Very Important Questions: Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi

Posted October 12, 2010

When ESI Design participated in the 2010 Come Out & Play Festival, we had a great time both designing our own games and getting to know other game designers. Among those we met were Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi, designers of the game Cross My Heart & Hope to Die, a life-size labyrinth game with great game-play and beautiful visual design. Recently, we asked them to stop by the office to chat about game design and the importance of play . . . and we asked them some Very Important Questions:


1. What was your favorite game as a child?

Nathalie Pozzi: Hide and seek. I was born on the Italian Alps and I loved hiding in the neighbors’ barns. We were not allowed to go there, as we would damage the stacks of hay by jumping on them.

Eric Zimmerman: I had a childhood rich with games. I played classic American neighborhood games like Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard, as well as epic games of Dodgeball and improvised dirt bike races. Dungeons & Dragons was a favorite starting in 5th grade, and I also grew up playing video games, from Pong and the Atari 2600 onwards.

2. What games do you currently enjoy playing (and that you didn’t design)?

EZ: I play games on and off the computer. One PC game that has gotten my goat at the moment is a dorky little title called Desktop Dungeons. I generally prefer games I can replay over and over and explore possibilities, rather than linear, “story” oriented games.

NP: I’m re-training with Eric, and it’s a slow progress. We’ve been playing Xbox games together — Eric on the controls and me shouting at him and telling him what to do.


3. What’s a popular game that you can’t stand?

EZ: I won’t name any names, but there are many popular games on Facebook that fall into this category. I understand the psychological dynamics by which they retain players, but I have a hard time finding them enjoyable in any way. Social network games are the muzak of games. I’m working on some — to reinvent the form!


4. For Cross Your Heart & Hope to Die, you used the story of Theseus and the Minotaur as inspiration. What is the strangest narrative you have used for a game, or seen used by others (like Unexploded Cow)?

EZ: My company Gamelab was known for making games with very “ordinary” subject matter, like waiting tables (Diner Dash), gardening (Plantasia) and working in an office (Miss Management). At the time we were making those games, it was highly unusual not to be shooting aliens and killing dragons.

5. If someone is interested in becoming a game designer, where should he/she start?

EZ: Play games. Play a lot of games. Becoming literate in the history of games, both on and off the computer is a necessity. And make games, however you can.

NP: Or you can simply date a workaholic game designer.

Debra Everett-Lane

Debra is ESI Design’s former Director of Content and Activity Design.

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