Q&A with Robert Schmidt - Part Three
Meet Robert Schmidt, a Columbia College graduate now living in China and working for Ubisoft. Over a three-part Q&A series, we'll "talk" with him about his experience living in China, his work, his thoughts about gaming and how students today can find success.
What's next in the gaming industry?
Loot Boxes. Just kidding. I think the industry is going to split into certain categories. Grand Theft Auto Online has become incredibly successful and difficult to copy. Most companies can only dream of having a game that successful, but it’s such a massive scale it’s difficult to develop something like that. MMO games will continue to be important, as will eSports games. I feel that the massive complexity of some MMO games drives away more casual gamers however, so smaller scale “indie” games will also continue their relevance. Even if not financially successful, these games are important for the industry to train and identify talent for larger projects.
What do you think about the gaming industry expanding into higher education athletic programs?
At first I was confused and surprised about why they would want to. After talking with Bryan Curtis, Assistant Director, Athletics at Columbia College, it completely makes sense. The word is now that eSports will become an Olympic sport. If you consider how close the medal race is in the Olympics, it’s possible that eSports could put China ahead of the United States in medal count, and possibly life countries like South Korea into even higher standings.
Because of that, I think it’s very important for the U.S. as a whole to become a leader in eSports. By having colleges and universities encourage and support students who are involved, it helps create a strong foundation for teams in the future. I can’t imagine the U.S. could be some successful in the Olympics without a strong foundation in collegiate athletics. That said, it’s important not to get complacent and assume that our strong collegiate athletic programs will take the day. Chinese universities are offering degrees in eSports coaching and analysis, so I think it’s possible we could see something like this in the U.S. soon as well.
What tips do you have to graduates trying to get their foot in the door at a large company?
I think it’s important to put yourself in the right place to make yourself useful to that company. When I came to China, part of my thinking was I could be more valuable to a company here than I would be in the U.S. Why would Ubisoft San Francisco want to hire a 26-year-old with a medical records background? I have nothing to offer them, and no background or experience. Chengdu, on the other hand, was in need of people familiar with American culture, and native English speakers to help on their games. Many Chinese companies are in the same situation right now.
The second and more difficult is to be willing to accept something less than you think you deserve so that you can get an opportunity to prove your worth. Taking an internship at 26 wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and the salary was not amazing either. But I was able to prove to the company that I can do the job and I wanted to be here. For a lot of companies, they don’t want to put much stock in someone who has too many expectations or demands from the company, but hasn’t proven their value.
What advice would you give to potential students about following their dreams?
In project management our job is to break down a whole project timeline into more manageable work units. If my goal is to create a board game on Playstation, I can’t just say, “ok, let’s go make the game.” I need to set up stages of the project and clarify what must be done at each stage.
My advice about following dreams is to first find out what is needed to achieve those dreams — if you don’t know, then ask people in the industry until you find out. Second, get started on the first step as soon as you can. Even if you don’t know the final steps, being started on the first gets you moving down the road. Last of all, if you realize it’s not what you thought it was, don’t be afraid to stop and try something else.
It’s the same as graduating from college. It’s a lengthy process that takes years, but fortunately it’s broken down into classes and semesters so you can track the progress. You also have advisors and professors everywhere to help you along the way. Your first year, you may have no idea what degree you want, and it’s not important to know either. The important thing is that you are taking the prerequisite classes and moving towards the degree.
All images provided by Robert Schmidt.
Continue the series: