The challenges of creating a quality title: Sega’s Ethan Einhorn discusses his move from PR to the production team

Sega producer Ethan Einhorn showing the platform of some of his most recent work, the iPhone. Conway photo

A young boy grew up in Chicago during the video game boom of the mid-eighties.

He would spend his time chatting with his friends in the schoolyard about how to get to the minus worlds or how to save the fair princess Zelda from the evil Gannon.

Now a grown man, he works for one of the biggest video game developers in the world. If you had told him this 20 years ago, he would have never believed it.

Ethan Einhorn has gone from a film student, to a freelance editor at Electronic Gaming Monthly and associate editor of GameNow, to a member of Sega’s PR team. Now he is a producer of digital media for the company.

“After a few years in public relations, I wanted to get closer to the games themselves and I requested a shift to the production department and I moved over to work on a lot of Sega’s classic IPs. From there I have worked on Sonic games, Super Monkey Ball games, Golden Axe games and a few vintage collections.”

A producer at a company like Sega manages development teams and the expectations of others within the company, he said.

“I make sure that the game is hitting its qualitative level and that we’re all very happy with the game. If we’re behind in one way or another from a development standpoint, or if we are not quite hitting the quality bar we want to, it is my job to work with the teams to fix that.”

The first game he worked on as a producer was Charlotte’s Web for the Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS. It wasn’t exactly a game he would purchase for himself, but it is he is proud of.

You get a real sense of pride and ownership in anything you end up contributing to creating, he said.

“After I had finished working on it, I was very proud of what I was able to get worked into the game.”

Chris Sharpley worked for several different companies including Sega before becoming the instructor of the Video Game Arts and Design at Holland College in Charlottetown.

It’s always important for anyone working on a game to give their best effort, Sharpley said.

“On the one hand, you feel you should be putting some extra effort in when working for a big name company like Sega. But on the other hand, they are an employer like everyone else, so it is best to do the best job you can whether it is a big name or a small developer.”

Einhorn’s proudest moment (thus far) was his work on the iPhone port of Super Monkey Ball.

“We had a very limited production cycle but put out a real high-quality game. The controls are a little challenging at first but once you’ve mastered them, the game is hard to put down.”

Einhorn has come a long way since picking up his first controller on the Odyssey 2, from the video game crash to the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System, to the 16-bit war, to today’s three-way dance between Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, he’s seen it all.

Once a sixth grader exchaning strategies with his friends, he is now a grown man who has turned his childhood passion into a carrer.

“We have found at Sega that a surprising number of people who are playing games are in their 30s, so I think an entire generation starting with my generation you can call lifetime gamers.”

He is happy to work for a place responsible for some of the experiences he enjoyed as a child.

“If I could go back in time and tell my pre-teen self and say that I was working for Sega, I would have been very excited.”

Related Posts:

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Sega producer teaches students the ins and outs of the industry

Gaming journalists explain the process of reporting on their favorite past time

Public relations in the gaming industry

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