Posted on | September 12, 2011 | No Comments
P: Producer at Slant Six Games, working on Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.
WIGeh: What drew you to work in the game industry?
P: I got into games because I’ve been playing them for ages – I used to sneak into my brother’s bedroom when I was little to play his Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. However I never really saw it as a viable career until around 2002 when I started playing a mod online persistent world built in the Neverwinter Nights engine and was asked to join the volunteer staff to help out. Since the whole show was voluntary, people on the team would come and go and often the players would need something that nobody on staff would know how to provide, so I’d do some research and learn how to do it myself. Through several years of working on that project I did scripting, community management, level design, game balance design and learned a bunch of team management techniques. While working on that project, I got to thinking that maybe I could actually do some of these things for a salary instead of for free.
WIGeh: Did you take courses to specifically prepare you for this career?
P: When I figured out that I wanted to work in game production, I took a project management certificate for a general skills upgrade. Later when I was an Associate Producer, I got my Scrum Master certification for Agile development.
WIGeh: How did you get your first job in the industry?
P: I started to look around, sending my resume to studios around Vancouver. Outside of my son’s kindergarten class one day, I was chatting with one of the other parents that I was thinking about getting into computer games, when she said “You should talk to Louise. Her husband works in games.” So I approached her and got her husband’s contact information, sent him an email with my resume attached, asking if I could buy him the beverage of his choice and discuss how to break into the industry. His reply was “You should come down and see us”, so we went out to lunch. We chatted about the projects they were working on at the studio and my own experiences, and then went back to the studio to geek out with some of the games they were developing. It turned out they were looking for production help just then, and the guy I was asking for advice was actually the Executive Producer at the studio. I met with their HR person and in a couple of weeks was offered the job.
WIGeh: What is your career background?
P: I have a rather quirky resume. I paid my tuition for my Astronomy degree at UBC by working in the Canadian Navy as a Reserve officer. Together with learning leadership strategies and how to solve problems during crisis situations, I developed skills to motivate myself through stressful periods, all of which can come in handy during the development cycle. I had a great deal of examples of the kinds of leader I didn’t want to be!
WIGeh: Greatest challenge in your game career?
P: As a full time single mom, the biggest challenge has to be balancing a highly demanding job with parenting my two teenaged kids. By necessity the two sometimes blend and I wind up project managing my kids by keeping a close handle on our family schedule and delegating tasks to them to start dinner and other chores before I arrive home from work. This saves us some time so we all can relax together and catch up on the day. A real example of teamwork! This is especially challenging during crunch time when I don’t want to short change my kids or let my team down. It’s a constant friction on both sides.
WIGeh: What was your most satisfying moment?
P: This is really hard to pick since there’s not just one shining moment above all others. Two really stand out: when I know I’ve sorted out a problem on the team that helps them collaborate and create amazing things together and when a game I’ve worked on launches and I know people are enjoying it.
WIGeh: What is your favourite shipped title to work on thus far?
P: I thought about this one a long time and I keep coming back to my voluntary project, the Neverwinter Nights-based online world we called Twilight Legacy. Developing the game taught me so much about teamwork, about player behaviour, about game design, about making sacrifices just to hear the delighted feedback of people enjoying your work. There was a tight sense of community we nurtured between the staff and the players, and I’m still friends with many of them today. You might argue that the game wasn’t “shipped” since no one made any money from it, but it was a wonderful piece of interactive entertainment that we kept running for about 9 years and even recently people have told me it is still their favourite gaming experience.
WIGeh: What is your favourite game that you didn’t work on?
P: Ultima Online – I was a beta tester and played for 7 years.
WIGeh: What is your best advice for those considering a career in the industry?
P: It’s true for all industries actually but great things can happen if you build on what you know you love doing. If you don’t have a great passion for the work, you’ll have a great deal of difficulty being successful. Ask questions, keep evolving, be yourself.
WIGeh: Favourite aspect of working in this industry?
P: Working with highly intelligent and creative people who understand my obscure geek references.