Ask Huley #2

Hey, everyone! Welcome to the second installment of #AskHuley, where I answer your questions about writing, video games, music, and pretty much whatever else is on your mind. Keep those questions coming!

Our feature question this week comes from Flickamatuta:

What video games inspired you when you were younger to pursue a career in the industry?

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I’ve loved video games for as far back as I can remember. In some ways, the limitations of older systems forced us to use our imaginations more than we do now. Pac-Man was merely a collection of mustard-colored square pixels on my TV screen, but in my head he had arms and legs, and sprinted around 3D corridors with ghosts under each arm squirming to get away. He was a ghost hunting bad ass long before Zak Bagans! 🙂

Although this planted the seed, it wasn’t until I played Super Mario Bros. on the NES that it bloomed. Nothing had captivated me quite like Mario and Luigi, and there was no turning back. I was hooked, and played every cartridge I could get my grubby, peanut butter and jelly encrusted fingers on. I could literally go from Legend of Zelda to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out to Tetris to Strider to Gradius to Double Dragon all in a single afternoon. Needless to say, I grew up with minimal exposure to sunlight. 🙂

As I got older, my tastes gravitated toward story-based games. In particular, Chrono Trigger stands out as a watershed moment for me. Not only was it colorful and fun to play (Active Time Battle for the win!), but it had amazing depth and memorable characters, which were things I didn’t even know I wanted in a game. From there it was a steady diet of influential classics including Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy IX, Grandia, Lunar, Thousand Arms, and countless others. Even Mortal Kombat II, believe it or not.

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All of this led me to one realization: I had to work in the games industry. Somewhere. Anywhere. So, I started my journey as a customer service rep for a specialty games retailer called Game Crazy. I worked my way up the ladder until I reached a buyer position at the corporate office, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. At this stage I was still pretty hooked on Phantasy Star Online, and my tastes were evolving once again… or so I thought.

Around this time, a little game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic hit my radar, and everything I’d ever loved about story-based games came rushing back. Not only did it have the memorable characters and fun factor near and dear to my heart, but it introduced something new: the freedom of choice. The game threw tough decisions at me: scenarios I had to put some serious thought into because they altered the story’s progression. I was in control of my characters destiny, and I liked it! This was the precise moment in which I fell head over heels in love with BioWare.

I was happy in my role as a buyer, but I still longed for something more substantial. I didn’t just want to sell games, I wanted to apply my passion and knowledge to creating them. However, I didn’t know how to write code, so I chalked it up as a pipe dream and tried to put it out of my mind. And I did, for a time, but then came Mass Effect.

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After I played Mass Effect, I was more determined than ever to pursue my dream of working for BioWare. It took everything I loved about Knights of the Old Republic, refined the concept ever further, and set it in outer space. I’ll never forget the first time I arrived at the Citadel. It was about 10:00 p.m. on a work night, and I figured I’d play for just a bit longer before going to bed. The next time I looked up at the clock, it was after 2:00 a.m., and I’d still yet to give the council my Eden Prime report. If you look up “immersion” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Mass Effect.

The games industry experienced significant growth in the late 2000s. Companies expanded and created new roles in effort to keep up with changing consumer habits. Suddenly, there were more opportunities for people to work on games who weren’t developers. It took some time and effort (and a whole lot of luck!), but I eventually made it to BioWare in July of 2012 and fulfilled a dream nine years in the making. Now after nearly four years here, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it was absolutely worth the wait.

Our last question this week comes from KO_Rollins2K16:

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I see that you’re a huge wrestling fan, which is awesome. Who do you think wins the main event at Wrestlemania 32?

I don’t see any scenario in which Roman Reigns doesn’t win. Am I excited about that? Not really. I’ve got nothing against Roman—I think he’s got a lot going for him, and has “it” factor in spades—but he’s not connecting with the audience on the level he needs to. I don’t blame him for that, though.

I think the main reason the core WWE audience rejects him is because he feels forced upon them. WWE wants him to be the next John Cena right now instead of allowing it to happen organically. Reminds me of exactly what happened with Rocky Maivia in the late 90s. Although fans hated him at first, with a bit of work, he eventually became one of the biggest WWE superstars of all time.

So, that begs the question: how do you “fix” Roman Reigns? If I’m WWE creative, I completely repackage him and turn him heel in a meaningful, didn’t-see-that-coming sort of way. No more playing up his past with the Shield. No more coming down to the ring through the crowd. Ditch the faux-armor and army pants. Write his dialogue to sound like the most aggravating, ungrateful jerk on the roster.

For those that already hate him, you’re giving them yet another reason to boo, and he’d draw heat like few others on the roster can. Believe that.

Thanks for another round of great questions! Remember, if you’ve got a burning question for #AskHuley, here’s how to submit it. Until next time.

Ask Huley #1

Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining me for the first ever edition of #AskHuley, and thank you for submitting your questions. I’m excited to jump right in, so away we go!

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Our first question this week comes from Natalie:

I’ve been a follower of yours for some time now, and you’re a really lovely person with an admirable dedication to your work – especially writing. My dream is to one day become an editor at BioWare (or writer, but I prefer the editing process!), and I’ve been thinking that perhaps a good way to work my way up is to start at QA, or become a Community Manager — which seems like an awesome job that allows one to flex and hone their writing skills.

My question is: do you have some advice for becoming a Community Manager? I’ve started a blog to write journalistic articles (reviews, analyzations, op-eds, anything and everything) and am participating on forums and community blogs to engage with different communities and people, but I don’t know where to really go from there. I guess I’m just a bit stuck at the part where you know what you want to do, but don’t know exactly how to get there.

Aww, thanks so much for the kind words, Natalie! I appreciate that more than you know. I have some thoughts about your question, but first I’d like to share the same piece of advice given to me when I started out, and that is to never look at any job as a foot in the door. The reason is because you could be in that position for a long time while waiting for your dream opportunity to open up, and if you start to feel stuck in your role, it will take a toll on you and affect your job performance. That’s not fair to you or your employer.

Instead, identify your end goal and put yourself on a path to get there. In the case of writing and editing, be on the lookout for assistant, associate, or sometimes even intern positions. Most people aren’t able to start at a studio like BioWare (especially if you’re not already living in Canada), so I’d recommend looking for jobs at smaller companies to gain some experience, build your resume, and hone your craft. It doesn’t even have to be a video game company. Any experience is worth its weight in gold. Gain a reputation as an extraordinary editor, and you’ll stand out among other applicants.

Another key component to getting where you want to be is through networking. Thanks to social media, access to professionals in your field of interest is literally at your fingertips. On the BioWare side, Karin Weekes, Ben Gelinas, and Cameron Harris are all very active on Twitter, and are three of the most amazing editors I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.

One thing I can tell you from experience is that while not impossible, it’s very hard to transition from community management to writing and editing. I’d recommend pursuing community management only if that’s a field you want to be in for at least the next five years. Community management opens many career paths to explore, but not typically in development. Again, not impossible, just way more challenging.

Best of luck, Natalie, and thanks for the great question! Feel free to hit me up anytime if you’d like to talk about this some more.

Our next question comes from Sartoz:

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Well, #AskHuley, since your bio has said nothing about ME:A, there is no point attempting to ask questions about the game. So, why even bother to make the effort to communicate with the fans? So, I will ask a non ME:A question: what is your function and responsibilities?

I appreciate how excited you are to learn more about Mass Effect: Andromeda (and believe me, we’re excited to talk about it), but since this is my personal website, I’m afraid I can’t disclose any new information about it. I can tell you that we’re hard at work on it, and that we’ll definitely have more to say about the game later this year, but stay tuned to EA/BioWare’s official channels for breaking news.

As for why I’d bother to make an effort to communicate with the fans, it’s important to note that I have many interests and activities that extend beyond my day job at BioWare, as I’m sure our fans do as well. I’m a published author, I’m passionate about many forms of entertainment, and I’m a firm believer in two-way communication. I mean, we can talk about anything under the sun, so why not?

As it relates to my function and responsibilities, I’m the content manager for BioWare Canada, which means I get to work on great franchises such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. In some ways, my role is similar to that of a managing editor for a newspaper or magazine. I work with many teams across EA and BioWare to create content for social and web that is hopefully informative and entertaining, whether we’re announcing a new game feature or debuting a t-shirt design in the BioWare store.

Even when we’re in-between releases (like right now), the show must go on, and I’m always hard at work trying to come up with new and interesting things to keep the conversation going. But my job isn’t just about talking, it’s about listening, which is even more important, in my opinion. We’re not just a company that sells products. We’re a company that strives to make our players feel like a part of the overall experience, and we evolve through your feedback. So, keep it coming!

Our last question this week comes from Derek:

Making-a-Murderer

Dear #AskHuley, I only have one question for you: did Steven Avery do it?

Oh, man. I can tell you one thing, I’m glad I wasn’t on that jury! It’s difficult to try and answer this question without spoilers, so for those that haven’t yet seen Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” I highly recommend it. Regardless, I’m going to do my best not to disclose anything vital.

If you’ve ever read any of my work, then you know how much I love a good conspiracy theory. The trouble is, this is very real, and is an extremely heartbreaking story for everyone involved. I think Steven’s lawyers presented a compelling defense, and if true, then it speaks volumes to the level of corruption within our judicial system. It’s not just infuriating, it’s terrifying.

Can I say with all certainty that he’s innocent? No. However, I believe there’s more than enough evidence to suggest reasonable doubt, and he should be entitled to a retrial far away from Manitowoc County. If he is innocent, I just hope the truth comes out before his entire life is stolen.

Well, hey, this was fun and these were great questions! Thanks again for submitting, and if I didn’t get to yours this time, stay tuned. If you’d like to submit questions for a future edition of #AskHuley, please do so! Here’s how.