Breaking Into The Industry is a weekly interview series that speaks with video game professionals from all 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.
Can you talk a little about yourself? Where you grew up, where you went to school…
It sounds kind of silly, but I'm not from anywhere. My father was an aviator in the Navy, so I've lived all over the US and the Caribbean. I went to Florida State University (FSU) for my undergrad and moved to Los Angeles after that.
What did you study at FSU?
Communications with a focus in Media Studies. I really dig the way technology is changing communication and the formation of social groups and relationships. In one of my classes I actually played an MMO as research.
So you were already into games at that point in your life?
I've always been a gamer. A great story is a great story and I'm happy to take mine from books, movies, or games. I played a lot of racing games in college. Zelda. A little bit of everything.
Do you think game narratives can compare to those in books or film?
I absolutely believe that games can tell a compelling, engrossing story. You're talking to a girl who sunk a hundred hours into Fallout 3. Do games stumble sometimes? Definitely. But so do books. And as technology grows, so does our ability to develop even better, more emergent gameplay – and that's better than any "choose your own adventure" book.
So, what took you from FSU to Los Angeles?
Well, I knew that I wanted to work in entertainment and communications, but I wasn't exactly sure which approach to take. Luckily, Los Angeles is the kind of city where there's a little bit of everything. After a few years I ended up in event marketing at a trendy sportswear company. It was a great chapter in my life.
And how did you end up in the Bay Area?
I love fashion – that's probably apparent in some of my unique clothing choices – but at some point I came to this realization that my job in sportswear was just about stuff. Video games, to me, are about experiences, and ultimately I wanted to create great experiences. Not great stuff.
I guess that realization came around the time BioShock premiered. I remember being so obsessed with the game that I was watching every trailer, reading every article, listening to the music from the game… It was just such an amazing experience. When I realized that, a light bulb went off and I thought, “I could do that!” I wanted to work in video games and be part of something that was more than just stuff.
When did you join EA?
I joined EA in August 2010. I was hired as a marketing assistant on the Dead Space 2 team, where I did a lot of asset management, scheduling, and coordination. I was very lucky to have a great boss who consistently challenged me and allowed me to grow into more responsibility.
Let's go ahead and jump to the present. What's your current title at EA?
Global Associate Product Manager. I work with my Senior Associates to define brand strategy, deliver that to the cross functional team and work with them to meet brand objectives. I also lead much of the asset production. Producing trailers is one of my favorite responsibilities.
How do you go about producing a trailer?
You typically start with a brief: a document that outlines the overall objective of the piece. From there we work with a trailer house, which takes the brief and provides us with a story board. We work with them to tweak it and then the piece goes into production. From start to finish – including five or six rounds of feedback – each trailer takes six to eight weeks to produce.
I remember bumping into you at gamescom last year. Do you travel a lot in your role?
I do get to travel quite a bit during the convention months. gamescom is probably my favorite convention, because the food in Germany is so good. The fans are very dedicated as well.
I also went to Baltimore quite a few times when I was working on Reckoning. I think working on a partner title, it's really important to go and make those face-to-face connections. You want to let the development team see that you care about their title just as much as they do. If you don’t, you just end up being that “email person” who's always asking for screenshots.
What advice would you give someone in high school who’s looking to end up in a role like yours?
There were so many activities in high school that led me to where I am today. The marketing career skill set is varied, but – overwhelmingly – marketers are strong communicators who are comfortable in a wide variety of situations. Don't skip out on speech class, and never miss an opportunity to challenge yourself with a new activity or social situation.
What's a good major for an aspiring marketer?
EA marketers hold a variety of degrees, ranging from Political Science and Psychology to… well, Marketing. I think that ultimately it's about having strong communication skills. And not just playing a ton of games, but having a knowledge of the market.
What games are you currently playing?
I finished Batman: Arkam City not too long ago. Now I’m playing Reckoning now I'm eagerly awaiting Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, and Borderlands 2.
Last question: What’s your favorite thing about Reckoning?
I love that you can constantly redefine your class. So, on Monday I can be a mage and set things on fire, and the next day I can be a warrior and smack people with a giant hammer. You can't do that in Skyrim.
Thanks again for doing this Ellana! I appreciate it.
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 David Luoto, Creative Director at EA Partners (EAP), for more insight into the industry.