11
Aug
08

the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 11

Last time: I played ball with the resident cool cats at Naughty Dog. This time, I enter the maze known as Electronic Arts’ Redwood City Campus.

Part 11: Arts for Arts’ Sake

I’ve been there to work on The Godfather and Crysis, and I’ve had a whale of a time on both occasions. During the 1990s, when I was working at the hilariously awful incite Video Gaming magazine, we watched (in-between bouts of deathmatch Kingpin) as a series of university-sized buildings rose skywards near the 101 Freeway just south of San Francisco. We knew EA was planning something big, but didn’t realize just how enormous the place actually turned out to be. Fast-forward six years, and I’m attempting to find my strategy guide contact. Three reception rooms later, I’m in the main foyer of one of the buildings. The one with the 20-foot wide projector screen broadcasting E.A. T.V. to the assembled sharp-suited dudes who are here to make billions, the executive’s kids here to play Madden before anyone else, and Coolio. He’s always there: In spirit, if not congealed form.

Amid the blaring awesomeness, dozens of flat-screens showing off games from the last six months, and more projection screens showing pre-production art from different video games (a rather nifty way to re-use assets), I was given an exciting swipe-card that opened just enough security doors, and escorted to meet the teams. The floors of the building itself are set out like a cubicle metropolis, but open plan enough to prevent screaming. You’re always close to an executive office, conference room, Starbucks machine. Starbucks coffee house, basketball court, football field, contemplation pool… it’s a wonder anyone leaves. Naturally, I made a wrong turn and locked myself in a maintenance corridor, eerily like the one in the Mirror’s Edge demo. Lacking the ability to see red sections of concrete, I feebly tried to phone my way out. Two hours later, security dragged me back to normality.

Next time: I inspect Jade Raymond’s tree house.

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