SWEDISH-BORN JOHANNA PERSSON IS A GAME TECH PROGRAMMER AT GUERRILLA.
Originally a Technical Animator on Killzone Shadow Fall, Johanna decided to switch to the Game Tech Team in the run-up to Horizon Zero Dawn. We sat down with her to talk about her life in Amsterdam, her work at the Guerrilla studio, and her unusual career path.
How did you end up at Guerrilla’s Amsterdam studio?
I had a friend who worked at Guerrilla, and one day when he called me on Skype I mentioned that I was looking for a job. He told me to send over my CV because Guerrilla might have a position available, so that’s what I did. A couple of days later I had my first phone interview, and two weeks after that the company flew me down for an on-site interview. Less than a week after that, I was offered the job.
That was quick!
I know! I was still in college at the time, but I was already ahead of my studies and managed to graduate early. I actually flew back to Sweden a couple of months after the move to attend my graduation ceremony.
Were you intimidated by the prospect of moving to the Netherlands?
Not at all, actually. I thought, “This is a great opportunity and I’m just going to do it.” I packed two suitcases with my PlayStation 3 and my laptop, and I just moved. I didn’t think about it too much.
What is it like to live in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is quite similar to Sweden. The whole social system resembles Sweden’s, and almost everyone can speak English so it’s easy to get around without learning Nederlands. See, I do know some Dutch, I even said that like a Dutch person!
How do you feel about Amsterdam?
Oh, it’s really beautiful. I think the big difference with a city like Stockholm is that you can actually live close to your work in Amsterdam, which wasn’t possible for me before. Amsterdam is like a small and a big city at the same time.
And Guerrilla? What is the atmosphere there like?
I really like Guerrilla! The studio employs a lot of expats – more than half the people here come from outside the Netherlands – so it was very easy to get into the culture. When I first came here, I thought I would be one of maybe two Swedish employees, but I was surprised to find there were many others. Everybody speaks English here so it’s very easy to communicate.
What has your career path looked like since joining Guerrilla?
I started as a Junior Technical Animator on Killzone Shadow Fall, and then I got promoted to regular Technical Animator. After Killzone Shadow Fall, I switched to a new team and a new role to become a Game Tech Programmer on Horizon Zero Dawn.
So you actually went from Art to Code?
Yes! It was quite an unusual step, but also a very good one for me. As a Technical Animator I was already scripting a lot, and I’d been coding in a middleware animation package called Morpheme for a while, so the leads talked it over and asked me if I would be interested in switching teams. I took them up on the offer straight away. After having worked as a Technical Animator for over a year, I found that it wasn’t where my ambitions lay. I just slipped into the coder role more and more. So I had a proper second interview with our Technical Director to formalize the transfer.
Do you think your background as a Technical Animator helps you as a Game Tech Programmer?
Oh, definitely. I’m working with the team I used to be in, so that helps me to understand them a bit better. I check up on them frequently to make sure they’re getting what they need. I also try to keep communications between the two teams as clear as possible to foster a good sense of trust and awareness.
What advice would you have for people who are considering a switch to a different discipline?
My advice would be not to think too much about it, and just choose what feels right to you. I did, and I can honestly say I’m doing what I love today. It might take some time and effort, but it’s certainly not as hard or scary as it seems.
Thank you for your time, Johanna!
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