A long time ago in another life I spent a decade-plus working in interactive entertainment, more commonly referred to as the computer games biz. From the mid-1990’s until deep into the 2000’s I had a front row seat as the industry changed from a relatively small, creative-driven marketplace into a massive industry dominated by gaudy global corporations. Although Microsoft and Sony — with the Xbox and Playstation 2, respectively — did everything possible at the turn of the millennia to reduce computer gaming to a proprietary console monopoly, the fact that plucky Nintendo continued to shine, despite annual predictions of doom, was an important reminder that everything does not have to be reduced to cynical crap in order to be profitable.
Not only did I enjoy the work I performed in that new medium, including wrestling with complex theoretical issues underpinning the very concept of interactive entertainment, but I met a number of talented and genuinely decent people who were on that same journey. In an industry that has since become synonymous with bad behavior, if not a launch point for some of the worst ills in modern American society, it was both enjoyable and reassuring to find camaraderie in the pursuit of something new, and as a relative outsider to be welcomed into what was, early on, a close community. (In those early years the computer game community was also ahead of the cultural curve in its acceptance of transgender and LGBTQ individuals, at least until the corporate cowboys and graphics companies decided they could drive more business by focusing on realistic breast animations.)
In terms of my work experience, I can also honestly say that the only time I had a problem was with one of the multinational corporations referenced above, but that’s another story. In every other respect the producers I worked with were both professional and personable, and that includes John Podlasek, who I worked with over long hours in a recording studio on more than one occasion. (Recording studios are a lot like submarines. You learn who people are real fast because there is nowhere to hide.)
Not only does John’s background include music and the visual arts, but over decades in interactive entertainment he has worn every hat a producer can wear, yielding a formidable combination of experience and perspective. And yet at root he is a genuinely humble and often hilarious person, and if you have any interest in interactive entertainment I would suggest you make a point to listen to John’s ‘Game Dev Advice‘ podcast. You could talk to dozens of other industry veterans for days at a time and not get the kind of grounded and holistic insight that John passes along in a single episode.
— Mark Barrett
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