Eileen Hollinger is a video game developer, producer and teacher whose background spans video production, urban school reform and software development. After earning her master's degree in computer science at the University of Chicago, she spent two years at Riot Games producing events and special projects. She went on to be Lead Producer at Funomena on the video games Wattam and Terra. She is fascinated by the intersection of games, learning and empathy, and is committed to supporting the efforts of experimental and independent game makers. She has served as a curator and organizer for IndieCade, the Game Design Workshop and Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC, and worked closely with Feminist Frequency. She began teaching Game Production at Pratt Institute this fall in their new Game Design and Interactive Media program.
TELL US WHAT IS EXCITING ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND WORK RIGHT NOW. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU?
After having spent much of my career in the game industry working at game studios, I’m now independent and focusing more on personal work, teaching, and learning. My partner Jon McElroy and I are conducting some fun experiments in documentary video games and other little projects, mostly cat-related, and crafting a vision for our collaboration.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS AN ARTIST? WHY?
I think I would enjoy any job where curiosity is at the core. Working as a game developer is fun because there are so many unsolved problems, so many questions that haven’t even been asked yet.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU CHOSE THIS CAREER PATH.
I was doing documentary work in Chicago public schools and had an amazing mentor who was making video games that used lyrics from popular songs to teach literacy in underserved communities. I’d played video games since childhood but never considered game development as a path until I began to contemplate a union of my penchant for social justice work with the learning potential of games. It’s been a windy path and I’m still trying to figure it out, but these ideas are still at the core of my fascination with games.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAILY PROFESSIONAL ROUTINE.
Oh I should develop one of those, I would probably be much more productive! On a good day I try to incorporate some form of exercise, some kind of learning, space for reflection and daydreaming, and consumption of something that inspires me. The reality is frequently my work gets derailed by a cat sitting on my laptop and then I procrastinate until the late hours. I do love that teaching serves to catalyze my personal work, as I reflect on familiar concepts in new ways or prompting me to learn entirely new things.
(IndieCade festival in Los Angeles)
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE ART WORLD AND WHERE DO YOU THINK IT’S HEADING?
Games are becoming accessible enough to create that there’s an amazing range of work with a strong sense of personal style or embedded worldview. I think a lot of makers are really aspiring to push the boundaries of gameplay and aesthetics. I just backed an experimental food art game called NOUR on Kickstarter that looks joyful, colorful and entirely unique. I love that there is space on consoles now for a game like Kentucky Route Zero that is both personal and exuding style. I’m excited to see more games incorporating politics and activism such as Akira Thompson’s &maybetheywontkillyou. And I’m always eager to see what Jenny Jiao Hsia will make next. My hope is that going forward the game world can continue to grow more inclusive to reflect a broader range of perspectives and narratives.
COULD YOU GIVE ANY ADVICE TO YOUNG ASPIRING ARTISTS?
Look for inspiration everywhere, fail fast and iterate often, stay curious.