If you were working on one of the most anticipated video games in the world, would you tell your children about it? That's a parenting challenge most of us don't have to face, but Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard is in a category of his own.
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimScreenshot: Bethesda
"[My youngest] was like, 'OK, when is Elder Scrolls VI coming?'" Howard, who directed The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, said on a recent episode of the Game Maker's Notebook podcast. "And I'm like, 'Uhh, I'm not gonna talk about that right now either.' He's like, 'Can I give you my ideas? Can I work on it? Come on, tell me a few things, I'm not gonna tell anybody.'
"I'm like, 'Well, you might, so I'm not gonna say anything.'"
The Game Maker's Notebook, hosted by Insomniac Games boss Ted Price, launched last year and has been full of fascinating interviews. I recommend adding it to your podcast rotation.
Here's the relevant part of the Howard interview:
Todd Howard: My youngest, I got him a Switch, and he really got into Zelda. And he hadn't traditionally played those games, and he was too young to play Skyrim when it came out. Then when Skyrim came out on Switch, I said, 'Well you've played a lot of Zelda, I think you might like Skyrim." And I want to do it as the father, like 'Please, play this game, and see if you like it.' And the short story is: he got obsessed with it
Ted Price: Oh, that's great.
Howard: It was great for a while, and then he got, like every dinner conversation, 'Dad what's with the Thalmor? Do you believe in Talos? Is he a god in this? What is this? What are your favourite Daedra? Why do they want to do this? What are your weapons? Where did Tiber Septim come from?' He knows, and I forget a lot about it.
The other week, I was like, 'I'm done talking about this, I don't want to talk about this. I get this enough at work. Let's talk about something else.' And he got really upset, and then he went through all the cycles. So I got to experience it firsthand every day. He played on the Switch, then he went to the Xbox One version and then he discovered mods.
So he follows all these YouTubers who talk about Skyrim mods, a lot of old videos, but some of them new. Then he's downloading all these mods and showing them to me, what all the creators have done in the game. Seeing it again through that filter was really special actually, it was really great.
Price: That's one of the reasons we make games, right? Is to influence people to that degree, so they can become inspired, perhaps. Does your son talk to you about making the games?
Howard: He does, then he's like, 'OK, when is Elder Scrolls VI coming?' And I'm like, 'Uhh, I'm not gonna talk about that right now either.' He's like, 'Can I give you my ideas? Can I work on it? Come on, tell me a few things, I'm not gonna tell anybody.'
I'm like, 'Well, you might, so I'm not gonna say anything.' But it's great — I think a lot of kids want to get into video games. If you're a creator, I kinda want my own sons to find their own way as opposed to, 'Yes you should absolutely make games.'
Listen to the full episode here.