If you are interested in the video game industry or a career in making video games, then read on and I’ll tell you about my exclusive time with one of EA’s head directors.
How it all started
This was a while back when I was still in high school living out in sunny California. I remember there was going to be an assembly where this guy named Terry Smith was going to talk about making video games.
I was pretty exited when I heard that and was blown away by his presentation. I loved it so much that I went and talked to him afterward. After giving Terry some compliments, cracking some jokes with him and expressing my deep interest for this fascinating world of video games, he gave me his email and promised to stay in touch. What was interesting was that I was literally the only person that talked with him after his presentation. That should tell you something about seizing opportunities.
Knowing someone personally
Next day I sent Terry an email telling him how awesome he was and how badly I wanted any chance or opportunity to work at EA. Any job or an internship, I would take anything. Even a janitor’s position, just as long as I was there. So after a couple emails, Terry agreed to talk in person and not only that but to also give me a tour of EA. That blew me away! This guy was one of the head directors at EA and he was giving me a tour?!
That day I learned a very valuable lesson: connections and human interactions will get you further in life than any skill or college degree. So with a big grin on my face, I drove out from Monterey, two hours north towards EA headquarters just outside of San Francisco.
When I arrived at EA, the place was stunning. There were soccer fields, basketball courts, a gym, an arcade room, cafeteria, a kindergarten if you have kids, and of course a giant lounge. The atmosphere was very laid back and everyone seemed happy
There are also about four different floors for different games being developed. I was allowed to visit the Sims floor so most of what I was in game development was from there. The floor above that was the Dragon Age division and visiting that would have been heaven. In hindsight, I think at that time they must have been in the middle of making Dragon Age Inquisition which is just fascinating to think about.
Reality of the game industry
Terry greeted me and we started talking. First of all to get into EA is extremely competitive. Terry said he gets about 5,000 job submissions each year from all over the world (including Japan apparently). This made me realize yet again how important connections are because you can jump past that huge barrier and talk directly to the source.
Moving on, I found out that once you are in, you might not necessarily get the job you want. As we moved through the Sims floor, a lot of the guys were drawing cute pajama outfits for girl characters, which is not the manliest thing to do of course. Many people wanted to work on dragons, armors and so forth but reality was a bit different.
On the other hand, a lot of people were drawing beautiful concept designs, animating characters in 3D and working on the new features of the upcoming game. Their entire floor was dim lit so it felt like night time and everyone was having fun sitting in their t-shirts, strange hats and throwing jokes back and forth. Terry also told me that a lot of the guys would sometimes throw huge video game tournaments and just spend the entire night at EA.
Again it felt like a really laid back atmosphere and I was already thinking that just as I met Terry through taking opportunities, I could probably do the same and get myself to the floor above and work on Dragon Age. The possibilities are endless if you know how to network.
At the end of it all, Terry did offer me an internship but after doing a lot of thinking I turned it down. A lot of you may be thinking (rightfully so) “wow what an idiot!” and I completely understand. A couple details to mention on that note: the internship was unpaid, EA was two hours from my town and I did not have a lot of money at that time, plus I had to save up for college, which would start next fall.
So I hope this helps you get a better idea of what it’s like to work in the video game industry and what it can hold. I left with Terry on a good note and I still think that he is an incredible guy that is very passionate about what he does. If any of you are interested in Terry’s art portfolio, you can find it here.