Microsoft Game Dev – Pathfinding: Life Changer with Xbox Game Studios Game Camp
For some, the path to the gaming industry takes years of perseverance and building a career in another field before networking and passion lead them to work in games. This month, we’re sharing stories from Xbox employees who got their start in retail and how they transitioned to their current roles at Xbox. Last time we met Albert Danqua III, Xbox Support Program Manager. Today we’re excited to share the journey of Chris Douglas, Business Program Manager for Xbox Game Studios (XGS) Game Camp.
Chris grew up playing video games with his family and was intrigued by how they work from a young age. He remembers playing his first video game and thinking, “I don’t understand what’s going on. When I move these arrows or press this button, the character on the screen moves and jumps, but how? What happens between the controller and the system? and the screen to make it all possible? It started my journey and inspired me for technology and games.”
When he started talking to counselors and teachers about his plans after school, Chris recalls being told, “No money for tech and video games, you can’t do that.” Near the end of high school, Chris told his parents that he wanted to work in the games industry, be it development, marketing, or whatever. He remembers how they told him, “I don’t believe this is something for you. We don’t see a lot of people of color, especially black people, in this job.” Chris knows that his parents weren’t trying to kill his dreams, but rather wanted to protect him from failure. Raised in a black family, Chris says “you don’t have the ability to fail. You don’t have the same privileges as other people and you only get one chance.” Now that he has learned more about the importance of a growth mindset, Chris understands the benefits and opportunities associated with learning from his failures. However, he acknowledges that the experiences of other blacks often match those of his parents.
After graduating from high school, Chris began studying at Louisiana Xavier University in New Orleans, the only historically black Catholic university in the United States. However, many computer science professors have been white males. Chris continued to struggle, but with the recent launch of the Xbox from his dream employer, Microsoft, he was determined to continue his gaming career. Soon after, Chris’ personal life changed when his mom found out she had breast cancer. Chris realized that he could not work two jobs, support his family and go to school.
After a number of warehouse and retail jobs, Chris became a store manager at GameStop, where he was promoted several times. While he enjoyed learning about new gaming features, particularly the Xbox 360, Chris knew that brick and mortar stores were the future of retail. He left GameStop for AT&T and almost gave up his dream of gaming and working at Microsoft after 5 years. Then Microsoft started opening retail stores.
As soon as they announced they were opening a store in New Orleans, Chris applied and became a training specialist working with schools. While working with K-12 schools, he realized that many students had never seen a computer, so he began working with community development professionals and other groups at Microsoft to deliver Surfaces, Minecraft Education, and coding workshops to local schools.
Chris says: “The best moment of my life was when I walked into school and I was wearing my colorful Microsoft shirt, jeans and Jordans and this kid said he’d never seen anyone from Microsoft before – he don’t think that Jordans and working at Microsoft might even go together. That’s when I realized that these kids see themselves in me, and it was incredibly humiliating. I have a great responsibility to the children in my community to help them get to where they want to be. ”
Chris began to include games in outreach programs, inviting streamers and others to discuss games, marketing, and esports. There were rumors around town that if you want to get into something related to games, talk to Chris from Microsoft.
Near the onset of the pandemic, Chris was approached for help with a new project called XGS Game Camp that focused on finding new ways to reach underserved communities interested in making games. His managers were very supportive and allowed him to split his time between retail and volunteering at XGS Game Camp, and when Microsoft decided to permanently close retail stores, Chris was offered a job as a production assistant at inXile Studios, one of XGS Game Camp’s local partners. .
Chris spent a year learning production, which touches everything from sound to animation to development, and gained a lot of experience in his first real acting role. But he felt something was missing without being able to regularly give back to his community. When Xbox Game Studios decided to further invest in XGS Game Camp and wanted Chris to join the team full-time from his home in New Orleans, he knew it was the perfect fit.
Big Dreams: Basketball or Games?
Around the age of 12, Chris began playing basketball, football and track and field. As he focused more on athletics, he discovered a real talent for basketball, and his family and friends began to encourage him to pursue an NBA career. Chris says, “There are 15,000 NCAA men’s Division 1 athletes in the United States, but only 60 make it into the NBA. It’s a 0.004% chance, but my family thought I had a better chance of getting into the NBA than working in the games industry!” Not convinced that a basketball career was realistic, Chris kept his other goals in mind—to become a chef or a game designer—when he was in high school. He mowed grass and washed cars to pay for games and subscriptions to gaming magazines, and read all he could about new industry trends and technologies. However, his family and friends urged him to continue playing basketball through high school and college, convinced that an NBA career was more achievable than gambling.
Chris reflects: “I love basketball more than anything, I really do. It is one of the most exhilarating things to watch or play. When I played basketball, everything else stopped. there’s something even more magical about being able to connect with a character in a game, walk through that world, and feel connected to the story, the music, and the environment. This is a surreal experience. If you allow yourself to be open, the games will take you somewhere else. You can experience another reality and briefly forget everything that happened and focus on this other moment. It’s therapeutic for me.”
Despite pressure from his community to stop playing games, Chris says that “I had to learn as a kid that sometimes even the people who love you the most don’t support you because they’re trying to protect you, and not because they don’t want to.” I love you. You can’t let anything get in the way of your dream.”
What does a business program manager do?
Chris says that “The Xbox Game Studios Game Camp is a program designed to prove that great talent is everywhere. We try to meet people and talent where they are, and help all up-and-coming game creators from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. We want to add different opinions about games – people of color, women, people from underrepresented communities and difficult socioeconomic backgrounds. Our goal is to engage anyone interested in making games, demystify the gaming industry, and help them with tools and resources. We want to help them achieve their dreams by building a network of subject matter experts within Xbox that they can learn from.”
Chris’ job as XGS Game Camp Business Program Manager is to develop a strategy for delivering tools and resources to campers, building rapport and getting to know them on a personal level. He maintains relationships with marketers, media, brand managers, lawyers, mentors, engineers, nonprofits, and more to stay at the forefront of creating tools, engine enhancements, and knowledge sharing to enable vacationers to realize their vision.
Chris shares: “I really have the ability to change people’s lives. I become the person I wanted to have in my life, believe in them and their dreams when others don’t. I am grateful that I can be such a support. so people don’t give up on their dreams.”
Chris grew up playing games and he remembers well the first Nintendo his parents bought. “I was 7 or 8 years old and we had just returned from a family vacation at Disneyland, which was very important. When we got home, I wanted to play with my friends whom I hadn’t seen in a week, but my dad told me that I needed to go into the house and spend more time with my family. I went to my room and lay down on my bed, upset, and he came in and put a Nintendo on my bed – and all of a sudden it was a better day again. We immediately plugged it in and started playing together.”
Chris is playing now Destiny 2, Noose of death, Overwatch 2, moon scars, Prodeusas well as Halo Infinite.
The Xbox Game Studios Game Camp is a two to four month program that takes place in cities around the world. Find out more at Xbox Game Studios Game Camp.