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El Sentinel

Videogame Junkies Fixed For Life

By Chris Cobbs

December 15, 2001
Copyright © 2001
El Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.


In the game.


Dec 15, 2001

Ron Amador and Ben Quintero of Orlando spent countless boyhood hours engrossed in videogame adventures like Zelda and Super Mario Brothers.

They're grown now, having graduated from the University of Central Florida and entered the work force. But they haven't stopped playing games. In fact, they make videogames for a living.

Amador, 24, is a high-tech artist, while Quintero, 23, is a computer programmer. Both work at Maitland-based Tiburón Electronic Arts, which creates sports video games like Madden NFL 2002 and NASCAR 2002 for a range of game consoles, including PS2, Xbox and GameCube.

Their stories can serve as examples for bright, hard-working youngsters who'd like to spend the next 20 years or so getting paid to play and create video games.

Amador, who lived in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, until he was 12 years old, combines the skills of his dad, a draftsman, and his mother, an art teacher and guidance counselor.

"I always knew I'd have a life in art," said Amador, who uses computer software to add special lighting and environmental effects to video games produced by Tiburón, a subsidiary of California-based Electronic Arts, which expects sales to top $100 million in 2002.

"I took several art history courses at UCF that helped me learn about the importance of light and shadow in a picture."

He applies lessons learned from the study of artists like Vermeer -- favorite paintings include "Woman With Yellow Turban" and "Woman by Window" -- to NASCAR racing games. His eye for detail can be seen in the way it reflects off windshields and in the changing condition of the clouds at virtual racetracks around the country.

"You can have a great looking game in terms of colors and textures, but if it's poorly lit, the reality of the game suffers," said Amador.

Amador advises youngsters to be forward-thinking if they want a career in the videogame field.

"I think we're moving toward a convergence of videogames and movies," he said. "Today's games have such a visual, cinematic feel, it's almost like being inside a movie."

His colleague, Quintero, applies his gift for numbers and logic to the making of games. It's the behind-the-scenes mastery of computer software that makes games take on a reality of their own.

Quintero, who majored in computer science at UCF, said he learned to think in an organized, logical way in order to solve programming obstacles. "Sometimes you can sit there for 12 hours and get nowhere, then you get inspired and spend another 12 hours typing the solution into the computer."

Quintero's specialty is making the game controller work precisely with the action that's happening on the TV screen.

So how should today's 10-year-old prepare for a possible career playing and making games?

"If you like to count things, or think about what numbers are all about, those are pretty good clues about what's needed in programming," Quintero said.

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