Former EA Developer Brett Brown Tells All About His Time at EA, his Successful Career with Immersive Design, and Metal Gear Solid, Konami, and Hideo Kojima (EXCLUSIVE)

Exploring the journey of a man of many worlds and impactful words.

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Many know Brett Brown as the charming contestant from Netflix’s Love is Blind. The multi-talented personality is presently the director of Immersive Design at Nike and a conversationalist who strikes a balance between stoic wisdom and emotional competency.

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However, not many know about Brett’s journey with video games. Just like the games he loves playing, his world is filled with main and side-quests. With almost a decade’s worth of experience working as an artist/designer in the industry, Brett has quite a few lessons and stories for our readers to cherish. In an interview, we had conversations about games that have meant a lot to his life, and all the things young designers/developers in the industry should take care of.

[Note: Some of these answers have been edited for clarity and length.]

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Congratulations on the Netflix show! It’s been a while since you were in the gaming industry, right?

I left Miami in 2017. So not quite 10 years, but almost. Almost. Like that’s… well, I don’t miss it.

Personally, I’ve seen gaming as an experience that sort of works its way into different things in our lives. Even though you’re out of the industry, there must be somewhere that you think about gaming every now and then. So does that happen in your life?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, even what I do for work now, you know, it’s really all tied to my experience in the games industry. So even though I’m not in the industry anymore, a lot of the things that I learned, whether it’s workflow or whether it’s software, are all things that I carry with me. Especially when I got out of games, and got into footwear.

If I said, “You know what, I’m done with all this shoe stuff”, I would work at Remedy.

I owe a lot to the games industry for one, actually, for giving me a career. Cause have I not had that… Like, you know, I don’t feel like it’s common for people, specifically for people like me, people of color to say, “Hey, like if I hadn’t started my career in video games, I would not be doing any of these things.” So I still have a lot of love for the industry. I’m playing Final Fantasy 7: Rebirth right now. So, I’m still very much in tune with what’s going on.

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Interview with Brett Brown FandomWire
That collection behind Brett might tell you how passionate he is about things he loves.

That collection of sneakers behind you is a famous thing now, and part of your personality. Likewise, did you ever have a collection of physical media like video games?

So I actually kept… I have to actually check my drawers… all of my PS3 games! I think I still maybe even have a lot of my PS2 games. There are a few PS1 games too. Well, I still have one Metal Gear Solid. I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan. So I have like every one of those physical media, I have the limited version of Metal Gear Solid 3.

Metal Gear Solid has been here for a while and we have so many memories from the older days! So, what do you think about Kojima’s departure from Konami? Can you place yourself in a similar narrative?

Oh man, that’s a great question. And I love you’re asking me about these things. These are things that I don’t really get a chance to talk about a lot. Um, I will say that the whole situation… it really broke my heart, because I remember Metal Gear Solid 5. When I was playing Metal Gear Solid 5, it didn’t seem finished the way the story came together.

I can’t remember what was going on with Liquid Snake. Because you know, he was a child during Metal Gear Solid 5 and I’m like, man, it seemed like the vision for the game was just too big. And it was like, “We’ve been working on this way too long. We got to make money. Uh, we’re, we’re pushing this out.”

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Right, and what did you think about Kojima’s switch to Death Stranding?

I think anything Kojima does, I think it’s great for the industry. I think it’s great for not only gameplay, but I think narrative storytelling is always pushing the boundaries of that medium. Uhm, but selfishly, I just love Metal Gear Solid. I want more.

As much as we all love our careers, as much as I love what I do, if things get to a point where I feel like I’m not living in my priorities, as far as family isn’t there, then I can’t do it.

Do you still feel a part of you would have done something differently? If you were still there maybe you could meet your younger self. Things you would say, like, “Dude, do this. Uh, don’t do that!”

The one thing that I would have really liked… that I didn’t get a chance to do when it comes to working within the games industry, would have been to work on single-player games. Really, story-driven type of things.

My industry (referring to EA) was working on a lot of sports titles. Um, and then I was at a startup game company down in Miami, we were doing iPhone and Android stuff. And, that was like a new space when iPhone mobile gaming was like Clash of Clans and some other games. But, I always wanted to work on a big story-driven AAA title.

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Is there one game you can think of right now that you loved and thought, “I could have written this game.”?

Brett Brown IMDb
Brett would love to work on story-driven games.

I would say that the two that come to mind. I love what Remedy is doing. Like, Alan Wake 2 and Control. Alan Wake 2, visually, was a beautiful game. I love what they do as far as the world-building goes. Uhm, and it’s a little bit more, you know, mature. Controls aren’t so super complicated, so, it’s still a story thing.

It’s not like a big open world, which I love. So I think if today I had a company to work with… if I said, “You know what, I’m done with all this shoe stuff”, I would work at Remedy Entertainment.

I hope they read this interview. Maybe someone will reach out. I mean, it can happen! 

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Who knows? Maybe we’ll see… or, you know, like if they want to scan my face and yeah, just have me in the game.

Take care of yourself and don’t give every single part of yourself to a job that you may wake to one day that goes, “Hey, sorry, but you’re no longer needed.”

If you were a video game character, what kind of a character would you be? Paint me a picture!

Oh man, what type of character would I be? You know, I feel like I’ve always been drawn to the silent-strong type, obviously. Like, Solid Snake! Or, Kratos! Kratos gets loud, but Kratos is kind of strong and man a few words.

He says something like, “You need to use your anger” and that’s one of the best quotes I’ve heard.

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So, the “don’t mess with this guy” types. Are you like that in real life by any chance?

 A little bit. I actually did just compete in my first boxing match about a month ago! That was fun. I won my first-round knockout. So I don’t know… I’m not an aggressive person. I don’t want to get into physical altercations, but you know… *chuckle*

 I love how your life has a brilliant set of side quests. So, do you think of a main quest now, like something that you’re focused on that you want to do in the next?

Well, the main quest now is really just being a great husband. It’s going to keep on going and going. And, my career is kind of like the big DLC pack. That’s like the… what game was that? Blood and Wine! It’s like a whole different game. I feel like my marriage is a good husband, and then my career. Those two things are always going to be front and center. Everything else is just… *shrug*

Trauma or bad things that happen, how can kind of shape your perception of reality and give you a sense of newer priorities that maybe weren’t ever a part of your life.

I was just thinking about your beautiful relationship and how it turned into marriage. Is there something that video games have taught you when it comes to romantic relationships or relationships in general?

Brett Brown life (Image via Marie Claire)
A true gamer at heart; video games have taught Brett about life and love.

Oh, that’s a great question. You know, balance! Balance. Because I think one of the things that I remember from working in games and I would talk to guys that were like, “Man, I’ve been in such an industry for 20 years, you know, after my first divorce and I’m like, man, what happened?”

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And they’re like…“The number of hours!” The stories of people sleeping under the desk. In my first job, my guy said, “Man, when I was working, my wife gave birth to my daughter, I went to the hospital and then I came back to work because we were in crunch time.” Yeah.

So I think the one thing that I’ve kind of really taken from that is… priorities, like family. All of those things, as much as we all love our careers, as much as I love what I do, if things get to a point where I feel like I’m not living in my priorities, as far as family isn’t there, then I can’t do it. So I feel like games gave me that perspective when I was younger. Wow.

Is there a video game or a story that you experienced that sort of also taught you something? Something, that you played long ago.

For example, when I played The Last of Us, I realized how we carry so much trauma that we don’t realize. We try to relive our pasts, through different relationships in the future. That really makes me think about my own past. Like, what are the things that I’m still carrying with me? So something like that.

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Oh man, that’s… that’s a deep question. That’s a deep question. That is a deep question… You know, I feel like that’s actually a good example. Like, I kind of think of that. And, I think a little bit of Kratos as well.

Brett Brown boxing
Brett suggests finding healthy ways to process traumas from your past.

Like you said, trauma or bad things that happen, how can kind of shape your perception of reality and give you a sense of newer priorities that maybe weren’t ever a part of your life. For Kratos, it was just like relentless revenge, you know?

And then when you fast forward to the newer games and like, he’s… he still has all of those skills, but now he’s like, “I have a son and he’s kind of trying to teach him to how to maintain (balance) and to not give in to these certain types of things where the younger Kratos would.” So I think, yeah, like your past doesn’t necessarily have to fully dictate your future.

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I know you started this conversation by telling me you don’t miss the gaming industry. But is there a particular skill set or something that you still carry with you that you used to, you know, really apply back 10 years ago and you still do to this day?

I’m not in the weeds as far as learning new features of software and all the updated versions. But I think working in games… tech is always evolving.

How you do things now versus how you did something last year. Something isn’t the way that you’re going to do it now. How you texture the character is totally different now than what it was when I was in the industry. So, I think really keeping my ear to the street from a development side would be important.

It changes, you know, talk about time and money and all those things. So, when I worked in the games industry when I got home from work, I was working on my own stuff as well. I got to model this. I got to texture this. And then I go to work and I’m almost doing the same thing. And it’s very, very, very much a grind, but it was also fun sometimes.

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After that conversation, I was like, I am done here. These people don’t care about my happiness.

Right, so it’s a constant requirement for anyone in the industry to just be there in that moment, they need to keep learning new things. This makes me think… if you could give a piece of advice to younger developers who are just coming into the industry, is there something you would like to tell them before they get into it?

The balance thing that we talked about earlier. In the games industry, I felt like I worked with some really great people. And then I also feel like I worked with some people who really expected you to give everything to them. Like, “You got this job. You should be thankful that you’re here. I have a hundred other kids just like you coming out of school who would love to be where you are.

And I think that there is a level of grind. I think when you’re starting your career that goes not, not just in games, but I think with anything… knowing your worth and knowing that, “Hey, I’m still an individual. I still have a life outside of whatever you’re asking me to do any kind of being comfortable with.” That’s important.

Stand your ground.

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Do you think there was a moment in your career where you felt, “You know what, I realized my worth, I deserve something better or I deserve something else.” Was it like sort of an epiphany or, did it happen over time?

So, it’s funny. There’s a very few things I can think about. I can pinpoint an exact moment or a conversation! When I worked at a Southern Maine company down in Miami I was the producer and outsourcing manager. We did a lot of outsourcing to companies in Asia and I was responsible for those relationships, making sure we were getting assets on time, et cetera.

Anyway. Um, our CEO,  who was, a very interesting, unique man (worded slowly, menacingly by Brett), very hard to work for. He had this idea and he’s like, “Hey, I want to have these four new characters in our game and we need to have them in like a month.” So I’m like, okay, cool. I’ll talk to our outsourcing partners and get that lined up. Unfortunately, our outsourcing partners were in China, so it had just hit the Chinese New Year.

So they were out of the office for like a week. I couldn’t get a hold of anybody. I go into like our weekly staff meeting in front of our whole studio and he’s like, “Hey Brett, what’s the update on this thing?” And, I’m like, “Well, are there out of, you know, they’re out of the office and it’s a holiday for them.” Yeah. Oh my God. He got right in the face.

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Brett Brown Instagram
Brett believes that no career is worth your time and effort if it doesn’t make you happy.

Just ripped me to shreds in front of everybody. Like, “Why didn’t you have this? Why didn’t you go to somebody else!?” And, I’m like, “Guy, like this is our partner. I’d have to go and start a new relationship to find someone.” He continued, “We know what their cost is. We know what the quality is. Like, it’s not my problem that they’re out of the office.”

So we finished our meeting and he’s like, “Brett, I want to see you.” Along with our art director in another room. He proceeds to, again, rip me to shreds and says, “I’ll give your job to someone else. Brett, your head is supposed to be in the game. What are you doing?” Blah, blah, blah. So then he leaves and it’s just me and the art director.

I’m like, he should have had my back! And he’s basically like, “Brett, you know…” at this point in time, the word got around that I was designing shoes in my free time. And, um, he alluded, “Your head doesn’t seem to be in the game.” He continued, “I want people that go home and make more 3d environments. I don’t want guys that go home and make shoes.” So what I was doing outside of work was not as serious.

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Yeah. After that conversation, I was like, I am done here. These people don’t care about my happiness. They wanted me to do everything for this company, which went absolutely nowhere. And what a great story, right? Because yes, five years later, here I am in a leadership position, a reality TV show with a giant shoe collection. It’s, it’s the biggest payback.

It’s the biggest flex! The bigger flex is Netflix too. Love that. Congratulations, man. I’m so happy for you.

Oh, no, listen, this is, this isn’t even the worst thing. So when I quit this job to get out of games to get into footwear at a Kohan up in New Hampshire, I had my exit interview with my art director and I told him I’m moving to New Hampshire. I got this job in footwear and he’s like:

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“Yeah, Brett, you know, like I’ve had some other friends throughout the years that have decided to make like some career pivots and try something new. Sometimes, Brett, it doesn’t really work out…”

*huge grin from Brett*

Any more words for our readers or people who are entering the industry?

I mean, as far as working in the industry, game developers coming out of school…  Mental and physical wellness! You know, take care of yourself and don’t give every single part of yourself to a job that you may wake to one day that goes, “Hey, sorry, but you’re no longer needed.” And yeah, as we all know in the games industry, it’s very common.

Oh, take care of yourself. Yeah.

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Written by Tanay Sharma

Articles Published: 503

Tanay wears more hats than Red Dead Redemption 2 characters. He's a musician, writer, voice-over artist and adores interactive media. His favourite games are the ones with memorable stories and characters. He's pursuing a master's degree in Behavioural Sciences. No, he won't read your mind.