Developers with kids also provide access to enthusiastic instant test groups. There's a lot to be said for growing technology, but for sheer fun value, you need a "testing unit" that can smile, laugh and roll its eyes at you - pssh, Mom, that's so yesterday. (Yep, we get family to do testing. And we get their friends, too.) Much as we'd like to think a gamer stays young forever, the inescapable truth is that the target demographic mojo starts rolling off of you somewhere around 14 and has faded away entirely by 25.
But being an unthinking barometer for what's hip is only the tip of the parenting iceberg.
Setting the Bar
Families make us saner. Families are a "safe" obligation no one can challenge. This mystical priority allows developers an "honorable retreat" from crunch mode, putting the brakes on a process that can all too easily get utterly out of control.
It's been said before, and it's true: Crunch mode itself has value. In an ideal world, we would all have exactly the amount of time we need to make fantastic games, and no more. But the real world involves human beings, and human beings make mistakes, so even with the best team on the best project, some crunch is inevitable. Our bodies crunch; when the going gets tough, your suprarenal glands fire a shot of epinephrine into your blood, and away you go. And that's what crunch is: It's a shot of adrenaline. The problem is adrenaline also addles your brain. It impairs judgment. And if you keep going, keep burning on adrenaline and nothing else, your heart explodes and you die.
Saying "I've got to pick up my daughter" is untouchable. It's a magic phrase. No one on Earth is going to say, "No, Bob, I'm sorry, but you can't pick up your child." No one. Developers at hard-edged workplaces get guff for everything from deaths in the family to long planned honeymoons, but not for taking care of their children. This is a double-edged sword in that some workplaces will have the audacity to discriminate against interviewees by asking about their marital or family status (and developers should be well aware of their rights - such questions are illegal). But parents in the studio bring so many benefits that they ought to be actively pursued, not shied away from.
Some are actually bothered by the parenting "silver bullet." There really isn't anything inherent that makes a parent's time more valuable than a single person's. But socially, it is acceptable - even expected - to stick up for one's children where it isn't as acceptable to stick up for a planned ski trip, no matter how long it's been in the works or how long you've gone without a vacation.
Parenting, more than perhaps any other profession, also requires flexibility. Saulnier says, "As a parent your kids are always throwing you curve balls that you just need to adapt to. 'Hey mom, I missed the bus and I need a ride' or 'Your child is sick, come get him from school.' You get pretty good at re-planning and adapting to what happens, even if in games it might be 'the movie has been moved up three months' or 'the lead artist's hard disk crashed and we need to rebuild the machine' or 'we need 10 screenshots by end of day for Marketing!'" So the unpredictability that pulls parents out of the office is often a not-so-disguised asset; when bad things happen, the parents are the least surprised.