Q&A With Adobe MAX Speaker Richard Hilleman of Electronic Arts
When you think of creativity and gaming, Richard Hilleman is a name on the top of any list. He’s an American computer game and video game producer best known for his work creating the original Madden Football game for video game consoles for Electronic Arts. Today, Rich Hilleman works for Electronic Arts as Chief Creative Officer, and currently works in the internal University at Electronic Arts on specialized education for Producers and Development Directors. We are excited for Richard to speak on “The Magic Bullet of Web Gaming” at Adobe MAX, sharing his unique insider knowledge covering over 30 years in the industry. Check out our Q&A with him below to get a better sense of how Richard came into his great gaming success.
Adobe: As a kid what did you want to be when you grew up and did you ever imagine that you would be making video games that are so ingrained in American culture?
Richard Hilleman: Videogames showed up for me in High School. My exposure was more to computers. I was lucky enough to get to spend time on computers at a very early age in a very early time. I was pretty sure computers would change the world, but not in the ways I have seen. How quickly computers have become situationally aware has been a big surprise.
How did you get started in gaming? Was it be accident or by design?
It depends on what you call games. Unlike a lot of people in my industry, I played sports, and my grandfather raced cars. We played a lot of board games, and I took Chess very seriously. I never really got the war game or D&D bug, and my interest in Videogames was mostly centered on simulations. When I came to Electronic Arts, I came to focus on computer science. Over a couple of years, I discovered I was pretty good at game design and production. Probably because I wasn’t making games for just myself.
Obviously the tools you use to create games are different from when you first started but is there something about game creation that hasn’t changed?
People. The most surprising thing about the last thirty years is how much people’s taste and interest has endured. I talk all the time with kids in school for our business, and the most important advice I give them is to fall in love with people, not machines. The technology moves so fast, that educational investments in specific tech almost always has less short term value than you think. By comparison, understanding people, and the culture they occupy, will transcend the technology and give you a lifetime of returns.
What keeps you up at night or what drives you to keep making games?
Mostly my kids. I have been lucky enough to spend most of my career at the bleeding edge. I still can’t wait for the future and what we can do next.
To be successful sometimes you need to fail. Can you recall a project you worked on that did not turn out as planned and what did you learn from that process?
I think I have failed a lot. I remember a few years ago there was an Edge magazine article about the 500 best Videogames of all time, and the Worse 100. I had enough entries in both lists to keep me humble. Most of the time, when things go wrong, it was because something I knew was a risk, didn’t work out. Usually, it reminds me about taking appropriate and balanced risk. There are a far number of happy accidents, including some of my most successful titles.
What’s the best part of your job?
The kids that are doing the job for the first time. They reinvigorate me every day.
You grew up playing hockey so is that your favorite sport? What’s your favorite team?
Hockey is one of my favorites, and I still play it. I also played a lot of Baseball (Hockey and Baseball are perfect season compliments), and I love motor sports. I grew up a North Star and Twins fan, and then the NStars moved. I have been a Sharks season ticket holder since they were founded, and I had Giants Season tickets for a decade.
If you could start over again, what sport would you like to try or master and why?
Might have started motorsports earlier. Might have tried harder at Golf. I think I made pretty good choices.
Do you play any non-sports related video games? Which ones or do you go old school and play board games?
I play everything. I truly love Chess. I still think it is the best game ever invented, and I find the games of Morphy, Fischer and Kasporov to be as interesting and wonderful as any game I have ever made.
This will be your first time attending Adobe MAX as a speaker or attendee. Can you tell us what inspired you to talk about this particular topic at MAX?
I think I wanted to talk about how different game play expectations are inherited from the platform and gaming context, and how those expectations are increasingly a part of the design of Mobile and Web games. We have a lot of new customers on new platforms. Getting these experiences to match their expectations will decide how long we keep these new players.
Is gaming your thing? If so, it’s not too late to register for Adobe MAX to attend Richard’s session titled, “The Magic Bullet of Gaming” and so much more. Don’t forget to use promo code MXSM13 during registration for $300 off!