MEET THE DEV – SHANNON GERRITZEN

What is your role at IllFonic?

I am the Vice President of Marketing and Communications here at IllFonic.

I was brought on board when we were developing Predator: Hunting Grounds, which is extremely forward thinking of a developer to protect their story and messaging by having MARCOM in-house. Historically we have seen this role and department live in Publishing. It is really exciting!

What made you want to join IllFonic?

I was doing contract work in esports for a handful of years and having a great time, but I really missed the energy of working with creatives. Prior to esports I had been in my role in gaming publishing and in gaming development. A couple of years ago IllFonic contracted me to help them as they were in the tail end of one project and getting ready to dive into another. Then Chuck and Anthony, the CEO and President of IllFonic, decided to make the role full time and asked if I’d like it.

Honestly, I wrestled with the idea as I had a nice work life balance of about 50/50 with three teenagers at home and my own athletic pursuits to balance, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work full time anywhere. But I really loved the projects, the company culture, and the people (I mean IllFonic is literally and figuratively family with my husband working there too), so I made the jump. And I have not regretted it once. I type that in earnest.

The entire company respects boundaries of family and non-work life and have really made it so working full time has always worked around those things that I also need to be present for.

Shannon is probably one of the people in this photo

What did you do before IllFonic?

As partly mentioned in the last answer, I have worked freelance with hardware, esports groups, other gaming development teams, and a gaming mental health non-profit. I have been in the gaming industry for 9 years now. Prior to gaming, I worked in the environmental NGO sector. I loved the work I did on behalf of ocean conservation and was extremely passionate about it, but after some time in that field of work I realized I was not seeing my husband as much as I would like to, I was traveling along the coast every week and he was making games and traveling the world to promote them. The skills I had honed over my years in other industries could translate to gaming so I made the jump. And here I am, and I see my husband daily, which could be a whole interview on its own, lol!

What are your Day to Day responsibilities?

Part of why I love the career I have chosen is because every day is different. There are some things that are the same tasks each day like check on my team, check all of the media and social analytics, check our backend gaming analytics, and check emails then address any needs from those items (which is the start of where days begin to differ). Some days this can take minutes and others it can take hours. For example, if I see a crazy increase in accounts created for a title I will cross reference to see if we have had a major spike in coverage, influencer playing, etc. to see if there is an easy to see explanation. Or maybe we had a sale recently, and I want to see if it has moved the needle at all, if it did then awesome, if it didn’t I need to figure out why, was the sale not high enough or maybe there wasn’t enough coverage so no one knows we’re on sale, and other possibilities. Marketers and communicators are secretly huge data geeks. I am not so secret about data being my love language, I will always love a good pie chart.

In addition to these normal daily tasks I playtest our tiles and have meetings across all departments that I sit in. This allows me to see where projects are so I can start planning or shifting goals for things needed in marketing and communications like assets, trailers, interviews, etc.

And week to week you may catch me tackling a reboot of our entire website, like we’re currently doing, in order to get a better representation of who we are at IllFonic out to the public. Planning for the future, internal communications with other department heads, and in the past (and hopefully near future) event planning, and more. There is always something going on in the four walls of my office. And if I’ve learned anything this past year, it is that I always have to be ready to change directions and/or roll with it when things change; as they always do.

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Part of Shannon's Day to Day may or may not include forcing Chuck to go cycling with her

Is this the type of career you always wanted to be in?

This is a funny question because it depends on which stage in my life you ask me. As a child I wanted to be an astronaut or a spy. In high school I applied my studies to attend college in order to be a teacher. Once in college I realized that was not going to be for me so I changed my major to art history with an interest in anthropology and languages; my end goal was to be an art curator at a museum and travel the world. I won’t go into how many times as a young adult and then mother my thoughts around goals changed. But at the end of the day I’m a planner, a fixer, a traveler, a communicator, and an art lover and I cannot imagine a better fit for all of those hats than this career and path I’ve been on for some time now. In all honesty, unlike my past environmental work, gaming allowed me to marry my last love into my work, which is art. Gaming is art at its heart; the art that creates worlds, the art that creates stories to immerse a player in, the art of languages (words and engineering), and so much more. And I love it!

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice right when you started on your current career path, what would it be?

Keep doing what you love. Be true to what makes you happy because one job or path may not fit, but something will as long as you honor the things that bring you joy. My other tidbit is failure is not the end, it’s a learning moment. Things don’t always work out, but rather than focusing on that figure out why, then apply it to the next go around. Don’t let a small hurdle make you stop and not continue, just take a moment then start again.

What is the best part about your job?

Seeing a creative spark become a product and then getting to take that and share the story with the community. Getting to share the developers’ love of gaming and what they do with gamers everywhere and then seeing them attach by buying and playing the games, interacting on socials, creating fan art, and more. Getting to amplify creators’ voices is so unique and fun.

How has the pandemic affected your job?

We had to launch a title and support it within the confines of quarantine, which really changed things. No visits to media, events, etc. makes everything feel very odd, but my team (not to mention the development team) just did brilliantly, and continues to do so. As we go into our next projects we have really had to adjust how we will do things as we have 100% been in quarantine since the start. With Predator: Hunting Grounds we at least got to announce at events before we were locked down. For our next projects we have no idea what the future holds for live events, etc. Because of this when we are creating go to market plans we are really working on two, sometimes three, options on how we will launch our games with the media and public. We want to do the best we can no matter what the world looks like so we are preparing for no travel and events, full travel and events, and a combination of the two. Budgeting is a little more difficult taking those all into consideration, but I like problem solving so we will plan and adjust accordingly when it is time. 

Relationship management has been the biggest hurdle to jump during this pandemic. We are so used to facetime with media, hardware groups, and more to maintain those relationships, many of which have become friendships over time. Living in a now 100% digital world really changed that. There is not the option to go grab a drink/coffee/whatever and “catch up” to stay connected. It really has been interesting to see how we all have to get creative here. This is also entirely true in non-work relationships I realize as I type this. I’m looking forward to facetime catching up returning!

What are some of your favorite memories from shows and events before the pandemic?

People!!! Food!!!! Did I say people! I’m laughing as I answer this, but seriously I never thought I’d miss people as I’ve always had a houseful of them, but I do miss seeing the many friendly faces at events I’ve come to know through the years. I’m an adventurer by nature so traveling to events is something I really look forward to. I am also one of those people that loves hotels. There is something about a great tub and hotel robes and sheets that makes me happy.

I have fond memories of sushi in Tokyo with folks from both our publishing and hardware partners after a long day of back to back interviews at Tokyo Game Show. I remember thinking I’d be too tired to go, but ended up staying out laughing and talking until late at night. Taking my team to dinner on a boat in Paris to celebrate their hard work at the end of Paris Games Week and then going to the top of the Eiffel Tower with them will always be a memory I hold dear. And another fun one was renting and riding bicycles along the Hudson River from NYCC back to our hotel after working the show floor. These are memories I love making in this job and in this industry. I hope there are many more to be made as events hopefully come back in late 2021 or 2022.

Shannon mostly misses taking silly pictures at events

What do you like most about the culture and team here at IllFonic?

I love that every person at IllFonic is unique and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experiences that shapes them. And that IllFonic is a place that honors those personalities and really takes the time and encourages everyone to take the time to get to know each other. Across three locations and in a time of a pandemic the effort is still made to make a human connection not just be a cog in the wheel.