A Gamer’s Story
Turning Ideas Into Hundreds of Hours of Fun
Any college degree can be helpful to get into the gaming industry; every professional will be handy in any gaming company. But to Erik Willis, the best thing those interested in creating a game can do is create a game themselves. We can find online and free the same tools triple-A studios use, Unreal Engine and Unity, for instance. He believes that it doesn't need to be a big game; it can be a simple one. But someone that can show they have what it needs to build a game from scratch has many chances of getting hired for a gaming company.
Erik Willis is an Associate Producer at Funcom. He holds an A.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Central Community Piedmont College, a B.S. and B.A. in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a Master's Degree in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management from the University of Utah. He worked on many cool projects like Disney Infinity, Looney Toons Dash, and he also worked at React Games on PC, Mobile, VR, and Console projects.
In this episode, we discussed his role as a project manager in Funcom, what happens when a project goes beyond its budget, and how he manages to turn what game creatives think into what game developers create. We also talked about his favorite games and what project he enjoyed the most. He spoke about the massive importance of game testing and how boring and challenging it can be. He also shared his view on the future of VR, consoles, and the gaming industry as a whole.
Tune in to find out what it means to create a video game from a producer's standpoint.
Some Questions I Ask:
- Is it hard to stick to the original budget? Have you ever gone off the budget? (2:25)
- How do you start managing a team of artists to get everything done on time and on the budget? (6:25)
- What was your favorite game to playtest? (15:08)
- How did you get into this career of being a game producer? (17:17)
- Do you think that VR games will eventually replace console games? (33:35)
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- What happens when a game exceeds its budget (3:25)
- What is an Art Pipeline, and its role in the creation of a game (8:17)
- Why playtesting is so critical, and why most testers don't last long in their positions (16:21)
- The difference between being passionate to play videogames and being devoted to making them (21:52)
- Where Erik believes the gaming industry is heading (43:09)
- Funcom website
Connect with Erik:
17. Tabletop Games 2.0 with Kenton Hansen34:42Tabletop games are proven massive brain stimulators. Playing them stimulates brain areas responsible for memory formation and complex thought processes. Board games' main (and perhaps only) limitation was the in-person aspect of it; the game's playability would be limited by the people around and available. A limitation technology could easily solve. Meet Kenton Hansen, Product Director at Roll20, the only free, community-based tabletop gaming software. Kenton is an experienced product developer and marketing strategist. He got into Roll20 almost accidentally and immediately embraced the idea of bringing players together around digital boards regardless of distance, age, or experience.Throughout our conversation, we explore a bit of Kenton's background and passion for gaming. He explains where tabletop and role-play fit into gaming and the challenges of adapting historically in-person games to the digital realm. Plus, he tells the story of how he knew about Roll20, the kind of games he is into and shares his thoughts on alternative ways to get into the gaming industry.Tune in to Episode 17 of A Gamer's Story, and learn everything you need to know about the endless opportunities that digital tabletop games have to offer. Some Questions I Ask:How did you get started in gaming? (1:11)Where do virtual tabletop games fit into the gaming world? (3:48)I see that you're creating a community among the members. Can you talk a little bit about that? (17:05)In This Episode, You Will Learn:About the board games, Kenton used to play as a kid (2:32)The kind of experiences digital tabletop games can provide (7:26)Roll20's Freemium Model. What it is and how it works (12:02)What are some alternative routes into the gaming industry (23:41)Resources:Roll20 websiteConnect with Kenton:LinkedInInstagramTwitterLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
16. Bringing Esports Gaming To the Masses with Ben Feferman30:12Although esports is a small part of the gaming ecosystem, it is already a multi-billion industry, and it has a tremendous potential to grow even more. Competing against other players in an esports arena, with a captivated audience, and on a stage prepared just for the competition, is an incredible experience every gamer should have. That same experience, among many other services, is what our guest, Ben Feferman, provides at Amuka Esports, the company he created and directs. Ben Feferman is the CEO of Amuka Esports, a Startup Advisor, a Sales Ninja, and a Mycophile in training. Amuka's ecosystem is as complete as varied, including Waves Gaming, Canada's first esports arena, EZY Mode, Windsor Ontario's first and only esports lounge. They create quality content made with love by gamers for gamers like Made in Esports and Esports Apparel. Amuka also provides training and education in esports, organizes tournaments, adding value to gamers' lives in every way possible. In this episode, we had a fantastic conversation about competitive gaming, how it has changed the gaming industry so far, and its immense potential to change it even more. Ben kindly shared his view on where he sees the gaming industry headed, the future of VR, consoles, and mobile gaming. We also explore the possible crossovers between gaming and traditional sports and the positive influence experiences like iRacing's can have shortly.Tune in to Episode 16 of A Gamer's Story and take a deeper look at competitive gaming and the future of gaming itself.Some Questions I Ask:Where does esports fit into the gaming world? (1:36)Could you expand on what made you want to start an esports business? (5:05)What's the goal of your business? And what service does it provide? (8:36)What do you think is missing in esports? And where can it grow? (17:09)In This Episode, You Will Learn:Companies prioritizing accessibility. Valorant's example of lowering their graphics quality to increase accessibility (4:16)Making people with regular jobs feel like pro gamers (9:53)Why the audience is so crucial at esports events (16:41)PS5 will be probably the last console ever made (21:58)Resources:Amuka Esports websiteAmuka Esports TwitterAmuka Esports InstagramAmuka Esports FacebookAmuka Esports YouTubeAmuka Esports LinkedInConnect with Ben:LinkedInLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
15. Concept Artist Christopher Hayes Turns Ideas Into Powerful Characters51:52Although every part of a video game is indispensable, from storyline to animation, the looks are the first thing we get access to, even before seeing what the characters can do. That sounds like a lot of pressure for those creating the blueprints of how a game would look, doesn't it? Actually, concept artists, those in charge of designing those blueprints, love their job, and we have the pleasure to talk to one of them in today's episode: Christopher Hayes. Christopher Hayes is a concept artist; from his imagination and how his hands translate his thoughts into drawings is how some of the games we've spent hours playing look like. Currently working as a Senior UI Artist at Blizzard, he also worked at Epic Games as a Senior Artist and spent over 6 years at Blizzard as a 3-D Character Artist and Concept Artist. Christopher created weaponry, armor, and characters of World of Worldcraft, Hearthstone, and Disney Infinity. In this episode, we hear tons of incredible stories from Christopher about the characters he created, how fun it is to work at Blizzard, and his journey to becoming an artist. His father, a musician, and his mother, a painter, certainly encouraged him to work with art, while his grandfather would ask him if Blizzard was a good company to work in. We also talked about the projects he enjoyed the most working in, his and his kids' favorite games, and the things he prefers to design. Christopher also shared his thoughts on the importance of reading and constantly stimulating creativity, the tight connection between concept creation and storytelling, and much more. Tune in to Episode 15 of A Gamer's Story and join us on a journey into the depths of a creative mind. Some Questions I Ask:As a concept artist, how does a typical day at the office looks like? (1:24)Do you take inspiration from a specific artist or from several? (5:24)Hearthstone is a great game. What did you work on in that game? (16:30)What kind of designs are the ones you enjoy doing more? (41:44)In This Episode, You Will Learn:Where does someone like Christopher get inspiration from (7:01)About the hundreds of possibilities to get into the gaming industry besides being a professional player (12:04)Christopher's favorite games to play (21:49)Why storytelling is one of the primary parts of creating the concept of a video game (47:52)Connect with Christopher:LinkedInInstagramEtsyLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
14. Tod Fennell Discusses His Acting Career and Using His Voice in the Video Game Industry52:38Ask any gamer and they'll tell you that the voice acting in a video game can make or break the experience. The best voice actors are able to connect with their audience on an emotional level, conveying everything from humor to horror. The challenge of a voice actor is more complex because they have only one resource to portray a character's emotions: their voice.Our guest today is Tod Fennell, a Film & Television Actor, Voice-Over Performer, and Screenwriter who has been using his voice to portray characters for almost three decades. Tod's childhood was linked to the arts; his parents were professional dancers and choreographers and owners of a successful dance school in Montreal. Tod started his professional acting career at age 6 and continues to challenge himself in many different areas of entertainment. As an actor he has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows. Tod also participated as a voice-over artist in several video games, including Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Assassin's Creed 2 and 3, Far Cry New Dawn, and Monster Hunter Stories 2, to name a few. In this episode, Tod takes us on a trip into the world of acting, where we get to see different sides of it; we get to observe the challenges actors go through when getting ready for a role, or the importance of being prepared before the camera or the microphone starts recording. We go through Tod's journey into the acting and voice-over acting world, what he enjoys most, and the most challenging parts of it. We also talk about Tod's favorite games, the projects he enjoyed the most working on, his future plans, and much more. Tune in to Episode 14 of A Gamer's Story and get to know better a profession that plays a central role in video games' creation.Some Questions I Ask:You've done everything from Nickelodeon shows to big prank commercials and voice-over acting? How did you begin acting? (1:36)How are voice-over acting roles different from visual acting? (14:38)Which acting roles have you enjoyed the most? (27:59)Do you play any video games? And if so, which ones? And do you play the games that you've acted in? (36:56)In This Episode, You Will Learn:You don't have to pigeonhole yourself into only one thing. You can learn to do and try on several things within your profession (8:29)The importance of looking at mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow (17:59)The most important part of voice-acting is listening (22:41)The importance of learning to say no to some projects and how not to take criticism personally is essential to grow and get better at what we do (34:19)Resources:Tod Fennell websiteConnect with Tod:LinkedInInstagramFacebookTwitterLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
13. Taking Taino Culture Into Outerspace through the Imagination of Nico Pengin48:23Just like nature, inspiration always finds its way. We might think every story has already been told or written, just as we think there is no way a plant would grow in the middle of a concrete wall, but it happens. Nico Pengin, our guest today, is an excellent example of how amazing stories are still to be told. His imagination takes us to outer space, where an alien city/spaceship rescues humans from their dying planet for their own amusement, to play a game called Batey. Nico Pengin is a Speculative Fiction Author, Podcast Host, Geekier Gamer, and Creative Content Creator. He has always been a super active kid, getting into all kinds of trouble because he wouldn't stay still. His life changed when one of his mentors suggested that he use that energy to play video games or create something with it. Nico channeled his intense energy, passion for reading, and wild imagination on a book series he is working on called Batey. In this episode, we talk about the origins of Nico's book series, his decision to go through the self-publishing path, his passion for gaming, and the importance of receiving support from our loved ones. Nico shared details of his heritage from the Taínos people, a group of Caribbean natives who played the game which inspired the books. We also discuss the importance of gaming, its benefits and it can help develop abilities that will be extremely useful in the workplace. Tune in to Episode 13 of A Gamer's Story and join Nico Pengin and me on this inspiring space trip toward imagination. Some Questions I Ask:What type of games do you like to play? (6:34)What drew you to gaming? (12:37)How did you decide on the characters in your comic? (18:15)Do you think that playing video games is helpful in any way or any other aspect of your life? (29:51)In This Episode, You Will Learn:What is the Batey comic book series inspired on (2:51)Regardless of your level of expertise or abilities, you can always have fun in gaming (12:53)About the Taínos culture, which inspired Nico's story (25:57)Some of the benefits gaming can offer to someone's life (32:34)Resources:Nico Pengin websiteArgue Bros - The PodcastBook: Nico Pengin - Batey Descending: Chilly's Story - A damaged girl who is used to looking after herself finds life among the stars is anything but romanticBook: Nico Pengin - Batey AscendingComic Book: Nico Pengin - BateyConnect with Nico:FacebookTikTokLet's Connect!Instagram
12. Luke Zelon Brings the Rules of Fairplay to Esports and Gaming34:38Unlike traditional sports, where there are systems, adult supervision, structured training, and competition to test participants' skills and growth, gaming and esports are free spaces where new members have to figure out how everything works. A kid that starts playing Fortnite, for instance, must figure out how to play, the best strategies and, after dying a bunch of times, will eventually get better. But as he plays in a space with no restrictions of any kind, he might be exposed to inappropriate language, degrading remarks, or even bullying. These are a few of Luke Zelon's major concerns and some of the many things he's working on changing in the esports and gaming space.Luke Zelon is the Founder of NXT UP Esports, a space where kids can get better at the games they love to play, improve their confidence, social development, and other life skills playing with other kids and campers in a regulated, controlled, and toxicity-free environment. Luke has an extensive background in traditional sports; he worked as Director of Business Development at Catalyst Sports & Media and in Corporate Partnership and Business Development at The Los Angeles Football Club. In this episode, our conversation revolves around the strategies and practices that worked perfectly on traditional sports that can be adapted to gaming and esports. Luke shared details of his past as a casual gamer, his first contact with competitive gaming, and what made him decided to participate and add value to the gaming industry. He also offered the perfect analogy of what represents esports in the gaming industry; we talked about his favorite games, future projects at NXT UP Esports, and more. Tune in to Episode 12 of A Gamer's Story and have a different look at what esports and gaming can offer to the youth. Some Questions I Ask:What made you want to stick around in the gaming community? And what games did you play? (2:28)What's the goal of your business? And what service does it provide? (10:11)What do you think is missing in esports? And where can it grow? (16:15)Where do you think gaming is headed? (23:42)In This Episode, You Will Learn:About Luke's relationship with gaming and how did he get into esports (1:18)How to bring traditional sports practices into gaming while preserving the things that made people love video games (5:19)A brilliant analogy about what is esports in the gaming universe (6:02)How providing certain structure into gaming and esports can turn the online space safer for kids (13:44)Luke shares his view on the future of VR (27:02)Resources:NXT UP Esports websiteNXT UP Esports InstagramNXT UP Esports TwitterNXT UP Esports FacebookLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
11. Vicki Lau’s Journey Through VFX World32:44At the beginning of cinema, visual effects were kind of a walking cane for the imagination; they helped create fantastic things that didn't exist in the real world. The first visual effects techniques were miniatures, back projection, smoke and mirrors, and other techniques that today's audience would find, at minimum, unconvincing. Today, visual effects are so smooth that sometimes the audience doesn't even realize they are there. It feels like they don't help people imagine how it would be to see a giant gorilla climbing the Empire State Building; instead, a few bricks would fly in the audience's direction. Our guest today, Vicki Lau, will teach us everything we always wanted to know about visual effects. Vicki is a VFX and VR specialist, author, artist, technologist, entrepreneur, financial strategist, intense thinker, and bodybuilder. Vicki's first job was at The Walking Dead; she also worked in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ninja Turtles, and many other great movies and video games. In this episode, Vicki shares bits of her story, her first steps in the VFX industry, what projects she enjoyed the most, and which ones were the hardest to accomplish. We also talk about what she does outside of visual effects to look for inspiration, the difference between visual effects for movies and for video games, and what kind of skills every visual effect specialist should have. Tune in to Episode 11 of A Gamer's Story and know the details behind the magic of modern cinema.Some Questions I Ask:Can you tell us a bit about yourself as a VFX artist? (2:08)How did you get started in VFX and design? (3:12)How did you get your first major assignment? (5:19)What was your most challenging visual effects design? (10:18)In This Episode, You Will Learn:The best way to stay updated as a VFX artist (6:22)Vicki's favorite kind of visual effect. (8:56)How are visual effects for movies and video games different but similar at the same time (14:31)The skills every VFX artist should have (20:12)Resources:Vicki Lau websiteFree Audiobook: Vicki Lau - Why I Do VFXConnect with Vicki:LinkedInInstagramYouTubeLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
10. Geoffrey Bunting Discusses How Women are Still Under-Represented in the World of Video Games50:39Are women better represented in today’s gaming industry? Are there stereotypes that need to be broken down? Are female characters in video games always portrayed as strong, independent women? Are they usually depicted as the damsel in distress, or are there other possibilities? Listen to Geoffrey Bunting discuss how he decided to write about feminism and focus on the lack of diversity in the gaming industry.One of the main reasons Geoffrey, as a disabled person, decided to write about feminism and focus on the lack of diversity in the gaming industry is to try and unify and turn marginalized voices into one. Geoffrey Bunting is a Graphic and Book Designer, Writer, and Speaker. He is the Founder of Geoffrey Bunting Graphic Design and the Art Director of Timeless Tales Magazine, an independent literary magazine. He has his own blog and has been featured in several portals, like The Face, Counter Arts, UX Collective, to name a few. In this episode, we look at gaming as something more significant and more profound than just video games. We look at how through games, people can get in touch with what is happening around them and take action to change the things they believe are wrong. Geoffrey shares bits of his background as a gamer and how playing games shaped his worldview. We also talk about his favorite games and where he sees the gaming industry heading. Tune in to Episode 10 of A Gamer's Story and join Geoffrey and me in this different look at the gaming industry.Some Questions I Ask:Can you tell the audience a little about where you're from and what you do? (1:03)What made you decide to write about feminism and female characters in games? (2:54)Is it hard to take on such a big topic (feminism) through a gaming lens? (15:44)In This Episode, You Will Learn:Why Geoffrey believes it is essential for him to write about feminism and female representation in gaming (5:10)How gaming is a little behind other industries regarding gender equality and representation (11:53)The reason why Geoffrey decided to create his own blog (18:36)Trying to get in front rather than chasing. The new approach of many gaming studios (30:04)Where Geoffrey believes the gaming industry is heading (40:45)Resources:Geoffrey Bunting websiteThe Dots websiteConnect with Geoffrey:LinkedInInstagramTwitterLet's Connect!InstagramTwitterYouTube
9. How to Be Serious About Playing Games with Bradford Carlton36:41During his time in college, Bradford Carlton played religiously 8 hours a day of WoW; he was a guild leader. He was doing recruiting, budget management, strategic planning, quality reviews, and more. But then, after getting into Law School, he committed to being an attorney, and he did it with tremendous success. Bradford learned how to use this new tool, "the Facebook," and his law firm exploded in no time. He was doing presentations on client acquisition and digital marketing; life was great. He had the money, house, and family until one day, an extreme situation put things in perspective, and Bradford realized that to find happiness, he needed to connect with who he was, a gamer. Bradford Carlton is a Business Coach and Consultant, and Host of The Gamerpreneur Podcast. He uses his podcast and vlog to provide gamers with business, sales, and marketing information. Bradford is also the Founder of Carlton Family Corporation. Using his background as an attorney and his experience in business and marketing, Bradford coaches gamers to generate sales, turn those sales into advertising dollars, and bring more gamers into the world of being a Gamerpreneur. In this episode, we talk about how gaming affected Bradford's life and shaped his career. He shared his background in business, his early success in digital marketing, and why he decided to use his knowledge to help other gamers be successful entrepreneurs. Tune in to Episode 9 of A Gamer's Story and listen to Bradford's evolution from gamer to a lawyer to consultant and to gamerpreneur.Some Questions I Ask: How did you go from being a lawyer to gaming? (2:46)Do you still play games often? What games do you play? (16:44)What are things a listener would be surprised to learn about you? (20:49)Where do you see the gaming industry headed? (31:44)In This Episode, You Will Learn:About Bradford's fantastic journey into gaming (3:01)The creation of The Gamerpreneur. When Bradford decided to talk to the person behind the controller (10:16)What are the games Bradford plays, and how it is to be a father being a gamer (16:45)The importance of giving credit to those who fought so hard to make games more mainstream (30:48)Resources:The Gamerpreneur websiteThe Gamerpreneur PodcastThe Gamerpreneur TwitterThe Gamerpreneur YouTubeThe Gamerpreneur InstagramConnect with Bradford:LinkedInInstagramFacebookEmail: email@example.com