We recently caught up with the Man With Many Hats himself, Andrew Greenberg. We were certainly impressed with how deeply he’s involved in fostering the local gaming community (which is bursting at the seams). Conference Director, Board Member, Creative Director, new father (his baby girl is pictured above)… this guy has just about every title in the book. Don’t believe us? Check out his profile and see how he balances his many hats in style.
What’s your current role?
Just counting the number of hats that I wear sometimes gives me a headache. Right now my primary hat is director of the Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo, the largest professional game development conference in the South. This hat is more like a cowboy hat – round up sponsors, corral speakers, rope in session ideas and fire two barrels full of volunteers at any problems that crop up.
My Georgia Game Developer Association hat is more like a traffic cop’s – try to help direct the growing stream of game dev traffic that has sprung up here in Georgia, preventing accidents and keeping it moving at optimal speed.
At my company, Holistic Design Inc., I get to wear my creative director hat. This one is kind of like a draftsman’s visor – those green eyeshades that helped them focus, avoid distractions, but really just look silly.
Gov. Deal recently appointed me to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment board, and that feels more like a construction hardhat. It gives me the opportunity to help build a more robust creative community in the state (and I hope nothing gets dropped on us from above).
The newest hat is that of father, and so far that has been the best hat of all – kind of like a train engineer’s hat. Loud and messy, and thankfully the accidents involved have not been too extreme.
I generally work at least 10 hour days, but break it up into segments for each role. A few hours on SIEGE, a few hours on GGDA, a few hours on HDI, and a few hours on emails for all of them. I try to give myself at least an hour’s uninterrupted work on each of them every day in order to handle key tasks, but that is not always possible. For instance, at the beginning of the year I am generally down at the Gold Dome representing the game industry as best I can. That means SIEGE, HDI and my other projects get back burnered. In Fall I focus about 12-16 hours a day on SIEGE, and the other hats gather dust in the closet until I have time to put them on again.
And on holidays I get to focus on interviews.
What other startup/tech projects have you worked on?
I was the first employee at the first game company I worked for – White Wolf, where I was the original developer of the very successful Vampire: the Masquerade game. White Wolf really demonstrated to me many of the opportunities startups have, both for success and failure. It was a very creative environment, and a number of other people who worked there (Lisa Stevens, Travis Williams, Nicole Lindroos and others) have gone onto great success in the game industry. On the other hand, it did a poor job of retaining its best people, which helps highlight why those people went onto greater success elsewhere.
My company, Holistic Design Inc., brought together an existing company (Several Dudes Holistic Gaming) with myself and Bill Bridges (also from White Wolf). We avoided some of the pitfalls other startups face, in that we had pretty immediate revenue and offered a great work environment, but we suffered some of the others, especially our inability to scale up when a changing industry required it. While we still work on original content, we primarily license out our existing IP.
SIEGE was also a startup, born out of my realization that Georgia really needed a linchpin for its growing game development community. Originally I had planned to run it as a small, pros-only event that would focus on skill and business development, but then I met the founders of the GGDA. They wanted a bigger event that would showcase the best in Georgia, and we turned SIEGE into a combination of these. While it has very strong professional development opportunities, it is also an excellent networking and promotional event for people interested in all aspects of digital entertainment.
What tech/tools are essential to you?
This changes so often that I am leery of saying any one tool or piece of technology is essential. Instead, I find that anything that best encourages communication and collaboration is the way to go. Phone calls and emails, Skype and Google Hangout, Zoho and Tortoise, Unity and Google Drive, Hootsuite and Yik Yak all have their place, but it all comes down to a team’s willingness to use them cooperatively. Nothing beats a late-night creativity session fueled by ice cream and coffee.
What are your best technical or creative skills?
I used to teach a 400-level game prototyping class that served as the students’ capstone class at an art college. I always told these artistic students that I was going to teach them the ugliest, most valuable software I could – Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Visio, etc. Organizational skills are often the ones most lacking in creative endeavors like game development. The ability to keep a team working together and focused on a common goal is too often lacking. There are very few game studios that operate as one-person shops anymore, so encouraging and guiding teamwork are critical components. However, this involves more than just ensuring that tasks get delivered on time. After all, it is very difficult to manage creativity. It is more about ensuring that communication stays open and vibrant. I’m very proud of the teams with which I work, be they SIEGE organizers or game developers, but their success is never accidental.
Why the interest in startups and the technology field?
I have worked at startups and at very established companies, and been much more fulfilled by the opportunities startups offer, both to myself and others. The products that have most inspired me through the years have primarily come from startups, and having a robust startup community is critical to an entire community. This is true both for business and society itself. The most dynamic communities all seem to be the ones where the startup vibe is strongest.
How can the community support your efforts with GGDA?
One of the amazing things about Georgia is just how prevalent game development has become. Coca-Cola has an executive in charge of its gaming efforts. AutoTrader has developed driving games. The CDC funds an annual game jam where hundreds of game developers come together to develop as many games for health as they can in a weekend. Dozens of colleges and universities have game development and related degree programs.
Unfortunately, as is far too often the case here, these efforts are scattered and disparate, often failing to take advantage of the many resources available here. The best thing people can do is come out to the many game development events around the state, be they GGDA meetings, SIEGE, IGDA events or more. It is amazing the many places games are found in the business world, be they games for training, advergaming, games for health, educational games or any of a host of other areas.
What’s next on your list to learn?
How to change diapers with a minimum of crying, either from my daughter or myself.