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Interview with Videogame Marketing Manager, Symposium Games
What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

I currently serve as the Marketing Manager of West Coast Operations for Symposium Games, a third party game producer for second tier platforms, such as the Playstation Home network and the XBox 360 Live Subscription program.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

My group tries to get our games listed as "featured" on the online networks of the next generation game systems to give our brand some exposure and downloads. It is then my job to try to parlay this exposure into partnerships with third party game producers who are making Triple A titles for the flagship systems. Basically we want to partner with the companies who make games like God of War, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Call of Duty.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

I rate my job satisfaction at a 7. Get rid of the internal politics, the backstabbing, the idea stealing, the sucking up, and the Machiavellian ol' boy system we have set up here in favor of a pure meritocracy. Ever since the video game industry went mainstream in the early 2000s, the money and power have really made people go crazy trying to get to the top.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

Even nerds want power, money, and sex. I hate to say it so bluntly, but that's the truth. Programmers step on each other's toes to get first listing in credits. I can't form certain partnerships because this person used to work with that person and they don't like each other. And now that video games have gone completely Hollywood, you can't trust anybody. Hold your ideas close to your chest.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

Politics. Marketing is all about politics, not negotiation.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I was a video game buff ever since I was young. I was in the English undergraduate program at Northwestern and hating every minute of it. I would miss class to play games. So I redirected my focus to developing some skill that would allow me to break into any industry. I was a naturally good speaker with a knack for breaking down complex ideas, so marketing kind of came to me. I finished school and just started applying hardcore to all the video game companies I knew with a focus. I didn't have a Plan B; it was video games or unemployment, and I wouldn't change a thing. That's how you are supposed to live life. Win, lose, or draw, you go for the gold.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

Two of the dorkiest programmers got into an argument that I had to settle about who gets top billing in the credits for level design. They both thought that having their name on top would help sell the game. No one knew who either of them were. I've never seen such egos from such celibate (not by choice) men.

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

I love hearing about new fans. Fans don't know about the politics, so when a new game gets out there and does well despite all of that, I feel like I have done my job as peacemaker.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

I am always in the middle of a political argument. What I dislike the most is having to decide against the more talented or "correct" person for the sake of a marketing campaign. I sometimes feel as if my integrity is for sale.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

The job is stressful, but you had better believe I take time off. When I go home, I am HOME. I am still a video game buff and I play like I was a kid again and forget all the grown people problems that go into it. I also make sure that I have an active social life because you can very easily lose your sexuality in the video game inudstry. It's not exactly like playing guitar in Linkin Park for a living.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

A rough estimate of a salary you could expect for a marketing management (mid level) position is from $80 - $120K, depending on how many people you manage. I do not think that is worth it for all the flak I get. Everyone blames marketing first. Marketing is always the first cut in the budget.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

I had to pull bunnies out of hats to score a licensing meeting with Marvel for Spider Man. They ended up not giving us the license, but it was the biggest score I almost had. I could taste the big leagues. Getting close lets me know that I can function on a multimillion dollar level. They took me seriously.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

My most challenging moment was my first day at the company - getting coffee for the executives with no indication about when they were going to let me use my degree or even pay me. That's right; I started off as an unpaid intern. 6 months of Hell Week. I'd rather forget the one time that I beat up the bathroom like Adam Sandler's character in Punch Drunk Love.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

Video game companies are now multimedia conglomerates, so you can come in from any angle: Programming, marketing, writing, voice acting, etc. But just be prepared to pay dues, do unpaid internships, and be underpaid for a while. There are more applications than positions, and companies know that they can get free work out of overzealous noobs. But there is no shortcut. You have to be that overzealous noob to get in.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

Be prepared to eat crow for no other reason that people want to make you do it.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I take a month vacation. No, it is hardly enough.

Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

The video game industry is just Hollywood for ugly people. Don't come in thinking that programming skill makes you the Man automatically. No one cares; they'll bury you in favor of a mediocre programmer that they like if you mouth off too early.

Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?

The job does move my heart. Getting through the politics and getting the stuff to the kids is what makes me tick.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

I would own my own third party developer for the Playstation.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments? 

What is unique about me is that I had the biggest ego in the world going in. I thought I could do anything. Many of my experiences may have been people just trying to knock me down a couple of pegs. Don't let my horror stories scare you off. If you want the industry, come get it. Just stay away from my job or I'll bury you.