For this week’s New Grad Q&A installment, we sat down with artist and EA scholarship recipient Bryan Shannon who will soon be joining our Maxis studio. As a long time fan of Maxis, Bryan gave us insight on what it was like to see the creation of one of his favorite titles from the inside, and what he’s looking forward to in a career in games.
How did you find out that you would be receiving a scholarship?
After accepting an offer for full-time employment, I was told that Lucy Bradshaw wanted to make a personalized phone call to welcome me to the team. This phone call was just days before the release of SimCity, and it came to me as a complete surprise. Quite literally, it was the last thing on my mind. When Lucy told me I had won the scholarship, I could barely believe the news. I honestly would have been just as happy to be able to speak with her and be welcomed on board. It was a very personal and special moment.
How will receiving the scholarship impact your life?
During my sophomore year of college, I had to pick up a job pushing carts at a local home improvement store. Through this time, my grades had started to drop and my performance definitely slipped up. I had a heart to heart conversation with my mom and told her that if I could just focus on school that perhaps one day I'd be able to repay my thanks by doing what I love. She allowed me to quit and took on the burden herself of working 75 hours a week just to help me pay rent and tuition.
My parents and close family have helped pull together to get me through college. As such, they've had to make sacrifices themselves that otherwise would have made my journey impossible. Ultimately, the scholarship proves to my family that I am in my career, not just another cart-pushing job.
What was the most valuable part of your EA internship?
As I play SimCity, I know that some of my artwork is in the game and is contributing to my own experience. This was the chance to work on my favorite game of all time. I also discovered that there truly is life after college. I learned to be a human first and make friends, not just network connections. My team had very practical expectations that I felt like I could not only achieve, but step up to the plate and hit home runs. Great artwork produces a feeling when you look at it, and those feelings will generate a memory the player will never forget.
What has surprised you the most about working at EA?
My first week was quite humbling as I arrived with the competitive mindset of "I need to do better than everyone else" as my art school mentality had trained me. I realized I needed to let go of my ego and instead just be a great teammate. We were all working for the same goal and I could feel a sense of collaboration through every step of the way. This worked in two ways both for the betterment of myself and Maxis.
I also feel like I may have surprised the art team with my “can-do” approach. Overall it was an experience that I hope EA continues to provide for all artists to learn and grow.
Tell us about your career aspirations.
Art and interactive entertainment should never be underestimated. I’m fascinated in the different ways that humans can interpret different engaging experiences and how games can provide immersive and sometimes emergent play. Ten years ago I graduated high school, and I was inspired by Will Wright’s passion for not just games but toys that could allow a player to generate their own stories and create their own unique experiences. The ability to create allows us to manipulate the future. It is those experiences that players have that can one day, for better or worse, change the world.
What lessons have you learned since joining the team?
Teach people how to think and not what to think. Teach people how to learn and to never stop learning, then share these experiences with your team. Tell co-workers about what you've learned to help inspire them and appreciate when people return the favor. Whatever it is that you’re learning doesn't need to be immediately relevant to what you're working on, so long as you're challenging yourself along the way. Sometimes, the destination is the journey. Curiosity sparked my own creative passion and the pursuit of knowledge is truthfully inspiring.