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#MEETIRONGALAXY - William Oliver, Software Engineer

02/16/2023   •   Written By Thomas Braaksma

Video games don’t make themselves. It takes people. That’s one of our core values at Iron Galaxy.

In this interview series, you will meet a variety of people who work with us. But not everyone is always a seasoned vet in the industry. Some of us have just dipped our toes in the industry, like the individual we’re speaking to today. Meet William Oliver. He started with us in November 2022. Let’s learn about his journey to the world of game development.

Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here?

William Oliver: I’ve been a professional software developer for around 7 years, or an unprofessional one, depending on who you ask. I am currently helping on a port project that I can’t talk about. However, this is my first job in the video game industry, so mostly what I do here at Iron Galaxy is learn new things and ask questions, with a little bit of programming on the side.

IG: Professional... Unprofessional... Who’s to say what counts as what? On your very professional new career in gaming, what do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job?

WO: Communicating with people is much harder than communicating with computers. Figuring out the best way to convey complicated information efficiently to those with a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets is probably the hardest part of a programmer’s job.

IG: I can see that being challenging, almost adding a level of teaching complicated information to your role. Have any skills from your youth helped you tackle your role here?

WO: It was the year 2000. I was a wayward kindergartner, bent on getting the see-through Gameboy Color with Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. My parents offered to give me an allowance to save up for it, but I had a choice. I could either receive $5 every week, or if I was so inclined, I could choose to receive a penny every day, but the amount would double every week. My dad assured me that the second option was way better, but I was pretty smart, I might have fallen for that when I was 4 years old, but I was 5 now; so of course, I chose the $5 every week. The second option would have left me with over $200 trillion dollars at the end of the first year, which — if my 5-year-old math was correct, would have allowed me to buy at least 3 Gameboy Colors. I never underestimated the importance of mathematics again.

IG: Glad you were able to pick that lesson up at an early age. A 5-year-old’s mathematics would probably not translate well in programming. In your short time with us at Iron Galaxy what is your proudest moment so far?

WO: Probably when one of the Project Leads at the company asked to use some of my code review comments as an example for some of the Iron Galaxy interns. Also being asked to do this interview!

IG: And thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. We started awfully close to the same time so I thought it would be great to hear about your experience! How do you feel your role compares to the others in the company?

WO: I will speak to software development in general. Programmers have a great many ways to objectively measure our work. If your program calculates 2 + 2 and it outputs 5, then you’ve definitely messed up somewhere. On the other hand, designers, artists, and leaders have to deal with making hard decisions that they know may be perceived badly by others, without having an objective measure of the quality of those decisions. In other words, not only do they have to be smart, but they have to be brave as well. And I think being brave is much harder than being smart.

IG: That is so elegantly put and a very complimentary way of speaking of your coworkers' roles. Being brave also leads to my next question. You need to be brave to follow your dreams of working in gaming. If you could give someone who wanted to follow in your career footsteps one piece of advice, what would it be?

WO: I will give three pieces of advice because I think any one of these is bad advice without the others:

  1. Always try to be compassionate towards others. More explicitly: Always try to understand where other people are coming from. Think deeply about whether your perception of other people is accurate.
  2. Always try to be compassionate towards yourself. More explicitly: Always try to understand where you are coming from. Think deeply about whether your perception of yourself is accurate.
  3. Always try to be curious and imaginative. More explicitly: Always try to understand the world. And think deeply about whether your perception of history and of certain ideas, fields, ideologies, or belief systems is accurate.

I believe these three principles got me pretty far, combined with a great deal of good luck.

IG: Advice to live by! Working with people with a mindset like yours is one of the best things about working for this company. What is your favorite thing about working in video game development?

WO: By far, the best thing about Iron Galaxy is the people I have met. I am a very socially anxious and awkward person. It’s nice to feel as though I would be happy being close friends with everyone I’ve met.

IG: It really is a space where you can be yourself and not worry about judgment. That seems like the ultimate perk. What is your favorite perk associated with your job?

WO: Unlimited Pringles. Oh, and the mental health days and health insurance are nice too.

But seriously, it is not exactly a ‘perk,’ but the operations team here is top notch and they deserve a shout-out. Imagine, if you will, a genie who knows whenever you are mildly annoyed by something. Maybe it’s a soap dispenser that just never works, or not being able to get the equipment you need to do your job, or the lights being too bright or too dim, or that annoying slit in the bathroom stall that is just slightly too big for comfort, or maybe you are just mildly hungry. Before you even have the chance to bring it up, the genie somehow knows you are mildly annoyed and fixes the issue. This is what the Operations Team at IG is like, except, of course, it’s not a genie, it’s a few dedicated people working really hard. These sorts of issues are just non-existent here. I have never seen a team like this be so responsive and on top of things.

IG: Could not agree more. We are interviewing some of Ops later this year so keep an eye out for that! Besides the magic genie that is Ops, how collaborative are you with different teams across Iron Galaxy?

WO: Every day at lunch, I sit down with people from teams all over the company. Everyone from programmers, to QA, designers, artists, HR, operations, and even sometimes the CEOs of the company. It's really cool hearing about the wide variety of things people do here.

IG: Getting to hear what people are working on at lunch is great, or just chatting about all your common interests. William you are making this interview almost way too easy. It’s like talking into a mirror. What is the most rewarding aspect of creating things that other people experience?

WO: I am still new enough that I have not been on a project that has shipped yet. However, I am looking forward to seeing others enjoy the project I am on. All I can say is the project is one of my favorite games, so I am excited to see people play it.

IG: The anticipation of waiting to see how something you’ve helped build will be received can be rewarding in itself. What is the best impact you’ve ever seen a video game have on someone’s life?

WO: Someone in my family was really into Wii-fit.

IG: Health is wealth! Speaking of family, where is your hometown?

WO: I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. So, think of me like Jason Mendoza.

IG: Well Mr. Mendoza, besides playing video games, what is a favorite hobby of yours?

WO: I have a lot of hobbies, but I think the one I spend the most time on these days is playing guitar. I also study a lot of mathematics in my spare time - it doesn’t make for the best conversation at parties though, or anywhere else for that matter.

IG: Musically and mathematically inclined, nice! I think you could find some people at an Iron Galaxy event that might want to talk about some mathematics. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

WO: Sushi!

IG: Straight to the point. Love it! What game have you spent the most time playing?

WO: It would probably have to be Super Smash Bros. Melee since I played that continuously for about 11-12 years. It appears I also have 205 hours logged in RumbleVerse, and 500+ hours in Table Top Simulator, playing mostly Magic: The Gathering.

IG: You’re definitely at the right company for a love of fighting games, and I know we have a lot of Magic fans as well! What about movies? Which have you seen the most?

WO: It’s probably between Princess Mononoke and Ratatouille at this point. “Why Ratatouille?" I hear you asking. Great question, dear reader. I have asked myself the same question many times. Probably because Remy is basically a minority with ASD, just like me!

IG: I don’t even need to lead into follow-up questions, you’ve got great ones on deck! Both great films and relatability to a character can definitely lead to numerous replays. What has been your favorite series binge?

WO: Avatar: The Last Airbender is near the top of my list. More recently, Our Flag Means Death was also a very good pirate show.

IG: Our Flag’s cast is fantastic and everything Taika touches seem to turn to gold! On the other end of the spectrum, what was your favorite movie that bombed?

WO: Hands down, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Does It deserve a 48% on rotten tomatoes? Yes. Does it have one of the most unlikable protagonists since the 1989 Legend of Zelda animated series? Also, yes. But, and here is the catch, is its plot amazing? No, it’s terrible.

IG: That movie had high expectations to reach. At least it turned out to be a great bad movie. What is the one superpower that you would like to have?

WO: The ability to travel through space faster than light. I’d love to see what other planets are like and if there is other life in the galaxy. Plus, you potentially get time travel as a bonus.

IG: Smart choice, if you stumble upon time travel, please do not touch anything! Along the same lines, if you could have one wish, and I am not talking Ops magic genie wishes, what would that wish be?

WO: Any wish? My wish would be to know how that's possible. The implications on the nature of reality are staggering. World peace would be nice too.

IG: That is signally the most well thought out answer to that question. Now let's just sit here and let the reader rattle that in their brain for a while. We touched on time travel connected with superhuman abilities. What if you had a good ole time machine, which historical period would you like to experience first-hand?

WO: Probably some point in pre-history. I’d like to see how the earliest humans lived, and how they viewed the world. Humans are around 200,000 years old, while civilization is only around 6,000 years old. I’d like to know what we were doing for the other 194,000 years.

IG: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you invite?

WO: Probably either Hayao Miyazaki (my favorite artist) or Roger Penrose (my favorite mathematician).

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, William. I’m glad to see your experience so far in the gaming industry has been so pleasant. Thanks for giving such well thought out answers as well. I know I am going to look back on this and contemplate some of them myself! Thanks for sharing and it was great learning more about you and hearing your insight into the industry.

Find yourself trying to break into the gaming industry like William here? Register for our recruiting event next week, “Press Start on Your Career in Games: Black History Month Edition” right here. Our Black@IGS Employee Research Group will lead a free session on how to start your career in games.

Or if you find yourself interested in applying to IG. Our Recruitment Team is hard at work evaluating applications submitted on our Careers page. See a good fit? Apply!