It wasn’t that long ago that we started a series called DadsLikeUs where we profile fellow fathers and find out what makes them tick as dads.
But what about a certain subgroup of fathers who decided to take a leap of faith, found their own company, and can now call themselves entrepreneurs? Well we wanted to spotlight those dads in a new series we’re calling, Founding Fathers.
Who among us hasn’t thought about chasing this dream or attempting that goal? Everyone from stay-at-homes to CEO’s has had that itch to break off from the norm and carve out their individual path in order to make an income doing what they love and what they’ve always daydreamed about.
Just where do we start, though? What are some of the challenges? Who do we go to for financing? What’s the reality of being able to actually make this happen and not pull a Darth Vader by losing our family all at the same time? Those are the burning questions that we dads, who want to do something bigger than ourselves, are wondering.
Henceforth, think of DaddyMindTricks as your Dagobah where you’ll get the answers you’re seeking all while finding the inspiration needed to take on the Empire that is the daily grind.
To launch this series we’re starting with a dad who just wanted to put a smile on his daughter’s face through a passion project but ended up turning it into a full-time gig. Let me explain.
It’s not every day that I read or hear about something that not only inspires me but gives me enough feels that I’m left knowing I have an obligation to share said story with anyone who’s willing to listen.
So when I heard about Christopher Obritsch, and what he and his team over at Causal Bit Games were doing, I knew DaddyMindTricks was the perfect place to spread the word.
See, I was sitting there, working on an article that was supposed to be posted today, when I heard on a podcast that there was this father who was inspired to make a game with his daughter starring in it. Being an avid gamer and almost as much of an avid father (kidding) my interest was piqued. However, when I looked further into it I found an even cooler story attached to it.
Chris spent time with his daughter Madelyn playing Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, in my opinion, one of the best classic games of all time. She enjoyed watching her dad take on the waves of enemies and bosses as the hero knight but wondered if he could start to play as her being the hero.
Chris tried to explain that doing that wasn’t possible and that he’d have to make their own game for her to be able to be in it. She replied, “But daddy, girls can’t be knights.” That’s when Chris looked at Madelyn and said, “Pfff, what color do you want your armor?” And that’s when the game Battle Princess Madelyn was born.
With only a week to go until their Kickstarter crowdfunding closes, Chris and the team over at Causal Bit games has crushed their main goal of $44,845 and is even meeting stretch goals by currently sitting at $124,537 and climbing (and if you’d like to help, or just believe in what he’s doing, why not throw in a few bucks?).
Knowing that we at DaddyMindTricks wanted to start Founding Fathers I thought Chris’ perspective would make an amazing kickoff to a series that’s all about being a dad while becoming an entrepreneur.
Founding Fathers: Christopher Obritsch (Battle Princess Madelyn)
Name: Christopher Obritsch
Company: Causal Bit Games
Occupation: Owner/Creative Director
Location: Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada
College: Durham College
How did your background in graphic design turn into a game development path?
I was a hobbyist developer at the age of 11 on my Commodore 64, I had a teacher back then who was showing me the ways of the code! I lost interest as I got older and focused entirely on art. I had gone to school for programming, decided it wasn’t for me and went back again for graphic/multimedia design. Ended up being decent at it and that became my job for the better part of 10 years. I ended up getting bitten by the game dev/design bug again about 5 years ago when I was still doing magazine design. As it turned out, I wasn’t too bad at it and ended up doing a few projects for another company, our game Insanity’s Blade with my biz partner Daven and then getting full time at a game studio. It was then that we came back to do Maddi’s game.
What are some challenges you’ve come across starting your own business and getting funded?
There were various funding sources we had considered for making Battle Princess Madelyn and starting up Causal Bit Games Inc. back when we were first making Insanity’s Blade. Video games are considered fairly risky, so although Canada has some great funding solutions for indie devs there is a lot of paperwork and research needed to receive this funding, and the conditions for repayment, if it is received, can sometimes be much steeper than a small team title can generate. For us however, the Kickstarter crowdfunding has proven the most successful, as we are able to retain the most creative control and are directly accountable to our fans only, and or in Battle Princess Madelyn’s case, Maddi!
What did you do after you put it on Kickstarter that you were able to exceed your goal?
Two great sources of public attention are Twitter and Steam Greenlight. Fortunately we were able to get Battle Princess Madelyn Greenlit before the service ended on Steam, and that helped a lot with getting a public audience to start deciding their feedback on the game. Getting Greenlit further encouraged us that it was the right time to run a Kickstarter, and then the natural algorithms of Kickstarter to share new projects, and having them decide we’re a project they love, helped us get a large audience to see the game as well. Most importantly, or last but not least, is the wonderful PR team at PR Hound in the UK who were able to utilize their experience to help us deliver a great Pre-Alpha Build and correlate the press releases from many who are excited with the game to what happens around the start of the campaign.
Did you start to create the game just for Madelyn’s personal use or was it with the hopes you could get the game published?
Originally, this was just for Maddi, but at the rate I was doing the prototype in my spare time it probably would have taken 10 years to complete – not an easy task when it comes to short attention spans. I also wasn’t moving fast enough for Maddi – who was about to turn 5 at that point. That’s basically what made us go full blast on the game. Let’s make her game the way she wants it, with her help. Let’s make her the best game we can, because we can. So on her 5th birthday I announced the game to see how people would react. It went over swimmingly! And Maddi was excited that we would be able to put more time into the game with her. So for the first year, there was never any real thought of publishing the game. But making a real game, needs a lot of time and effort -and money- , not the kind of thing you can do with a full time job and raising your children properly. I was depriving myself of sleep to get things done, mostly my Friday and Saturday nights. Going to bed late after Maddi was asleep just to get a couple of hours in here and there.
Have you found video games to be a bonding experience between you and your daughter?
While we spend a lot of time together regardless (when she’s not at school). We work on the game together. She has her desk next to mine for when she decides she wants to draw new enemies or level ideas for her game. But aside of that, it’s one of the few things I can do with her. As I have scoliosis in my lower back, I’m not as flexible or agile as a regular dad. So I have to make it up in other ways. Art, video games, going for walks – that’s what we do. So video games are part of the bonding experience, but not all of it.
Are there any 2-player games you and your daughter play together that you would recommend for other parents?
She loves playing the old TMNT games. Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist get the most attention. Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is one we frequently play together as well. I try to keep the violence in the games to a minimum but it’s pretty unavoidable, and has no impact on her anyhow. She’s still a lovely, non violent little girl.
Can video games be used to assist in child development?
Video games can be used to teach children all sorts of problem solving and patterning techniques, as well as improve spatial memory (eg: “did I find a key in this area of the map?”), and definitely does improve in motor skills and knowledge retention by making learning fun. I find that Maddi’s problem solving skills are far beyond what they should be for her age.
A lot of parents have expressed that as they’ve gotten older they needed to deal with the idea of giving up video games because they’re not kids anymore. Where do you stand on this and do you have any advice?
Many activities can be too addictive regardless of age. Someone who spends nearly every minute of their entire day swiping at social media could be said to be addicted just as much as someone playing games for days at a time. Relative to most types of addiction however, we would even say that video games are one of the least harmful to others, and potentially least harmful to self, aside from the rare lethal cases of over exertion and sleep deprivation. We do not encourage addictions in any case, however, we would disagree with the belief that “a lot of parents” are actually having this viewpoint (as anything other than work or sleep is effectively time used for entertainment of one form or another). Video games are the new medium on the block and so they are heavily targeted negatively by previous generations. Yet, in the science being generated on them they are not the end of the world that was predicted, they are actually helping surgeons with motor skills as mentioned earlier, and they are providing great alternative methods of stress relief, and something to bond with my daughters over!. Will be very interesting to see how the video games of today become the “traditional media” and Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality become the new target of these “doom and gloom” predictions and assumptions in the future, history repeats itself!
Are you married/dating/with someone who also has interest in gaming? What do they think of all of this?
I am indeed married! To Angelina Obritsch, Maddi’s mother! She is fully supportive of the game and our company or, “The Causal Bit Family,” as she sometimes says. She’s also part owner of the company and handles the team management and financials. The game is a passion project and everyone on the team is working to bring their best to the table. Lina is as equally excited as the rest of us, if not more. She is also a long time fan of video games so she understands the process very well.
How are you feeling now seeing this massive amount of support for something you are so passionate about?
We’re feeling even more excited to produce this game and to fit all the wonderful Stretch-Goal content in. It’s great to see so many counting on us to deliver this game, as we feel our Pre-Alpha Build does more than prove we are capable!
What’s next for you, Madelyn, and/or the game?
Well, really a lot of development! Lots to do before the game is released, especially with all the Stretch Goals our backers have helped us smash! Further than that we certainly have a few more game ideas ready to go, but as a two (core) man team, we’ll be expecting those to be in the distant future, well after Battle Princess Madelyn is out! As for Madelyn, she’s still loving all the people playing her game and that she gets to be the knight!
We can’t thank Chris enough for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak to us about the challenges and successes of starting his own business and venture. We’re excited to eventually get Battle Princess Madelyn on our TV’s, Switches, and Vitas and hope you are, too!
We at DaddyMindTricks ask that if you know of any fathers who can say, “When I left, I was but the learner; now I am the master,” due to becoming an entrepreneur, we’d love to hear from you so that we can tell their story. Also, if you have any questions you’d like asked in future interviews, please email us at DaddyMindTricks [at] gmail [dot] com.