THE GAME REVIEWS: We are here with Pete Hines, of Bethesda Softworks. Pete, can you tell us a little bit about where you come from and your lineage?
PETE: I am a lifelong gamer, ever since the Vic 20. My brother and I used to find latest programs and Run Magazine would come out with all of kinds of little programs for running tiny games.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Somebody mentioned the Vic 20 yesterday.
PETE: Yes, that was the big hook that had me. It went on from there to Atari. I have a business degree from Wake Forest University. I moved to D.C. because my wife had just graduated and was in politics, on the Hill. I worked for a couple of different medical associations for a number of years doing PR and marketing, while attending MBA school at night.
During that time, I also wrote for a start-up web site called the Adrenaline Vault, as about the second writer they hired. I wrote for them part time whenever I was not studying for class or working, for a number of years. After I got my MBA, I changed jobs. At one point, I spoke with Todd Vaughn, who is now our VP of Development. He suggested coming to Bethesda, since I knew a lot about games, PR and marketing. He thought it would be a good idea to run their PR marketing. I joined Bethesda in October of 1999 and have been there ever since.
THE GAME REVIEWS: What was Bethesda up to back in 1999?
PETE: We had just done the PBA Bowling game and were in the early stages of working on a little game called Morrowind, the third in the Elder Scrolls series. Bethesda had just been bought by ZeniMax, so we were sort of switching gears from being a traditional PC only “mom and pop” publisher developer, to branching out into doing more on consoles. We were looking at developing different sorts of titles, that were still unique, different and innovative. We wanted to do things in a bigger way, to get people’s attention, such as with Morrowind or Oblivion. It has been interesting to watch those grow over that period from where we came from, and where we are headed.
THE GAME REVIEWS: I think it is really high quality. Can you tell us a little bit about what you and your department do?
PETE: I oversee the worldwide efforts for Bethesda as it relates to all the public relations and marketing for all of our games. I work on coming up with the plans, and how to execute them. I also work on what the packaging and ads will look like. We approach things a little differently. I like to have people who do both sides. A lot of companies will have people who do PR and those who do marketing, exclusively. I started off doing both and I like people that do both, because I think it just ties it all together better.
I have talked to other companies where the marketing people are trying to put certain things in ads, while the PR is doing something else for the press release. I prefer to be consistent, with one voice, one message. We have product managers that I also work with for some of our internal titles for the Elder Scrolls titles and Fallout. That allows me to get you more involved in the day to day development to keep abreast of what is going on. I do the press and demo tours, as well.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So you are the public face of the company.
PETE: Yes, as a producer in that respect. I also work with other developers to get them through interviews, for the strategy guide. I have edited and done some writing for all the strategy guides. One example was for the Elder Scrolls material. I also get involved in a lot of little ways, such as the manual for Oblivion. My work varies, according to what is happening.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So it sounds like you have a lot of different hats.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Would you say that everyone in PR and marketing wears a lot of different hats?
PETE: Yes, I certainly think that it benefits anybody no matter what they are working in, to at least have some understanding and appreciation of how both the PR and marketing works. Even if your domain is just marketing, understanding public relations is of tremendous value to both what you are going to be doing day to day and to the company. Just having an understanding of how things work across all the different disciplines such as development, PR, and marketing, is very helpful. It is also important to understand what the timing is for these things, because it determines how they will affect you eventually.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So basically it is good to have the skills to understand a little bit about the business flow and being able to work with highly technical people, or just highly creative people.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Those are very rare talents. What would you suggest to somebody who is looking to get into the industry either in PR or marketing?
PETE: I think the biggest thing is to know how the system works, and get games. When I am looking through resumes or applications, I look at where they went to school and job experience. I interview many folks who are interested in doing this, and they don’t seem to know much about games. If you really want to do this for a living, then it better be something that you enjoy and take seriously on some level so that you can participate, have knowledge and make an effort at it. If you are going to talk to me, you better know what we publish, what we make and have made an effort to play those or have an understanding of them.
There are lots of people trying to get in this industry, so I am looking for somebody who not only has the skills and abilities to do whatever the position is, but also someone who has an understanding of what is going on in the industry. A person interested should know which games are good, and which games are not. I have talked to people and I appreciate finding out which games they like of ours that they have played, and also what they did not like about them. At least it shows me that they get it – if they have valid points, which is better than always agreeing, which drives me crazy.
I am not looking for someone to just tell me how great our stuff is. Everyone has an opinion, so I like people to show me that they have some understanding about what makes a game good or what does not. I think that is the biggest thing for me that I have found. Anyone can go to college and get a degree, which is very important. Whatever internships and things that you can do to improve your skill base is important, but you need to have a really good knowledge of the subject matter or you are just wasting time.
THE GAME REVIEWS: How could someone get to the point where they can talk to someone like you?
PETE: Anything that you can do to participate in the industry and in traditional ways meaning, if you can get an internship that is great. You never know what contacts there are going to be to help you out. If you can participate in the fan community, be a moderator on the forums or games, with cool plug ins, etc., it can help a great deal as a tester. There are lots of ways that you can participate on your own free time and show your level of interest and enthusiasm and that you are dependable, reliable, intelligent, and well spoken, as well as creative.
There are many ways that you can participate that are outside of the traditional PR and marketing arena that can lead to getting you in the door. I think that is really important and it sort of goes back to my previous point about having knowledge about what is going on. The more that you involve yourself in gaming from that end; it sort of speaks to your level of enthusiasm and knowledge of it. This demonstrates what you will bring on board from the company’s standpoint, and out to the community at large.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Right. I think one thing that I have learned from doing a lot of these different interviews and talking to many people in the industry, is that the number one thing is passion. You have to have passion.
PETE: On one of my first press trips, we went to Bioware to see Baldur’s Gate when it was still in development. I was picked up in a car with a hole in the floorboard, so we had to push with our feet to back out of the parking space because his reverse gear did not work. Some of the guys had their monitors sitting on cardboard boxes. It was a total startup company.
Ray and Greg really kind of got it and are very passionate, as well as being just genuinely good guys. It is easy to see them doing well because they understand how to deal with people, and were very loyal to their employees and to the process of what it takes to make a great game. It is not really surprising that they have come so far and done so well, because they stuck with their guns and did it the right way.
It is sort of a blueprint for success, but it certainly shows you that there is no one magic formula.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay. What is your favorite game of all time, one that you have never worked on?
PETE: I could never come up with just one. Probably if I had to pick just one, it would be the original X-Com.
THE GAME REVIEWS: When it comes to systems, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, do you have a favorite?
THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay, very cool. Thanks for your time.