Last week, a member of our writing team told us all about his adventures
in creating the fiction that will inspire players to conquer our next universe. As he spun out his own tale, he made mention of his partner, a fellow writer he referred to as “The Mouche” (pronounced: moosh). Ever the sucker for codenames, I had to track down this mysterious figure, and compel him to spill his own helping of beans. There he is, right now…
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
My name is Clay Carmouche and I am a writer at Bungie. I collaborate with the rest of our crackerjack story team and work closely with the Design teams who are building the spaces we will use to tell the stories of this universe. We write the scripts actors will perform in cut scenes, and try to weave all the crazy stuff in the game into a coherent narrative.
All of this contemplation of things imagined needs to be balanced with things that are real. What have you been doing to keep yourself rooted in reality when you are not weaving our fantasy?
Playing Legos with my son, good music, Kung Fu, movies and books, good food and company, apologizing to my wife.
Let’s rewind this story back to the days when those Legos were all yours. What did you think you would be doing when you passed those building blocks down to a new generation of Mouches?
Chronologically, from age six to eighteen: a Muppet, David Copperfield, James Brown, Vigilante, Writer.
As much as I want to devote the rest of this interview to exploring your aspirations as a rogue crime fighter, that’s not what we do (officially) here at Bungie. Instead, can you recount for us the steps you took to become a conjurer of imagined worlds?
I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter and a screenwriter. Do both for a while and you learn pretty fast that having a good idea is not enough. Cruel realties intrude upon your happy world. Things like deadlines, budget, technical limitations, etc. There is a lot of that around here but one thing I didn’t have before was an amazing team to tackle these problems with.
What sort of book learnin’ did you subject yourself to so that you could be molded into a member of your new team?
I studied History in college. A lot of good it did me.
It has been said that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it... Actually, that saying has no bearing here. Let’s change the subject to how you convinced Bungie to alter your history.
A very good friend who contracted with Bungie vouched for my character and ability before I interviewed. In exchange, I burned some incriminating photos. Then I worked my ass off on the pre-interview writing test and, on my first interview day, I wore a Speedo.
And now we have some incriminating photos of our own. Aside from the humiliation of donning minimalist swimming attire, what was the hardest thing about being scrutinized by our hiring managers?
Trying to stay charming, fresh and odorless over the course of two 10 hour days locked in a windowless room. The interrogation is conducted by a battery of people from different disciplines who cycle through, one every hour, each more determined than the last to prove you are a charlatan. My plan was to spend the evenings after the interview scouting neighborhoods to see how I might feel about living in Seattle. But each night, I just shuffled back to the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.
It is my pleasure to tell the world that you are very far from dead. What would you say is the best thing about the vivid life you lead at Bungie?
Working with the story team. I love being in a room with these guys, hashing out ideas, bearing witness to the wild feral stare of Eric Raab, taking a drink every time Dave Mongan says “Is there a version…?”, getting a laugh out of Mr. Joe Staten. Beyond our group, there are an alarming number of smart and cool people here and it is great to have a chance to collaborate with them all.
What is one day like in that life? Write for us a very short story that encompasses one orbit of the moon – what some people call “a business day.”
I usually show up some time after 9 AM, grab breakfast in the kitchen, take a shot at the punching bag, and then work my way over to my desk. Mongan’s on his third cup of coffee already, but I pretend not to notice as we talk over whatever yesterday’s fire was. I read through my scripts. I take a shot at Mongan. At lunch I find someone willing to hit the food-by-the-pound place with me for the third time that week. Then it’s back to the mines for a meeting with one of the Design teams to take a look at the cool stuff they’re working on and try to determine how it jives with the fiction of the game. After that, a story meeting with the other writers. Then we pitch new ideas and return to our desks to write them.
Of all the rewards that follow a day in the mines (your word, not mine), which is your favorite?
On her birthday, my wife got a gift certificate from Bungie. It was great to see the smile it put on her face, and to know I’m working for a company that would do something like that. It was a beautiful moment that lasted until she asked what I got her. Beyond that, there are the free movies in Bungie’s theater, the gym membership, the holiday gifts, groovy music in the bathrooms and an unlimited supply of Reese’s Sticks!
Bungie demands that we all grow as professionals, and you can’t accomplish that by gorging on chocolate and peanut butter. How do you sharpen that which is mightier than the sword?
I read constantly, watch a ton of films and play games. I swear, honey, it’s research!
Who are you calling Honey? Let’s keep this on the level for our readers. In fact, why don’t you give them some pointers on how they can nudge you out of your coveted seat, many years from now.
I can only speak to the story side and my own experience since I barely understand what everyone else does around here or how it works at other studios. I know that Bungie was looking to assemble a fiction team with a diversity of writing backgrounds, not just people with video game writing experience. If you want to write for games, or anything for that matter, I would suggest reading exhaustively and trying your hand at every type of writing you can. The old cliché holds, “Don’t give up.”
You have endured the challenge of this interview well, and we have arrived at the final question - a riddle of the utmost depth and importance. Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
Work Ethic, Experience, Talent. I think that goes for the world-at-large, not just my role here.
You are free to go, brave wielder of the pen. You have a universe to realize, and an audience waiting in the wings.
Clay is a member of only one team that is hard at work on Bungie’s next game. His efforts are lost without the other pieces that fit together. To assemble the whole puzzle for yourself, check out the other perspectives in the Breaking In