There are a lot of people who would like to be in Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir’s shoes these days.
While most of the world has to wait three more months before learning what happens next in the Star Wars universe, Ingvarsdottir (who goes by Lina) has been immersed in the world of droids, Sith, and Wookies for the past three years.
As the senior producer of Electronic Arts’ upcoming Star Wars Battlefront, she’s been working closely with LucasArts to oversee development of what could be the year’s biggest video game. And that comes with some perks—like trips to Skywalker Ranch and collaborating with the filmmakers to prepare The Battle of Jakku, the game’s first downloadable content (DLC), which will be freely released on Dec. 8.
It’s a job with plenty of pressure. EA has publicly said it expects to sell 9-10 million copies of Battlefront, but analysts say they believe the company is low balling that number and have higher internal projections. And player expectations are even more intense.
So it might be surprising to learn that nine years ago, Ingvarsdottir wasn’t a part of the video game industry. Instead, she was working in business development at a retail company in Iceland.
“It paid well. It was prestigious. And it was incredibly dull,” she says.
Friends, at the time, worked at CCP, the Icelandic developer of the massively multiplayer game EVE Online—and the more she heard about the job, the more she was intrigued. So after seeing the company’s president make a presentation, she introduced herself, told him of her degree in industrial engineering and expressed her interest in working at the company. Six weeks later, she started her career in video games—and never looked back.
“It turns out I really love working with creative people,” she says. “I’m quite the geek myself.”
At CCP, she rose to the level of senior producer, working onEVE Online and other titles. In 2011, she took a job with Ubisoft to oversee The Division, an upcoming Tom Clancy game. But a year later, she transitioned again to her senior producer role at EA’s DICE Studio, which is developing Battlefront.
The game, which ships Nov. 17, is in the final polishing stages right now. That means 12-hour workdays, including some late night calls with U.S. colleagues after she’s put her two daughters to bed. There’s no such thing as a typical day, she says.
At any given moment, she may be working with the team to fix a problem with in-game animation or discussing the EA/Star Wars strategic vision of the next few years.
“I go from the micro to the macro very rapidly,” says Ingvarsdottir. “I have meetings where the subject is the Millennium Falcon is 35 meters long and that’s a problem for us from a map perspective.”
For many people, getting into the business of making video games starts with working in quality assurance—a grueling, thankless job that teaches would-be developers the importance of getting the details right. But Ingvarsdottir says too many people forget that the size to which the industry has grown has opened up many new avenues of entry.
“I encourage people to spend time playing, to spend time prototyping and making games using all of the free engines and software available out there,” she says. “Most people have some understanding that to make games you need to be a programmer or a designer. But there are so many fields today. You can be a lawyer and work in games. You can be an economist and work in games. There are so many roles and so many ways you can be a part of making games.”