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  • How I Got My Start in the Game Industry

    - Alistair Wallis

  • Derek Proud
    Australian Derek Proud is a more recent entrant to the industry. After working with Electronic Arts in Europe on titles like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Proud has gone on to work as executive producer for both titles in THQ's successful Destroy All Humans! series.

    Proud's interest in games developed back in the early ‘80s, when his family bought an Atari 2600 -- complete with "those awful controllers," which Proud announces ripped his "hands to shreds". His next few gaming experiences were much kinder on his limbs, though; he comments on a love of "epic games" for PC and Apple II like Tiapan and late 80's Dungeons & Dragons title Pool of Radiance. "After the hand shredding incident with the Atari, the consoles did not make another appearance in our household until the 16 bit days of the Mega Drive," he says, "but even then I was still a PC centric gamer."

    In the early 1990s, Proud managed to get a job with Sega of Australia working on the company's hotline through a friend. The job was far from straightforward, though Proud notes it was definitely not restricted to one field. "We were dabbling in all sorts of activities," he explains, "from customer service, to expanding the fan base, to burning ROMs for testing and writing walkthroughs, and dealing with magazines and the press. It was a great time, but there was not a lot of structure. It really helped me form a good set of skills for working in the industry, and being very adaptable for the changing environment."

    This time you get to be the alien.

    The public relations work associated with the position suited Proud well - he was studying marketing at a vocational TAFE institute at the same time. After the hotline manager moved on, Proud took over his position, which allowed him "a little more exposure to the workings of the company and the industry as a whole". This was followed soon after by a move in to marketing in an official capacity. He puts this quick rise down to the relative youth of the Australian industry at the time, noting that "the conventional rules did not really apply, and as long as you showed enthusiasm and talent in an area you could claim it".

    After working in marketing for a number of years, Proud received his first game credit on Shane Warne Cricket '99, known in other parts of the world as Brian Lara Cricket '99, which he comments gave him his "first insight into working in development".

    "I was hooked," he grins.

    Like Perry, Proud's work has seen him move overseas a number of times in order to capitalize on opportunities -- like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets -- though he adds that he still considers Australia his home, and continues to return after each project. "For me, the greatest thing is seeing someone play a game I worked on," he muses. "Even seeing someone buying it is a great feeling. It's worth all the late nights, frustration, arguments and hair loss. I try to think of that end consumer whenever I'm working on a game to remind me why I'm doing it."

    While he notes that methods of getting into the industry are a lot different, he believes that "enthusiasm and passion for games" still count for a lot. "With the industry so large now," he says, "you also need to play to your strengths. The industry needs people in art, programming, promotion, music, marketing, team management, design, testing, business development, and many other areas. Not necessarily are all these areas considered ‘game development' but they all play important parts in bringing a game to market."

    "I think it's more difficult," Proud continues, "but there are also more opportunities. Find what you are good at, and then hone your skills in that area, and get out there and be enthused about what you do."


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