Instead of creating a video game that builds armies, BYU alumna Andrea Landaker created a game that builds families.
Landaker put her computer science degree (BS ’00) to work and teamed up with fellow BYU graduates to create the video game Our Personal Space.
In the game, players make decisions for a newlywed couple that will ultimately determine their happiness and the outcome of their marriage.
“I didn’t just want to provide a few hours of entertainment,” Landaker said. “I wanted to help players understand that marriage is a life-long commitment of hard work and unselfishness that is definitely worth the effort.”
The choices that the player makes are often small and seemingly unimportant, but they add up to have a large impact on the game’s outcome.
“In real life, it’s not always obvious that our tone of voice or inability to forgive is damaging a relationship,” Landaker said, “but in the context of a game, players have both the emotional distance and mental engagement required to see how one person’s behavior affects a relationship.”
Landaker first got the idea for the video game after becoming frustrated with the attraction-based romantic love found in movies, TV, and video games.
“It’s not really love,” she said. “I wanted to show more of a lasting love.”
She wanted to show how couples can build a love that lasts over decades. Landaker approached her sister Rachel Helps (BS ’08, Psychology) with the idea, and the two designed the game over the next two and a half years. Rachel Helps’ sister-in-law Clarissa Helps (BS ’12, Psychology) also assisted in creating the artwork for the game.
As Landaker designed Our Personal Space, she had several introspective moments—some of which led her to learn from her own game.
“Writing the consequences of different choices out really made me think about the potentially enormous consequences of small, simple actions,” Landaker said. “When I was feeling annoyed at my own husband, I had the sudden thought: If my life was a video game, what choice should I make here to get the ‘good ending’? It made me laugh a little.”
Our Personal Space launched on February 14, 2015, and so far has gotten over 5,000 downloads. Two game critics—“Jay Is Games” and “Rock, Paper, Shotgun”—gave the game glowing reviews.
“Our Personal Space has obviously been a labour of love,” Rock, Paper, Shotgun said in the review. “You must set an afternoon aside to properly and fully enjoy it.”
Landaker’s game-building career is not over yet. In addition to providing video game commentaries with Rachel Helps, Landaker is working with her brother Lance Meibos (BA ’07, Communications) on the logistics of a second game.
“It would be an educational video game where you use chemistry knowledge to advise superheroes in their battle against evil,” she said.
Her bachelor’s degree in computer science has come in handy with game design, but Landaker has discovered that her time at BYU contributed to more than her computer skills.
“I feel like my BYU education didn’t just prepare me to be a programmer, but also to ponder and synthesize many vastly different areas of life,” Landaker said. “To modify one BYU motto, ‘The universe is our campus.’”
Our Personal Space is available for free download on Landaker’s and Rachel Helps’ website: