A Bite of Digital Chocolate

TFK chats with Trip Hawkins, founder of Digital Chocolate and EA Games

Nov 03, 2010 | By TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza

You've probably created your own Millionaire City on Facebook. Or maybe you've stacked some towers while playing Tower Bloxx on your iPhone. Perhaps you've even catapulted some crazy penguins, too. If so, then you've had a taste of Digital Chocolate. The rising gaming company was founded by Trip Hawkins in 2003. He is also the man behind video-game giant Electronic Arts (EA) Games. Last month, TFK visited with Hawkins at the Digital Chocolate headquarters in San Mateo, California. He spoke to TFK about working in the video-game industry, the types of games he played when he was little, the future of Digital Chocolate, and more.


Videography by Jeremiah Ysip; Edited by Mitos Briones

TFK:

When did you first become interested in technology and digital arts?

TRIP HAWKINS:

I loved games when I was a kid. I started playing these board games that were very realistic, but they were kind of hard to play because I didn't have a computer. Then one of my father's friends got a hobby computer kit. I was in high school at the time, and that's when I realized that I had to put all these [games] on the computer.

TFK:

How did you come up with the name "Digital Chocolate" for your company?

HAWKINS:

I have to give my wife credit because she had the idea for the word "chocolate." I just thought, "Hmm… chocolate!" That's a great word because when you [eat] chocolate, you feel like you're getting away with something. It's something that has instant gratification and makes you feel good. That's what I want to do with digital games. I like brand names like Apple Computer and Electronic Arts because they have two words that don't really [belong] together, which makes people curious.

TFK:

Why did you decide to make the move from making video games and consoles to creating games for mobile devices?

HAWKINS:

Not everyone can afford a game console, and for a lot of people, it's just too much gaming. Now, it's really exciting that everyone has some kind of computer so that they can use to get on the Web, or they have a mobile phone that turns into a computer. For the first time in history, everybody can have a chance to play [digital] games.

>TFK:

How have devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch changed the way people play games?

HAWKINS:

They're amazing. Obviously the mobile phone has been around for a while, but when the iPhone came along, it just struck people that this is the computer I want to have in my pocket. This is an amazing computing experience. I think it's great to see how far we've come in just a couple of years.

TFK:

What is your ideal video game?

HAWKINS:

Millionaire City on Facebook is really fun. You get a chance to be someone like Donald Trump and build your own city and manage your own buildings and see if you can strike it rich. It's very powerful when you can have a fantasy in a computer game that goes beyond what you can do in real life. A lot of times, the things that you learn in games you can use in real life later.

TFK:

What is your favorite Digital Chocolate game?

HAWKINS:

NanoStar Castles. I was the lead designer of that game. It's a trading-card game that everyone can play. It has all the strategy of a good-trading card game, but not a lot of the complexity.

TFK:

What is the best thing about your job?

HAWKINS:

Working with really talented people to make something new. I am very grateful to be here. I express my gratitude to God everyday. It's a real blessing that I can do the things that I do.

TFK:

What is the most challenging thing about your job?

HAWKINS:

You have to get things to work that didn't work before. When you try to blaze a new trail, you're going to make a lot of mistakes, and you lose time and money when you make mistakes. Sometimes, you just need to come up with some breakthrough idea that nobody's ever thought of. It's okay to make mistakes, but it's not okay to make the same mistake twice.

TFK:

What's up next for Digital Chocolate?

HAWKINS:

Cloud-based computing, where [tasks that you used to need your computer for can be done and accessed over the Internet]. And people can play games with each other and the games would work across all the different platforms and devices. For example, the reason you want to have a phone is because everybody else can be reached with their phone. It doesn't matter what network or what phone they are using, you can still text message and call them. [Digital gaming would be] a lot more interesting if it worked that way.