Creative Directors, Diversity and Inclusion, Level Ex, Your Mutant Ability, Van Halen, Making For Honor, Mythic Quest, Player Motivation, and Hades with Jason VandenBerghe of Level Ex

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On this episode we welcome Jason VandenBerghe, VP Studio Creative Director at Level Ex. We start by discussing COVID-19, his excitement about making games for doctors, and thoughts about the future of game design. He shares his story of breaking into the industry with The X-Files Game and his transition from programmer to producer to creative director at EA. Jason then offers specific advice for people in the industry and those looking to break in while telling about the fastest hire ever made at Ubisoft.

He shares intriguing stories on his favorite games so far, including the development of For Honor at Ubisoft and working with Van Halen on Guitar Hero. He speaks about his excitement for this golden age of design experimentation right now, along with threats that include a backlash to diversity and inclusion, engaging with players, and the dangers of self-defeating beliefs amongst developers.

Before telling a few more hilarious industry stories Jason shares candid thoughts on AR & VR, and his love for Beat Saber. We wrap things up talking about his two current favorite games that include his must-play “Game of the Year”, along with parting advice to game designers.

Jason VandenBerghe has led creative teams for over two decades, developing triple-A games for Ubisoft (For Honor), Activision (Call of Duty), and Electronic Arts (James Bond 007). At Level Ex, he employs game design methodologies, honed through extensive experience in the consumer games industry, to capture the greatest challenges of medical and surgical procedures as video game mechanics.

Discussion Details:

[01:10] Introducing Jason VandenBerghe

[02:00] Thoughts about pandemic life

[03:40] His passion around game design

[09:51] The challenges and excitement of working at Level Ex

[13:39] What it’s like to work with medical professionals

[15:37] How he started in the industry on The X-Files Game

[22:00] Going from Programming into Production then Creative Director at EA

[24:49] When his annual reviews changed, he knew he was in the right path

[26:21] What he wishes he’d known when starting out

[28:38] Quality vs. Sales - his NPD discovery

[32:14] Key advice for getting your first job and the fastest hire ever made

[37:46] How to advice your current career

[44:29] Favorite projects so far – For Honor and Guitar Hero: Van Halen

[54:51] Excitement around Diversity and Inclusion, which is long overdue in the industry

[1:00:36] Threats including the backlash about Diversity and Inclusion, triple-A player engagement, and self-defeating beliefs

[1:05:20] Thoughts on AR & VR and love for Beat Saber

[1:07:55] Funny stories about Mythic Quest roots and Red Steel 2

[1:16:57] Playing the game of spotting Creative Directors at GDC

[1:18:36] His love for Spelunky 2 and obsession with Hades

[1:21:18] Player psychology and motivation

[1:23:19] Why he wanted to be a filmmaker

[1:24:12] How to connect

[1:24:49] Parting piece of advice – tear down the walls

[1:26:28] Cut to outro

Show Links:

Noah Falstein Wikipedia

Level Ex website

Level Ex SIGGRAPH 2019 YouTube

The X-Files Game Wikipedia

James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing Wikipedia

For Honor Wikipedia

Playing Hard IMDb (on Steam)

Guitar Hero: Van Halen IMDb

Unity website

Beat Saber website

Red Steel 2 IGN

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet IMDb

Spelunky 2 Steam

Hades Steam

GDC Engines of Play: Talk 3 YouTube

Thoughts on Games for Change YouTube

Connect with Jason:

The_DarkLorde Twitter

The_DarkLorde website

Jason VandenBerghe Designing the Future at Level Ex

Jason VandenBerghe YouTube videos

Game Dev Advice:

*New: Game Dev Advice Patreon

*Game Dev Advice Twitter

*Game Dev Advice email

*Game Dev Advice website

*Level Ex website - we’re hiring for all kinds of roles

*Game Dev Advice Hotline: (224) 484-7733 – give a call and ask a question

*www.gamedevadvice.com for full show notes with links

33 episodes