Lucy Bradshaw was on maternity leave from Electronic Arts when she heard the company had acquired video game powerhouse Maxis. “When I heard about all this happening, I was like, ‘I want to work there; that’s what I want to do,'” she says. “SimCity was the thing that got me into the video game business — it was the first game I played all night long.” After graduating from college, Bradshaw did a stint at LucasArts before landing at EA. There, following the acquisition, she became an executive producer on SimCity 3000. She had found her calling.
Now, as the leader of an 80-person development team, Bradshaw is responsible for executing the wild fantasies of Will Wright, who founded Maxis in the late 1980s and brainstormed a slew of Sim-related titles.
Consider The Sims. There’s no linear storyline — no storyline whatsoever actually. It’s not a generic first-person shooter or sports platform or mystery adventure. The game simulates life. How does one execute that concept? According to Bradshaw: with carefully managed talent and time. “Once you have a whole bunch of people on your team, it’s like a train that’s running, and you better have a clear direction, because it’s really, really hard to stop a train,” she says.
Bradshaw also led the development of Spore, a revolutionary game that lets users evolve organisms into basically any creature, and took about seven years to complete. Spore has sold millions of units and The Sims became the highest grossing franchise of all-time behind Pokemon and Mario. Bradshaw also noticed the games reached a particularly unique audience: 65% of Sims-players were female.
“I want to see more women coming into this business,” Bradshaw says. “I look at it as a business imperative. Companies in the video game business like Electronic Arts are going to benefit from having more women in development and in roles that bring new perspective.”
Currently, as SVP and general manager of Maxis, she’s working on something that promises to have Maxis’s DNA, though she will only hint at the game’s concept. “I can tell you that that sense of being able to create these living creatures and do so in a way that felt really meaningful to players — leveraging that, but even giving them a little more context by which they can ultimately experience an experiment with their creation — that’s one direction that we’re taking,” she says. The game will undoubtedly be compared with the The Sims and Spore — two of the most innovative games in history. How does she cope with it? “It’s no pressure whatsoever,” she jokes. –Austin Carr