase what some of the best female animators and producers have done, Rowe said.

“Animation has been kind of a boys club,” Rowe said. “If you’re a woman and you can animate, you can get a job now. The studio is looking to gender balance.”

Flood would agree with that.

Microsoft targets and recruits women, Flood said, adding that she is involved in a program called IGNITE, in which women such as herself visit Washington schools to get young women excited about technology, math and science.

Flood, who has a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science and a master’s in journalism, said if you don’t reach these kids while they are young, forget about it.

“If you don’t hook them when they are in middle school, you won’t be able to recruit them in college,” said Flood, 43.

Flood started at Microsoft in 1990 and moved to the entertainment business unit, now the Microsoft game studios, in 1994. She has been involved in games such as “NFL Fever,” “Gotham Racing 3” and “Gotham Racing 4.”

Flood also created a game that got canceled, but she’s still quite fond of it. It was based on simulating the experience of scuba diving, that was meant to appeal to “wet” and “dry” audiences: divers and those who just want to look at pretty fish and scenery.

Who knows? In the future that game might resurface.

“We’ve spent enough of our time making games for boys — they have plenty of toys,” Flood said. “I want to do some entertainment for other people.”

Reporter Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or goffredo@heraldnet.com

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