Eurogamer: Can you give an example?
Kim Swift: So we had a room where we wanted to teach players to put a box on a button. The button was arranged to open a door at the far side of the room when held down. Rather than finding the box though (which was in a pit over to the side of the room), players were standing on the button and shooting a portal through the now open door. So to fix that we put up a glass barrier in between the button and the door. But we also took the behaviour of holding down a button with your own weight and shooting a portal through the open door and incorporated it into other levels.
Eurogamer: It makes sense to approach things this way. Players always find exploits. So figure out what some of them will be. Clever. You must feel a lot of pride when you look at Portal.
Kim Swift: Of course, it was our baby. That people actually ended up liking. Our baby became the popular kid in school.
Eurogamer: And now as the decade comes to an end, it's starting to show up in Best Of The Decade lists. How does that make you feel?
Kim Swift: Pretty blown away and amazed. It definitely gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Eurogamer: So you're now settling in at Airtight, starting off new secret projects, right?
Kim Swift: Yep, sadly nothing I can talk about right now. But I really enjoy working here so far, it's a pretty small company and at this point I think I've met almost everyone. And everyone I've met is super-friendly, has a great sense of humour and is really talented.
Eurogamer: What I'm interested to learn from you is the philosophies you take with you into this new job. What do you think a game should be?
Kim Swift: Fun.
Eurogamer: And what makes something fun?
Kim Swift: Well, I suppose the word fun is really relative. I think games should be something really entertaining and should make players react in a tangible way. Whether that be anxiety and tension from Shooters, or sorrow from a character dying in an RPG, or a good laugh at an amazing line of dialogue. Games should give players the opportunity to create their own story because those are the sorts of experiences that they're going to really remember. When people talk about games to other people they talk about what they did or what they played through, not the cut-scene that they idly watched. It's the player's actions that really count.
Eurogamer: You seem to have a lot of respect for the player. Do you think that's missing in some developers' minds?
Kim Swift: I honestly can't really say what other developers are or are not thinking, but for me I think creating a good game is all about walking the fine line of being able to convey a particular experience and at the same time giving players the opportunity to create their own.
Eurogamer: What do you want to see games do next? What's the frontier they've yet to cross?
Kim Swift: Well, I'm definitely looking forward to mainstream games that are more accessible and at the same time have a high quality bar. I personally grew up playing video games with my Dad. It was one of the few times where we could sit down and have a good time together. I want other people to be able to experience that because I found it to be a lot of fun. And as more people that enjoy video games, grow up and have kids, they more than likely want to play games with their kids.
Eurogamer: And share those created experiences.
Kim Swift: Exactly. And games seem to be split into two categories, either they're kids' games and have a low production bar and don't have a lot there for adults to have fun with. Or they're a big budget game with a lot of substance but a lot of violence that isn't appropriate for kids. I think there's a happy medium in between where there's a little bit of something for everyone, like a good Pixar film. I definitely hope to try to make games that are more accessible to a broader audience.