How To Become: Graeme Boyd

How to Become is back and this time we are speaking to Graeme Boyd, who just happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is very knowledgeable, funny and I consider him to be a good friend. There is no doubt that whenever he talks people can’t help but listen, so let’s hear what he has to say.

Name: Graeme Boyd

Age: 29

Birthplace: Aberdeen, Scotland

College/University Attended: University of Aberdeen, Kenyon College Ohio (exchange placement), Napier University

Background Information: Graeme Boyd (also known as AceyBongos) is best known as the Community Manager for Xbox EMEA, however in the past he has also worked as online editor for OXM UK and News Editor for CVG, so he is a man in the know. Graeme’s GamerScore currently sits at 28,738, not too shabby. Finally he is an Aberdeen fan, well we can’t all be perfect I suppose ;).

Hi Graeme, can you tell us how did you get your first break in the industry?

I think I was pretty lucky actually. I had finished a degree in English and Film Studies at Aberdeen Uni and had absolutely no idea what to do with myself, so I went and did a postgrad degree in Journalism at Napier Uni in Edinburgh. During that year I realised I didn’t fancy chasing fire engines or door-stepping people who’ve had bad news, so I figured that if I was going to write about something it might as well be something I loved – videogames!

I applied for a staff writer job on Computer & Video Games magazine (I saw the ad in the mag and had to write a 500 word review along with my application – I think I gave Midnight Club 2 an 8 out of 10!) just to get my CV together really, and before I knew it they had offered me the job! Within three days of finishing uni I was moving down to London to start the job, and I still had my dissertation to finish!

How did you end up at Xbox? Is there a funny story behind this or did you just fill in the application form and apply?

Unfortunately I don’t think it’s a very funny story – but I suppose it’s more interesting than just filling the form in! I was working on the Official Xbox Magazine as their website editor before I got the Xbox job, and I was lucky enough to be invited out to the Navajo Desert for the launch of the Xbox 360 in November 2005.

It was a pretty weird event – I was more jetlagged than I’ve ever been in my life and we were in these weird big hangers full of Xbox 360s out in the middle of the desert, so it was pretty surreal. Anyway, during that time I got to meet and spend lots of time with the Xbox team so when the job came up I thought I’d give it a go. They obviously thought I was alright even when I was spaced out in the desert…

How much has your job at Xbox evolved since you started in your role?

It feels like it changes every day! When it started I was looking after community sites and doing a bit of work on and the forums, but as the Xbox community has grown I’m now much more involved in campaigns for new game launches, Xbox LIVE stuff and other things I’m not really meant to talk about…

I’ve also had some pretty cool experiences in the 4 years I’ve been here, like launching Inside Xbox in the UK, doing lots of stuff in front of camera, interviewing rock and roll royalty, driving S4 Audis around the Nurburgring F1 circuit, hiding Gears of War COG Tags around London and helping organize big Xbox LIVE events like Xtival. I’ve also had to dress up as my hair metal alter-ego Jimmi Spandexx and rock some Bon Jovi on Guitar Hero and Rock Band quite a few times…

But even with all that change the root of the job has stayed the same – to stay grounded in the Xbox community and represent their interests and thoughts and opinions to the wider team. I also get to talk every day to people who love Xbox and know more about it than anyone else – the Xbox community. That’s the bit I enjoy the most!

What do you feel that Project Natal will bring to the World of gaming? Are you looking forward to its release?

Can’t wait! To be honest, I don’t really know what it’s going to bring – I think that’s the really exciting thing about it. I’ve been lucky enough to try a couple of games on it and it genuinely is a magic moment – your jaw just hits the floor. We can all picture what it’s like to drive a car using it, or swing a golf club, or use your hands to bat balls. But I reckon there will be some stuff that no-one has thought of yet or will be expecting that’ll really blow our minds…

How do you feel about the opposition? Do you own a PS3 or a Nintendo Wii?

I think I have a Wii somewhere – I bought one at launch but it just didn’t get played after the initial novelty wore off. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s great, just that it’s not for me. I don’t have a PS3 for the same reason, it just never had any games that I really wanted to play that I couldn’t get on Xbox. Recently it’s picked up and I would like to try Uncharted 2, Heavy Rain and God of War III, but not enough to buy one.

Plus I’m a bit of an Achievement fan and even though my addiction has calmed down a bit recently I still find the idea of playing a game and not getting GamerPoints sort of weird now…

Are there any particular games that you are really looking forward to this year?

I was incredibly excited about Mass Effect 2 and I’m still ploughing through that. It’s so big and so smart – it just feels like so much thought has gone into every part of it, from the gameplay itself to the storytelling to the characters to the whole universe. Love it. Apart from that I’m really excited about Alan Wake, which I think will be a properly compelling experience, and Crackdown 2 because I totally loved the first game. If I’m honest (and I probably shouldn’t say this) I’m not a massive Halo fan, so even though I’m not going crazy for Halo Reach I am looking forward to seeing how Bungie moves the series forward.

In fact, the more I think about it the more I realize how behind I am with my games. Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Borderlands, Forza, Left 4 Dead 2, Dragon Age… I’ve got so much to catch up on. Can we hold all the new games until I’m ready please?

If you could only take three items to a desert island what would they be?

That’s really tough. I guess it’s pointless taking anything electrical so I’ll take my favourite book of all time, The Dirt by Motley Crue. It’s got enough funny stories and daft heavy metal excess in it to keep me entertained for years, plus the music drips off the pages. Then I’d take a football so I can keep active and finally learn how to beat my personal best of 15 keepie-ups. Plus, if I go a bit mental I can draw a face on it and pretend it’s my best mate like Tom Hanks in Castaway. And since I’ve taken the football I better take a pump to keep it inflated!

We know you are a big football fan, so who will you be supporting at this year’s World Cup?

Ah! I’ve already thought this one through actually. My official team for 2010 is New Zealand. I’ve got their shirt and everything! Few reasons: Apparently New Zealand is the place in the world most like Scotland (which essentially means it has lots of mountains and sheep). Also, lots of Scottish people settled in New Zealand so it must be alright. Then, the New Zealanders like a drink so the Kiwi pub in London will be a good party when they have matches on. And finally, they are going to get absolutely gubbed by everyone so it will just be like watching Scotland. Sorted.

Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

I would like to say thanks so much to the Xbox community for being such a great bunch of people to work with. Seriously! You really do make Xbox what it is, so please continue to tell us what you like, what you don’t like, when you are happy and when you’re not so chuffed. That’s the only way we can get better.

And since lots of people ask me on my Twitter page (@AceyBongos) how to get a job in the games industry, I should probably mention that there’s no easy way to do it. First of all, work hard – as with everything in life it helps if you have good qualifications and are energetic, enthusiastic and motivated to do well. Then, make sure you know what you want to do. There are hundreds of jobs in the games industry – do you want to be a programmer, an artist, a journalist, in marketing? Pick your path and do what you need to do to get skills and qualifications to help you. Then keep an eye out for jobs and apply to everything!

Thanks for your time Graeme. :D

Thank you!