Kiki Wolfkill, a former race-car driver, likes to go fast. She oversees Halo, the sci-fi first-person shooter series that’s one of the top-selling video games of all time, and since being promoted to studio head of transmedia in 2015, she’s moved quickly to position the brand for the future in original programming across multiple mediums. Two years ago, Wolfkill and 343 Industries had the vision to create the official Halo Championship Series and bring the best players in the game together to compete. In March, the 2017 Halo World Championships attracted more than 13 million unique viewers online. The tournaments helped the studio gather feed-back to enhance features (such as the potency of particular weapons).Wolfkill is also working with Pilgrim, the team behind unscripted TV series like Ultimate Fighter, to create a TV show where Halo players compete for a chance to face off in an upcoming Halo Championship Series event.
How does a person go from professional race-car driver to video-game designer? "Art had always been a huge part of my background, so I got into digital video and compositing in college and started doing a lot of work for games. I also taught racing at a number of different schools, and a team at Microsoft called one school looking for an expert for the racing-school component of its simulation. That opened the door."
What sorts of roadblocks have you faced? "Nine or 10 years ago, people felt like game leadership positions should come from production or engineering. There was a perception that people coming from the creative disciplines couldn’t have the objectivity to make hard product and business decisions. I definitely broke the mold a little. Microsoft’s roots were as a software company, and it was learning what it meant to be a game company along the way. It was meaningful for me to be given the opportunity to lead a product and build a team."
Are there skills from racing that translate to design? "One of my strengths as a driver is that I’m really adaptable. When my brakes are going and weather conditions are crap, I’m good at maintaining a level of speed. I’m comfortable with a pretty loose car, and with chaos in general. Part of the game-development process is being able to move organically where an experience wants to go, while still being super focused on that original vision."