Okay, so finally I am allowed to talk about what I'm up to at EA. It's been a long summer in which things have been pitched, talked about, percolating, happening, not happening, on hold, accelerated, and basically driving me mildly insane, as I've never known from week to week, or even day to day, what the future really held for me.
It'd take a book (maybe someday!) rather than a blog post to get into it all, so rather than bore you senseless or make your eyeballs bleed, I'll cut to the chase: I'm no longer with The Sims group. I am now editor-in-chief of EA.com--EA's website. I am super excited about the job, and am going to blabber about it in the post AFTER this one, because first I want to tell you about leaving The Sims, which I am convinced is the right call, but also one I do with mixed emotions.
If you don't want to read this whole post, just watch this instead. This is pretty much my experience on The Sims.
From the start, the great Jeff Green: Game Designer experiment was nothing more than that: an experiment. Kind of a combination of midlife crisis + needing a break from game journalism + nowhere really to go in game journalism + EA being a huge, successful, stable (this was pre-economic collapse!) company that makes many great games that was near my home and seemed like a fine place for a dude in his 40s to land. But even during the interview process, no one on either side (I mean, EA or me) was quite sure what to do with me. Designer? Producer? Writer? I even interviewed, and was considered and pushed, to be the head of the Sims PR.
Unlike many games journalists who hop the fence to the development side, this was not ever my secret dream while in the press. I never harbored any desire to make games instead of write about them. I never considered the job a temporary launching point until I could get over there. In fact, I already had my dream job: Running a magazine and writing columns.
But when the writing was on the wall with Ziff Davis, and I knew that not only it was about to collapse but that I was likely to not survive the purge (making too much $$$, too old, plus I wasn't happy with the editorial direction/leadership at the time anyway), I knew I had to get out. Given the lack of reasonable alternatives for me in the gaming press, it was only natural that I would consider going to a game company, because that's where all my connections were. It was never about wanting to make a game, really. It was about finding a cool job with people I liked and respected, doing something that felt good and made sense for me--preferably something where I could be creative and write.
EA made sense, and The Sims specifically, because I've loved those games going all the way back to SimCity (though I have secret, weird love for SimTower, too), and I felt like their sense of humor fit with mine. So that's where I landed, and some of the rest is already known. In 12 months, I was on 4 different teams and 6 different games. I went from producer to designer to producer. Despite 13 years as the editor of a PC gaming magazine, I ended up on Wii-only games. These aren't complaints, by the way, just the way it was. In all honesty, I had a (mostly) great time, and learned so goddamn much. My perspective was completely upended and enlightened. It's an experience that *every* game journalist ought to go through, at least temporarily, George Plimpton style, just to learn what the hell these people do all day.
But what I ultimately learned is that maybe this isn't for me. And that's okay! Or at least not right now, at this label, at this point in its history and development. The people are all as smart and cool and funny as I imagined. The projects are challenging and interesting. But, it just didn't quite work out. The bouncing around from team to team didn't help. I never got any traction with any one group. I never got to be on a project from its inception to completion. I never got to really show--either to myself or my teammates--what I was capable of given the different experience I was drawing from. As such, I was basically just the old, grey-haired, bonehead coming into already-stressful projects with not much to add unless people took the time they didn't have to train me, plus the added negativity of being one of THOSE guys--the press, the enemy, the flip ignoramuses who casually shit on the stuff they do with ill-thought-out reviews and metacritic scores that dismiss months or years of labor and love with no corresponding skill whatsoever.
It was an uphill battle. And maybe if I was 28 instead of 48, it'd be one worth fighting. But, hey. Whaddya gonna do? Meanwhile, I started realizing just how much I missed what I *was* good at, what people wanted me to do, and what other folks at other parts of EA started clamoring for me to do, too. The EA Podcast was the first step in that direction, and that directly led to where I am today, which, I now believe, is probably what I should have been doing in the first place, right from the start.
I have no regrets, at all. It was an incredible experience. A humbling one, for sure. But totally worth it. I love the friends I made in The Sims group, and I know, without question, that that time will only make my efforts at this new gig that much stronger.
And what is this new gig all about? That will come in the next post. Now, I play Brutal Legend!