1. Hello, who are you and what are you known for?
My name is Renee Ya. I’ve been in the video game industry for over 17 years. I started off doing Step Data creation for Dance Dance Revolution when I worked at Konami. I am not a Product Manager at Razer.
2. What initially attracted you to the industry, and how did you break into the games industry?
I’ve always been a gamer ever since I was a child but it wasn’t until I got into college, when I was 15-years-old, did I really get into the community. I participated in local arcade competitions for Dance Dance Revolution, doing freestyle choreography and perfect-attack tournaments. I wasn’t very good but I made a lot of friends along the way. One of those friends turned out to be the Lead QA Tester and Step Data Creator at Konami USA (Redwood City, CA) and invited me to interview for a position on the team. That’s how I got my big break! I haven’t looked back since. I was able to finish my undergrad at 17-years-old and joined Konami when I turned 18.
3. In this notoriously turbulent industry, what qualities do you feel helped you navigate your career path?
As a Product Manager, I help make business needs actionable features in our apps and services for customers and make customers into evangelists for our company. Each company handles Product Management differently but I really enjoy being our customer’s advocate for a better experience for data-informed decisions that balance the company’s KPIs (key performance indicators) with a great user experience, whatever the product may be.
Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, a game Renee Ya worked on during her time at MZ. As of November 2018, the game has grossed more than $485 million worldwide. As of January 2019, total downloads reached 51 million and the game has grossed more than $518 million in revenue.
4. For those learning about our industry or interested in your role can you explain your job title, its function and what impact do you have in game titles?
My favorite part of the job is being able to work with the different team members to accomplish a goal. I often times will work cross-departmental, even with outside vendors and third-party developers, to integrate fun and engaging features that enhance the gaming experience for our customers.
5. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Two things. First, I love that it is my job to help people. This presents itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes it means mentoring a less experience producer and helping them grow personally and professionally. Other times, it involves chasing down complex issues and facilitating nuanced collaborative problem solving. Second, I’m a highly analytical person. I intellectualize most of my life and what I encounter. Production is a role where I get to do that as part of the job. There’s something oddly satisfying about distilling a complex problem down into an elegant solution that can be explained simply and quickly. That continued need for problem solving and solution finding is one of the best parts of the gig.
6. Where do you work? Can you explain more about the studio, it’s culture, size, strengths and why you chose to work there?
Currently, I work remotely with our offices distributed globally in over 17+ different countries. Our original headquarters used to be in San Francisco but has since moved to Singapore. And while many other locations do work from the office, the pandemic has pushed all companies to think about a more accessible approach to work. Our company’s motto is “For gamers. By gamers.” and it’s true! With stipends to purchase games, it’s important we play games to understand our audience. We have over 1k employees globally distributed and I truly believe in our green initiatives that help with conservation and climate change.
Razer, Inc. is a lifestyle brand for gamers. The firm has designed and built the world’s largest gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services. The company’s hardware includes high-performance gaming peripherals and Blade gaming laptops.
7. How has COVID after your career, studio and what lasting changes both good and bad do you feel COVID has brought to the games industry?
COVID really helped companies see that we can work well with team members from different countries, different cultures, and still feel inspired to create products that are globally accessible. We saw an uptick in gaming because of our desire to still be connected to people even if they are half a globe away.
8. What shall I be doing right now to improve my career prospects?
Regardless of whether you are just starting your career or have been at the same place for a decade, there are two critically essential things to ensure you are able to take advantage of opportunities. First and foremost, do everything you can to constantly learn and grow and master your chosen craft. This industry is highly competitive. There’s a wealth of talent and a limited pool of available opportunities. Being at the top of your game will help ensure you’re ready to seize those opportunities as they arise. Second, work to expand your network. There’s a lot of opinions on networking, but I personally feel that networking is a formal term for making friends. Build relationships with people who share your professional interests. You’d be surprised at the ways in which those friendships will pay off over the years. They may help you find someone for a role you’re looking to fill. They may be someone to whom you can have honest and vulnerable conversations when you’re struggling professionally. They may even refer you to a position one day. The goal should just be to build a relationship though, not to focus on what they can give you.
9. Is there a quote that motivates you?
“Leave the world better than when you found it.”
10. Can you share your thoughts about the next 5 years outlook for games?
11. What advice would you give your younger self when looking at the games industry?
I would have told myself to “Show your work more often.” I’m able to think linearly, non-linearly, and divergently. When I jump ahead, I have found that I need to explain how I got there so everyone else can keep up with my thought process. When I have failed to do so, it has caused frustration and confusion for my peers.