If you have been following the Bungie employees who have graced recent Mail Sacks
with their deep wisdom and infinite irony, you may recognize Nate Hawbaker as a perennial panelist. He has been as passionate about Halo games as he has been about the community that has played them. That’s why he agreed to step away from the storm we’re brewing to discuss a path that led him to an exciting career in controlling the weather. Let’s learn more about how this self-made man broke in to the business.
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
Nate Hawbaker. I design the tools that we use here at Bungie to develop The Next Big Thing™.
Don’t get excited, everyone. That is not what we are calling it. Nate is just being colloquial.
So, Nate, when you are not misleading the community about the working title of our next game, what pastimes do you use to balance the rest of life with your aggressive workload at Bungie?
I help cover photography at our local exotic car show here in Redmond, Exotics@RTC. Does taking my Corgi to the park count as an interest? It definitely should.
I would say that your enormous Corgi thinks so. Let’s change the subject from the dog path to the career path. What were you doing before your professional leash led you here?
I was working in QA at Nintendo, “testing” Mario Kart 7 – aka trash talking my coworkers at ear-shattering volumes.
Beware the blue shell. It is a crusher of all dreams. Speaking of dreams, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh man. I think this is the part where I say Astronaut or race car driver, right? Honestly I can’t recall. Let’s just assume I wanted to shoot aliens in the face.
Very few institutions of higher learning offer degrees in that very particular field of study. What education did you pursue to prepare you for a life in the trenches of video game development?
Outside of my High School education, I was working towards an AAS transfer at Bellevue College. I got bored of that after a year before I decided to dedicate my time towards personal projects and education.
So you are a student of the world, and a professor in your own hall. How enterprising of you. Once your own class was dismissed, how did you show Bungie what you had taught yourself?
I made a nifty piece of software called Vanity. It grabbed enough attention to get a front page mention, before melting my servers of course. Apart from that I was an active member in the community through HBO for 8 years.
We pay homage to the same Godfather
, in that respect. Tell us about the rigors that led to the offer that you could not refuse.
The initial phone interview was one of the most fun conversations I had ever had for a job. I never had so many common things to talk about, from hobbies to rendering technologies. That instant commonality left a huge impression. The hardest part: The 11 hour long in-person interview. So much problem solving…
Was the experience up to this point worth the trials? What is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?
Being surrounding by such extreme talent every day – it’s so creatively conducive.
But how does that manifest in terms of going to work and doing your part? Describe a day in the life in our studio.
Initial run through the kitchen to pick up free food. Morning meetings to make sure everyone has a clear plan of attack for the day. And then around 30 minutes into the day you usually find yourself walking away from your desk to ask about The New Hotness™ that is on someone’s monitor.
We are not calling our next project that either. Back to the details that flavor the grind, what is your favorite perk about working for Bungie?
Did I mention the free Red Bull AND gym membership?
You did not. Mass quantities of the former seem to beg of mass quantities of the latter. Tell us how you expend all of this spare energy. What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?
Every single time I can make someone say, “That’s a good idea, I’d never thought of that.”
Do these collaborators of whom you speak return that favor of inspiration? How do you advance your craft while wielding it to help us make kick ass games?
Keeping busy. Here, it’s impossible to be bored. But even outside the studio I try to occupy my time with personal projects.
You are like your own program for Continuing Studies. What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?
Don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time to yourself to try something new. You’d be amazed at what you can do when you give 100% of your time towards a new personal goal for even a month.
Finally: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
Talent, Work Ethic, Experience – This is a trick question!
As you have taught yourself, the best tests can be the ones that are not graded. By that measure, you passed with flying colors, Nate. We thank you for sharing your story with hopeful souls who dream of turning their hatred for aliens into a career.
If you are one of those dreamers, you are welcome to peruse other stories like these in the Breaking In Archive
. No two paths are the same, after all. Stay tuned for the remembrances of more trailblazers as they recount the steps that led to the development floor of Bungie.