THE GAMES REVIEW: I’m speaking with Matt Attwood from Bioware. Matt, what is your position right now?
MATT: I am the Senior Manager of Public Relations for Bioware.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are?
MATT: I started 14 years ago, as a local actor and did some voiceover, auditioning for voice work on video games. I actually played a character, back in the day of Sega CD and Turbo graphics. We did a number of character voices. After that, I did a corporate job for a while, to hone some of my technical skills. I called Working Designs, the company I had done voices for, and asked if they would like to hire me, because I had lots of offers. I played the old “over confidence game.” I was then asked to do some lay out and design for them, which I did for a little while. Working Designs is a very small company, so we did lay out design, customer service, and tested by night. We worked in a large room all together. It was a lot of fun and a great first experience.
THE GAMES REVIEW: How did you progress from there to here?
MATT: I have always been interested in PR in the field. Theater and PR had a lot of similarities; a lot of public speaking, and telling a story in a fun way. I had already been interested in the field and had actually already started. As I said, we did everything, including answering calls from the media. We started to tell them about the game. The President suggested that I try to do it full time, after which I did. That is the story. I worked in the agency for a long time. After fifteen years, you really start to hone your skills and understand the field.
THE GAMES REVIEW: When you were with the agency, is that how you met somebody, through that kind of work? We are just trying to get a linear picture of it.
MATT: No, I actually started at Working Designs, for a couple of years. Then I went to Sega Channel, which used to deliver games through Genesis or cable. I did promotions for them and on air coordination of the text, and similar things, plus some marketing. Then I went to the agency where we worked for a variety of clients and really learned more about PR, and got a lot of training. Then, I became aware of a position at Capcom. An editor associate of mine suggested I talk to them, since he had already mentioned me to them. After meeting with Capcom in Sunnyvale, I worked there for six years doing PR. I worked at 2K Sports for 2 1/2 years, and then Nintendo, helping them launch the Wii. After that, I heard from someone at Bioware about a position. I heard a lot about the type of people who work there. As you get older, a nice work environment becomes more desirable, which is what Bioware has delivered.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Awesome. So, tell us a little bit about your job. What do you do?
MATT: Public relations is basically the outward communication of a company. Working with media, we do demonstrations of the product, issue press releases and news announcements. We work with our executives to line up interviews, go over interview topics and some of the key points of the game. We work together to develop what they are going to say and get them prepared for the public to show the game.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Do you map out the overall PR strategy, or is that somebody else’s job?
MATT: I map out the PR strategy for Bioware. We also work with EA now, so we have got a lot of resources and help from them.
THE GAMES REVIEW: What a great relationship to have there.
MATT: Yes. Working with EA has been phenomenal. They have offered their resources, which is a great approach to have from a pair of companies. We have really good communication, with a great staff in Redwood Shore, as well as Europe.
THE GAMES REVIEW: From the PR standpoint, there are hundreds of new little blogs going up daily. There are always a lot of people asking to work with you. What do you look for from Joe Average with a web site that wants information from you?
MATT: What’s nice is when people who approach us are really honest. We get calls sometimes, from the “President” of a company, who turns out to be a young guy still living at home. When people are educated about the product, passionate about games and honest, we find that it’s not about selling, as much as it is with PR people. We get sold a lot, we sell a lot. So when somebody who starts a website asks for help, it’s refreshing. That approach will get much further, because fans can become another Me Outlet.
THE GAMES REVIEW: They could also become another IGM.
MATT: Exactly. You never know what can happen. So the key is to treat everyone well, and do what you can to help them. Clearly, if you are getting an exclusive, you have to manage your priorities. Bioware has this really strong community and part of that community are fan sites. So, it is important to support them and treat them well. The fans are really the folks we listen to. Bioware is well aware that without them, it wouldn’t be around. So we try to treat them as best as we can.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Awesome. So, it sounds like the nut of that is to be honest.
MATT: It’s just good to be honest in your approach and be yourself. Talk to us and tell us exactly what you want. We are growing, and have a lot of fans. Just give us the information, because there is a lot of research we can do as well. Be honest with us and you will find it gets you a lot further.
THE GAMES REVIEW: When I was looking at this business, 9 out of 10 of the people we talked to, didn’t know anything about business. They did not communicate with anybody or know their way around. But then you found the one guy who did it, and, you know, had a healthy respect. Also, in those 9 out of 10, even some of the people we talked to, don’t play games. The CEOs are completely disconnected from the company and even the editors themselves will totally admit that they play games maybe once a week, if they can.
MATT: What’s cool about Bioware, is that Frank Gibeau, head of EA Games level, and John Ricatello, all play games and you can actually tell they do. For instance, Ray and Greg will talk to Rick and I about our gamer score and actually razz us. They are constantly busy. I actually think you find that the most successful executives understand the product, no matter what the field. In fact, it is more important because there are a lot of nuances to understand. They understand the product and that’s where you get respect with your development teams, as well.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Do you think so?
MATT: Oh, for sure. If you walk in a room blindly and they feel you don’t understand games, you might as well just walk out.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Or they might walk out.
MATT: These guys live and breathe it and they want their staff to understand what they are talking about and not just be glomming it all over. It is just not a formula for success.
THE GAMES REVIEW: What would you recommend to people who want to get into what you do, or into your kind of PR communications type field?
MATT: Especially with PR, certainly education is a great thing to have. If you talk to a variety of people who are in the communications field, there are so many different stories about how they got into the industry. Education is very helpful, with a communications or business management background. Also being very persistent, passionate and reaching out to a lot of companies, and building a network of people in the industry. Relationships are important, to build a respect with peers to have game knowledge. It is also about networking and meeting people, plus things like education and game knowledge. All of those are ammunition in order to get you forward in the career.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Awesome. And then we have the final two questions that we ask every single person. Favorite game, of all time, not including the company you are working with.
MATT: I love that question. What’s your favorite game? It’s tough.
THE GAMES REVIEW: We are allowing people to do a top one or two now.
MATT: All right. Boy, that is so tough. Each moment in time for games, has a few products that are very special and they create such fond memories.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Do the first one that comes to mind. The one you would go back and replay right now today.
MATT: You got to go with Mario.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Mario?
MATT: Yeah. When you first discovered, what world was that? Where you knocked the shell back and forth a little bit and you got unlimited extra lives basically as you went through. That type of discovery, like figuring out secrets or playing a game the way it was not necessarily intended, was a fun moment and Mario was one of the first ones. We just played the heck out of that in the arcade. But #720, I mean these are all blasts from the past. Skate or Die. Do you remember that?
THE GAMES REVIEW: Oh yeah, I remember Skate or Die.
MATT: Watching those tape drives, everything load and then it finally would and if your tape got a bend in it at all, you couldn’t play. Then you would put them in an audio player and they would blast this high pitched squeal. That’s probably my favorite fix of all, blow on it. Blow on it. Do you know how many times you still do that? Watch yourself with any technology. Hitting it and blowing on it seem to be a big fix all.
MATT: Yeah. Everybody has their style. If you watch someone, remember the old Ness cartridges? If you watch someone do it, some people do a little wave first. Some people will blow like they are drying their fingernails or something. Some huff and puff. Some people will steady breathe. It’s pretty fun.
THE GAMES REVIEW: Very cool. Thank you very much Matt.
MATT: Thank you.