Saturday, October 24, 2009

My New Gig. Part I: My Old Gig.

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!

34 comments:

Andrew said...

There's nothing weird about loving SimTower, Jeff.

Andrew said...

Also, congrats. :)

Primeau Productions said...

Congrats on the new job! More importantly congrats on making a huge decision!! Napoleon Hill said that "There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge". You are obviously a non limited thinker! Great post!
Ed Primeau

Troy Goodfellow said...

I'm thrilled that you get to do editorial stuff again, even if it is for a corporate website. As gaming journalism gets even tighter with money, I sometimes wonder if I should make the move to development/PR - not that anyone has ever offered me a job. But, like you, it's never really been a dream of mine to do so.

Sorry that Jeff Green: Game Designer never found his footing. You were great at doing the "Let me show you Sims Agent" thing, though. You would have been great in PR, I think. Maybe you could have saved the Dante's Inferno campaign from being a big joke.

But here's to new things! May we all have them at 75.

GreenFish said...

Sincere congratulations. Writing is the only place for a PR nightmare like yourself. I'm looking forward seeing what you can do with EA.com.

James D. Bausch said...

Jeff, this is what I've been hoping for you for a while now. You will rock that shit so hard.

tykho said...

Yeah simtower was the best after the sim city series, no doubt about it.

Congrats and good luck!

spdiscus said...

Congrats! (just watch your Ps and Qs, young man)

John Rivett said...

Some times we find what we're looking for, when we're not looking for it. I believe people are steered (call it subconsciously, spiritually, whatever) toward what we desire.

Sorry for the Deepak Chopra like deepness, but you're a writer, it was only time..

Good luck Black Dragon, you'll be great..

SnakeLinkSonic said...

Congrats on the new gig and further kudos for messing with (not to mention admitting) the whole experiment bit. The stage for a simple 'place in the industry' (as opposed to always epitomizing actually making games) is increasing and it's kind of a cool thing to watch as it expands.

The editorial wardrobe fits you, hope things stick for you now.

P.S. Phail for not being on the most recent Out of the Game --- phail. ;)

~sLs~

Rob said...

Sorry to hear that you're leaving development. but hey.. congratulation on your new position!

tdous said...

As a fan of CGW/GFW Mag/Radio and, since then, Out of the Game, I have that weird sense of attachment to all of you Brodeo veterans. So it's always heartening to hear when something good happens to one of you. I was delighted for you when you landed the Sims gig, but ecstatic about this new appointment. Congratulations! You continue to inspire.

Fjornsvavne said...

Congratulations on your new job. I believe you'll prosper and use your leet skills more from the sound of what'll do from now on. A guy of your dignity ought not to be hidden away in a booth where you're not allowed to express yourself as much as we.. you'd like. :)

Also, Sim Tower does definitly rock as one of the best Sim-titles out there.
Even more, Brutal Legend rocks in both meanings! Yay!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Jeff.

Watching you get wrenched through projects like an intern has been kind of depressing. It's good to see you back to doing something you're good at and enjoy.

Somewhere, somehow, someday it sure would be nice to see your name on page three of a magazine again. I think the gaming press is still sorely missing the sorts of things you lot were doing with CGW/GFW.

Tristessa said...

Congrats on the new position! I'm looking forward to seeing what you end up doing over there at the website.

Even though it does sound like a job change in a direction we're more used to seeing you in, I was kind of hoping you'd be in development long enough to convince the EA bigwigs that the world needed a big send-up of RPGs. You know I'm talking about Cudgel of Xanthor!

I can still hope, can't I?

Nate Simpson said...

For my part, I hope you get another chance down the line to produce a project from beginning to end. You've got all the qualities I've admired in my favorite producers: you're intelligent, insightful, creative, compassionate, a good listener, and most of all, you've got that paternal bearing. You're just the sort of guy I'd want keeping the CEO/biz-dev guys off my back -- you have the natural authority to convince money people of the necessity of creative chance-taking, and you've got that easy leadership that encourages a team to take those chances in a responsible, unified way. I hope you haven't ruled out development completely, because I'd love to work for you someday!

GeekyDad said...

You lead a charmed life, my friend, one I can only dream about. Having listened to your GFW podcast for a while, you seem like the kind of guy who can bring something edgy to EA without...well, going over the edge, so to speak.

But yeah, I think a lot of life's rewards come from the feeling of being needed, and when you're good at something and people appreciate the results, it feels great. Maybe having gotten a glimpse of how the other half lives will allow you to bring something of extra benefit to both EA and the folks who frequent their site.

Good luck to you, and I look forward to doing more living vicariously through you and your blog posts.

Darth Nader said...

I'm convinced that this is some kind of elaborate plot by someone high up at EA to ultimately destroy the life of Jeff Green. Either that, or Jeff died at some point after the scuttling of 1UP, and he went to hell and is now on its 3rd level.

Anonymous said...

Ah, a new Greenspeak blog - excellent (I missed this because there's been some upheaval at my own place of work... stressful, to say the least).

So this blog is part one, eh? So part two will be about... what, the EA website?

If you can make your company's website more friendly, I'm all for that - but wow, you've really got your work cut out for you.

Quite frankly, as a gamer, I rarely ever visit the websites of the gaming companies themselves, the one exception being Bioware's own forums - I even have a bit of a 'relationship' with Chris Priestly, the so-called 'community organizer' (plain and simple, the guy's a thread-Nazi, and closes every single thread that I ever start).

I mean, I'll visit IGN, or Gamespot occasionally, but if I'm after information about a game then the last place I'll look is a company's own website.

I find that The Great Unwashed tends to be the greatest source of information when it comes to gaming - the independent gaming forums (and there are a lot of them around) are the places I'll visit to get the information I'm after - or even just to communicate with like-minded people. (I have a perma-ban at Gamespot's PC forum, though, for having gotten the entire board angry at me over some pretty harmless comments regarding Crysis, a ridiculously over-rated game. The HardForum has a nice PC forum, and I frequently frequent the TeamXbox forum for all of my 360 gaming related needs.)

That said, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the EA website now that I know who's going to be running it (it'll be like handing over the keys to The Marx Brothers) - although I'm not certain what it means to be the editor-in-chief of a company-owned website? This is a relatively new job-description, is it not?

Also, one last comment about 'dream jobs'. Dream jobs are just that. They're jobs that the vast majority of us only get to 'dream about' - hey, that's why they're called 'dream jobs'!

In this economy let's just be happy that we aren't stalking shelves... stocking shelves... shelves's at Safeway.

That 'could' happen though.

(Where's some wood, because I need to knock on it - now!)

Goose, out.

Sully said...

Congrats, Jeff.
I still listen to old GFW podcasts to relax. I started about half a year ago with the first one again. I've caught up to where Anthony is just starting to be a regular.
Hilarious. Charming. Entertaining. Holds up like good whiskey.
Thanks.

wArteX said...

Congratulations Jeff!

Jonah said...

Interesting story. I had no idea you changed teams so many times.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what you do with EA.com, and wish you all the best!

Also, SimTower was awesome. Suggest to whatever relevant parties are out there to bring that to Xbox Live and PSN, I implore you.

Mike said...

So I check out ea.com, only to find a soccer player on the front page in a blue jersey, that to me looks just like Jeff (well, maybe a little younger). Now that's what I call editorial control!!!

Anonymous said...

Green, let us know about Borderlands. I went into the store after work to buy it, but it hadn't arrived yet.

I walked out with Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising instead (because there's nothing more depressing than not buying a game).

Yeah, Borderlands 'is' generating quite a buzz.

But honestly, the sleeper hit of the year so far for me (possibly with the exception of the magnificent Arkham Asylum) has been Risen.

Although I've got about two dozen games that I've neglected, I'm about to play Risen for the second time - it's a magical game that just pulls you right into its world. Start playing the thing on a Friday night, and you can pretty much just forget about it - your weekend will be toast.

Anonymous said...

From your Twitter feed: Torchlight.

Hadn't even heard of it 'till now, but a massive buzz is being generated at the Steam forum, and at the game's own forum - people are raving about this title.

It's only $20, and I think that this game might put me in the mood for Halloween - so it looks like Saturday I'll be playing Torchlight. (It reminds me of Darkstone from Delphine Software.)

Thanks, Jeff. (I think.)

Goose.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, your Twitter feed comment about Dragon Age being pre-loadable right now nearly made me sick - hold on a second while I grab onto the nearest post.

I asked about a hundred people: will I be able to download Dragon Age ahead of time, and actually be able to unlock it on day one?

I never did get a straight answer: so finally I gave in and ordered the collector's edition from the EA store. They claim they'll be sending it to me in the mail next Tuesday afternoon. This means I probably won't get it until the week after that.

This is painful to hear this news... painful.

(What the hell are you PR guys at EA doing anyhow? How come you can't get your acts together and communicate this news to us toot sweet the way a company that actually cares about its customers would've done? Too busy lounging around in the cafeteria, I suppose, eating grass-fed beef burgers or whatever.)

If only I had waited, I could've had Dragon Age, not just on day one, but on hour one... I could've been a somebody... I could've been a contender...

Ah well, I get a tin box and a cloth map, so there.

See ya later, suckers!

The PC Gaming Compendium said...

I'll keep this short and sweet: Congratulations, Mr Green, on becoming a game developer for a short time, and hopefully learning a whole lot. Good luck with the new site!

Anonymous said...

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

WOOT - EA just sent me a notification saying that my copy of the collector's edition of Dragon Age has shipped!

Jeff, did you have anything to do with this

The Goose.

(Will EA be sending me a Dragon Age mug as well?)

Adam said...

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.

I totally agree, Jeff! I'm not going to lie; I don't have the most stressful job in the game industry, but it involves a lot more work than most people imagine... Actually, I wish "fans" would have to do this as well. :-)

Anyway, congratulations on the new job! I always enjoy hearing you on podcasts and reading your posts, so it's great to hear you're back what you love doing!

P.S. That MySims Agents video *was* hilarious. :-)

the Real Shaq said...

Also, also, I am a bit of turd muncher.

Just sayin'

Snickering Corpses said...

Andrew stole my comment. So I will copy his instead. There's nothing weird about loving SimTower, Jeff.

I can remember setting things in motion and just letting it run overnight on more than one occasion, sometimes to discover there'd been a finding of buried treasure or a fire in my absence. Always the movie in the theater was stale by then. But other than that, it usually worked if you had it all balanced well and profitable when you went to bed.

dLindner said...

Congrats and thank you for this inspiring and humble exposition.

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