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Beginning his career at id Software as a level designer for Doom II and Quake, American McGee moved to electronic arts in 1998 where he made his mark on the game world with Alice, his gothic adaptation of the classic fairy tale. Currently based out of China, American is heavily involved in Vykarian, a company which seeks to provide outsourced art and production elements to game companies. His latest designed title, American McGee Presents: Bad Day L.A., ships this month.
American took some time to speak with Gamasutra about his latest projects, the ups and downs of living and working abroad, the necessity of outsourcing game development, and the future of his franchises.
GS: Do you feel your unique name makes it easier to brand games? Do you thank your parents for that?
AM: Certainly it helps in branding the games. With today's game market, building proper awareness is as important as building a good game. The concept of pre-sold awareness is why game publishers are so attracted to film licenses and sequels. For what it's worth, my name seems to be useful in attracting a certain audience. Same thing happens with creators in the film, television, and music industries.
When I was a kid I used to be really embarrassed about my name. I would ask my mother to call me by my middle name, James, when out in public. The only problem was that I never responded to it. These days I am very thankful to my mom for not only my name but for giving me such an interesting upbringing in general.
GS: What do you think "American McGee Presents:" in front of a game title means in the minds of gamers?
AM: That depends on the gamer. I've seen positive and negative responses. For the "fans," I think they have come to expect something a little different from the mainstream. That's my hope anyway. For the detractors, I get the sense they feel I haven't earned the name-above-the-title right. In either case, it does seem that it brings some awareness, and all PR, good or bad, is a good thing.
GS: Do you feel that making the shift from "darker" games to present Bad Day L.A. will be well-received by the game's audience? In that vein, do you feel that you've been "typecast" as a game developer?
AM: Always tough to tell how an audience will respond. The audience attracted to BDLA is different from the one that was drawn to Alice. And, even different from the people who enjoyed Scrapland. But the fans of those titles are still out there. They may not be as interested in something like BDLA, but they seem to understand that it represents a similar attempt at trying something new. If anything, I probably typecast myself, because when all is said and done I really love dark fairy tales.