At EA, our team members lead amazing lives outside of their work duties of creating great games for our players. Meet NBA LIVE Quality Designer, Richie Cortes, and learn his extraordinary career path and his American Ninja Warrior hobby.
How did you begin your video gaming career?
Coming out of Full Sail University, where I got an Associate’s Degree in Audio Engineering, I needed a job and I needed it fast. Bills were mounting, and my degree was not leading to steady work. I was also a Hip-Hop artist, and I was getting more paid work for performing at shows that I was with mixing/mastering audio.
One day, I was setting up a show in downtown Orlando at a now defunct club called AK Lounge, and I saw a newspaper on my way up the stairs to the club’s entrance. There was a big EA logo on it that said that it needed testers for games. I applied instantly, and before I knew it, I was crushing an interview for a role as QA tester. – talking to my past gaming experience, my favorite game ever in Chrono Trigger (at the time), and speaking to my sports experience and knowledge. I was hired immediately to a position on Madden NFL ‘08 in April of 2007 and eventually converted to a Regular Full-Time (RFT) and the rest is history.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role?
Well my biggest challenge has been in my new role as a Quality Designer (QD). Previously I was a Project Manager on the NBA Live team but was given an amazing opportunity with this role to essentially define what a QD does. The hope is that there will be QD’s for all of our EA titles.
QD is a new position for EA. So basically, I run surveys for the internal NBA Live team (along with some of the members outside of the team) on a weekly basis to generate feedback that helps guide our test planning and, ultimately, affects our weekly game tuning during the game development launch cycle. This is one of the most evolved quality feedback process at EA
I am also a part of both the Quality Design Family Initiative —to spread the best internal sentiment gathering practices across all EA titles— AND the Player Plus CDS Initiatives —a push to spread the best community play testing practice externally, for lack of a better explanation, an elevated form of beta testing— which will work to expand our quality feedback program from being not just a beta game testing phase but done through the entirety of the game development cycle. My work is making an immediate impact to the quality of our games as it helps recognize the sentiment of the public before we launch. Defining, evolving and spreading this position, while maximizing the impact of these two initiatives, is by far my most daunting challenge at EA yet.
How do you unwind and unplug?
Now this is a loaded question! Gaming with my son is #1, as is spending as much time with my family as possible. But I also do so much outside of work that my “unwinding” may seem like more work to others.
I am a certified personal trainer who owns the premier Ninja Gym in Central Florida – Ninja Fit Gym. I am also an American Ninja Warrior Athlete, competing nationwide in several ninja leagues and I have been on ANW on NBC for two seasons now (only getting very limited TV time up to this point though). Many times, I “unwind” with my training, or building/working at my gym. It’s another love of my life that I get to do as an adult. With all of that, I have still been able to give 100% to all of my endeavors even though it’s quite the balancing act.
What has been the most rewarding thing about working at EA?
Doing something I love man. Doesn’t get any better than that. Growing up, and where I am from, I never once imagined that I would have a career period, let alone one in gaming. It was always an escape, and outlet to stay out of some of the lifestyles that filled my environment growing up. I did not want to be a part of the gang life that was everywhere in the early 90s growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and video games, along with sports, kept me out of the streets. And when I did eventually fall into bad habits, video games and sports once again pulled me out and got me back on the right track.
To then come to where I made a sustainable career that helps provide for my family with a consistent lifestyle that I didn’t have growing up, that is by far the most rewarding part of being in the EA family.
What advice can you give to someone who aspires to a career in the gaming industry?
Know when to listen and don’t be afraid to speak. Don’t be afraid to knock down the perceived glass ceiling as you will only go so far as your tenacity can take you.
This industry can be daunting and exhausting to some. It can wear down even the most resilient of individuals with the size and multi-function nature of our teams. However, always remember that the best games are made from the best collaborations. If you believe that you have strong concrete, do not be afraid to pave your own road.
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