Jen MacLean is a 20+ year game industry veteran, having worked her way up from a playtester at Microprose (where she was literally paid to spend years of her life playing Civilization) to executive positions at a number of media companies and game developers. Jen was recently named the Managing Director of the IGDA Foundation.
Name: Jen MacLean
Vocation: Advocate, Mentor, Leader, Managing Director of the IGDA Foundation
Years of experience: 24
Too many to name, but standouts include Darklands (first title shipped); Civilization 2 (Lead Tester); Air Warrior and Legends of Kesmai (AOL); Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning; and Poptropica.
1. What are you currently reading and/or playing?
Playing: Civ 5 (prep for Civ 6 release this fall!); Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Fallout Shelter
Reading: The Hard Thing About Hard Things, anxiously awaiting the release of Play Anything by Ian Bogost in September
2. First time you knew you wanted to work in games was…?
When my friend Tim Train got a job as a playtester at Microprose. I’d grown up playing games on my Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, but those devs I read about in the Infocom packaging always seemed like rock stars to me; I never dreamed that an “ordinary” person could work in game development!
3. What was your favorite mistake?
Leaving AOL Time Warner at its peak to work for what was at the time a small cable company (but became the largest broadband service provider in the country): Comcast. I learned so much in my years at Comcast and had the privilege of working with amazingly talented people.
4. What was your favorite success?
My amazing family; I have a fantastic, supportive partner, two incredible daughters, and a son arriving in October. The love, support, and fulfillment I get from my family is a great reminder that there’s much more to life than a job, even if it’s the best job in the world.
5. What’s the best advice you ever got?
“Always have an ask in a networking conversation.” As women, we are often hesitant to ask for things for ourselves, but if someone is spending time to meet or speak with you, they’re already interested in knowing you and helping you. Don’t miss that opportunity.
6. Share one thing few know about you.
In elementary school, I got frustrated playing Snooper Troops, so I got into the code to figure out where to find clues.
7. What’s one thing or trend you’re most excited about in the industry?
I’m glad we’re having more frequent and powerful conversations about how to improve our industry for our developers. We need to make a career in game development something that can sustain a person for their working life, a field that attracts diverse and excellent candidates, and a choice that accommodates different lifestyles and priorities (and the way that those lifestyles and priorities change over time).
Bonus: 8. Anything else you want to add?
Apparently, I bear a striking resemblance to Cindy Lou Hoo. While working at MPS, a coworker changed my screen saver to Cindy Lou, and a different colleague slipped and called me Cindy Lou in a meeting. I might have thought it was intentional, except he turned even more red than I did!
Feel free to reblog with a link back to this post. If you are a lady dev who’d like to be profiled or would like to nominate one, please contact Anne [at] igda [dot] org