Inside the Vault offers up Jason Bergman for your perusal. Senior Producer at Bethesda Softworks. He works with external developers working on titles that we’re publishing. I’ve known Jason for a while; he used to score me free games when he worked at 2K Games. We’re happy to have him working with us (though, no more free 2K games, hmm…)
What is your job at Bethesda Softworks?
I’m the Senior Producer on Fallout: New Vegas. Which is a fancypants title that means I’m the primary point of contact for Obsidian Entertainment (the external developers working on the game) here at Bethesda.
My job is weird and varied. The easiest oversimplification is that it’s my job to make sure Fallout: New Vegas comes out on time and meets the standards we have for the game. When any of the various departments (QA, marketing, finance, etc.) here at Bethesda needs something, it’s me they go to. And then when Obsidian has issues, they talk to me. And of course I get to raise issues all on my own because I’m a troublemaker and that’s what I do. Plus I get to manage the budget and make sure people get paid, which is easily the most glamorous part of my job.
What games have you worked on?
This is my first title for Bethesda. Prior to this I was at 2K Games, where I was fortunate enough to work with Firaxis Games on great titles like Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution, Sid Meier’s Pirates! and several expansion packs for Civilization IV. I also worked on Bioshock with Irrational Games/2K Boston and The Darkness with Starbreeze. World class developers all around.
What is the best part about being a producer? The worst part?
The best part is that I get to work on a Fallout game. That’s mindblowingly awesome on so many levels. Plus I get to talk to guys like Chris Avellone and Todd Howard. They’re so dreamy.
The worst part is having to deal with budget stuff, but really, it’s not too bad. The days I spend entirely in Excel are a necessary part of the job and I’ve learned to live with that.
How did you get into the industry? Any tips for breaking in?
It’s a long and boring story, but I’ll try and keep it short (and add in explosions).
I’ve been in the industry since I graduated college in 1999, and was pretty much in before that as well.
I started writing for gaming websites and magazines as a college student, pretty much just writing previews, features, and interviews for anyone that would run my work. When I graduated I went to work for Blue’s News, a site which I suppose is now classified as a blog. I kept up the games journalism thing for a few years, surviving the Internet bubble by getting a day job (boo!), moving over to Shacknews, and keeping up a healthy amount of freelance work on the side for places like GameSpot. Eventually I decided that I wanted to do games full-time again, so I took a job with the Rockstar Games PR department in 2004, working on all of the non-R* titles from Take-Two. The first title I took out on a press tour was Army Men: Sarge’s War. About a year later, the 2K Games division started up at Take-Two, and I was one of its first employees. I was the PR lead on Sid Meier’s Civilization IV. Eventually I was given the opportunity to move over to games production and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. Also explosions.
My #1 tip for breaking in: don’t be a jerk. People remember you. I’ve known people here at Bethesda since my days as a journalist. Despite starting up in NYC (out of Rockstar), 2K moved out to northern California, and after a couple of years living there I really, really wanted to move back to the east coast. So I called the people I knew here and came on board last summer. Wouldn’t have happened if I was a jerk.
What is your personal favorite game of all time?
That question isn’t fair. The greatest game of all-time is Tetris. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. It’s like chess, and we will probably never see anything so singularly perfect ever again. But it doesn’t count.
- My three favorite RPGs are The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the original Fallout, and Planescape: Torment.
- My four favorite shooters are DOOM 2, Half-Life, Duke Nukem 3D, and Painkiller.
- My three favorite text adventures are A Mind Forever Voyaging, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Suspended.
- My three favorite turn-based strategy games are Heroes of Might & Magic, Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, and X-COM.
What games are you currently playing?
I recently finished Heavy Rain. I really liked it. I also finished up Mass Effect 2 recently, which was really fun, but I think I prefer the first one.
Other than that, I was checking out The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom and ‘Splosion Man on XBLA, and I’m always playing and downloading new tracks for Rock Band 2. I’m also playing Plants vs. Zombies and a weird little game called Space Miner on my iPhone.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Choose one: my two year old daughter, my wife hitting me because it’s her turn to sleep in, a needy cat or an alarm clock. It’s almost always one of those.
As for what motivates me, other than the above (which are pretty big motivators, especially the one that involves physical violence), it’s that I get to work with some of the best people in the industry on a world class title in one of the best franchises in gaming. This is why I get here at 8 a.m. Sleep is for the weak.
Worst job you ever had?
In high school I worked at McDonald’s and Burger King (Burger King recruited me away from McDonald’s by offering me $0.50 an hour more), but honestly, I had fun working those. I guess I’m crazy that way. The only job I didn’t like was the day job I had to get in 2001 when the Internet advertising bubble burst and I could no longer work full-time as a journalist. I worked as an Office Administrator for a small startup company. But really, that wasn’t so bad either. The fact that I needed a day job at all was the real downer there. Although there was one really nasty part about it; the company was in the garment district in Manhattan, and we were in the same building as some sweat shops (offices that had rows and rows and rows of little old women knitting; you think these don’t exist, but they’re all over the place). Anyway, they had really nasty sanitary conditions there (cooking without an actual kitchen, leftovers all over the place, etc.), so they would attract all kinds of rats. Rats who inevitably made their way into our office. In a company of only 15 people, it fell on me to do something about that. Just know this: well-fed rats can leave quite a mess behind.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like to spend as much time with my wife and daughter as I can, because when it’s crunch time, I know that’s going to be difficult. Other than that, I play a lot of games, read a lot of comics and actual book books, and generally live the life of a happy nerd.