Name: Kelly Murphy
- Education: B.A. Film, University of Utah
- Target Audience: Middle School
In the recipe for fun, Video Game Designers are the secret sauce. Kelly Murphy, a Video Game Designer for Walt Disney, spends his time balancing tight deadlines for game releases while ensuring Disney games are exciting to play and keep gamers' coming back for more. Read more to learn what makes a Video Game Designer such a cool job!
What is your job?
So, why did you choose this career?
I majored in Film in college and loved entertaining and creating something special for my audience, but video games took my passion for entertaining to another level by allowing me to create an interactive experience for players.
Explain what an average week at work is like for you.
Deadlines and game releases tend to determine how many hours the team will work. The Disney studio uses color codes to describe busy times of the year. For example, code-yellow means the team is working 40-50 hours a week. Hours jump to over 60 hours a week in late summer and right before Christmas when a lot of movies and games are released simultaneously. These hectic times at the studio are appropriately dubbed code-red.
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy working with a team and bringing a movie to life with video games. Movies are an important part of our culture and entertainment, but as a video game designer I take players to another world where they can interact with both the heroes they love and villains they love to hate.
When you were a kid, did you like science, technology, engineering and/or math?
I enjoyed science as a kid and astronomy in college, but floundered in math. I am learning scripting, which is industry speak for writing code like java, and having a stronger background in math would make this process a lot easier.
Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to become a Video Game Designer? Tell us about it.
There wasn't a notable moment when I decided to become a Video Game Designer. Instead, it seems that everything leading up to my position at Disney was just leading in that direction. As a kid, I played Sierra Computer Games and in middle and high school I spent hours conquering levels in Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. In college, I actually quit a job to stay home and play a video game. I've grown a lot emotionally and professionally since graduation, but one thing remains the same: the best video game designers have a true and unwavering love of gaming themselves.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a Video Game Designer?
Where to begin... There have been many challenges, but I'm often the greatest obstacle. The more you learn in the video game development world the more you realize you don't know. There is always new and better technology to learn and technology you are familiar with quickly becomes obsolete.
I worked as a game tester in college at Microsoft and my job was finding problems with games. Now as a Video Game Designer I have to come up with the solution to problems, which can be very challenging.
Was there a person who inspired or convinced you to get involved in your field?
I have had many inspirations along the way to becoming a game designer. I was inspired by my childhood friend who followed his passion, went to work for Pixar and created his own cartoon series. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario Brothers and Yugi Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog both played a pivotal role in shaping my approach to game design. What I love about Miyamoto and Naka is that they take real-life passions like gardening and painting and re-create them in an artificial game world. So cool!
Do you have any suggestions for how kids in middle school can get an introduction to your field?
Keep playing video games! Also, start getting more technical and learn some software. Check out codecademy.org and try out Little Big Planet (LBP). LBP allows players to build new levels and expand the environment in a virtual reality created specifically by you!
Game design in multi-disciplinary, so both design courses, as well as math classes are important. If your school doesn't offer design courses, try a local arts organizations like Salt Lake City's Spyhop.
Are there exciting things happening in your field that could involve kids who will enter the field in 10-15 years?
Absolutely! In terms of technology, Middle School age children today have greater access and a better level of understanding than previous generations. Kids joining the video game design industry in the next 10-15 years can expect to create augmented realities, speech and face recognition and games that can be played anywhere, not just from home.
- Kelly helped create Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Epic Mickey games.
- Kelly has a twin sister and he jokes that together they make one "normal" person.
- Video Games have made their way into the medical industry as a tool to help people recover from physical injuries by gaining motor skills and coordination.
- In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." Note to self - stay in school, don't give up. Dreams can come true!
Sierra Computers Games - Graphic adventure games that started in the 1980s (namely King's Quest, Space Quest and Quest for Glory)
Multi-disciplinary - the combination of several subjects
Astronomy - the study of star arrangements
(adapted from Dictionary.com, businessinsider.com)