Before he pursued video games as a career, Matthew Schwartz became a devoted player. He brought an SNES back to his senior year apartment in Evanston, and a video game fan was born.
Then, he graduated and looked for work in the film industry.
“I didn’t think of games as a career possibility,” Schwartz said during an interview. “Now you can study game making, but the only game knowledge I had was as a player.”
After working for three years in New York as a location scout and a manager on small independent films, Schwartz was ready for something new. He ended up landing a job at Cartoon Network, and moved to Atlanta to work on the television channel’s flash game development.
“All of the sudden I learned that when you waste your life playing video games, all of the sudden I had this huge wealth of knowledge of games that was hugely valuable,” Schwartz said.
The job taught Schwartz that “making games was something fun and you could make a living doing it,” two lessons that have stuck with him through a career of games development. He worked at Cartoon Network for four years before joining a unique project based around providing internet users with retro video games.
“It was a Netflix for games,” Schwartz said, “just not current ones.”
The company didn’t last long, but the experience was a fun and valuable one for Schwartz, who then returned to Cartoon Network’s digital group to work on a huge MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game. Because it was so big, it took three years for the game to finally launch. Schwartz enjoyed seeing a game through from beginning to end on such a large scale, but decided that he preferred working on smaller projects. He’s worked on small games and large ones in different capacities, and his experiences have given him valuable perspective on the gaming industry.
“The Matt Schwartz perspective has always been the business interests fuel my ability to do the cool content and the cool content drives the revenue,” he said. “I really like the indie space I think it’s where interesting stuff happens.”
Schwartz has noticed that while the work available for game designers has increased dramatically since he was an undergraduate, the path for obtaining those jobs is as unclear as ever.
“It unnerves me how unequipped some students feel for… if their dream job is to work on Sky Rim… there’s no clue of what that path is and part of that is because the industry is just a younger industry and also technology changes so many things and changes so quickly,” Schwartz said.
He hopes to take on this uncertainty when he speaks at Northwestern this Wednesday. Schwartz will be speaking at the Masters of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises’ speaker series event this Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“What I learned about movies,” Schwartz said, “is that the things you like to consume as a customer is not always what you’ll love to do as a profession. If you love Madden you may not love making Madden.”