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Employee Spotlight: Genie Hyatt

What is your discipline/ job title? (What do you do as a game developer typically?)

I am an AI Engineer, so mostly I deal with enemies and animals in the game. My day to day pretty much involves fighting enemies and making sure they do what they’re meant to do. Getting hit by orcs and running away takes up a lot of my time. Basically, I deal with all the NPCs and they are my babies.

What are some games you’ve worked on? Which is your favorite?

I worked on Wild Beyond which was a mobile game, The Callisto Protocol, and now The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria™. They’ve all been really fun to work on in their own way, but I would probably say LOTR is the most fun.

How did you get into game dev?

I went to Stanford expecting I would be an English major. It wasn’t until I was signing up for my classes and an Intro to Computer Science professor was showing some past projects that I changed my mind. Someone had remade Zelda, and I was like “wait, I can do that???” The professor said the only requirements for the class were knowing how to turn on a computer and being able to tell the computer was on. So I signed up for the class and here I am.

What do you love the most about your job?

Playtesting. The moment when you’ve been building something that you think is going to be cool and then you actually play it and it is cool is such a rewarding feeling. You finally see everything you’ve been working on come together into the game. It’s also great doing playtests with co-workers since it really brings us all together. I feel so lucky to be able to do this as a career.

What is the biggest lesson / piece of advice you’ve learned?

To remember that every person on the team has individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals that are not always apparent. Artists, designers, engineers, producers, and all the other people on the team all see the game very differently. That’s what allows us to make something as complex as a game, but ultimately you need to get everyone pulling in the same direction to make a cohesive experience. Understanding the underlying factors that might affect a team’s decisions or dynamic will make you more aware and effective no matter what your job is.

What’s your design philosophy? What do you try to keep in mind when working on a game?

I try to think about what the player is supposed to be experiencing. By that I mean: we are not creating something that is real, we are building a fantasy world to explore and that feels good. Being immersive and enjoyable doesn’t always mean hyper-realistic, not everything has to make complete sense, it just has to elicit the feeling in the player that we want.

What do you wish you knew when you were entering the workforce/ in school?

Honestly, that everything was going to be a lot more fun once I graduated. A lot of people make adulthood seem dull, but I think being an adult is great. You have a team you get to work with, independence, no homework, and I’m lucky enough to love my job.

What’re your top 3 video games of all time? This list is permanent and cannot be changed. 1) Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I like it better than Skyrim because I think its side quests were a lot better. 2) Civilization IV/V just because of the sheer number of hours I have put into them. 3) Red Dead Redemption 2, I really enjoyed it and to be honest it made me cry.

What are your favorite types of games to make? What would your ideal game be?

Although they are a lot more challenging to make, I like multiplayer games just because it’s so fun to playtest with a team. BUT, my ideal game to make would probably be a single player open world systemic game, like Breath of the Wild. I love that every NPC has a specific role and reaction to their surroundings, which can then cause interesting chain reactions that are really delightful.

What do you wish more people knew about your job/ game industry/ games in general?

I wish people appreciated how complex games are. Every little detail is calculated to make the player feel a certain way and we draw from an extremely large range of disciplines to accomplish that: psychology, art theory, engineering, physiology, architecture, and more. And we do that to evoke more than a simple sense of “fun”. People don’t play games for hours and hours and we don’t spend years making them simply for “fun”. People put into games and get out of games a lot more than outsiders realize sometimes, I think.

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