Meeting Jennie Gritton is enlightening. Within minutes of initial conversations about her career, one can be certain that she obviously knows her “stuff” well. Jennie is a software engineer for one of the largest video game companies in the world – Electronic Arts (EA). Named “Rookie of the Year” during her first year at EA in 2007, Jennie has been instrumental in the development of Madden NFL 08-12, NCAA Football 08-10, Dead Space 3, Battlefield Hardline, and is now in the process of developing a Star Wars game.Preparing for her gaming career at age 14 proved to be a challenge since her high school did not offer any programming classes and she had no computer at home. “It wasn’t until I graduated high school, bought a computer with a loan and went on to Chattanooga State that I was first introduced to programming and Web development,” recalls Jennie.
A Chattanooga native, Jennie graduated with an Associate of Science degree from Chattanooga State in 2001, then spent the next four years at UTC earning her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science before moving to Florida for her Master’s degree from the University of Central Florida. Jennie served as lead programmer for the graduate project, Opera Singer. “Opera Singer was a 2007 Student Showcase winner at the Independent Games Festival held at the Game Developers Conference. In addition, it has been showcased across the globe including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image,” states Jennie.
As an established game developer with 10 years of experience at EA, Jennie still gets very excited about new technology, especially with VR (Virtual Reality) emerging into gaming. She also has advice for gaming wannabes, “The gaming industry is notoriously hard to break into. It’s expected that applicants have a general understanding of the game development process and strong 3D math skills,” explains Jennie. Many opportunities that are available now weren’t really available to Jennie in the late 90s, including commercial 3D game engines that are downloadable for free such as Unreal.
If she was starting over, Jennie said she would make begin making a variety of different types of games on both PC and mobile in her free time. “The games don’t need to be complex or even polished, but each iteration would carry with it lessons learned from the previous. Being able to articulate these experiences would serve a new graduate well,” she shares. In addition, future game developers can begin creating libraries, which are shared across many of the student’s games, to show that the applicant has an understanding of what is involved in creating extensible tech/tools. “As a bonus, anyone can self-publish their games on platforms like Steam or the app store which can result in a some revenue to pay for all those classes,” she adds with a wink.
Jennie enjoys working and collaborating with others from around the globe in her job. She says it is not unusual for up to 400 people to work on a game, but on an average, 150 people work together to create one game. The time it takes to create the game depends on its intricacies, so it can take 2-4 years to develop it. Despite it being a fun industry with “hard problems and sometimes stressful long hours to meet deadlines,” Jennie says she still can’t get over the overwhelming satisfaction that comes from being a part of a game that millions of people enjoy … being able to say ‘I was part of that’ is her reward.
For more information about programs in the IT (Information Technology) field, visit https://www.chattanoogastate.edu/engineering-information-technologies.