Here at Borderless Translations, we’re always keen to learn from fellow creators, especially those in the entertainment and gaming industries, where there is a huge demand for translation and localization. We recently got the chance to pose some questions to Timothy Staton-Davis, a technical game designer, producer, and leader with expertise in understanding people, guiding teams through development, and bringing people together to create great interactive experiences. Tim has a passion for video games and creating new, unique, and fun experiences that aim to impact players while telling diverse stories, and told us about how he got into gaming, some of the challenges of the industry, and his advice to others looking to break into this exciting field.
How did you get started in the gaming industry? What led you down this particular path?
Really, my first start was grad school. I went to the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and I made a bunch of games during my two years there. It was basically an intensive period for all aspects of creating interactive entertainment.
6 months after I graduated, I got my first official industry opportunity, to work on the AAA action Lord of the Rings game, Shadow of War, as a mission designer. So I moved from South Carolina to Seattle and started my career journey.
I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember. I think I still have my Super Nintendo somewhere at my mom’s place lol. It was during middle school where I began to entertain the possibility to make games as a hobby. My best friends and I would come up with JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) ideas and characters. We’d draw original characters, create storylines, and experimented with Game Maker and RPG Maker to make some pretty basic RPG’s. For all of middle school, we talked about this stuff and even came up with a game studio name.
After that, I played around with the idea of game making as a career but really didn’t seriously consider it until my senior year at Howard University.
I’ve always had this thought of “Do what you’re interested in,” and that’s what led me to diving into game creation. The most interesting thing for me at the time was figuring out how I could make fun, impactful games! I don’t believe any of my other career ideas at that time would have left me nearly as fulfilled as I am now.
What do you like most about the gaming industry? What are some of the challenges?
I love the indie communities. I love the creativity people bring to the table each year. I love how there are so many people creating interesting and personal games in countries all over the world. I love how studios and creators push each other AND how creators get tired of old game designs just like our gaming audience does. Let me not forget how cool it is to be at the intersection of tech, cinema, and interactivity.
There’s a lot of issues in the industry too though.
I often compare it to the movie industry or Hollywood as an entity, because the structure is so similar. Many of the issues the movie industry had (and still has) in its earlier years are the same problems the gaming industry has. Growing pains I guess you could call it. Fortunately, the movie industry has really been in its renaissance years with diverse creators creating opportunity and being given opportunity to tell their stories. And importantly, have the funding to tell these stories as they envision while reaching huge audiences! (looking at you Black Panther)
I’ll mention this difference too. Our audience, “gamers,” has been a tough area. A mix of bad practices by some large AAA studios, corporate greed in favor of employee health and quality of the game (shoutout to the Union efforts and Code-CWA), and a lack of understanding of the game creation process, have really put the relationship between game creators and game players in a rough spot. Not to mention the problem of catering AAA titles to a majority white male audience, while so many other types of people are playing these same games.
There’s a lot to dig into. . . [But] I’m optimistic at the end of the day. I know what I want to see in the world and work with people who feel the same.
Next time, we’ll continue talking to Tim S. Davis and get his advice on networking and organizational hacks, plus hear about his new projects.
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*Interview has been edited for clarity.
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