Geek Speak: Bryna Dabby, Genius Factor Games and United Front Games

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      Bryna Dabby says she “grew up as a Nintendo kid” in Vancouver. Dabby (whose first name rhymes with “China”) entered the video-game industry 10 years ago as a production coordinator at Electronic Arts, where she worked on the FIFA, Need for Speed, and NHL series, as well as Def Jam Vendetta. After a stint at a local design firm, Dabby moved to San Diego to work at High Moon Studios. There she worked on Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy, before returning to Vancouver last year.

      Now, the 32-year-old Dabby is the senior producer at Genius Factor Games and a project manager at United Front Games. Genius Factor, founded last year, is developing mobile games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. United Front was established in 2007 and is creating titles for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

      Dabby spoke to the Georgia Straight by phone.

      What are you working on right now?

      I would love to tell you, but I’d have to kill you. UFG obviously has not announced anything that we’re working on yet. I can say we’re working on console titles, but you’re going to have to wait to hear more when we’re ready. I can say it’s very exciting.

      Genius Factor is working on our first title, which is actually going to be released imminently. We’re just in the final stages of that. It’s a mobile title. I can’t say much more than that just yet. But, in the next week or so, you’ll hear more about it, and I’m very excited about that as well.

      Out of the games you’ve worked on, which is the most interesting in retrospect?

      As far as the best sort of war stories, a lot of those came from Def Jam Vendetta, definitely. The Bourne Conspiracy, for me, was very interesting because it was an entirely different genre. I got the chance, when I was at EA, to work on a new IP [intellectual property] that didn’t make it all the way through the process. But I hadn’t gotten the chance to work on, other than Def Jam, just a strictly first-person action title, which was really exciting for me. So, that was a whole new series of learning and adventures for me.

      How did you get into video-game production?

      I honestly stumbled a little bit into it. I was 21 or 22, I think, when I started in ’99. I was fairly young, and I had done some general sort of admin work and I’d done some production-assistant work on audio production and stuff. But I hadn’t worked in games, and I loved them. You know, I grew up as a Nintendo kid. I managed to meet a few people and get them my resume, and it took six months before a coordinator position became available. Then I came in for some pretty strenuous interviews, and eventually I got the job. Starting in games, for me, was the first time I found myself really at home in a workplace environment. So, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Ten years later and I love it.

      What exactly does a video-game producer do?

      Well, it really greatly depends on the studio—and not just every company—because every studio is different. At United Front Games, I’m a project manager, which means we have producers who are more embedded in the creative process than I need to be. So, I’m doing scheduling and tracking, and working with the team to make sure things are done. That was part of my job as a producer at High Moon, as well. But there’s definitely more working hand to hand with the creatives and seeing the creative vision get realized. But I’m not a game designer, and I don’t claim to be. There are producers who have a really strong game-design sense. For me, it’s more important to help people—help them do what they do and sort of remove road blocks for them and make sure that they’re well supported.

      Do you think, with the recession, that the B.C. government should do more to support the video-game industry in Vancouver?

      Well, they do already do some pretty amazing things. The SR&ED [Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit] program is a very exciting one. So, I think there’s some great stuff. There is a lot of change happening in the industry right now. For me, anything that brings people to B.C. to give more jobs—because there’s so much talent here—is great. So, if there’s more that can be done to support that, I’m all for it. But I do think they pay a lot of attention, and I think they do want to support the tech industry, and I think they realize how important it is.

      What are your favourite video games to play?

      My favourite game of all time is Puzzle Fighter. I was a Nintendo kid, so I grew up playing Mario games and Tetris and all those sort of standard stuff. But Puzzle Fighter, by far, is my all-time favourite game. I’m definitely more of a casual gamer, just mainly because of the time commitment it takes to be really hardcore. I love games, but there are only so many hours in the day. So, I’ll generally play things that are more of an escape for me. I love Animal Crossing. I haven’t played the new one yet, because I don’t have a Wii at home. I lived with people who did while I was in San Diego. So, my gaming options have been diminished since I moved back. But that’s probably a good thing, because I get more done—for now. But yeah, Puzzle Fighter—favourite game of all time.

      What do you do when you’re not staring at a screen?

      I’m staring at a screen a lot, whether I’m staring at my computer screen in the studio at UFG, or I’m staring at my BlackBerry screen or my iPod Touch screen or my PSP screen or my laptop screen. I read a little bit. But other than spending time with family and friends, which is really important to me, much of my day is spent in front of a bigger or a smaller screen of some sort. So, outside of work stuff or fun stuff that has to do with computers and handheld devices, I spend time with my family and friends, and I try and stay active, whether it’s going to the gym or walking or playing something for fun. Finding that balance pretty much takes up all my time.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at