Amir, looking at those who have found success in the games industry, there’s no one universal story of personal passion or career trajectory. Can you tell us a bit about your own journey to Amazon Games?
Since age 4, I dreamt of working on video games. I resolved to spend my whole life becoming knowledgeable about the space: Playing over 2,100 titles, reading industry publications and forums, meeting those in the space, and understanding both how games and the industries around them—like merchandising, competitive games, and transmedia—function.
When I graduated college, I spent 15 years applying for games roles. Throughout that time, jobs were available, but generally on the West Coast, and I was not willing to move. The only thing that trumped games were my family and friends, and they mostly lived in New England.
I resolved never to give up and pursued other interesting options. I spent over a decade in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, in business/corporate development and strategy/operations at Dell EMC, VMware, the Advisory Board, and Veeam. I also spent five years in graduate school pursuing three master’s degrees. Knowing career skills are highly transferable across industries, I built a baseline of abilities I could eventually use in video games.
My career with Amazon started at AWS as COO for the Inside Sales and Demand Generation businesses in the Americas. In late 2020, with full support of my AWS leaders, I went to Prime Gaming as a business development lead.
Working in games was always about more than a job—it was a green light to meet games industry friends and to talk about games industry topics in ways I had always wanted. My time at Prime Gaming enabled this.
I had a further dream, though. While working in any content capacity within video games was a home run, the grand slam was a role in game production. When I told my Prime Gaming managers about the opportunity I have now, they said, “We are so excited for you and support you.”
It's been an amazing journey, enabled in critical ways by Amazon, since I played my first video game (Asteroids on the Atari 2600 in 1985).
What do you do as a principal publishing producer for Amazon Games?
As a publishing producer for Amazon Games’ Montreal Studio, I work most closely with our studio head and production head to ensure their teams’ vision for game production occurs as seamlessly as possible.
A big piece of this is owning all aspects of publishing production. It involves coordination between the studio and the many pieces of our publishing organization—such as marketing, business and demand planning, business intelligence, product management, legal, finance, and more—to ensure the movement required in each area is achieved on time and on budget. This progress culminates, and is tested, in various business reviews as well as production “gates.”
In addition to my direct studio work, I play my colleagues’ games, offer input, and participate in playtests. I also help with organizational-level strategy and planning initiatives.
What are you working on these days?
I am currently focused on three project areas.
Principally, I am focused on all aspects of traditional title-publishing production work for our Montreal Studio.
Secondly, we believe our secret weapon is to harness the power of Amazon by collaborating with as many businesses inside and outside Amazon Games. To achieve this, we’re regularly engaged in discussions across Amazon groups and brands.
Finally, our head of production encouraged me to take a leadership role in cross-publishing activities and to increase our organization’s collaboration, scale, and maturity as we grow. A few examples include pursuing development and collaboration tools, creating mechanisms and documents for aspects of our production process, and producing a biweekly newsletter on project and organizational happenings for Amazon Games’ leaders.
What have been the most impactful games you’ve ever played, and what are you playing now?
I am always playing a bit of everything and find something to enjoy from every developer, publisher, and genre. However, if I were to break my gaming life into slightly overlapping slices and highlight major titles from each, here is what it would look like:
Console Love First (1985-1991)
The big first title of this era was Pitfall!, Activision’s first success after its developers broke off from Atari. The NES and SNES came next, and I played more than 80% of the titles ever available on both platforms. My favorites were the Mario and Zelda games (Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and A Link to the Past). Each of these titles either invented or reinvented a genre.
The Era of Adventure (1989-1996)
I love PC games, too. In these years, companies like Sierra On-Line, LucasArts, Westwood, and InfoCom dominated that platform with adventure games and series like King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest For Glory,Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Loom, The Legend of Kyrandia, and Zork. These titles showed me what great storytelling could look like and were full of humor and character.
3D Consoles, Early Broadband (1997-2003)
With the fifth console generation came 3D. I was most moved by Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy VII—for which I bought my first-ever dedicated video card. Also, internet service improvements finally allowed me to play Half-Life with friends online, the best FPS I had played since DOOM.
MMOs Break Out (2004-2012)
I had played many MMOs before, like Ultima, Shadow of Yserbius, and my beloved EverQuest, but I became obsessed with World of Warcraft (my all-time most-played game), and even participated in a top raiding guild for a while. I became deeply invested in MMOs during this period, playing Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XI, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift, and WildStar.
The Great Indies Just Don’t Stop (2013-2017)
In this period the number of masterpiece indies was out of control. I loved Cuphead, Journey, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, and What Remains of Edith Finch. These games took the expectations bar for game art and sound and raised it to the sky.
Time for a Switch (2018-Present)
My games preferences came full circle (back to my NES/SNES days) with the launch of the Nintendo Switch, which I remember camping out starting at 3 a.m. to purchase at Target. Yes, I am a Nintendo Superfan. I wanted to play every first-party exclusive of note, and I mostly achieved that. Favorites include Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem: The Three Houses, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Switch also allows me to reincorporate more family-friendly titles into my playlist, like Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (given we now have kids of our own).
What advice might you give to someone looking to get into video games?
It is never too early to make your games career plan.
First, no matter your age, and even if it takes you far longer to find a job, you can start playing and learning about games. You should always consider having a comprehensive knowledge of any industry you want to work in as a base-level requirement.
Next, ask yourself this series of questions, as they will heavily inform your plan:
1. What role do I want?
Employers appreciate advance thinking by candidates on what types of jobs they might enjoy most. Visit video games job sites. This will not only show you have thought through your search, but also narrow the number of roles you are looking at.
2. Am I willing to move anywhere?
There are many more games jobs in cities such as Los Angeles/Southern California, San Francisco, Austin, Montreal, and Seattle than in others. While many studios offer virtual work, many do not. You can increase your chances of success if your life allows locational flexibility…even if mine didn’t.
3. Am I willing to go to a larger company and work an interim role, outside of games, to then transition into games?
I have found it is much easier to make an internal transfer, if you are having trouble getting in, than to continue with applications as a total outsider. If you are willing to spend a few years in an alternate role and then laterally apply to games roles, your odds of success may increase greatly.
4. Am I applying to enough jobs?
I regularly find applicants get focused on a “dream role” and don’t apply to nearly enough positions. While trying to find a games role, I applied to 100-150 jobs a year (well over 2,000 total) to find someone who would let me work remotely from the East Coast. Games roles are amongst the most highly sought jobs in the world, and you must beat the numbers game. Try to target 5-10 high-quality applications a month, not 1-2.
5. What’s my hook that I will present to a recruiter beyond a passion for games?
Most people applying will say they are passionate about games. Make sure you have more than two big personal-value propositions beyond that, which make you stand out and that you can articulate well.
6. Do I really love games beyond a weekend hobby?
Games industry members are of all types. Our diversity is our greatest strength, and I know some people with more than 20 years in games who don’t play games at all. However, in my experience, a deep love of games, and the desire to think about them all the time, usually correlates with staying in the industry long-term. I suggest to folks playing a few hours a week to join a raiding guild or PvP group, or just to increase gameplay by five-fold for a few weeks to see if they are still having fun.