New media degree has Mass Effect on Kinley
Brad Kinley’s (BFA ’04) career path came down to a couple key decisions – one that was well researched and another that was off the cuff. Now, the U of L alumnus is one of the key cogs behind the mass appeal of Mass Effect 2, one of the most popular and highly rated games ever made for the Xbox platform.
“I had an interest in games forever. It started with an Atari 2600 when I was a kid, and from then on I was hooked,” he says. “I’ve always been a gamer so to be able to develop games now as a character animator is amazing.”
Kinley, 27, works for the Canadian-based company BioWare, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest developers and distributors of video games. His path to BioWare began in the U of L’s new media program.
Calgary born, Kinley visited the University before applying. He spoke with professors, sat in on a few classes and was impressed. While friends of his opted to pursue certificates or diplomas from schools and colleges, Kinley liked the security promised by a university degree.
“It was a very new program and I guess I was taking a bit of a chance but the U of L is a well recognized institution,” he says. “It was much less risky than going with a lot of the other schools at that time that are now closed. I had friends going into one-year programs for highly technical things, but I thought the BFA would always be useful and applicable regardless of what I ended up doing.”
That decision was well thought out, while the one that really set his path was more of an after-thought.
“The University brings in really great guest speakers and John Carr from Pixar came in to talk and I remember telling a friend who’d missed the talk that it was life-changing,” says Kinley. “Seeing what he does and his approach to the whole process of character animation kind of crystallized what I wanted to do. It might sound cheesy but that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
With a goal in mind, Kinley worked with the new media professors to specialize his interests. He retook an animation class he’d enjoyed and focused his studies on applications that would relate to animation.
“All my other classes I would work to relate it back to animation because that was my key interest,” he says. “I received a lot of support once I decided what I wanted to do. James (Graham), (Dr. Will Smith) and all the professors that were here worked really hard to make sure I had access to opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Before long, the work he was doing in class was translating into the real world. He worked one summer at WhiteIron Digital, a leading visual effect and design company for the broadcast community, eventually completing his U of L internship there.
“All the graphics and designs they were working with at the time were all 2D and I came with a 3D background and I knew how to render and composite and animate,” Kinley says.
He made his way into BioWare after completing post-graduate work at Sheridan College in Ontario. It brought him back to his native Alberta and gave Kinley the opportunity for which he’d been preparing.
“There are things you learn in University that you think are not applicable at all, until you go out working and you realize they are,” he says. “It can happen on that first day or even two years later when you say, ‘I’m sure glad I took that sculpture class because all of a sudden it’s hugely applicable and I now have a basis for moving on and learning more about it’.”
Kinley returned to the University in January and gave a presentation to another generation of new media students.
“I know how influential my exposure was to somebody actually working in the business,” he says. “If I can lend a little knowledge or inspiration to someone else, hopefully it will help them the way it helped me.”
GET THE FACTS
• Kinley is currently working on the development of Mass Effect 3.
• Mass Effect 2 was given a 96 per cent approval rating by the website Metacritic, tied for second all-time. Only Grand Theft Auto IV, at 98 per cent, rates higher.
• Kinley admits he rarely gets a chance to play games. “A lot of it is a time thing but I still like to see what other games look like. The unfortunate thing is I get critical with them when I try and play, I’m always looking at what I would change or think I could do better.”
• One of Kinley’s earliest jobs was with Nintendo, as a game promoter.