Life Is All Fun and Games

As a producer for Obsidian Entertainment, Katrina Schnell ’13 is helping manage the development of Armored Warfare, a multiplayer online game for PCs featuring modern tank battles. Photography courtesy Katrina Schnell ’13.

July 10, 2014

By Clara Miles, MA '05

When a very young Katrina Schnell ’13 first sat down to play video games on the computer with her father, she embarked on a lifelong journey that led her to a career in game development.

“My dad let me play Quake on DOS when I was 3, and I’ve been addicted to gaming ever since,” she explained. “I grew up playing horror games, adventure games, and all other types of games on DOS. I’ve never stopped playing.”

While a Bradley student, the Milwaukee native double majored in graphic design and interactive media (IM) with an animation and visual effects concentration. She credits the University’s extensive IM curriculum for equipping her with the comprehensive skill set necessary to succeed in the industry: “I understand every department on our game and can work extremely well with people knowing the programs they use and the process in which they work. People are often surprised when I name a ton of programs I am proficient in, and it’s all because of the IM department.” 

Schnell also attributes her professional success to Bradley’s Hollywood Semester, which gave her fantastic learning opportunities through her classes as well as an internship with Blindlight LLC, where she helped with voice production and script editing on several games, including Tomb Raider.

If she had not chosen the gaming industry, Schnell says she would like “to be a producer for a film company or a violinist in the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra.”

Today, she is a producer for Obsidian Entertainment, handling the “management/ supervising side of a project, making sure deadlines are hit and every aspect of the game is tracked.” Her development team currently works on Armored Warfare, a new massively multiplayer online tactical military video game featuring high-tech combat machines; however, she also assisted with the Kickstarter-funded role-playing game Pillars of Eternity— playing violin on the trailer. 

“My grandfather suggested I start taking lessons when I was 9, and I am thankful for him every day,” Schnell noted, adding she also plays mandolin, banjo, ukulele, guitar and bass. “Even though I’m not involved in an audio-related job, music is a huge part of my life, and I love performing in my free time.” When the Pillars of Eternity audio director suggested Obsidian employees record music for the game’s trailer, “Of course, I had to volunteer.”

Prior to working at Obsidian, Schnell interned with several game production companies, helping with a wide variety of projects: “I edited design documents and did QA testing for William Shatner’s iPhone app, Shatoetry, and assisted with story editing on the first drafts of the survival horror game The Evil Within.”

Fortunately, her day job hasn’t affected her love of gaming. In fact, she admits she enjoys playing her company’s new releases, knowing “who designed the characters or cut scenes, who composed the music, and so on. … I gain a greater appreciation for every little aspect of the game.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to the gaming experience for Schnell: “There’s something about video games that completely immerses you in their stories, more so than movies. Playing games is more enjoyable than watching TV because you’re able to interact with the game in so many ways.”

Posted with permission, Bradley Hilltopics, Spring 2014