It's business time...
Life at Bungie is not all fun and games. I am told that, beyond the creation of an exciting new universe, there are business concerns that also command our attention. Recently, our community asked
us to unmask some of the more practical members of our team – the negotiators who keep the world safe for our best ideas and make the deals that let you experience them. I didn’t have to walk too far from my desk to find such a person. This guy sits right behind me…
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
My name is Ondraus, but my nom de guerre is OJ, finely tailored to drive terror into the hearts of Bungie’s enemies. My title rotates day-to-day for security purposes. Once upon a time I was a lawyer. These days, I am known as Head of Business Development and Strategy.
Strategy! Does that make you the go-to guy for multiplayer tactics? I have always had a hard time defending a base on Hemorrhage.
I will have precisely no impact on the game our fans will play. They can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and stop reading now.
You gotta help me sell this, man. Before I try to figure out why we even need someone like you in the first place, let’s make you a little more interesting to our readers. What might we find you doing when you’re not developing our business?
Sorry, I don’t understand the question.
How do you have fun? Does a strategist even know what fun is?
If you press me, I would say that I love all things aerospace related. Like say, a rover the size of Harold Ryan’s truck lands on Mars with an impossibly intricate and amazing landing system. You might find me up in the dark of the morning to consume every last detail of such a thing. Wait…you’re telling me that actually happened?
I’ve also been known to windsurf, scuba dive and I like my dog. Are we done here?
We're just getting warmed up, spaceman. Settle in and prepare for a full deposition. Assuming Bungie needs a businessman (and I am not yet convinced that we do), where did we find one that understands our crazy variety of business?
Prior to my current engagement with Bungie, Inc., I was a member of the Worldwide Business Development team at Electronic Arts. Before that I was an associate in a boutique law firm in Beverly Hills which represents A-list film, television, and music talent. And before that—in a time before time was time—I was a corporate associate in a very large law firm and often slept under my desk while still wearing my suit for warmth.
You know, that’s actually pretty cool – except for the part about wearing a suit. Since it seems like you’ve reached some lofty goals; I’ll cut you some slack. If I asked your younger self what he wanted to do with his life, what would he have said?
Fighter pilot and astronaut. I abandoned those dreams when I was told that I was better suited to nuclear service than aviation due to my less than stellar eyesight. Bummer, right? After graduating, I flirted with the idea of covert service in the CIA but…wait…I’ve said too much.
Too late! I will now spend the rest of this conversation assuming that you have been sent here to spy on us. Your role as a businessman is a brilliant cover. How did you prepare yourself for such an elaborate charade?
My misspent youth is a tale of woe writ in the halls of many and varied institutions. Let’s just say I’m overeducated.
I graduated from a university founded by a robber baron. Then I spend the next four years earning a Masters Degree in International Policy and a Juris Doctorate. For those really interested, I went to Stanford, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Columbia University School of Law.
And there goes all your cool down the drain… No spy would talk like that.
If you’d be so kind, allow me to elaborate on this question for a moment. We often have the instinct to follow well understood paths, and there is logic behind that approach. But I’d like to suggest that people listen to their passions. Starting from the other side of this story, nobody could draw a straight line between where I started and Bungie. But looking back, resting firmly in some crazy non-Euclidian space, is that roughly straight track. This is a long way of saying, there is no single path. Learn from folks that have done it before you, but don’t get stuck in the ruts.
I’ll allow that testimony, counselor. You’re very convincing. How did you convince us to cross-examine you as a job applicant?
Flattery, plain-and-simple. I maneuvered myself into prime flattery-delivery position by meeting and becoming friends with a guy who knew a guy.
In all seriousness, years ago when I was in Hollywood I was on the other side of a deal with a person who often works with Bungie. I had known him for years and he introduced me to a personage-of-significance at Bungie. I met a couple of key dudes in the company a couple of weeks later and the rest is history. The moral of this story is you never know who is going to open doors for you, so treat folks accordingly until you have enough power to crush all who defy your will.
I’m not lying about the flattery. I had played (almost) every Bungie game to date. I was and continue to be a huge fan that was and is passionate about games and entertainment. I believe that passion, and the ability to appear to know what I’m talking about, came through.
Okay. This is starting to come into focus now. So there you were, on the stand. What was the hardest part about delivering all of that flattery to our judges?
This is a tossup between my nervousness and the fact that my interviewers often didn’t know what to make of me. I’m not a designer, engineer, artist, animator or sound guy, so it can be challenging to prove your value in the compressed context of an interview.
By the way, we are hiring. Come prepared to your interview because the bar is very high and we can smell the delicious fragrance of your fear.
Alright, alright… Give it a rest for a minute. You can negotiate contracts later. I want to know more about the parts of your job that you really love.
Impact. All of us need to make a difference, and that is an incredibly satisfying feeling. To be honest, I think I have the best job in the world for somebody with my background and interests, and I suspect everybody here feels the same way.
That and the t-shirts.
They do suit you better than a suit. You seem to be here every day when I arrive. How do you fill a whole day in our chambers?
Bagel. Soda. Burrito at Oobas. Soda. Beer. Before you know it, 16 hours have passed and your wife wants to know if you got lost on the way home.
Is it the soda that drives you, then? What is your favorite perk about being on our team?
The biting sarcasm…and the t-shirts.
Don’t make me ask for permission to treat you like a hostile witness. You will answer the question.
Working with an incredibly talented team all moving in one direction to build something amazing. It’s the constant challenge, excitement and humor that make it worth getting out of bed at silly hours and going home at stupid hours.
That’s more like it. Let’s enter into evidence your favorite accomplishment during your time here.
This would have been difficult for me to answer but for the fact it was published in the LA Times. I’d also say reorganizing Bungie to become employee-owned.
Independence is a word that is often thrown around, but in my view, it is core to what makes Bungie a special place to work. Imagine you have a choice: to follow a well-understood track with a calculable expectation of success, or start from a fresh piece of paper to create something new not knowing whether it will be accepted. It’s as crazy as it is hard. But every Bungie employee owns a piece of that dream which is extremely rare and gratifying.
Further to the point of gratification is the act of getting better at what we do. Given that your skills were so hard to earn in the first place, is there anything you can do at a place like Bungie to learn new things?
Surfing the Internets and playing games?
On my way out the door at EA I told a colleague that I wanted to get closer to the “product.” Ah, what a fool I was then. I try to extend myself beyond the business details to the actual production of the game we are making.
It’s funny, I first heard the use of the word “product” in connection with the entertainment industry when I started working in Hollywood, and it always stuck with me. I get it—hell it’s my job—making games and movies is a business.
Imagine, if you will, that an aspiring young businessman out there wants to follow their own passions to a place where they get to work with people who make games. Is there anything you can tell them about the chaotic trail you have blazed?
I had something for this…hang on.
Don’t sit down, play a great game and say to yourself “I want to do that,” because that is not what making games is about. You simply must be passionate about this industry to do great things, feel fulfilled and have fun while you are doing it because, and please hear me if only this one time, making games is really, really hard.
Perhaps more important, don’t imagine the game you want to play next week or next year. Imagine the experience you want to have in five years, because that is the only way you can change the world.
Before our closing statements, please rank the following in order of importance to your role: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent?
I think you nailed it, although I believe—except for those very rare exceptional people on whose shoulders we all stand—talent is a combination of the first two.
This court is adjourned. You are free to go.
We will admit that Ondraus’ story is a rare one, but it does prove a point that you never know where a career will lead you, given the right passions. Bungie needs professionals of every breed to bring our game to the marketplace. You can learn about all of them in the Breaking In