We recently talked with Arnie Jorgensen, Co-Owner and Creative Director at Stoic, about working in video games and what keeps him motivated.
How did you get your start in the game industry? What led you to this career?
I was working in the comics industry (penciling Justice League America) when the opportunity to work at ‘Ion Storm – Dallas’ on a new comic division was offered. I jumped at the chance as I always loved video games and thought it would be cool to work on a comic that was based on a game. Within a couple months the comic division was cancelled and I stayed on as a concept artist. I’ve been doing art for games ever since.
What is your favorite part about working with the Stoic team?
We started Stoic so we could work on the games that we wanted to work on. Seven years into it we’re still doing just that. The team is smaller than the previous companies I’ve worked at and that means we can make decisions and pivot very quickly. We can cut or add huge swaths of content in a 15 minute meeting without having to get bogged down discussing it in multiple meetings with too many people. It’s the most creative atmosphere I’ve ever worked in. We do what we want to do, what else could I ask for?
What has been your proudest contribution / happiest memory / biggest accomplishment with Stoic so far?
Absolutely the biggest accomplishment of Stoic is finishing the 3rd and final game in the Banner Saga series. There were many times when completing the trilogy was in doubt. I could not be more proud of what we accomplished together with a community that supported us the whole way with both funding and well wishes.
What kind of games do you play / hobbies do you have / other activities do you do during your time off?
When not working I enjoy camping, sailing and just generally hanging out and laughing with my wife and three kids. Since I have almost no bandwidth beyond that most of my game experiences of the last couple years is watching whatever it is that my kids are playing at the time. I hope soon to find time to play Zelda- Breath of the Wild and Dark Souls.
What moment or memory from another game do you have that has always stayed with you?
The most mind shattering memories in any game for me were found in Everquest. To this day the theme song has a triggering effect somewhere deep in my brain. It was a 4 year love affair (re: addiction) with dungeon delving and corpse retrievals. I really have a tough time playing any game that isn’t hardcore on some level and I think it goes back to EQ and the risk-v-reward mechanisms in the game. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to Shenjero, Juzamm and the rest of the Phoenix Dragoons!
If you could give some advice to someone who wants to work in this industry / do what you do, what would it be?
You need to be very proficient in something that a company needs and then, when you get your break and are offered a job then you need to work really, really hard. You need to be better than the person sitting next to you and that’s not always easy. Other than that you need to be cool to work with. I would rather work with someone I like, than someone that is some amazing rock star of a game developer if they are jerks. People see their coworkers more than their families and there’s nothing worse than not enjoying being around them.
Who’s your favorite person at Stoic? Why?
I have a few favorites (you know who you are!) but John and I have worked together now for 20+ years and, even in the most high pressure situations, have never had a single argument that I can think of. I’m glad I’ve surrounded myself with people I like to work with who are better than me at what they do. I don’t have all the answers, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing the people who do and then relying on them to do the thing.
What would you be doing, if you couldn’t make video games for a living?
I’d be working in comics and doing sculptures for fun.