By Sarah Colson
Since the days of Atari, Daniel Kayser has been a gamer through and through. But after 10 years working in the video game industry and experiencing some life change, Kayser decided it was time for something “more than games.”
“I want to leverage my experiences to do something more,” he said. “I want to serve a purpose.”
So Kayser took his professional experience in the video game industry, which included a role in the development and success of one of the biggest brands in gaming media, GameTrailers, to become the editor of a digital gaming magazine. GO!KidGamer is designed to encourage learning, safe gaming and parental involvement.
Kayser, originally from New York, moved his family back to Johnson City from Denver after his company sold in 2014. The Kaysers describe Johnson City as a sort of “home base” for them and they wanted to give back to the community Kayser had gotten his start in when he was just 16 years old.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do to help other people,” he said, “and this is a good place for us to be based to do that.”
Kayser hopes through GO!KidGamer, kids will want to get up and go instead of spending countless hours with a controller in hand. More than that, Kayser said, he hopes to see parents paying closer attention to the types of games they’re buying for their kids.
He said that when he was a kid, video games really were made just for kids. Now, with the advancement of technology, gaming companies are doing everything they can to make their games seem more realistic—an exciting aspect of the medium, but a dangerous one if parents aren’t aware.
“The industry does a great job of labeling the games for warnings and ratings,” Kayser said, adding that he did not want to just create another forum for a discussion on ratings. “I have no problem with what they’re doing. The problem is that there are a lot of parents that think a video game is just a video game and it’s for kids. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Kayser said that as a parent of three kids under the age of 12, and as a longtime gamer himself, he understands the power interactive media can hold over children. When he was a kid, Kayser said video games lacked the technology to support realism and as such, they were less harmful to a child’s imagination.
“When I was growing up and a designer was sitting down to make an action game, they would make something like Commando which is a little guy going ‘pew pew pew’ and that was an action game because the technology limited it to that,” he said. “Now… models are programmed to react realistically when a bullet goes through a head. And our kids are playing that. It’s awesome stuff if you’re into the technology and you’re an adult but it’s very damaging to kids because it is interactive. They’re the ones pulling the trigger.”
Kayser said one of the most difficult issues he wants to help parents overcome is the peer pressure they might feel from other parents who let their kids play whatever game they want. That kind of pressure, Kayser said, should no longer be an excuse for risking the safety of their children. He added that he himself has felt overwhelmed by trying to balance the fun of video games and the need to get his kids outside to learn and play in other ways.
“GO!KidGamer is designed to do two things,” he said, “To give parents the tools that they need to navigate the video game space and give kids ages 12 and under a safe place to consume and find balance within the gaming industry. My goal is to be very black and white and say these games are intended for your kids and these games are not. We’re going to help you make educated decisions. I’m not going to tell you what’s right or wrong; I’m going to help you make an educated decision.”
The magazine itself is completely online and features a monthly newsletter for parents and content for kids like “Go Collect,” “Go Write,” and “Go Outside,” designed to attract kids who love gaming and help them make connections with the world around them through submitting their own artwork or writings and by getting them to literally “Go” somewhere other than in front of a screen.
Eventually, Kayser said he wants the company to not just be a resource for parents and their kids, but to also be part of larger events around the Tri-Cities area, aimed at getting kids and their parents moving. In the meantime, Kayser said it’s time to get parents talking.
“My biggest hope is to start the conversation,” he said. “Everybody’s giving in and not having the conversation. But your kid is worth defending, in my opinion. It’s just about being educated. You would never take your kid to a restaurant and order them a Jack and Coke. You don’t do those things. And for some reason it’s OK with video games because we’ve let it slide.”
Kayser said he sympathizes with parents who are overwhelmed with parental peer pressure, but also said their innocence is worth defending, no matter how much a child begs for a video game or what the other parents in your circle of friends are letting their children play. After taking care of his ill father and his wife’s parents (all of whom have passed away) and watching his youngest child, Liliana, 4, go through open-heart surgery at just two weeks old, what’s really important in life now seems obvious.
“Our kids are worth our time,” he said. “No matter what’s happening with work or stuff in our lives, our kids are this age once and you never get a chance to do it again. And I’ve learned that having three kids. Our goal as parents is to enjoy our time with our kids because they’re innocent as kids and then once that innocence is gone, whether it’s taken from Call of Duty or all of the world or anything else, then you don’t get it back. The time that we have with our kids is precious and certainly worthy of our attention.”
To learn more about GO!KidGamer or to sign up for the E-newsletter, visit gokidgamer.com.