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In Their Own Words: Rick Stringfellow

At Electronic Arts, everything we do is meant to Inspire the World to Play. Approximately 8,800 employees bring the spirit of play to EA every day, living our Purpose & Beliefs – Creativity, Pioneering, Passion, Determination, Learning and Teamwork – to deliver powerful and immersive experiences to millions of players around the world.

Each year, we recognize and celebrate employees who embody and champion our Purpose & Beliefs in their work and actions with our Purpose & Belief Awards. The Purpose & Beliefs Awards are the highest recognition given out by EA, and honor employees that have made an impact in their work that represents how we all should strive to achieve success.

As such, we are proud to kick off a special series highlighting our 2018 Purpose & Beliefs award recipients. First up, we speak with EA Studios Content Principle Art Director Rick Stringfellow who was recognized with the Creativity Award.


Why did you want to work at EA?

I joined EA because of the people, the projects and the technology. I was young and wasn’t thinking long term – at the time it was just another ‘waypoint’ in my career – I didn’t realize that it would become the most significant and most permanent employment of my career. I guess I’ve also never seen my job as ‘work’ – and it’s never felt like work – creating is what I’ve done my whole life – I’ve always gravitated to work in places that can offer me the best opportunity to be creative. EA was more of a magnet that pulled me in.

How did you begin your video gaming career?

My video gaming career started when I decided my film career needed to end. Film wasn’t giving me the creative outlet that I was looking for and gaming was more open to new ideas and to try things. My first real gaming job was as Studio Art Director at Radical Entertainment – it was a traumatic change from film that seemed so simple in comparison to games. For the first month I had a permanent headache from trying to understand the complexity of making a game – it hurt, but eventually started to make sense.


What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

I think the most rewarding aspect now is to look back and to see how far we have come, and to continue to work with all the people that have stayed onboard this journey. There are a lot of people here that I have worked with for over 15 years. We have that ‘nod’ as we pass each other in the corridors – it’s a mutual respect that will last for the rest of our lives.


What does it mean you having received your purpose & belief award?

I received it, but it’s the team and everyone that I have worked with owns a piece of this. I’ve never been good at receiving praise and have actively avoided the spotlight my whole career – so it’s personally tough to be the one to receive it. With that said, I really appreciate it – many of us at EA have worked through the nights and weekends wondering if anyone has noticed the effort that is put into these games, especially in a central team. It’s great that EA did this for us.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role?

I think the biggest challenge I face is the same one that we are all facing – the pace of change is accelerating. I find that I must constantly re-calibrate my thinking. What wasn’t possible yesterday is probably going to be possible tomorrow. There seems to be a ‘new normal’ every week. The good thing for me is I love change and challenges.


What EA title did you start your career with?

As an official EA employee my first title was NHL 2001, however my first art that I helped create was in 1994 for Need for Speed 3DO – building a low-resolution Ferrari. If I remember we had a vertex count of only 256 for the entire car. At that time, I worked for an Animation and Modeling software company and we were consulting on how to easily build content for the 3DO console.


What has been your favorite title to work on?

I don’t really have a favorite title or genre – I gravitate towards racing games having worked on quite a few Need for Speed titles and I come from a family of car enthusiasts. To be honest I just like the process of creating – it can be any kind: 2D, 3D, console, mobile – to me it’s all content of some kind.


What is your favorite thing about the working environment at EA Vancouver?

Easy to answer this – it’s the people. I work at multiple locations, so I can’t really identify with the aspects of specific locations – however it’s the interactions I have with the artists and teams that I love. We have some of the smartest, most talented and most humble people in the business. I wouldn’t be writing this without those people doing what they do. They say smart people surround themselves with even smarter people – this is true in my case, I often happily feel like the dumbest person in the room!

What advice can you give to someone who aspires to a career in the gaming industry?

Be ready to learn, be ready for change. Seek clarity in what you are asked to do and be clear about what you can do. Realize that you are joining an industry that is still maturing – with a long way to go.

What advice can you give to someone who aspires to a be in your field at EA?

To be an Artist or Art Director, I think you must appreciate art of all types. At every opportunity I go to art galleries and I try to surround myself with creative people – not just artists, I seek out creative engineers, creative thinkers, makers and teachers. If you do that it eventually becomes your state of mind – you will always look at things differently and you can imagine new things.


How do you unwind and unplug?

I ride my bike for crazy distances (200-300km rides), I run (but I hate it), I hang with my son (he’s my game tester) and I sleep. Lack of sleep is my enemy, it eats my creativity.

Want to work at EA Vancouver? Join the team here!


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