Airport Scanner's Kedlin Company: Make Boring Jobs Into Quality Games
Working for the real-life TSA sounds horrible, but in the video game world, it's a riot.
We're willing to bet that most people would walk away from a job with the TSA, and for good reason. Who in their right mind wants to sit in front of an x-ray machine scanning luggage for eight hours (or more) per day while dealing with annoying passengers? Sounds torturous, to say the least.
That said, the developers at Kedlin Company saw potential in this stressful position and crafted an entertaining iPhone and iPad game called Airport Scanner. In the process, they turned a laborious position into a fun virtual experience, and they not only have bigger plans for the app moving forward, but have also come up with other mundane jobs that would make great games. On that note, we tracked down Kedlin's Ben Sharpe to discuss his inspiration for Airport Scanner, as well as plans for the future.
What inspired you guys to do a game about airport security? Was this the result of traveling, or did one of you work for the TSA?
I've always been curious about what it would be like sitting behind the x-ray scanner at the airport. I've traveled quite a bit over the years, and have always been fascinated and frustrated with airport security and how your experience can totally vary from city to city, or even from one line to another at the same airport. I was on a flight back from Hawaii last year when I first thought of the idea, and by the end of the five-hour flight to Seattle I had the basis for the game completed. I pitched it to my creative partner, Alex Hartley, he loved it and we dove right in.
Airport security is also a totally unique concept that has never been done before in mobile gaming. Novelty is an important consideration when we are in the creative process of making a game. There are thousands of games available for iOS and many of them are retreads, so it was important to us to create a game that is truly different. Being our first title, it's even more important to differentiate our game from other titles and get people talking. We feel we've accomplished that with Airport Scanner.
No one on our team has worked for the TSA, though we are all expert bag checkers at this point.
That's a crazy list of weapons and banned objects you came up with. Did anything get left on the cutting room floor?
It is a crazy list of illegal items that we've included in the game. We really wanted the game to feel authentic, so the list of illegal items closely matches the official list that the TSA has published. Nothing got left out, and there are dozens of levels at three different airports, so the player will be exposed to all kinds of new illegal items throughout the game, which get more difficult as you go along. On top of dozens of objects to watch out for, there are also some fun rare items that each player can find and redeem for cash.
The game has three airports. Will that be it, or do you have plans for downloadable content?
We have plans for future downloadable content. In fact, our idea vault for Airport Scanner is loaded right now. New airports, new multiplayer gameplay and even body scanning could be introduced in the future. We plan to continue to update and support Airport Scanner to keep it fresh and exciting in the future.
What are your thoughts on the TSA in general? Was this game created to show the administration more respect? That's something it rarely receives these days.
The TSA has an incredibly difficult job, and does a great job keeping air travel safe; they have their fair share of issues and make mistakes, but so does every major organization. We created this game primarily to satisfy curiosity and have added an element of humor and silliness to a very serious job, though I think players come away from the game having learned something about the position and perhaps even an appreciation for what the TSA does everyday.
In fact, one of the first user reviews we received was from a player out of the UK who claimed to be a certified x-ray scanner, and said that Airport Scanner is pretty realistic and that he only wished the bags in real life were packed as lightly. So perhaps we could have jammed even more into people's bags.
That said, you successfully took one of the more stressful and at times mundane jobs and made it interesting. Will that be a common theme for future iOS titles? Do you have posters of Shenmue's Ryo Hazuki driving a forklift in the studio?
Thanks Chris, we're really glad you enjoy the game, and you nailed our approach to making Airport Scanner right on the head. We look at things that are in our everyday lives that can be turned into great video games, and Airport Scanner is the first of what we hope to be many successful titles in the future. The challenge is taking a mundane job or theme and making it a fun video game, which was certainly the case with Airport Scanner. The other criteria for our studio is to be unique and different, so that forces us to be even more creative.
We've got several titles in the pipeline and plan to continue working on them while supporting and updating Airport Scanner. At this point, we don't have Forklift Driver in the plans, but my Dad spent most of his life driving a forklift so we'd have an expert to help with content.