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SEGA Employee of the Month: Sam Mullen

We’re often asked about what we do at SEGA, and how to get a job here. Most people assume that we are all game programmers, or that you have to be a game programmer in order to work here. But that’s very far from the truth — there are many different types of jobs at SEGA.

I read a comment on one of our videos recently that they feel like the community team are the only ones that work at SEGA, because we’re the only people they ever see. And that really broke my heart, because we have so many great people who do incredible work… but it’s not something that you guys get to see, or something they’ll stand on camera and do an interview about.

In the past few years, we’ve made it a point to highlight our co-workers whenever possible. You might have seen some of our candid photos from shows like E3 or PAX, or been introduced to people when they’ve made guest appearances on our Free Stuff Friday videos. But this year, we’ve decided to take it a step further. Each month, we’ll be featuring one employee so you can get to know the different types of jobs here, and the different people doing them. These are the people working behind the scenes here at SEGA to, ultimately, make awesome stuff for you guys.

This month, we’re featuring Sam Mullen. Sam works in our Product Development (PD) department as a Localization Producer. He’s recently worked on Rise of Nightmares and the brand-new game Binary Domain. We’ve only fried his brain a few times, we promise.

Sam

Tell us about yourself!

I am from South Carolina, born and raised. I went to Clemson University and majored in Computer Science with a minor in Japanese. During my last year in college, I was scared of ending up in a IT cubicle, so I applied to the JET Programme and ended up spending three years teaching English in Hiroshima Prefecture, near a city called Onomichi. Since I’ve returned from Japan, I’ve been working at Japanese gaming companies trying to help non-Japanese speakers enjoy Japanese games through production and localization work. I live on the San Francisco Peninsula and have a Japanese wife and a little 15 month old girl.

How long have you worked for SEGA, and why did you want to work here? 

I’ve been with SEGA for a little over two years now. My move to SEGA was motivated by a number of reasons, but if I had to narrow it down: 1) I wanted to see what San Francisco life was like, 2) it was a good career move because SEGA is a very active Japanese publisher, and 3) well, SEEEEGAAAAAA!

Tell us about your job – what do you do all day?

I’m what they call a Localization Producer. At first glance, that might sound like I work with translators or do a lot of translation work, but at SEGA the job is much more involved. Producers here do something similar to juggling flaming chainsaws while herding ADHD cats. We communicate with our Japanese development and production teams to provide direction and feedback on games in development, champion games through our internal approval processes, constantly communicate with our European counterparts, and coordinate with and inform marketing and QA about the products we are making. I am all over the place. So it’s a lot of e-mail, a lot of paperwork and reports, phone calls, bug tracking, and of course, playing games!

You are one of our producers who is fully fluent in Japanese – can you tell us how you got started learning the language?

Yes, we have a couple of bilinguals on our team. I certainly do not have native-level fluency, but I have been working with Japanese for over a decade now and have been able to leverage my modest language ability throughout my gaming career. I started studying Japanese in my third year of college, when I decided to change from a Bachelor of Science to a Bachelor of Arts. I got to drop some high level math courses, but I had to pick up some liberal arts courses, including a foreign language. I really had an unpleasant experience trying to learn Spanish in High School, but a friend talked me into trying Japanese. It was a little out-of-the-box, so I thought ‘sure, why not?’ At that time, there was a huge movement on the net for fan translations of old NES and SNES games which left a bit of an impression on me, and I thought it’d be really neat if I could learn to read Japanese, if even just a little bit. However, when I started I never would have dreamed I’d eventually obtain the level of fluency I have now.

What’s your favorite thing about working at SEGA? 

There are some really passionate and talented people here at SEGA, not only in our North American offices, but in all of our other global offices. In addition, SEGA has a lot of history and was crucial in making the gaming industry what it is today. I’m glad to work alongside people who helped make and continue to make this company. It’s truly an honor and I’m humbled every day.

One memory that sticks with me is last year at Sonic Boom at 2011 E3. When I saw that huge crowd of people in front of the stage with Senoue-san rocking out on stage, I thought, “this is Sonic fandom.” I was really impressed and it made me feel really proud to be part of the company.

What’s something about SEGA that you didn’t expect when you started working here?

As far as the workplace goes, I was a bit surprised as the work was very challenging and my colleagues were/are skilled and talented (people have come and gone). Up until joining SEGA, I’d always been the single non-native speaker holding his own with Japanese or Japanese-American speakers. But at SEGA, our localization department had 5 very skilled non-Japanese bilinguals, some having graduated from Japanese universities or having lived in Japan for very extended periods of time. It was quite intimidating.

As far as the challenges of work, as a Localization Producer at SEGA, it’s not just managing localization projects; you really have to get your hands dirty and communicate directly with the Japanese teams and tell them what you think. It’s much higher level work than I’d done previously, but I really welcomed the challenge and continue to do so.

What’s your favorite SEGA game or franchise?

In all honesty, I grew up playing ‘the other’ console, so I never really played any SEGA games when I was younger, but if I had to choose, I’d say there’s a special place in my heart for Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and Afterburner. I’ve also recently been having a bit of a love affair with SEGA Japan’s Hatsune Miku titles, but those haven’t come out here.

What other games are you into? 

I don’t have any likes or dislikes when it comes to games, except sports games (I don’t play sports games generally). I like tough games, fun games, games that require the player to learn, and resources management games. Some of the games that I’ve just gotten super hooked on (not including games I’ve worked on) in the past few couple of years would include Dark Souls, Minecraft, Street Fighter IV, Dwarf Fortress, and Oblivion, just to name some big ones. I also enjoy danmaku shooters (Shoot the Bullet, Mushihime-sama Futari, and Twinkle Star Sprites are some notable favs), and other such quirky Japanese games.

What superpower would you most like to have, and why?

Telekinesis. While quite multipurpose, it’d just be nice to not have to get up to get things.

How you do to help keep SEGA weird?

I speak Japanese and tell people what’s going on in Japan. I think that’s self-explanatory enough.

If someone wanted to work in the game industry and land a job in Localization, what advice would you give them?

Localization is broad and there are a lot of positions and capacities at which you can work from translators, to project leads, to producers like me. Each has a specific skill set. But in short, you need a second language. You need to become a communicator. That involves going and spending some time in the country you want to localize to/from so you can really make your work fit for the region. Get out and explore your world and travel, especially while you are young. The industry will still be here when you get back.

What else would you like to share with SEGA fans? 

When I’m our exploring the internets and I see things like Dumb Running Sonic, it just reminds me how much love for SEGA and it’s franchises and history, and that empowers and motivates us here at SEGA. Everyone here works really hard to do their best to make our fans and customers happy. Keep being awesome and we will keep making games!

 
   
   
 

SEGA Employee of the Month – Greg Ammen

We’re often asked about what we do at SEGA, and how to get a job here. Most people assume that we are all game programmers, or that you have to be a game programmer in order to work here. But that’s very far from the truth — there are many different types of jobs here.

I read a comment on one of our videos recently that they feel like the community team are the only ones that work at SEGA, because we’re the only people they ever see. And that really broke my heart, because we have so many great people who do incredible work… but it’s not something that you guys get to see, or something they’ll stand on camera and do an interview about.

In the past few years, we’ve made it a point to highlight our co-workers whenever possible. You might have seen some of our candid photos from shows like E3 or PAX, or been introduced to people when they’ve made guest appearances on our Free Stuff Friday videos. But this year, we’ve decided to take it a step further. Each month, we’ll be featuring one employee so you can get to know the different types of jobs here, and the different people doing them. These are the people working behind the scenes here at SEGA to, ultimately, make awesome stuff for you guys.

This month, we’re featuring Greg Ammen, who works in our media lab as a Video Editor. If you’ve seen any of our trailers, chances are very good that he worked on it. When we do let him out of the comfort of his ultra air conditioned media lab, he sometimes goes nuts and wields chainsaws at bloody nurses, like he did at our Rise of Nightmares event last year.

Rise of Nightmares Preview Event - San Francisco


Tell us about yourself!
I was born in San Francisco, CA and was raised on just the other side of the hill from where the SEGA of America offices are located now. I graduated from Ex’pression College of Digital Arts with a Bachelor in Sound Engineering. After graduation, I worked for Hoff Productions, working  on several shows for the National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel.

How long have you worked for SEGA, and why did you want to work here? 
I have been working at SEGA as a video editor for 4 years this February. I saw an ad on Craigslist for a video editor opportunity at an unlisted video game company, which turned out to be SEGA. The job grabbed my attention because, even though I came from an audio recording background, I was interested in editing video.

Tell us about your job – what do you do all day?
My day-to-day duties include assembling footage for ESRB submissions to get the rating on a game, creating trailers for use on the web, and capturing footage for use in trailers. I even get to put my audio background to use every once in a while when we need to record voice overs. When people find out that I work at SEGA they often remark that I must get paid to play videogames, I always joke that they don’t pay me to play games but they do pay me to watch others play while I capture the footage.

What’s your favorite thing about working at SEGA? 
The greatest thing about working at SEGA is being part of creative community of people at a company that has such a deeply rooted history in video games. I often have to step back and take it in that I now work at a company that helped to shape my youth with Sonic the Hedgehog, Jet Set Radio Future, Crazy Taxi etc.

What’s something about SEGA that you didn’t expect when you started working here?
I didn’t expect how much like being part of a family it is to work here. This is by far the largest company that I have ever worked for yet I feel like I know each and every person as a colleague and a friend.

What’s your favorite SEGA game or franchise?
My favorite SEGA game is definitely Sonic Generations. The team really did a great job of making the game similar in gameplay to older versions of Sonic games of my youth yet brought great new elements to it for the modern era.

What other games are you into? 
I am a huge fan of the Halo series in fact I am currently playing Halo Anniversary and really enjoying switching back and forth between the old and new graphics.

What superpower would you most like to have, and why?
If I had a superpower it would definitely have to be the ability to fly, and fly fast. Could you imagine traveling and never having to deal with TSA, delayed flights, and cramped planes? I know I should think of something grander but I’m a simple guy and would settle with the ability to get off work on a Friday and immediately fly off to Italy for the weekend.

How you do to help keep SEGA weird?
I help to keep SEGA weird by helping out with office pranks. My favorite one was when we filled our Creative Manager’s cubicle with pages and pages of crumpled up back issues of magazines we had around.  I’d guess we used at least 200 magazines. (Don’t worry, it was all recycled.)

What else would you like to share with SEGA fans? 
I’d like to let the SEGA fans know that every one of us at this company works very hard to give you fun, entertaining games. I am in the unique position to see almost every game that we release due to the fact that I handle the video capture of the ESRB submission process. I can tell you that whether it’s the product manager, production development, sales or even finance and legal person who comes in to play the game they are always extremely passionate about our products. In turn, I love seeing how passionate you, as fans, are about SEGA. Our community is loud and proud, and certainly doesn’t hesitate to let us know what they’re thinking.

 
   
   
 


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