Breaking Into The Industry is a weekly interview series that speaks with video game professionals from across EA. We hope that by sharing how some of the industry's biggest (and smallest) players got their start, you can learn how to do the same.
Okay, let’s start from the top. What do you do at EA?
I am the Senior Manager of Interactive Messaging for EA Mobile. I work in the Global Creative group in the Playa Vista office.
Interactive Messaging. That sounds like a fancy way of saying “writer.” Or is there more to it than that?
Good question. My background is in writing and copywriting, but I felt that working in the mobile space required a different description. It's definitely not about writing in the traditional sense.
What types of things do you do in your role?
Well, it seems like the list grows and changes all the time! Mobile is connected with everything, isn't it? So we cover all the possibilities involved with communication. Within our group, we are focused on promoting EA games for mobile devices. So we get the word out on the various app stores, and we connect with players through the game apps to help them have an even better experience of our games.
This is why it's not strictly a "writer" position. We communicate and have a dialogue. Mobile requires a high degree of responsiveness.
Just to be clear – you don't work directly on the games?
No, not directly. But we do have the opportunity to communicate through the games. Mobile has expanded the definition of what a game can be. The games are designed to evolve and respond to the demands and interests of the players. It's very a fluid situation. Therefore, it's very important that we continue to promote engagement with a game even after a player has downloaded it. We need to let people know what's new, and let them know that the experience is always growing in response to them.
Think of it this way: A mobile game is like TV programming. We like to let people know what's on.
So, in your opinion, the way that mobile game teams communicate with their users is very unique. Can you talk a little more about that relationship?
I think it goes back to that idea of connection. Everything is digital now. Therefore, it all exists on the same basic platform. Mobile is a part of that digital spectrum. So, to optimize for it, we need to be prepared to create a communication flow that links things together in the digital space.
We can communicate about a game through a lot of channels. So to optimize for this in a promotional sense, you need a lot of creative DNA. For example, you need to be able to bust out a post that connects to a YouTube trailer – and you need to be able to script that trailer, which ends with a call to visit the App Store, where we meet again in the game details and screenshots.
In the bigger sense, you have to really embrace the idea of working across the digital spectrum, and being able to plug in at any point. That's what writing in the digital and mobile space is all about. And, yes, it can get kind of crazy!
We seem to put out quite a lot of mobile games at EA. Does that volume of content make things hectic for you?
Yes, that's true. In the last couple of years we have really created an entirely new genre of games, haven't we? And we've produced a lot of games. I can't say that any day is "typical" around here. We all have that experience where what we think we're going to be doing when we walk in the door in the morning is not always what we're doing by the end of the day. That said, it's very much a team effort. My writing team works right alongside some very awesome production and design teams. Each day is always something new.
How big is your team?
I personally have three writers working with me. Within the creative group, we also have a production team, a design team (which includes a great crew in Romania), and an interactive UX team. We are a real global group. My team works very closely with all the other teams. Writing for little screens requires a lot of coordination with the visual side of the equation.
What advice would you give to someone in high school who wants to get into Interactive Messaging?
Great question. I'd say learn from what you are already doing. Look at how you communicate. Look at how you play. I'd also tell them to pay attention in school. Like I said with the DNA, there's an art and a science to this. A poet who understands physics would be great at this. A person who understands mathematical systems but who can write a coherent sentence would be awesome. Be open to everything, because it all applies.
If you’re artistic or visual, look at how text works on interactive screens. Think about how you can speak in pictures or icons. People read up and down on a smartphone screen. Like a yo-yo. What can you do with that concept? Be open to everything, because it all applies.
What did you study in college anyway? And did it end up being useful?
I was an English major at UCLA. I would say that it is definitely useful for what I’m doing now. I think the main thing that I got from it was that it taught me how to read. I know how to analyze communication, break it down, find the main idea, and then communicate back what that idea is. It’s a very handy process to understand because you can apply it in a lot of different ways – not just to poetry or whatever.
So college is a big plus. Do you think it's necessary to be a gamer as well?
What is a gamer, exactly? In our case, actually, no, it's not required to be a hardcore gamer. We love games, no doubt, but we're working in a world where games are more casual. We have a lot of moms in our audience. It definitely helps to know the industry and enjoy games, but EA is doing a great job of welcoming new kinds of people into the gaming world through mobile. If a gamer can talk to that audience and get people interested in our kinds of games, then great.
Good point about non-traditional gamers. Your audience is all over the place. How do you write for that?
We let the game do the talking, for the most part. Every game we produce is an invitation to play. So we present the fun benefits of each game, knowing who will likely enjoy it most, and we proceed accordingly. Obviously, we don't talk about Dead Space the same way we talk about SCRABBLE.
That's the real advantage that EA has. We have something for everyone.
What about you? Would you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?
Would I consider myself a hardcore gamer? Hmm… Well, I wouldn’t qualify myself as “hardcore” exactly, compared to guys who are really intense about gaming. I wouldn’t say softcore, though. I’d say more mediumcore. Or maybe mumblecore.
And what games do you play?
Well, these days I mostly play mobile games. Some of my favorites are The Sims FreePlay, Tetris®, and NBA JAM. Dead Space is amazing, but I’m not very good at it! MONOPOLY on iPad is a lot of fun, too. These are just off the top of my head. There are so many, though. That’s the cool thing about mobile games. You can just kind of casually plug and play and try a lot of them out.
Is there a specific video game job you’d like to know more about? Let us know in the comments! Plus, check out last week’s interview with Philip Simmons, an Environment Artist at Visceral Games, for more insight into the industry.