Inside the Vault: Matt Grandstaff

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We have a special Inside the Vault today, featuring our community manager, Matt Grandstaff. We thought it would be fun to do a special Q&A with Matt since he is our main point of contact with our fan community. Todd Howard contributed a few of the questions.

What’s your job at Bethesda?

I’m the Community Manager here at Bethesda, so I spend a lot of time in the forums and then sharing information with the developers. No I can’t go downstairs and make the changes myself, but I can pass on what people are talking about. I also co-manage the Bethesda Blog. Gotta say, I have tons of respect for the bloggers of the world. It’s not easy trying to come up with new content all the time, especially since we’re trying to stay focused on Bethesda news. Maybe I should start posting about Britney Spears or iPods…that would help my dilemma. As a part of the marketing department, there’s plenty of other stuff I work on, but I don’t think you’d find it particularly interesting.

In the future, like maybe when Fallout is closer to shipping, I look forward to doing new stuff with the community: community events, podcasts, who knows?

How did you get into the industry?

When I was in school at the University of Michigan, my brother was a sports writer for the school paper. At some point, I started hanging out with a lot of the guys he worked with, and eventually, it dawned on me that I could probably step in and start writing game reviews for the paper. Turned out to be a pretty sweet gig, scoring review copies of games had everyone there pretty jealous.

Coming out of school, I wanted to work for a gaming site/publication, but that’s easier said than done. For awhile, I dabbled doing some freelance stuff, but it was generally just going through and reviewing games in their back catalog. In one stretch I think I reviewed one company’s 5-6 installments of one company’s NBA game. There wasn’t too much difference between each review…but I kept churning them out because I was being paid by the article. With one site, they ended up telling me that I needed to slow down, and they couldn’t pay me for all these reviews.

Around that time, I was struggling to find a full-time job out of college. I ended up spending a lot of time watching The Price is Right, playing games, and applying for any job I could. While substitute teaching at my old high school, I finally found out I landed an internship in DC that led to a job in marketing for the National Park Foundation. I stayed there for about two years until a friend of mine helped me land a gig at a marketing agency that did work for films, TV shows, and even games. While I was there, I became the de facto “game guy” at the office, so I’d always get pulled into meetings relating to new projects with clients in the gaming industry. Earlier this year, I happened to see the description for the community manager position at Bethesda, and I decided that it was worth looking into.

Turned out to be a great move, as I was already being contacted about starting on the same day I interviewed. Maybe they really like me, or maybe they just knew the Fallout message boards would be opening very soon.

How did you feel at the Michigan Notre Dame game in 1998? (Todd Howard was also at this game and loved every minute).

I think Todd could have picked a better Michigan-Notre Dame to talk smack about (Rick Mirer’s debut or maybe 2002 or 2004) . For college football fans out there, you might recall that Michigan won the National Championship the season before, and even at age 18, I knew from cheering for other teams that all good things come to an end. It was a tough loss, but it didn’t feel nearly as bad as seeing them lose the next week to Syracuse (the first home game during my tenure at Michigan).

I will come clean on this though…when I was under the age of 10, I had outside forces trying to make me an Irish fan. I wore sweatshirts, t-shirts, etc…but that didn’t last long.

List the total amount of property damage you have done following Michigan football losses.

Probably not too bad, though I almost broke a PS3 controller when Michigan looked like they were going to self-destruct over the weekend.

Guitar Hero controller = $60
A few cell phones = $300

Acting like a mad man in the name of Bo Schembechler = Priceless

How does it feel being the bullet shield from Counterstrike?

Not sure what you mean by that? Oh, the forums?? Naw, they’re not so bad. I try not to take any criticisms or angry tirades I see in the forums personally. With the information superhighway, everyone gets to throw out their 2 cents on whatever they want to discuss…that’s why going online is great, and that’s why there are forums. Frankly, I think it would be pretty boring if everyone was uber-polite and talked about what they loved in the world. Of course, there are times when I deal with things that are downright nasty or disturbing, but I’m pretty used to that at this point.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?

That’s a tough one to pick, because you have to account for nostalgia, how the game holds up, if the “recency effect” if affecting your praise for a game. Of course, pretty much anything on my list is going to be on a console (I swear my hands feel like they’re going to burn when I have to use WASD controls). And no, I’m not a PC game hater, I’d just had more exposure to console games when I was younger and now I’d rather play games on a big TV with surround sound.

Okay, so here’s a few of my favorites that come to mind: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, Contra III, A Link to the Past (best of the Zelda’s), F-Zero, Super Mario World (Best of the Mario’s), Metroid Prime (best of the Metroid’s), Metal Gear Solid, Ninja Gaiden (NES and Xbox), the Halo games, SSX, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, Portal, Lumines, and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.

If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life, it would probably be Geometry Wars. The game is just so frantic, and I’m always determined to beat my high score (a little more than 3 million).

What games are you looking forward to?

Ever since I was old enough to have a job where I could start paying for my games, I’ve kept a checklist of the next games I need to buy…I feel a little obsessive compulsive about it. Anyhow, let’s look at the list: Call of Duty 4 (guess I can cross that off since I got it last night), Super Mario Galaxy, Geometry Wars Galaxies and Mass Effect are the big ones left for this year. Next year, I’m most pumped about Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet, and of course, Fallout 3.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

When I’m not playing games, I watch a ton of sports…there’s always someone I gotta cheer for (right now it’s the Lions, the Wolverines and the Pistons). I also like running, but in the last year or so, I’ve had some nagging foot and back issues that have gotten in the way of that. If I had more time (or even a car), I’d like to do more traveling — both around the country and beyond.

Pitch your dream game.

I want a game based on the movie Commando. It’s probably the most brilliant film ever made. Maybe a spin-off about Bennett’s early days working alongside John Matrix. In the game, you’d play as Bennett and have the ability to customize your chain mail. Not sure it would pass ESRB regulations, because Bennett enjoys killing a little too much.

I sent an email to Todd once explaining that we need to get Vernon Wells to do voice work for Fallout 3. For the Fallout fans, people would be pumped we got someone who was in Road Warrior. In the forums, we don’t typically allow for petitions, but I’ll make an exception for this.

Reader Comments

  1. Everything from second grade to high school Health Class (pretty awesome that the teacher took off on the day they showed the “Miracle of Life” video…that was a treat!)

    On my last day as a substitute, I had the pleasure of having a little kid say, “I wish you were dead” before hitting me below the belt with a yo-yo.

  2. I always like reading the “honest working” starts for folks in the gaming industry.

    Any advice for getting into the game review business, or community relations GStaff?

  3. I’ve played the first game for a few hours, but not nearly enough at this point. I haven’t played Fallout 2.

    I enjoy working with the fanbase…it certainly makes my job more interesting with such a strong following for the series.

  4. Get Fallout 1 & 2, and play through. First impressions are not great, but long term impressions [as you have seen], can last a decade.

  5. Just wanted to say that I enjoy reading the varied content of the blog. I find it a really useful way to stay updated on latest news, as well as finding new mods and just general insight into what it’s like to work at Bethsoft. Never really thought about it being difficult to find new content to talk about. I don’t want to sound like a complete moron, but I think you (and the other people involved) do a great job ^_^

    Also – I

  6. Hmm, for some reason my comment seems to have been truncated, (at least on my screen?) but all I was saying was that A Link To The Past is one of my favourite games as well.

  7. [On my last day as a substitute, I had the pleasure of having a little kid say, “I wish you were dead” before hitting me below the belt with a yo-yo.

    Left by gstaff on November 7th, 2007]

    Awesome! That would be a great scene for a movie. Just imagine how many paingful times it would take to get the scene just right! Mu har! har! har!