Employee Spotlight: Todd Pound
What is your discipline/ job title? (What do you do as a game developer typically?)
I think it’d be fair to call me an Art Director, but my role differs between projects. I’m frequently utilized as a Graphic Designer, Concept Artist, Gameplay Plotter/Designer, Storyboardist, and Writer. Once preproduction is complete on a game, UX and UI development is typically my main focus.
What are some games you’ve worked on? Which is your favorite?
I’m going to select an oddball: a Nintendo product published by Big Fish called The Malgrave Incident. It’s a silly hidden object game. Nothing spectacular, but I’d never done anything like it before. It offered an opportunity to craft a ghost story encased in a Victorian Gothic romance. The plot and dialog proved fun to write.
Which was your least favorite?
The new installment of an extreme sports BMX game that was shifted to become BMX XXX, presumably to draw more attention to a genre that was losing fans. Explaining my objections to the studio’s owner and requesting reassignment was nerve-racking.
How did you get into game dev?
Accidentally. I was dancing at a house party when my future-wife showed my portfolio to someone looking to start a studio. Soon after, I was employed as an assistant art director at Tribeca West, Robert De Niro’s fledgling video game company.
What did you study in school?
Graphic Design & Political Philosophy. My collegiate career in design and illustration largely focused on print, so I didn’t have any directly relevant game-industry experience. In high school, I had a job illustrating images for computer monitors to be displayed at trade shows. I would draw images in PC Paint, anti-aliasing by hand. I suppose the job’s tediousness was preparation, of sorts.
What do you love the most about your job?
The people. I’ve found people in game development to be awfully agreeable. At the end of the day we’re toymakers, and I think that’s reflective in the way we treat each other.
What is the biggest lesson/ piece of advice you’ve learned?
Own your mistakes. They’re plentiful and unavoidable in game-making. In the hidden-object game I mentioned above, it became pretty apparent that I was not cut out to be a V.O. director. I simply felt guilty asking actors to repeat the lines I’d written. By take four or five, I’d become deeply apologetic. (Perhaps it’s best not to direct one’s own writing.) I asked a colleague for help. Output improved.
What’s your design philosophy? What do you try to keep in mind when working on a game?
Participatory. Everyone on the team has a stake and ownership and the best ideas may come from anywhere. This is not my invention or wisdom, it’s a practice I wish was more prevalent. Almost everything benefits from outside input, even from those who aren’t necessarily experts on the subject.
What do you wish you knew when you were entering the workforce/ in school?
Entertainment is a precarious industry. Everyone knows this, of course. Its precariousness was loudly demonstrated early in my career. Like many in the field, pieces of my resume read like an obituary page of earnest studios and clever game projects upended.
I also wish I had more of a capacity to understand the math and technology involved in games.
What’re your top 3 video games of all time? This list is permanent and cannot be changed.
1. Tempest. 2. Ms. Pac-Man (tabletop, in particular the one at the Latin American Club in the Mission) 3. Tie between Pole Position & Spy Hunter. Those were the games I encountered as a preteen in the arcade killing time (and ghosts) with friends.
What are your favorite types of games to make? What would your ideal game be?
The unmade sort. Whatever I haven’t done before. I’d like to design a racing game someday for two reasons: One, I haven’t. Two, Racing is such a compact, compartmentalized experience. Art and design can focus on what feels right. (Open worlds are hard.)
What do you wish more people knew about your job/ game industry/ games in general?
We are toymakers. We are not making passive entertainment, games are designed to be touched and manipulated by the customer. At the core of everything is playfulness.
Anything else you want to share?
There’s more about me at toddpound.com.