Recently, I went down to the Game Trailers office at the Spike TV offices in Santa Monica to meet up with Jeremy Hoffman of GTTV. He had some great things to say about girls in the gaming industry, what it’s like to meet people you never thought you would (apparently, even people already in the industry still get nervous when they meet fellow industry people – that was a nice relief!), and some good insight into working in the industry. Here’s what he had to say.
Have you always wanted to work in the gaming industry?
Actually, no I haven’t. I have always liked games. One of my first memories was going to Sears and getting the full NES pack for my fourth or fifth birthday, and then having to set up the Nintendo by myself because my parents couldn’t figure it out. I was never really interested in game design or art as a job though. When I was in college, I had found out about a small TV station that was just getting started called G4, and through a series of random circumstances ended up getting my first job there right out of college. I never really knew that TV was an option in gaming, because when I was growing up, it wasn’t. I went to school for (film/TV) marketing because I grew up around it, being an LA native. At the high school I went to, they were filming Buffy, and I would hang out on set. It was a very film(y) town. I’ve always been good at organizing things, and I didn’t understand growing up that there was a role called producer that was in charge of money, budgets, and making sure people are at the right place…none of the other jobs (writer, director, camera guy) really interested me. I’m more of a “bringing people together” guy. So I got my major in entertainment marketing and was focusing on the video game aspect. I went to Loyola Marymount University, and when I was there, Vivendi and Sierra were right around the corner, so I thought, “I could get a marketing internship there,” and go the marketing route. Then in my junior year of college, G4 started, I found out about them, and was able to get an internship.
What is your job like on an average day?
My day-to-day switches every day; it depends on if we’re in production or not, if we’re in pre-production, or if it’s E3 time. A normal day is coming in and meeting and checking in with the team, seeing what everyone is working on and what’s going on. Right now, I’m managing a couple different series, both on air on Spike TV with GTTV, and we’re doing Bonus Round, Pac-Attack, and Annoyed Gamer for our .com site, and also a couple other new series that I’m starting. So we’ve got a bunch of stuff going on. Really, my day-to-day is managing a group of producers and editors. I’m still getting to do some of the creative stuff, but it’s a lot more planning. We have E3 planning coming up and GDC (Game Developers Conference) is right around the corner, so it’s really jumping on a lot of calls, deciding who on my team is the best fit for the job (what we’re covering), and assigning those people out – and of course, I save the ones I want to go to for me. So I get to get out of the office and I usually do the event coverage for the large conventions.
Then there’s a lot of shoots; any time Jeff Keighley is on air, I’m there. It’s a lot of checking in with editors, approving edits, and meetings and meetings and meetings. Of course, they are all productive meetings. I have a great team. We’ve really built a good one over the years. I just brought in some people I worked with years ago, and I trust them to do the right thing. If I bring someone in to work on an FPS show, it’s because I know that they have the best kill: death ratio on Call of Duty that I could find. So I trust them to lead these projects.
Is there anything bigger you’d like to do job-wise eventually?
Well, the job changes every year. With the internet being almost equal to TV in terms of output and quality of programming nowadays, the job changes every day. What’s happening next week is so different than what’s happening this week. We do stuff here that’s scripted, we do long-form sit-down interviews, we do sixty-second commercials, promo-spots, half hour shows…so every day is so different that it feels new. I think ultimately if I ever did anything else, it would still have to have that feel to it. It’s new every day, but the same every day. It’s got to be about ten or eleven E3s for me. It gets to a point where you kind of just close your eyes and it all starts falling in to place. Plus, I have no idea where I am going to be this week, I have a lot of trips coming up, so it feels new.
What’s your favorite thing about the job?
It’s probably the people. Meeting people that I thought I’d never get to meet. At this point, I don’t think there is anyone in the industry that I haven’t met. Like [Shigeru] Miyamoto [creator of games such as Mario, Donkey Kong, and The Legend of Zelda] who I still get nervous when I’m around; no matter what happens, I’ve got this pit in my stomach. I’ve met him probably four or five times now, and it still feels like the first time every time you meet him because he’s such an iconic figure. I don’t know anyone else that affected my childhood and my life more than him. Even getting to hang out with guys like Cliff Bleszinski [former design director for Epic Games] or go out to dinner with people now that you never would have thought you would – “Oh, I’m meeting this person for a drink” – it’s just mind boggling to me. Greg Zeschuck from Bioware just launched his new Beer Diaries series, and I met him at one of my favorite bars in Venice, and we split a beer and talked about the project. It’s just so weird; KoTOR [Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic] is one of my top three games of all time. So it’s like, “how are we having this conversation right now?!” At this point I feel like we’re peers, but it’s still just so weird. I have a big BBQ and Christmas party every year, and seeing these people that I grew up respecting, reading about, reading interviews with, and just being like, “Hey, they’re in my living room…that’s…strange.” That’s probably the most fun; the job is just fun!
I think a lot of people think that we play video games all the time, and I can’t tell you the last time I actually played a game here at the office. In the back, we’ve got a great spot with five or six TVs, and consoles hooked up to all of them, and I still can’t tell you the last time I played one. That’s just not what we do. I think people always expect that answer though, and more often than not, it’s like “Ah! I’ve got to be on the podcast tomorrow to talk about that game, and I need to go home because I’ve got eight hours tonight to play it!” You know, that’s a weird complaint to have, but it’s not playing games all the time, it’s really the people that are the most exciting part.
From starting in the industry ’til now, what’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I’d say the strangest thing I did, the craziest, was when Tabula Rasa, the game from Richard Garriott and NCSOFT, launched many a year ago. They took us down to his house, Lord British’s house, his Manor, in Austin, and it was like a full ARG night with an alien invasion and magicians, and he had secret passages in his house. It’s just what every nerd would say: “I want to have a secret passage in my library!” You’re like, “If I pull this book I’m going to go down to the basement” and he has a mummy down there, it’s crazy. The next morning, because the game had some kind of loose-based connotation, we got to go in the Zero G plane, and I went Zero G with Richard Garriott. People call it the “vomit comet,” but it’s not. We actually did fifteen parabolas. The way it works is it’s kind of a steep climb, and then it dives, and it’s in that moment you lose gravity, so you float. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
That’s probably the most “out there” event I’ve had. Other than that, it goes back to moments of hanging out with people. For the last eight years, I’ve been hosting a Christmas party at my house, an “ugly holiday sweater” party, and this year it ended up falling over VGA weekend, so it was like the unofficial post-post-post-VGA party the night after. We probably had about 175 to 200 people in my house, and I ended up catering the whole thing (I do a lot of cooking; if you guys somehow end up finding my Instagram, I’m sorry!). That was just fun because you’re looking around and you’re like, “Oh it’s the Assassin’s Creed III team, and there’s the Gears of War team, and there’s the Walking Dead guys, and there’s the voice-over actors from this game, and what’s up, Naughty Dog?” This is a fun event!
What’s the game you are most looking forward to this year?
At this point, there’s not just one. I like to kind of “check off boxes” – like, I like that adventure game, and that RPG, etc. Right now, I’d say the most exciting for me would be Bioshock Infinite. I’ve gone almost complete media blackout on that. We’ve done coverage on the show, and other than that, I haven’t seen anything because I’m so excited. When I was at the E3 demo, and they first did the reveal, I grabbed the guy next to me and was like, “OMG, this is amazing!” and since then, I’m like, “I don’t want to see anything else.” I just played The Last of Us at the Sony event, and it was spectacular! It’s going to be fun. I was able to play through the demo multiple times, two different ways: sneaking through or full out, head-bashing violence. It works both ways so well, and it’s so well done. I’d say those are probably the most exciting right now for me. God of War for just that ridiculous brutal action. There’s also lots that we hope make it out, like Star Wars 1313. I can’t wait to play that, I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan! But we’ve only seen like a three-minute clip of that. Right now, it’s what’s current, like Disney Infinity. I know that sounds weird, but I am also a ridiculous collector of things, and I love Disney stuff and I love Pixar, and I got way too addicted to Skylanders. So I feel like I’m going to have an issue when that comes out. I’m just going to take out a wall in my office and just build shelves for all of my figures.
Do you think that the gaming industry is trying to appeal to female gamers more nowadays?
I think the industry IS trying to appeal to females, and that’s a good thing, because there are a huge amount of female gamers out there. I think it’s going to take a while, and the problem right now is that people are so used to quick responses on the internet, that they are expecting the whole industry to change. They forget that a lot of these companies, they’re companies, and once you start moving forward, it’s hard to switch directions. I think there is already a rise of the female gamer, but I think there always has been. There is an argument now that we need to hire more girls for the industry, and I’m 100% behind that if they are the right person for the job. You don’t want someone coming in to design your favorite game series who isn’t right for it, just because she’s a girl. That’s an issue, and I don’t think anyone is trying to do that, and I don’t think anyone wants that. That’s not ever going to work, because if you don’t have girls that are interested in games, you’re not going to get them to want to work in games. Like, I work at GTTV because I have zero interest in sports; I would never work at ESPN. When I was little, I didn’t care about sports. My parents tried, and I just didn’t care. I think it’s the same kind of analogy with girls. When they are growing up, there’s this kind of time that they are allowed to play games, and then the games are pulled out of their hands and they’re given dolls and whatnot…there’s these gender roles. I think the most important thing we can do now is to put those DSs, iPhones, Vitas, Wii Us, or whatever back in their hands. And if you get girls that are interested in games growing up, they are going to want to work in that industry; they are going to want to take part in it.
That’s my concern, is getting those right people, getting girls to like games like Mario growing up. It doesn’t have to be a super violent game, but whatever interests them, and I think that’s where we need to go. I have little neighbors and cousins that are girls, and I make sure they get DSs and games, and I make sure I let them know it’s okay to play games; when I go visit, I’ll download games for them on their iPads. I think that’s the best thing we can do right now. It’s going to take a long while, and that’s the thing that sucks. I mean, there are girls that grow up playing games, and I do think they feel slighted because it’s a “boy zone.” On the flip side, I think boys are just as bad, because we talk too much. I think it is important to get kids who are interested in games, and from there, you are going to get people who want to make games. I think the industry is learning that. Right now with the iPhone and iPad, Android, and web-based games that are more casual, even though they are more casual, if you get people to play casual games, they are going to build up. So as long as you get people to play games or be interested when they are younger, I think they will continue to be. It’s just a long road, and I don’t think anyone wants to hear that.
It’s happening though, and there are more girls in the industry now than there were five years ago. It’s changing and it’s important, but it’s not something that I think should be forced; it should be natural. That’s how you find the right people for jobs. That’s the best way for anything. Those people are going to make the best products and sell the best products. Some of my best friends in this industry are female gamers and producers. I have a friend, Abby, who works at Respawn, who I will not play Call of Duty against because she will kick my ass! It’s our generation that grew up with games in the late 80s/early 90s that is going to continue to push that forward. That’s why you see so many vocal female journalists, and even male journalists complaining about it, because it’s that generation that has grown up playing games and they are like, “I want to feel represented” and they should be.
What can we expect from GTTV this year?
We’re really focusing on event coverage right now. We’re going to be working a lot more on some short form stuff on the site. You may see some of your favorite site segments appear on TV now. So we’re taking some of those people and giving them a bit wider of an audience. For us, it’s going to be what’s going on with next gen, and I think it’s going to be that way for everyone. So hopefully we’ll have the best coverage of that. That’s what I hope for.
Do you have any advice for people that want to get into the gaming industry?
I think people need to find the thing that they like. Is it producing? Or if you really enjoy writing, you could write about games. Just don’t be like, “I’m going to go design games” if that’s not what you like. There are so many jobs in the industry now. Like, if you are a PR or marketing person, there are hundreds of jobs. So it’s really just finding that spot that fits you best and excelling at it. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s peg. There are so many options; if you want to be a web designer you could come work at a website like GTTV, or you could be a journalist, or if you’re the best camera guy ever, there are jobs for that too! Find that thing that is most interesting to you, and then find the gaming angle for it. I think that’s really key. The industry is so compartmentalized now that there’s options for everything. If you’re the best video editor, someone cuts those trailers, or if you’re a composer, there’s a ton of great game soundtracks. Last year, Journey was nominated for a Grammy. There’s just so many options, so don’t try to fit a role that’s of no interest to you just because you want to get into the gaming industry. Find a role that interests you and work your way in that way.
Advice for getting a job? It’s really just long hours in this industry wherever you work. If it’s going to be crunch time in working for a game developer where you’re on mandatory sixteen-hour days for two months at a time because the game has to ship, or with us during E3 – in the month leading up, I’m probably working eighteen to twenty hour days – just have a good attitude. It’s really the same advice you give anyone for any job. Sometimes it’s going to be long hours or there is going to be bitch work to do that you don’t want to do, but just pitch in and do what you can. I’m not in charge of catering, but if I know that one of my producers is running around and I’ve got nothing to do, I’ll ask who needs lunch and go grab it. It’s really just pitching in, but that’s any job, really. Just have a good attitude and be passionate about what you do. It’s hard to get in, but once you get your foot in the door in this industry, it’s pretty easy to keep your hooks in. Most people I know don’t leave.
At the end of the interview, I got to try some of Jeremy’s famous home-made Cheez-Its, and I’d have to say that regular Cheez-Its will never taste the same again! I also feel better about still being nervous when I meet people in the industry Thank you again, Jeremy! Check out all of what Game Trailers has to offer on their website, GameTrailers.com, and on Spike TV with GTTV.