Stijn is probably the most well-dressed guy in the office, but looks can be deceiving, since his taste for fine clothing originated from playing too much Leisure Suit Larry.
So you grew up with Larry as a role model?
Yeah, he is a one of those characters you love to hate. I loved playing the Sierra and Lucas Arts adventure games. I had my dictionary on my lap and learned English at an early age. Of course, part of the vocabulary I learned while playing the Larry games was less useful until much later in my life. I blame my mother though as she never allowed me to have a NES as a kid.
What attracted you to adventure games?
In an industry that was still very much in its infancy, the adventure games of the time were very rich products. They had interesting characters and storylines, great writing and were often punishingly difficult. In some sense, their steep difficulty curve and the unavailability of internet walkthroughs made them social games: I remember vivid discussions with friends on how to solve puzzles that we were all stuck on.
Never wanted to play with Mario instead of Larry?
Well, sometimes I wish I had had the chance to experience more of the console classics of that era. As it turned out, I have always been more of a PC gamer. Besides adventure games, I enjoyed turn-based, strategy games a lot. Games like X-com, Jagged Alliance, and the first Civilization had a huge impact on me. Maybe those games awakened the producer in me by tapping in on my inner need to crunch numbers and streamline processes.
Was it then that you decided that you wanted to work in the game industry?
No, to be honest, at that time, working at a game studio felt very much outside of the realm of possibilities for me so I never really gave it much thought. After I finished my study, I started working as a strategy consultant.
But, how did you become a producer than?
There was a job posting for a Junior Producer for a serious game project for a financial company. I checked Wikipedia to find out what a producer actually does, and I discovered that most of the required skills were close to the skills I developed as a consultant. I took the plunge and applied for the job. In the end, my gaming background and my skillset proved to be enough to land me the job.
How did you end up at Vanguard Games?
After having worked on social games and browser-based MMOs, I started looking for a new challenge in the Dutch game industry. I had discovered that I really enjoyed enabling creative people to create the best possible game experiences, and I wanted to build upon that. Vanguard Games had a job opening for a technical project manager and the company’s mission to create the next generation of social game experiences felt like something I could really sink my teeth in.
Are you living the dream now?
Absolutely! I very much enjoy the people I am working with and I love the different projects that currently are in production. The thing that I love most though is the fact that I still have so much room to develop myself. Some of the newer games out there are real eye openers for me.
Can you give an example of such a game?
I recently started playing Skyrim, and I am completely in awe of both the game as an entertainment product and the game as a production. From the perspective of a producer, it is almost impossible to wrap my head around the amount of planning and management that went into creating this beast of a game.
So do you feel that every game project needs a producer?
I wish! I recently played To the Moon, an indie adventure made by a very small team. It was probably one of the strongest emotional experiences I have had with a game. For me in the end, it is not all about big budgets and process management; it is about enabling people to do what they do best.