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  • For the Love of All Games: How Catherine Herdlick Broke Into the Industry

    [09.04.07]
    - Jill Duffy

  •  Catherine Herdlick: I initially broke into the game industry by getting an internship at Gamelab through an instructor I had at graduate school at Parsons School of Design.

    GCG: What kind of internship where you looking for?

    CH: I was working on my master's thesis for a show. Literally the night that we put up the show, a former instructor of mine from a game design class at Parsons posted to our student mailing list that Gamelab was looking for a programming intern that summer, and I didn't have anything lined up. I applied for it, and I went there, and I started the next day.

    GCG: How did you go from getting that internship to getting a job?

    CH: I went from that internship to getting a job because, well, I didn't exceed expectations as a programmer, but I made myself useful in other ways! I noticed development holes at the company, and I filled them and did a good job. I sort of created a space for myself at the company.

    GCG: You became an intern at the end of your master's program, and then you worked as an intern through the summer. And then you were hired on at the end of the internship?

    CH: I was hired on after about six months. It was pretty much the new year: January 2004. I spend three months as a programmer. We didn't have any new projects yet, but we had projects planned for the next year and knew we were going to need project management and production, which is kind of used interchangeably at Gamelab because we don't have a tiered system. There's no executive producer, associate producer, project manager.

    For the next three months, I did something else. I was sort of project managing a potential new project, but it wasn't in development so it was kind of like training. I was also working on some game design in some other consulting projects I had.

    GCG: You said you stepped in and filled holes. Can you give one or two examples of things you did?

    CH: For instance, we would be in a design meeting and notes needed to be taken and consolidated. Somebody needed to follow up and make sure that decisions that were made in the meeting were being followed through on [and I did that]. That was probably the biggest one.

    When new people came on, I would be friendly and outgoing. I guess just being generally outgoing was also something. Being energetic helped.

    GCG: Tell us a little more about your educational background. For your master's you said you went to Parsons. Can you tell us what you did before that and a little more about what your master's degree was in specifically?

    CH: I went straight from high school to college. I went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. I got a basic liberal arts education, which I'm actually a huge advocate of.

    A lot of people at Gamelab have undergraduate degrees from liberal arts concentrations, which is sort of curious and interesting. I got a BA in this major particular to Wesleyan called College of Letters, which I generally say translates to general humanities. It's Western history of literature, and philosophy, focusing on a foreign language. My foreign language was Spanish, and I spent a semester in Madrid. I wrote a senior thesis that was a play, which is not unlike games: it's interactive and creative. I wrote a play based on Spanish history and The Odyssey -- and it was before O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    GCG: Then you went to Parson's?

    CH: Then I spent a year working at the Children's Museum in Boston doing education programs and community outreach.

    Then I went to Parson's School of Design in 2001 to 2003. I did an MFA in design and technology. I graduated from there. Actually, while I was at Parson's, I worked at the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    When I was working at Gamelab, for a long time I was more of a "perma-lancer," working freelance more permanently but not full-time because there wasn't a full plate of projects to keep me busy. I worked for a period of time with MaMaMedia, too, which is a children's interactive consulting group. I also worked with New School University for a period of time. In my old department by doing crossover work with the Parsons Institute of Image Mapping to create a game for the last election about voter statistics. I was brought on to help with game design and project management.

    GCG: Even before you were really making games, it sounds like you were doing a lot with technology and interactive media and things like that. Have you had any other unrelated jobs or quirky jobs?

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