Insights

The career journey of a gaming pioneer

Article written by Andy Turton, Director of X4 Technology.

The video games industry is set to surpass $138 billion dollars by 2021. It’s an industry that has continued to stay relevant throughout time, showing consistent growth and expansion.

With more than 57% of all game developers living in the US alone, it was fantastic to hear from Jeffrey Brown, a pioneer in the gaming industry with more than 35 years’ experience in developing and leading technical teams all over the world, and dozens of products and games under his belt.

His most memorable moment to date includes working as the technical director on Command & Conquer – the computer game that’s widely defined as one of the finest designed games of its time and attained a 94% aggregate score from Metacritic. Pretty impressive.

Jeffrey also shared with me his “trust but verify” ethos when it comes to leadership and his advice for those striving for leadership positions in the gaming industry.

Check out the full interview below.

What attracted you to the gaming industry?

I’d loved video games all my life, from the Atari 2600 to my first IBM PC playing Ultima 3 on Hercules graphics. I spent 10 years outside the industry before realising that I owed it to myself to give game development a try and then, I was hooked.

What kept me in the game industry was all of the great people, and the fact that game development brings together a large number of computer science disciplines to make software that’s transformative.

What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?

Shipping Command & Conquer; I was the technical director and we’d been working on it for more than a year. We’d also been crunching for a long time. Seeing it ship was a huge relief. Having it be super successful was mind blowing.

What’s one of the key leadership lessons you’ve learned during your career?

You have to trust your people. This helps them grow and provides huge dividends down the road. Their growth is critical. Also, verify work to ensure that it’s getting done to quality. “Trust, but verify” is one of my mantras.

The global video gaming industry is expected to make $159.3 billion in revenue in 2020, a 9.3% increase from 2019. Still, the industry is facing challenges with criticisms of working conditions. What do you feel needs to change in the industry to improve its sometimes negative perception ranging from discrimination to diversity?

Put leaders in place who have more than just knowledge in their fields. Install leaders who have the right philosophies. Install leaders who are devoted to fighting for diversity, fighting discrimination, and ensuring the health and wellbeing of their people.

Don’t promote people into leadership positions unless they have a talent for it. Most coders make poor leaders, but for those few who have a talent for leadership, the sky is the limit.

What do you think is going to be the next fastest growing trend in gaming?

Running away from mixed reality. 😊

Hardware has to be better than games require, especially with ray tracing coming. Audio is standardised, computer processing units (CPUs) are more than fast enough and video cards are reaching their optimal feature sets. Where else is there to go? If it isn’t already, content will be king.

Massive multiplayer games will grow in size, not just in terms of concurrently connected users (CCUs), but also in terms of content and players who are able to play together on a single server, in a single zone. Tech is available that allows a single “server” to be broken down into multiple servers, each one handling a single part of game play: AI, Mobs, path finding, etc. this removes all boundaries with regard to the hardware necessary to serve a game. Distributed Game Server technology will grow.

What advice do you have for others striving for leadership positions, such as CTO in the gaming industry?

Don’t care about the title so much. Gather experience, grow people, grow your network, and titles will come.

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