A Look Back at 10 Years of the Blizzard Internship Program
Ten summers ago, we opened our gates and welcomed the very first group of intrepid Blizzard interns onto our campus. Now, a decade on and hundreds of blizzterns later, we're taking time to honor the anniversary and reflect on how far we've come together. We recently gathered our entire 2018 summer class (93 strong!), their mentors, and Blizzard in-ternship alumni who are now fulltime employees to celebrate Camp Blizzard's 10th birthday with food, drinks, music, and good company.
To share more about the program, here’s Janine Tedford, manager of our University Relations team, blizztern historical tour guide, and head counselor during....
As part of our look back, we sat down with ten former-blizztern-turned-fulltime-Blizzard employees, each one representing their respective summer intern class. Settle in, grab your coffee (an intern didn’t get that for you, did they?) and dive into a decade’s worth of Camp Blizzard memories!
It wasn’t called Camp Blizzard back then; we were simply interns working at the company during the summer. That’s not to say that we all we did was just work—we did some activities together as interns, but nothing like the events that are held nowadays. As for the company, it's grown a lot over the past decade in terms of people, but in terms of culture, Blizzard is just as geeky and driven as it was back in the day.
Not really, which was great. As an intern, I was developing real content in an actual work environment and learning how to be a professional engineer. I was always treated as an equal and valued member of the team, even as an intern. When I came back to Blizzard fulltime, I picked up right where I left off. Been here ever since!
Personal projects. The number one thing that helped me stand out was that I was able to show the team all the games I had created. To me, personal projects are more important than perfect grades. The latter shows you’re good at schoolwork, but gives no insight into your passion. Yes, grades are critical to any degree, and it’s a huge benefit to be well-rounded, but when trying to stand out in a crowd full of well-rounded students, it's what else you bring to the table that can tip the scales your way. People at Blizzard come from all walks of life, and we’re united by our passion for the work we do and love for creating the most epic entertainment experiences we can as a company. Show us that you belong; demonstrate that you have the skillset to succeed, and the drive to back it up. For me, the best way to do that was though personal projects.
Honestly, you can’t get much better than Blizzard. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help. I was able to ask the people around me for assistance at any time; I could learn about what they did, and at the same time figure out what I wanted to do. Back when I was working on my degree, I was told by fellow students, “If you want to get into Blizzard you’ll have to go through a bunch of smaller companies first and then work yourself up.” And it was funny, because I remember thinking, “Oh, I’ll show you.” It really put that drive in me and made me think, “No, I know where I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be at Blizzard.” There was really no other option in my mind, so I went after it.
I had a romanticized idea that everyone at Blizzard knew exactly what they were doing because they make the best games in the world—in my opinion. The reality, of course, is that we’re all figuring it out as we go along. We trust our collective instincts and depend on great mentorship and knowledge sharing. We're human, so mistakes are going to happen. Using what you learn from mistakes and working as a team to improve, that’s the actual Blizzard magic. We have a real willingness to try things and fail at them in the pursuit of fun and quality, and I think that makes us great. Refolding and reshaping elements of different projects into something that’ll ultimately be better. Our willingness to take time to consider what we’re doing and how to learn from the mistakes we’ve made along the way is where we really shine.
I've got two. I really like 'Gameplay First.' When I'm making my art, I'm considering how it's playing more than how pretty it looks. Gameplay is my first step, and it's what we all focus on. I also really like 'Embrace Your Inner Geek' because it solidifies the culture around me. I don't have to be ashamed of the fact that I was literally just playing Pokemon Go walking over here to meet with you....
I wanted to move into a design career, and I thought the easiest way to make a big shift was to go to a company that made products I’d been playing for a long time. I’ve been playing Blizzard games forever. The internship was a great opportunity because I didn’t study design, so I could come over here and work with something I did know—which was games—and put my existing design skills to use. When Blizzard called, I just dropped everything and moved. It's funny, because I never thought I'd work in the games industry . . . I just really loved playing games and liked designing. But now, at Blizzard, I get to do both! As an intern, I met a lot of people that are still here because Blizzard’s a very stable company, which says a lot, considering it’s in a constantly changing industry.
It's challenging to get a job here, but it's worth it. In any job, it’s important to be open to feedback and listen to the expertise of your coworkers. Because of how many things we do, and the high bar for quality we set for ourselves, it can be natural for people going into a meeting or project thinking they're the smartest ones or that they’re the most senior or highest achieving. But at Blizzard, everyone is very good at what they do. When you’re in a meeting with 10 people, all 10 of them are all-stars. It’s important to understand that everyone brings something amazing to the table, and that tapping into everyone’s skills helps us make what we make.
Failing Forward. Probably Michael Cera. I feel like that's his whole shtick.
I focused on two primary things in my internship, both World of Warcraft related. One, I focused on the player leveling experience. I did analysis on where in the leveling process players were starting to get tired. That data helped game designers evaluate potential improvements to the levelling experience. The second part was clarifying and gaining alignment on some of our business analytics. We’re a central analytics organization, so it’s very important for everyone at the company to know exactly what we mean when we say that we have a new player or a lapsed account. Generally stating what it meant wasn’t enough, so I spent some time building those definitions numerically.
Extremely supportive and collaborative. We’re very unselfish, which helps because we’re trying to deal objectively with information. We don’t want our egos influencing the conclusions we’re drawing—we want people to bring all their ideas to the table and let the best logic, idea, and conclusion win. There is a degree of humility that runs through this place that I love, where everyone can always learn something new. I’m working with people who are titans in their fields, but at the same time, when I’m meeting with them, they're eager to ask questions and learn from those around them. Their confidence to continue to listen and consider as they weigh massive decisions is impressive to me. It’s a real privilege to participate in these conversations, sharing perspectives that hopefully lead to the best decisions on behalf of our players.
I keep falling back on the idea of being a producer. Okay, I’d probably be a really bad producer, so if anyone from our development teams reads this, don't hire me! But I think the idea of bringing what I can offer, such as order, analytics, or just helping get rid of roadblocks so that creativity here can flourish, sounds fun to me. Beyond Blizzard? I grew up on the east coast, so I have a soft spot for New York City. I’ve always joked that my other calling would be a tour guide. You know, dress up in those cheesy outfits, perch on top of a double-decker bus with a microphone in hand. Yeah, I’d do that! I love meeting people from all over the world.
Oh God! I was in the computer lab talking to fellow students about a piece I was working on. An email popped up with ‘StarCraft II’ in the subject, and I was like, “StarCraft? Why are they emailing me? I never signed up for StarCraft stuff….” Then I started to read: ‘This is the StarCraft team. We'd like you to do an animation test. Do you have time to talk about what the test requires?’ I wasn't really processing it because all at once it clicked, and I lost it—in the middle of a computer lab with 200 students. I still remember yelling, “I have to leave! Right! Now!” It was a blindingly crystal-clear moment because of how much it meant to me.
Two things surprised me the most. First is how much trust they put in you. Blizzard's onboarding process made sure we had a good grasp on the tools, after which I got to immediately animate some things. I got to animate a bunch of silly dances that ended up becoming a YouTube trend! People had dance competitions and they were showing off my animations! The second surprise was understanding how animation impacts how the game feels and plays. Some of the work I animated as an intern is still in Heroes of the Storm today! They weren’t like, “Cool, intern, thanks, it’s going in the trash now.” No, it’s in the game. I was doing the same work as the other animators and I felt respected as an artist. It never gets old. I got a very well-rounded view of game development. I got to go through the whole campaign and test everything. I learned how little animations can have a lot of impact, like flail animations! I got to animate ALL the flails, which, in StarCraft, it’s like when they wave their arms around because they’ve been picked up by a Phoenix and they’re in the bubble . . . and they just sit there and they’re just like ‘bleh.’ It’s such a small thing, but it makes such a huge difference.
For anyone that’s hesitant to apply—don’t be. The worst thing that can happen is you get a no, and even then you're better off for having gone through the experience. You’ve already gone through the requirements for the job and applied online. You’ve already practiced a thing. And anytime you’re practicing a thing, you’re getting better at a thing. Best advice I have is don't underestimate the value of a cover letter. As a student, I always heard, ‘Oh, you have to tailor your application per place you apply to.’ And I remember thinking, “I’m applying to 50 jobs. Do you think I’m going to write a different cover letter for 50 jobs!?” Take the time and do it. It's so important because you can tell when something has been copy/pasted for something else. Your cover letter is YOU. It's your chance to show who you are and what your personality is. It shouldn’t just be an extended version of your resume. Think about things you can’t readily show in a resume. For example, it's easy enough to say you can work independently or collaborate well, but can you provide an example of a situation demonstrating that? We can see your work from your resume and skill from your portfolio. But who are you? And what are you bringing that’s unique? Tell us. If you can find your voice in your cover letter, it’s a powerful advantage.
How likeminded people are. I mean, I’ve racked up around 35,000 games on Hearthstone . . .and that’s kind of normal here. The internship program changed a huge part of my life. It brought me across the country, and when I came back fulltime, I had a new role and a new home. As an intern, I went to all the development events and got to meet so many people, many of whom I’m still close with today.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don’t take five hours trying to figure out something. Just ask. Do your job to the best of your ability. Listen first, ask for feedback, and be open to improving. Make mistakes, especially right now when the stakes are low. Learn from them and improve your craft.
'Commit to Quality'. I love how we have this shared vision to make the best content possible for our players, and sometimes that means pushing back deadlines. We don't want our players to be merely content; we want them to completely fall in love with whatever we release and love it as much as we do. From our cinematics to our games to our comics and toys, and every extension of our franchises . . .people here go above and beyond and are driven to deliver on the promise and standard of quality that Blizzard holds itself to.
Here in Austin, we have all the Blizzard core values displayed . . .but with the word taco in them. Taco Responsibly. Learn & Taco. Taco Nice, Taco Fair. Blizzard’s really cool because they encourage us to be ourselves. If you think of any abstract game, there’s bound to be someone in the office who’s really good at it. Speedrunning, foosball, board games, D&D, you can bet someone here is geeking out about it. Goes for any interest really, not just gaming. People have a passion for their interests here, and that's a key element of Blizzard culture to me. You can be yourself. You’re encouraged to ‘Embrace Your Inner Geek’. . . and inner taco.
Well, I just mentioned the tacos, right? Seriously, I applied to other companies but ended up going with my dad’s advice. He told me, “This is your first job out of college. If you enjoy waking up and going to work everyday, take the job.” All of that was true. I loved coming back. I loved the people I worked with. When I woke up on Monday mornings, I wasn’t like “Ugh, I don’t wanna go in.” I was excited to see what challenges were going to hit me that day. Still am.
How nice everyone is. I know that sounds cliché, but in school I heard horror stories about workplace friction in the gaming industry. Of course, there's some degree of friction in any workplace, that's normal, but at Blizzard, I never felt like I worked with anyone that wasn’t on my side. All of us, we’re all chasing the same goal: we want our work to be the best it can be.
I feel like Camp Blizzard is a very fitting name, because my internship felt like a summer camp. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a serious internship, but I did also get super campy vibes from it too! I liked how diverse my group of interns was; it was cool seeing all the different backgrounds, schools, and parts of the country people came from. I also really liked how there were a bunch of intern-specific events curated by the University Relations team. For one, I remember there was a movie night out in the main courtyard with a huge inflatable screen. There were also a lot of scheduled lunches with senior leaders who normally would be hard to get time with, but they set aside time for interns and we had incredible conversations. I liked all the different panels, too. They were very informative and offered so many different perspectives from outside the immediate team we’ve interned with. On top of that, there were a lot of intern-led outings. We'd always hang out outside of work and meet up on the weekends to hang out together. Blizzard does a really good job with bringing interns together, providing learning experiences, and encouraging us to take advantage of our time here!
The work culture-- it's a great environment to be in! Blizzard’s work culture is unique, and it makes going into work energizing and fun. Everyone is busy, but I feel like there's great work and play balance here. Another factor was Blizzard’s core values-- we talk a lot about them because we take them seriously! Personally, I want to work at a place where my values align with the company’s. It makes doing my work easier and more authentic. If I’m promoting something that conflicts with my own core values, then it’s going to very hard for me to promote whatever that thing is. I truly believe in Blizzard’s vision and that’s why I came back.
Blizzard always had a special place in my heart because I started playing World of Warcraft in 2006. I was only twelve. I didn’t know any better, and I thought their customer service game masters were just random people on the internet. I sent a ticket asking if I could be a game master too; I had no idea that it was a full-time job and that they actually worked at Blizzard. They were so nice about it. I remember reading the reply they sent back, telling me how old I needed to be, and that it was really cool that I wanted to work with them. From that moment I wanted to work at Blizzard.
One of the things I commonly heard at my previous job was, “I just work to pay the bills and then I go home.” I had formed an idea that going to work was one of those things that you had to do to get by as an adult. But when I started at Blizzard, I didn’t want to go home. We would play games after work. We would hang out as a team and laugh all day and have a good time doing our jobs. It was hard work, don't get me wrong, but it didn't feel that way overall. It didn’t feel like a job. There’s always something cool going on around here; always great people to talk to and learn from. Everyone wants to be here. My mentality quickly changed from “Oh, this is a job” to “Oh, this is what I love to do,” and that was a huge moment for me. It’s an entirely different mindset about what a job can be—Blizzard is not your typical 9 to 5.
I swear they're not making me say this, but I’d want to do what the University Relations team does. Go to schools, talk to folks and help students find out about what they want to do. I remember the first recruiter I met from Blizzard was on UCI’s campus for a career fair. She took the time to really get to know me and put me on a path that I don’t think I would’ve found on my own. I’d want to pay that forward and do that for other students.
Don’t psych yourself out and let imposter syndrome get the best of you. Put your name in the hat and see what happens! The name of the game to getting into the industry is perseverance. It’s not about getting everything perfect on the first try. Being persistent, as well as being open to feedback and acting on it to improve is extremely important. Of course, it's all easier said than done, but maintaining a positive attitude is something you really need to take to heart. It’s very easy to get discouraged and think, “I’m terrible because I got rejected. I should just change my career.” But it's unhealthy to think about your self-worth like that. You define your success and can channel your failures to push you to the next level. If you keep working hard and continue improving your craft, it'll be just a matter of time before you land an interview.
Being able to make mistakes and learn from them is huge. In the beginning, I was afraid of being the stereotypical intern that messes everything up. About two-thirds into my summer, I realized that this fear was misplaced, and I was holding myself back. Blizzard didn’t get to where it is today by playing it safe all the time - you need to take risks and be innovative. If you make mistakes, you learn from them which helps you make better decisions in the future. When I finally took those risks, I made some mistakes; but I used them to improve myself, and eventually the effort paid off!
Threat Level Midnight. Tan France from Queer Eye because he’s everything I aspire to be someday.
For the record, cereal is totally not soup. Silly question.
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