Video Game King: Values, Not Violence Is Key Concern

Post a Comment » Written on May 3rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (May 3, 2007) – Peter Tamte has grown used to being beaten at his own game. The physical reflexes of the man whose companies have revolutionized video gaming just aren’t what they used to be, he says, laughing at the irony.

The business reflexes remain sharp, however, and Destineer, which Tamte founded in 2001, continues to be a leader in the rapidly changing industry of video gaming. Gamers and business insiders alike hang on his every word.

After graduating North Park University in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Tamte founded MacSoft, which produced the first affordable gaming and productivity software for the Macintosh market. The company brought in many millions of dollars in profits as it expanded to bring PC games to Macintosh. In 1997, MacSoft became the largest publisher of Macintosh consumer-oriented software, according to third-party research data.

TemteTamte caught the eye of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who hired him to be senior director of worldwide consumer marketing and help oversee the rollout of the revolutionary iMac. A little more than a year later, the president of Bungie enticed Tamte with an offer to help grow that company, which had already begun developing a game called Halo. In 2000, Tamte helped craft the sale of Bungie to Microsoft, which subsequently packaged Halo with the release of the first Xbox system and made gaming history.

Tamte has since started Destineer, famous for popularizing the “option” key on Powerbook keyboards. The company also produces video games for consumers and simulations for the military and the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Tamte grew up in the Twin Cities, attending Bethlehem Covenant Church and Minnehaha Academy. He began dating his wife, Karen, while attending North Park, and the couple married shortly following graduation. Interestingly enough, Karen, a pediatrician, doesn’t play video games and says she doesn’t understand the fascination, Peter says.

Tamte credits North Park with preparing him to be successful in a demanding industry. “I really do think North Park was instrumental in setting me on the right path,” he says.

That path included steps he did not initially intend to take. Tamte wanted to focus on business classes and believed the rest to be superfluous. That changed, however, when the passion of the professors captured his interest.

He gained a new appreciation for different aspects of culture, but the broader education was equally important. “Liberal arts train your mind and help you with the process of opening yourself to creative solutions,” he explains.

“So much of business is creativity,” Tamte says. “It’s important no matter what business someone is in.”

“When I’m looking to hire people, I look for the ability to solve problems,” Tamte says. “I can’t emphasize that point enough. You have to have a strong technical understanding, but a lot of people can get that from reading a book. We are looking at their creative problem-solving abilities. That’s what we use to differentiate our business from other companies.”

Still, he says, the courses for his major were important. “The classroom education was extremely helpful in building a familiarization with knowledge across the business spectrum,” he says.

Even more important, Tamte says, was his extracurricular activity at North Park. His leadership skills and passion for sharing the gospel were evident throughout his college years. Students elected him president of the Student Association, and Tamte was involved in ministries that reached out to the urban community. “The closest relationships I have today developed while I was at North Park,” he notes.

In a media-saturated world, Tamte hopes to promote values he believes are absent or even dismissed by many producers of other forms of entertainment. “The messages about our lifestyles that I get from a lot of movies are contrary to the values I believe,” he says, adding, “There are certainly video games that are as guilty of promoting the wrong violent mindset.”

Tamte says that most high school boys play video games at least ten hours a week – more than they watch television. “We have an opportunity and responsibility as culture creators to think carefully about the culture we are creating,” Tamte says.

Tamte says he understands the concerns voiced by critics of violence in video games, including those made by his own company, but says people should examine the values underlying each game before passing judgment.

“Violence is so visceral that it tends to become the focus of people’s concerns about entertainment,” he says. “But I think this focus on violence distracts us from the real issue with entertainment, which is a confused value system,” Tamte adds. “The real messages of entertainment too often are that life is an accident, right and wrong are relative, and the main purpose of your life is your happiness. Then, to make matters worse, our entertainment culture makes heroes out of people whose lives are defined by these misguided values.”

He notes, for example, “We would not make a game like Grand Theft Auto because the hero is a bad guy.”

He adds: “Destineer’s mission is to give players authentic insight into the lives of our heroes. But, we’ve chosen heroes who live for purposes beyond themselves and define themselves by strong values. Often, these people’s lives are dangerous and violent, which is why they provide a compelling context for a fantasy entertainment experience. The entertainment we need to fear is that which makes heroes of the wrong people and tells them that their life is an accident, right and wrong are relative, and the main purpose of their life is their happiness. These are the issues most young people struggle with.”

Tamte says Destineer’s hit game, Close Combat: First to Fight, which was created with input from the U.S. Marine Corps, is an example of a game that is based on the values of courage and commitment. A non-commercial version is used to train Marines.

A member of Excelsior (MN) Covenant Church, Tamte says he did question designers of the Halo games about why they made the villains a religious cult called the Covenant, a decision made before he joined the company. “They said, ‘Because it’s cool,’ ” Tamte recalls, laughing.

Tamte laughs a lot, and friends are quick to point to his good-natured, down-to-earth manner. They are also aware of his strong sense of patriotism and honor.

Destineer first branched out to work with the military, intelligence services, and now law enforcement because it needed to diversify. “It’s become central to the company’s mission,” Tamte says.

But it also is a privilege, he adds. “I have a lot of respect for the people who have made that commitment to service. I get to work with people who exemplify the values of honor and courage. They are some incredible people. These men and women are role models.”

Tamte says he still is amazed at the trajectory his life has taken and gives God the credit. “I’ve learned that I’m really not in control; God is in control. When I look back at my career and see the opportunities that came my way, at some point I have to say it wasn’t me.”

He quickly adds, “That doesn’t relieve me of my responsibility to do my absolute best.”

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