A Skilled Professional in the Video Game Industry Shares Her Expertise About the Industry with ESCapism

Maggie Bohlen is the Director of Human Resources and Office Manager for High Voltage Software in Hoffman Estates, IL.

Escapism: How did you get involved in this field?

Bohlen: I’ve always had a love for games. I played different arcade games. And when an opportunity presented itself, I went to High Voltage. I’ve been at High Voltage for 11 years. Prior to High Voltage, I worked for Information Resources, Inc., a firm that purchases data from grocery retailers and drug retailers in order to evaluate product movement. So my (prior to being Director) job at High Voltage was technical director because I understood Cash Register equipment. Understanding procedure and data were my talent. I worked at Information Resources, Inc. for 14 years and assisted the company in opening up foreign markets.

Escapism: What type of education do you have?

Bohlen: I have an Associate Degree in Business. I worked at Jewel (a grocery chain) for seven years in the corporate office. Coming to High Voltage, I brought many years of management. My eleven years here at High Voltage have been an education inasmuch as not coming from that background; but surely the love of playing games. I didn’t start out in the position I have today. I started out as an associate producer, something like a project manager. You’re working with a team of people who are designers, programmers, artists, etc…if they need resource material you go and get it and keep them on track in respect to scheduling.

Escapism: What educational program is recommended as preparation?

Bohlen: A bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Escapism: What are the duties performed during a typical day? Week? Month? Year? Does s/he have a set routine? (As the person describes the duties, ask what skills are needed). How much variety is there on a day-to-day basis?

Bohlen: The duties that I’m performing now are to run the payroll, handle all new employees, trade show preparations, and spending time with potential candidates that come to High Voltage.

Escapism: What kinds of courses are most valuable in order to gain skills necessary for success in this occupation?

Bohlen: Many times, throughout the year, there is one convention they should attend (those interested in the industry). They should go to the Game Developers Conference. I highly recommend it. Also, they should be passionate about what they do. And it doesn’t mean that they play games all the time, but able to get critique from (others). Whatever product the company produces, will they be able to produce art in that same style?

Escapism: What degree or certificate do employers look for?

Bohlen: From a programming standpoint, we look for those who have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. But alongside that, we look at the projects they created. They will have designed some kinds of games. There are many tools for people to create games on their own, but also they should understand how to develop a game, especially with a team of people

One of the things that we face as we recruit people for jobs is that we put their work before education. It may trigger something we see in them. So they should be honest about how good their work is because it can be very difficult to accept critique. Someone could come out of school with a college degree, submit their art work and we’ll look at it. But it can be very hard for someone who has invested in an art degree and the work is not good.

Escapism: What kind of work/internship experience would employers look for in a job applicant?

Bohlen: If we give them a test in game design we will also look at their resume or website if they have one. If we give a test and (result) not good enough to meet criteria, we will tell them where their shortfall is. If they come back again, we will re-evaluate. If they are dedicated and should be at High Voltage, they may work on another project and submit again for review

Escapism: How can a person obtain this work experience?

Bohlen: We’ve tried internships at times; sometimes they work sometimes they don’t. Every year, we give Career Day presentations. We have people from each discipline talk to students, how they got to where they are, classes they took and what they did to reach the position they’re in. They also tell them what a day is like at High Voltage and conduct a question and answer session. We no longer have tours (of their facility).

Escapism: What are the important “key words” or “buzz” words to include in a resume or cover letter when job hunting in the field?

Bohlen: If we are looking for particular key words when sorting through something, it helps.

Escapism: What are opportunities for advancement? To what position? Is an advanced degree needed? (If so, in what discipline?

Bohlen: Coming into video game there’s a business chart structure in corporate. Individuals in game development may have that structure as their own. If you’re going to go to Disney, they’re structured. We’re not. We have our teams, and within our teams we have leadership. We have executives that run the business. And many of them have worked their way up to executive positions.

Escapism: Which skills are most important to acquire? (i.e., which skills do employers look For?)

Bohlen: As good managers you look for those people who support you. They should show interest in video games, be passionate about their work and the work they’ve done, and a good team player. We also look at the projects they created.

Escapism: What are the main or most important characteristics for success in the field?

Bohlen: An interest in video games, passionate about their work, and a team player.

Escapism: What do you like most about your job and line of work?

Bohlen: How passionate the people are here about what they do. It’s like no other place I’ve ever been. How much effort they put into producing a good game and that people will like it. That impresses me every year about how passionate they are and what they do here.

Escapism: What do you like least about your job and line of work?

Bohlen: I hate paper work. I hit my 11th Anniversary with the blink of the eye. No matter where I go, I would hate to file.

Escapism: As far as your career, what do you expect to be doing five years from now?

Bohlen: If I’m not here at High Voltage, I will be retired.

Escapism: How long has High Voltage, Inc. been in business?

Bohlen: 18 years.

High Voltage Software, Inc., 2345 Pembroke Ave., Hoffman Estates, IL 60189