First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kathie Flood: We are doing well, thank you – happy, safe, and hunkered down.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cascade Game Foundry SPC
Kathie Flood: I have been making video games since the mid-1990s, first at Microsoft on PC and Xbox games, now at my own studio, where we focus on games to raise awareness of environmental issues.
How does Cascade Game Foundry SPC innovate?
Kathie Flood: Cascade Game Foundry SPC innovates by using game technology to raise awareness of environmental issues. Players see and feel what it’s like to be in the ocean, gaining empathy for the creatures who live in the water and an understanding of how the ocean is critical for human survival. We also innovate from a marketing perspective by providing our software free to teachers and schools.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kathie Flood: We had already decided to work from home several years ago, to reduce our environmental impact/carbon footprint, keep our team members happy and productive, and to preserve capital. Our dogs prefer that we work from home, too. So, in that way, the COVID19 pandemic did not affect us. We missed our once-a-week in-person meetings, so we started doing socially distant lunches in parks and parking lots. We do BYO lunch and, if it’s raining, we sit in the backs of our cars with the hatches open.
We have gotten a lot more interest in our scuba-diving simulation game (Infinite Scuba) since people can’t dive as easily in the COVID-19 era and because parents are looking for high-integrity science content for home-schooling, so that’s been fantastic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kathie Flood: Thankfully, we made our difficult choices pre-pandemic so that we could weather this storm fairly well. We miss the in-person interaction at events like EarthX, UN Climate Summit, UN Ocean Week, Tacoma Ocean Festival, and school visits. Zoom is cool, though – being software developers focused on creating and sharing virtual environments, the new normal doesn’t seem that bad.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Cascade Game Foundry SPC in the future?
Kathie Flood: We deal with stress and anxiety by going outside, now masked and socially distant. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so we have always spent time outdoors. We hike, scuba dive, bicycle, swim, and fish. One of us is a diver at the Seattle Aquarium, and one of us is a lifeguard on the local Lake Washington beaches.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kathie Flood: Simulation games are interesting since players who gravitate toward them tend to play more than one, so we don’t look at other games as competitors as much as collaborators in raising awareness for the importance of accurate science and environmental issues. There isn’t another reality-based, environmentally-focused scuba diving simulation in active development, so we’re a lone wolf, or maybe shark? Lone shark? Ha! (Sorry!)
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) did a list of scuba games recently that we are proud to lead: https://www.scubadiving.com/scuba-diving-video-games-to-pass-this-extended-surface-interval)
Pre-COVID19, we noticed that there are lots of reasons people can’t or don’t travel IRL, e.g., time, expense, poor health, desire to have a low carbon footprint, not old enough, and now a pandemic. People still want and need adventure and exposure to other environments and cultures – virtual travel enables them to overcome those obstacles. That’s our niche, and we will keep creating experiences to fill it. We have released dive sites in Micronesia (a Japanese shipwreck sunk in WW2) and Belize (a wide-open, sloping reef featuring whale sharks, selected by our partner Dr. Sylvia Earle). Our third (the Salish Sea, our local Pacific NW diving neighborhood) will be ready later this year. We have always taken the long view.
New markets are challenging to build, and we make progress every year. We were once told our game is un-American because it is non-violent and educational. We don’t agree with the un-American part but said ‘Thank you’ anyway. We are the ultimate cross between a tortoise (land-based, slow, steady, and energy-preserving) and the sea turtle (water-based, graceful in the water, stubbornly fighting for survival).
Your final thoughts?
Kathie Flood: Thank you for the opportunity to share our work with a broader audience!
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