Sunday, December 11, 2005

Paramount Buys Dreamworks SKG

Dreamworks SKG is selling out to Paramount. I could care less, but it gives me a hook to mention an experience I had about ten years ago. (Holy God, has it been ten years?)

In my previous life as a software engineer I spent a summer on loan from Microsoft to Dreamworks SKG down in LA, helping to get their first batch of entertainment software titles out the door. Along with a team of other software engineers and software testers, we tried to help nurse some real dogs from the independent studios who actually made them, through a real QA and production process, and out onto the streets. We succeeded brilliantly, and I'd like to say that was because of me, but it wasn't.

They put us up in a set of luxury suites in Marina del Rey, and when I say luxury I don't mean genuine fabric on the sofa. I had about 1000 square feet of tasteful elegance to myself; it felt a little weird stowing my raggedy jeans and t-shirts in mahogany dressers, and the rows of Lexi in the parking garage was a little offputting as well. Not my default state of being, let me tell you.

On the work front, along with the dogs ("Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair" and a cooking game for kids whose name mercifully escapes me) we also had a really brilliant game called "Neverhood". One of the more clever puzzle games I've ever seen. There was also a "Goosebumps" license game.

Dreamworks' internal politics were a mess, their design studio was a trainwreck and their marketing people had apparently been raised by wolves. Interestingly, the corporate management itself was excellent - the only place I have ever seen or worked where the executives knew what they were doing and all the employees were idiots. After work I would come "home" so fed up with California gibberish that I would put on "Seinfeld" reruns and let the NY snark wash away the hateful mellowness. We had the option of flying back to Seattle on weekends if we wanted; I did most weekends but once or twice gave the tickets to friends instead, and they came to visit me.

It was a bizarrely enjoyable summer. LA is a great city to be in if rich movie people are paying your absurdly high expenses and wages, and if you know you get to escape at the end of it all.

UPDATE: The cooking game was "Someone's in the Kitchen". Fantastic premise - I'd love to have it for my 3-year old. Terrible execution.

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