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Breaking In - Anastasia Mercer

We talk a lot about the exploration that will happen in the world of Destiny. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a story to tell. Each Guardian will be invited to embark on an epic adventure, filled with mystery and action. To make sure that experience lives up to your expectations, we hired this nice lady to work with the team that makes the integrity of the story their personal responsibility.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Tex:  Oh hai! I’m Anastasia Tex Mercer, but most just call me Tex. I am a Story Mission tester here at Bungie, and I am amongst an elite team of five people that test story design. 

The story for Destiny is something that we’re keeping under pretty tight wraps. Go ahead and assure our readers that our game has a fantastic yarn to spin between all those public events.

Tex:  One of the most important elements of any game of this size is the storyline. I’m here to test these missions to help make sure each and every Guardian out there gets only the best story experience that Bungie can give. 

We wouldn’t settle for anything less. Tell us what you’re doing when you’re not here in our happy home helping us to craft our epic adventures.

Tex:  I’ve always been a gaming nerd at heart. One of my first and fondest memories I remember as a child was when I was playing The Legend of Zelda during a typical California earthquake. My mother and sister scrambled to a doorway hollering at me to follow, while I responded with, “Hold on, Mom, I have to save first!” Family time for me meant a round of Super Mario World on SNES with my mom, dad, and older sister. I can also proudly say that I remember every Final Fantasy release, with FF2 on the SNES holding the biggest place in my heart, of course.

Currently, aside from spending a ridiculous amount of time playing multiplayer on first and third-person shooters with my Turtle Beaches, I find myself interested an array of things: riding superbikes, rebuilding import cars, cooking and baking ridiculous things (ask my coworkers, I’m making them all fat with my cookie experiments), designing jewelry, snowboarding, spending an obscene amount of money on tattoos and beer, and idolizing Boba Fett.

Boba Fett? Where? Did you dream of being a Bounty Hunter when you grew up?

Tex:  When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Somewhere around the age of 18, I realized that I’d be paying for college for the rest of my life. While I do have love for most animals, I realized that seeing pets come and go on a daily basis would be too much for my heart to handle. So, I had an epiphany; I’ve been dedicating an obscene amount of time playing video games, why not make money while playing them, too? I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and it’s been quite a journey, but here I am at Bungie, where I aspired to end up.

Let’s retrace your steps on that journey, starting with your education. Is there a way to learn how to make video games in college?

Tex:  I’ve attended a small handful of colleges, starting with community college in northern CA and ending with a degree from Full Sail University in 3D Environment Art. The most common question I get asked is, “Why aren’t you using your degree?” Well, at Bungie, I am. I may not be making the art, but understanding the elements, pipeline, and tools used during game development is just as important as making the art itself. Sure, my path didn’t lead me in the direction I originally went to school for, but I ended up in the chair I ultimately wanted to be in.
Thanks for dispelling the myth that testers at Bungie just play the game. Where were you able to build the skillset for problem solving that you’d need to work here?

Tex:  After graduating college and having nothing in my pockets except my dream to be in the gaming industry, I moved to Seattle after extensive research about the best industry location. For about six months, I worked at a local company making retail ads for the big LED screens in Times Square. When that didn’t hold my attention, I answered a craigslist ad to work as a tester for Nintendo. Since I already understood the art aspect of the development pipeline, it was time to learn the basics of the debug pipeline. After 5.5 years there, I submitted my resume on a whim to Bungie, hoping I had what it took to become a part of the team. Two intense interviews later and here I am.

We get a lot of resumes on a whim. What do you think made yours stand out?

Tex:  My resume reeked of things outside of the typical tester state of mind: trade shows, travelling, meetings with CEO’s about ideas for the company. My desire to learn more and gain more experience is what I feel really made me stand out.

And your prize was those two intense interviews. What was the hardest part of that test?

Tex:  Two and a half hours of talking until my lungs had no air left. Those moments where I thought I covered everything, but the awkward silences pushed me to think more critically and come up with more ideas on the spot. You really learn to think on your toes, really fast.

Think fast about this: What’s the best thing about working here?

Tex:  This is a family. It isn’t like any other studio I’ve experienced where you come to work at your 9-5 job and go home to forget what you’ve done for the day. Everybody here truly wants to be here and embraces the ideas, creativity, and hard work each and every one of us contributes. I look forward to coming to work every morning and am actually kinda sad when I leave.

You make it sound like paradise, but there are challenges to overcome here. What’s the hardest part about being on this team?

Tex:  I have to say it’s to be amongst the ranks of the best. That means I have to be one the best or they’ll find another eager developer who will warm my chair. This job has pushed me harder than any before, and I feel I’ve become a better person because of it.

Do you have a favorite achievement to boast about?

Tex:  Pretty simple for me: E3. I spent a lot of time helping out with that build, both with testing and meetings. At that time, I was very new to Bungie and it was the biggest opportunity I’ve ever been given. The moment when we gathered in the studio to watch the Sony press conference was one of the most exciting moments for me; watching our work up on the big screen and seeing the excitement of the fans gave me Goosebumps and made every moment spent worthwhile. Bungie made a lot of people happy that day.

We’re just getting warmed up here. To keep people happy, we’ll need to always get better and better at what we do. What’s your plan to keep up with us?

Tex:  I set out to learn something new every day. I constantly ask questions and drive people insane to make myself more valuable to the company and more valuable at my job.

Picture in your mind the new generation of gamers, playing games, dodging earthquakes, and dreaming of a career like yours. What would you tell them?

Tex:  Never. Give. Up. 

It’s one of the most difficult industries to break through. I’ve hit moments where I felt like I’d never break into the industry. I’ve sent out countless resumes and filled out hundreds of applications with no response. I’ve met failure before. Let me let you in on a little secret: when I first started in the industry nearly 7 years ago, I applied to Bungie before and never got that call back. I was determined, expanded my skillset, achieved new goals, and continued to feed my desire to learn more, and I was eventually gifted the opportunity to shine here at Bungie.

Each and every one of you has what it takes to get to where you want to be, and only you can hold yourself back. Fail? Keep trying, work hard, but never give up.

Someday, the story you’re testing will escape into the wild to run free. When you imagine that day, what do you look forward to the most?

Tex:  Very simple: the community. Bungie has always had the best, most devoted community of any game developer in the country. I cannot wait to see the sparkle in the eyes of each and every Guardian the moment they first step foot in the world of Destiny.

The rest of the story will have to wait until later. There are riddles to be solved in Destiny, and we’re saving them for you. As for the riddle for how to embark on a career making games? It has many correct answers. You’ll find many of them documented in our Breaking In archive.
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