Matt Richenburg steps into the Breaking In octagon this week, ready to strike first, strike hard, and show no mercy to anyone looking for insight on how to land a job here at the studio. If you're ready to put your head down and pummel your way into the gaming industry with an eye on wearing the Bungie Championship Belt while working on "the new hotness," keep your guard up, your legs moving, and then use your mouse to scroll down and get the tips and tricks straight from Matt's verbal training camp.
Q. Who are you and what do you do?
A. My name is Matt Richenburg. I’m an Associate Producer currently working with the Animation Team on “the new hotness.” That means the right things need to happen at the right times without breaking the bank in all the areas I’m responsible for. If that doesn’t happen I’m very, very fired.
I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.
Q. What are some of your hobbies and inspirations?
A. When I say I’m into MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), I really mean I’m deeply into it. The way old guys are into the boxing of yesteryear at the barbershop. I don’t go to a bar and get drunk to watch the violence like a savage. I study the fight game, I train at a local renowned gym when I’m not busy getting fat, and I watch all kinds of MMA events from around the globe. I’m a total MMA nerd.
I love gaming (40K gamerscore, and yes, I cheesed the easy achievements). I play a lot of fighting games, first person shooters, old-school scrolling shooters, and anything else, really. I especially love anything that requires cyborg-like coordination but doesn’t require me to read a thick manual. Recently I’ve been on an XBLA kick, tearing through games and moving right on to the next.
I’ll get my ass whupped if I don’t mention my French Bulldog, Winston, and my lady, Charlene. Care to guess which one of those two would do the whuppin’?
Q. We'll guess Winston, since he got top billing. When you were a wee lad and the lovely ladies like Charlene still had "cooties," what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. Alright, I’m going to bust out my corny story of how I got here and let Urk split it up for bathroom breaks as necessary.
[Editors Note: Last chance. If you gotta go, we suggest you do it now. - Urk
When I was six years old I had a school project to write a book related to Christmas (which I bet these days you wouldn’t be allowed to do). I wrote a book called “Matt the Elf.” In this book “Matt” is an Elf working in Santa’s workshop, and it's his job to test the videogames before they are sent to the children of the world. “Matt” ends up dropping what he is doing to foil an evil elf named Carl Snarl (I was a terrible writer) and save Christmas. Santa was pleased.
When I was a kid, I didn’t even know that games-testing was a real job, but I wrote books about an alter-ego elf that did it full-time. I’m pretty sure my parents were worried for my future.
As a youth, I played a metric crap-ton of games. It was a huge part of my life. As soon as I got a work-permit at 14 I was working at a local game store, scheming about how I was going to break into the industry. Well, I must not have come up with an ingenious back-door plan because the day I got my driver’s license was the day I started bombarding every gaming company for 150 miles with resumes, emails, and phone calls asking for a job in games.
I did a ton
of legwork, went to post-mortems through the Boston IGDA, networked through gamasutra.com and other gaming-professional websites, and basically put everything I had into getting a job in games. The bottom rung of the ladder was fine with me.
Eventually I got a job at age 17 working for GameFX Technologies on Sinistar Unleashed. I was working as a tester while finishing High School and couldn’t have been happier. I went in for my shot at the Big Leagues, and what I came away with was a real understanding of how much I didn’t know about games or how they are made. I got an amazing amount of experience from my time at the (now gone) development house in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Because I wanted to be done with school, in three years I got a degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York and scored two Microsoft internships while I was there. The first was working on Xbox LIVE, helping to launch the service by testing the NAT Traversal Algorithm and Billing & Subscriptions. (I take no responsibility for Xbox LIVE connectivity or MS Points issues.) The second internship was working at the now defunct XSN Sports group, working on NHL Rivals and NFL Fever for the original Xbox.
They offered me a job as a full-time employee while the XSN Sports division was going away, so I worked at Microsoft in the Windows Mobile Division for a time before going back to games in the Microsoft Game Studios: Games Testing Organization (MGS GTO). I worked on the MGS side of the Rare team as a “Software Test Engineer,” and later as a “Software Development Engineer in Test.” We shipped the Xbox 360 launch title Kameo: Elements of Power, and then later, the first Viva Piñata.
Around that time I was loaned to Bungie by the MGS GTO to work on Halo 3. I eventually ended up owning the area of Campaign Coop, which meant running the Coop Test Team (which was a pretty sizable undertaking). Throughout the course of the project, it was my goal to make sure that Halo 3 not only shipped with online coop, but online coop for four players.
When it was all said and done, some people at the studio mentioned that a bunch of the work that I did to make sure coop shipped might be closer to producer work than tester work.
I was then in a tough spot. I loved testing games, and I love working at Microsoft in the MGS GTO, but production was a new beast and a whole new set of challenges and goals. I decided to start over as a producer. I absolutely love it.
Phew, alright. Urk, make that readable and charming so people don’t tl,dr my Berlin Wall of text.
[Editor's Note: No modesty needed, Matt. It's no "Matt the Elf," but the words flow just fine. -Urk
Q. After such a grand tale, maybe we should scale back a bit. How about one sentence? Describe what it’s like to work at Bungie.
A. All of the people here can pretty much work anywhere they want; they choose to work at Bungie because they are the most talented and the games we make will be played by millions for years and years. (Wow, pat our own back, why don’t we?)
Q. Any advice for people looking to get in on some of that sweet back-patting action themselves?
A. This is either going to sound too harsh, like a lame motivational poster, or like a Tony Robbins seminar, but here goes:
Stop waiting for things to happen for you - bleed and sweat to make things happen. It is easy to look at those who are successful and label them as “lucky.”
“You work at Bungie? Lucky!”
Luck is the ability to recognize or create an opportunity, and then have the ability to completely capitalize on it.
Don’t just toss Bungie your resume and wait for years to get a response. Instead, send Bungie your resume, learn new skills, get more experience, network with people, take more classes, play more games, and make yourself a better Bungie hire. Then, after a while, send Bungie your resume again when you really have something to show.
Well, that's not as bad as we let on at the opening. Matt was much less aggressive and violent than we made out. Helps that we didn't attempt to touch one of his Collector's Edition games. Don't even ask - the man gets downright territorial when it comes to his collection.
Much thanks to Matt for taking time out from his busy schedule to talk a bit about his path into the gaming industry, for sharing the tale of "Matt the Elf", and for providing some insight into how he ultimately made himself a better Bungie hire. If you've read over his wise words and want to take your own shot, be our guest. Our Jobs Page
demands combatants. And yup, as always, we're hiring.