"So, you want to work in the video games industry?"
That was the question posed by EA Sports president Peter Moore to the two very tall prospective employees sitting in front of him.
But this wasn't just any job interview. The two men hanging on Moore's every word and hoping to one day work at a video game company like EA were actually NBA players Josh Boone of the New Jersey Nets and Ike Diogu of the New Orleans Hornets.
Thanks to the NBA Job Shadow program, in which the league works with its partners to introduce players to various job experiences, the two ballers spent several days learning the ropes of game development at EA's Canadian offices near Vancouver, then flew to the San Francisco Bay Area and spent the day at EA Redwood City to learn the business end of making games.
"Making video games isn't as easy as it looks," Boone said after sitting through over an hour of presentations in Redwood City. "It's very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. There is so much more involved with making a video game than the average consumer understands or even cares to understand."
And the various industry aspects Boone and Diogu received a crash course in included EA's marketing reasons behind picking certain cover athletes (the hottest star that is good with the media), advertising theories, consumer research, a lesson on how to influence the influencers, as well as looking at the various artwork on every EA Sports box down to changes in font size and color.
As the players started their morning, they were given a behind-the-scenes look at some games that are still early in development, like "Dante's Inferno," a game Boone wasn't allowed to talk about but still managed the one-word review of "fantastic."
Making video games isn't as easy as it looks. It's very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. There is so much more involved with making a video game than the average consumer understands or even cares to understand.
”-- Nets center Josh Boone
It was the meeting with EA Sports president Moore however, that really made the players' ears perk up, as Moore talked about the high-stakes business of sports video games, detailing the success of games like "Madden" and "FIFA" while talking openly about how he hopes the "NBA Live" team can finally turn things around.
Luckily for Moore, both Boone and Diogu spent quality hands-on time with "Live" just the day before in Canada and were happy to offer words of encouragement on how the franchise is actually shaping up to look like a contender.
Diogu, who continues to study digital art at Arizona State in hopes of getting his degree, was the player who initiated the talks of the EA job shadow. The NBA then contacted Boone because of his love of games and his interest in the creative process of the business. That led to a week of work for the two potential game designers.
"In Canada we went around to all of the various production groups -- the design group, the gameplay guys, the guys who do the ratings -- we also saw a lot of different games that EA is working on beyond sports," Boone said. "I'm really into the gameplay aspect and coming up with the special things you can do. They just introduced Dynamic DNA in 'NBA Live' last year, and I thought that was pretty cool. I'm into how the games function. When I'm playing an action/adventure game, I'm into all of the various armor and weapons.
"I've been playing since Nintendo times, which for me is a very, very long time ago. I have all the systems now -- PS3, 360 and Wii -- but I don't play the Wii too much. I mostly stick to the PS3, 360 and computer games. I probably play more of 'Fallout' than anything else. It would be cool to work on a game like that."
Diogu also sees his future, not in the obvious role of making "NBA Live," but working on design concepts for games across all genres. "I already knew prior to being in the NBA that I had a huge interest in the video game industry," Diogu said. "I want to work on all kinds of games. I'm a huge football fan, so it would be great to work on a game like 'Madden,' but I'm also a huge fan of role-playing games and games like 'God of War' and 'Prototype.'
I'd love to get into the industry one day. I can't say that when I'm done playing, that I'll be working at EA, but yeah, I will be in the video game industry.
”-- Hornets forward Ike Diogu
"I'm really into the design aspect of video games, and we were able to see some really cool concept art for games that aren't even out yet. To see that art and then to see how they actually put life and motion into the characters, that was really interesting."
After meeting with the players for close to an hour, Moore told both players to give him a call if they ever needed help getting a job in the industry. A contact any prospective game designer would die for at this point.
"Like I said, the industry is a big-stakes business," Moore said, "but the rewards are working for the biggest, most recognizable brand in all of gaming."
Both players smiled, knowing they now have a direct link to one of the most powerful men in all of gaming (and the only person in the building who makes more than them).
"I'd definitely like to take advantage of the resources the NBA provides," Diogu said. "I'd love to get into the industry one day. I can't say that when I'm done playing that I'll be working at EA, but yeah, I will be in the video game industry."