“I honestly hope I get to be involved in making games until I am a little old lady” – ustwo games’ Maria Sayans

You’ve worked with an incredibly diverse range of titles and creators, but what are the constants in our varied industry?

I started to work in the industry in 2001 and have been lucky to work with amazing creators and professionals over this time, and made some small contributions to the success of games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Battlefield, Spore, EVE Online, The Sims and now ustwo games.

I think two important common threads are the joy and sense of adventure that comes from working with people who love what they do, and the passion that I always get from our players. I love going to conventions and player gatherings and speaking to our players, wherever that is.

I distinctly remember the many Gamescoms I have worked at, after long hours of preparation, typically after a panicked final 24 hours getting the latest build of the game. When all is ready, all the staff with their brand new t-shirts on and we are waiting for the doors to open. All is quiet, and then you start hearing tens of thousands of feet rushing through the halls to be the first to play your game. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

I love player feedback, and I get a rush of excitement from looking at the reviews on the App store. I sometimes get a bit teary-eyed reading them.

With respect to your current role, what is your dream job?

This is my dream job, without a doubt. I love helping game creators bring their vision to reality, helping them be successful, helping them grow as professionals and as people, and creating the conditions, teams and resources so that beautiful games get made. I honestly hope I get to be involved in making games until I am a little old lady.

What were the worst moments of your career?

Some of the worst moments have to do with having to let people go as a result of the ‘boom and bust’ approach to hiring and team building that has been too common in the industry. Teams ramping up, teams ramping down, studio closures. I hated all of that, and
it has resulted in me being very cautious when hiring. These days at ustwo we are very mindful to maintain a team size that is sustainable and project teams that are not too big.

I have also failed spectacularly but most of those moments, if it was just me making a fool of myself, I now think are funny. Like the time I thought we should invite journalists to an online tournament on the first Xbox to showcase the FIFA online functionality before launch. It was such a logistical disaster that after 4 hours of trying I think we did more damage than good to the idea that one day people would be playing FIFA matches against each other on
their consoles.

Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction?

I am hugely excited about the future of the industry. There is so much more diversity in talent and in the player base than when I started, and so much variety in content. Our output as an industry keeps getting better and more interesting and rewarding every year. I cannot wait to see what truly native streaming experiences are, or the innovative content studios will be able to create under subscriptions, without the pressures of free-to-play or the weight of expectations of premium models. And I am very encouraged by the deep care that many studios (like us, at ustwo games) and publishers are showing for the impact that games have on society.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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