Eric Jordan is the CEO of Codename Entertainment, an independent game studio in Victoria, B.C., Canada. He’s a vocal advocate in support of video games and the video game industry as a whole, and even delivered an official TEDx talk titled “Video games are f**king awesome.”
You heard that right: F**king awesome.
We’re speaking with Eric today about what it’s like to run a game studio, why he thinks a career in video games is a great option for young people, and how you can get started with your own career making games.
How did you get your start in the video game industry?
I have always been a big player of games. When I was a kid, I loved my Atari 2600. I also spent many hours playing board games like Avalon Hill’s Squad Leader and Steve Jackson’s Ogre, and various pen and paper RPGs – first Dungeons and Dragons and then many others.
After university, I co-founded and built up an enterprise software company called PureEdge Solutions. We sold the company to IBM in 2005.
I did a variety of things until 2012 when I met David Whittaker and Justin Stocks, the co-founders of Codename Entertainment. They were looking for someone with business experience and I was looking to get involved in the video game industry. We quickly clicked, and I joined the company in 2012. I now serve as the company’s CEO.
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“CEO” sounds like a huge job. What does a game company CEO do all day?
As a CEO, your role is to lead the company. I think leadership can mean different things to different people. For me, leadership is about working with the company to develop a vision of where you can go, and then putting things in place to achieve that vision.
Typically, a CEO captures the vision as part of an annual business plan. The plan and associated budget are the core of what the CEO will do over the next year. Core values form the guidepost on how you will go about getting those results.
What do you love the most (and the least) about your job?
I enjoy connecting with people. It is very rewarding to inspire employees to achieve more than they had thought was possible. It is also rewarding to talk to our players and hear from them about what they like and dislike about our games. We are really honored that our games are loved by so many people.
I am not a fan of paperwork and bookkeeping (who is?). They are necessary tasks, but not ones that I enjoy. However, we are fortunate to make a living doing what we enjoy. To me, a bad day working in the video game industry is better than a good day working in another industry.
You’re doing a lot to help young people learn about video game careers. Why is that important to you?
Well, I will give you two answers: First, I think that young people are the future of our industry. Video games is a people-based industry. We always need people with fresh ideas and new skills.
Secondly, I want to give young people the experience that I wish I could have had at that age. I have always loved games and would have jumped at the chance to spend time in a video game studio as a high school student.
How are you helping young people build their game careers in your community?
In addition to running Codename Entertainment, I chair the video game industry round table within our local tech association, VIATeC. In this capacity, I work with the CEOs and Studio Managers for the other game companies in town.
We have done several initiatives with local high schools, such as organizing a panel to discuss what it is like to work in the video game industry. Additionally, we offer week long work experience projects for high school students.
Finally, our industry has come together to offer scholarships to two local post secondary institutions: University of Victoria for computer science, and Camosun College for graphic arts.
What do you think it takes to succeed in the game industry today?
I believe the minimum is to love video games. However, this isn’t enough. You need to also be equally skilled in an area that the company needs. The video game industry is highly competitive, so you need to be good at what you do.
For example, I have always loved video games, but that isn’t enough to work in the industry. I am also skilled in running and building businesses. It’s the combination of my love of video games and my skills in running businesses that allows me to work in the industry. The same thing is true for artists, developers, community managers, marketers, etc.
What kind of education do you recommend for a career in games?
I think it really depends on what career you wish to have in video games. For a smaller studio like our studio, the most important thing is to have examples of your work. It is nice if someone has a degree, but what is more important to us is the quality of their work.
How can a newbie ever hope to compete with all the industry veterans?
I think this is a very interesting question.
There are some careers within the video game industry that are well established. For example, developer roles or producer roles. If you are new to the industry and hoping to do one of these roles, then you may be competing with other people who have been doing the role for many years. You can do this, but it will take a while to build the skill set that you need.
However, there have been a lot of changes to the video game industry over the past 5 to 7 years and these changes have created new careers in the video game industry. For example, virtual goods analysis and community management. If you are drawn to one of these careers, then you are not going to be competing with people who have 10+ years of experience because the career area is only 5-7 years old.
I would suggest that people who would like to work in the video game industry consider some of these new career areas as it may be easier to get jobs in those roles.
When you’re interviewing a newbie for a job at your studio, what do you look for?
The first question we always ask is about the games that they love to play. Not only are we looking to make sure that they love games, but we also want to know what kind of games they love. This helps us to understand their fit with our studio culture. It is very important to make sure that a potential hire fits our culture.
Next, we want to see examples of their work. If we are talking to developers, then we like to see sample games that they may have done. Artists provide their portfolio. Assuming that someone is a fit for our studio, we need to know that they can do the job. Our best way to determine this, is to see samples of their work and then we usually provide them with a small test. The test is designed to give us a sense of how they work and whether or not they have the skills that we need.
By the way, I think that participating in game jams is a great (and fun) way to build experience and examples of your work.
What makes Victoria, B.C. such a great place to work in games?
Have you been to Victoria? It is a great place to live and work. It is large enough to have a base of companies making video games that you have peers to interact with. Plus, the technology industry is the largest industry in Victoria employing over 15,000 people.
However, Victoria isn’t as large as Vancouver or Seattle and so it is easier to live here. For example, people can afford a home, and they can ride their bikes to work.
Video games are f**king awesome!
Watch Eric Jordan’s TedX talk to learn more about why he believes video games are awesome but, more importantly, how they also cut down on discrimination and bring people closer together.
If you’d like to connect with Eric, you can find him on LinkedIn or via his game studio, Codename Entertainment. If you liked this article, if would be f**king awesome if you shared it with your friends!