Glen Schofield was confident when he applied for his first job in the game industry some 30 years ago. “I can do this,” he remembers telling himself. “Little did I know how hard it was!” Either way, he could hardly have imagined that, three decades later, he’d have worked with some of the world’s biggest brands: from Barbie to Bond, Disney to Call Of Duty.
Having gained a degree in commercial art from Brooklyn’s prestigious Pratt Institute, he started his career as an illustrator in New York before moving to a multimedia company where he learned about computer graphics, using tools such as DPaint. When he was given a commission to illustrate covers for Game Boy games, his career path was set.
Making games was, of course, very different back then: at the time, he says, he could be involved in as many as eight releases per year. In his role as art director at Absolute Entertainment, most games were made by just two people: an artist and a programmer. “In most cases, the artist was the designer; the engineer mostly spent time implementing the game, and they would also do the music at that time. They had their hands pretty busy. So I ended up designing all the time.”
A move to California to become art director at Capcom America in 1994 proved transformative, even though he only worked on one game there, contributing art to Street Fighter: The Movie. “I was the third guy hired there. They hired the president, the vice president, and then me, the art director. And guess who had to do all the work! I was painting the walls, buying equipment, and all sorts of things. But it taught me a lot about setting up a studio, which I used in my later years.”
After joining Crystal Dynamics, Schofield led his first project, directing Gex 3D: Enter The Gecko, where he worked with Evan Wells and Bruce Straley, latterly of Naughty Dog fame. Schofield directed six games there, running the studio for a while before another move to EA, where he assumed production roles on several big-name licences, from James Bond to Lord Of The Rings.
But it was with a new idea that Schofield made arguably the defining game of his career: 2008 chiller Dead Space. “My elevator pitch was: I want to make Resident Evil in space,” he grins. With its brilliant diegetic interface and grisly ‘strategic dismemberment’, it earned Schofield some of the best reviews he’d ever had.
Following a stint at Sledgehammer developing three Call Of Duty games, it’s no surprise that he’s returning to science-fiction horror with The Callisto Protocol. And despite the demands of his role as a studio head, he’s still unable to resist getting involved in art and design – hopefully without becoming too much of a backseat art director. “I don’t want to be too prescriptive, because I’ve got some great people on the team. I won’t tell them exactly what to do if I don’t like something. But I’ll tell them if it’s a little off.” As an artist, Schofield has always recognised the importance of fine details; as he reflects on his career to date, it’s clear that’s what got him where he is today.
“There was a small company in New Jersey, I think I was like the 12th or 13th person hired at a place called Absolute Entertainment. We did a lot of the work for Acclaim – they were a powerhouse in the ’90s. So I did a lot of cartoon games, things like Swamp Thing, Bart Simpson, Ren & Stimpy, and Rocky And Bullwinkle and a lot of the other big cartoons that were around at the time. I worked on a Goofy game where I learned a lot because the quality standard for working on a Disney product is just really high. I had to train a little bit with a couple of Disney artists and get the style down. We were kind of creating a newer style for them – it wasn’t pure 2D; they wanted some shadowing and things like that in it. Man, did I learn a lot on that product!
I moved up to art director, as a bunch of my games were pretty successful. Believe it or not, my first game was called Barbie: Game Girl. They thought it would be funny if the new guy did the Barbie game, but little did they know that Barbie would outsell everything that we did that year [laughs]. I don’t take any credit for that – I give that to Barbie, the licence. But I did my studying on it.
I mean, I didn’t know anything about Barbie, so I had to go out and buy some Barbie dolls, and I had to look at the clothing. I went into women’s clothing stores so that I could understand it a little bit more. So I did my research, which was a little embarrassing at times… and the guys would put a Barbie doll on my chair in the morning, and a purse, or things like that. They wanted to have a little fun with me, but I got the last laugh in the end because I became the art director.”