Fire up the latest version of Madden NFL and you’ll be seeing the work of a Great Oaks graduate. 2007 Live Oaks grad Brandon Kidwell helped to make the football experience come to life. From the EA Tiburon office in Florida (and more recently, from home), Kidwell and the other game designers work to improve the game for players round the world.
It’s work that requires both artistic talent and technical skills—both of which Kidwell, then of Milford, began developing as a high school student in what’s now the Digital Arts and Design (DAAD) program at Live Oaks. “My first impression of Live Oaks was pretty fantastic,” he said. “I saw a lot of students working with real-world tools and not just listening to an instructor at the front of the room. I was always a kinesthetic learner, so I was excited at the idea of so many hands-on experiences.”
Kidwell saw a chance to practice his craft. “I had always been artistic and I had friends around me who were also artistic. One of them, in particular, ran an online web-comic and was skilled in digital art. On top of this, I was dedicated to entering into a career of game development and a lot of the tools Live Oaks offered at that time translated to a decent amount of game development skills I was seeking.”
“I went into college but I used my artistic skills and knowledge from DAAD to work with local live action role-playing (LARP) games,” he said. After college, which included a year-long game design internship in Los Angeles, he helped start a Cincinnati-based business for a LARP and worked in the information technology field.
But we wanted to go further. He moved to Florida and entered the University of Central Florida, home of one of the premier master’s degree programs in game development.
There, his work saw a wider audience—and he earned recognition for his talent. “I worked on an indie game called Cosmonaut and a student game called Hollowed that ended up being nominated for a Game Award at the official Game Awards.”
For the past two years or so, he’s been working on multiple games, and now works primarily on the Ultimate Team of Madden Mobile.
But Kidwell stays connected to Live Oaks. “Many of the teachers at that time are people I have contact with today and I frequently remember their lessons and life skills,” he said. One of those he keeps in touch with is DAAD instructor Adam Schlosser. “Adam helped a lot by fostering a space for exploratory freedom in creativity. That is something I am thankful for and has led down my path to becoming a game designer.”
Schlosser said that the DAAD program was a good starting point for Kidwell. “The program introduces students to concepts and principles that apply to a wide range of creative disciplines. So even though we didn’t teach Brandon “game design” as such, he could apply what he learned in DAAD to the creative profession of his choice.”
Brandon’s words of wisdom for future students? “My advice is to show integrity, be diligent, be humble. The work will rarely come to you; you have to go to it. There is a phrase “Plus Ultra” which is Latin for ‘go beyond.’ I frequently push this concept of Plus Ultra because great things require the ability to go beyond the norm.”