Being the boss of Dragon Age
Mike Laidlaw can still remember his first day at BioWare, even though it was over 15 years ago. He even remembers the date he answered the phone and found out he had got the job: 23rd December 2002. Laidlaw was used to answering the phone; at the time he was working at Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, in the province of Ontario. When Laidlaw first joined Bell's call centre, he worked the phones. Later, he got promoted to lead a team on the phones, "which was somehow way worse than being on the phones," Laidlaw told me last March, the day after his star turn at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. "I went in and said, I'm sorry, I'm quitting. I'm not coming in tomorrow. They said, 'you can't quit two days before Christmas! If you quit you'll never work here again!' I said, 'that is pretty much the plan, yes.' So I walked out, and a bunch of people high-fived me because - yay! - I got out."
We're upstairs at Zero Zero, a pizza and pasta place just a 10-minute walk from the begging mothers and the babies they cradle who sit on the sidewalks that connect the buildings that host GDC, the world's largest gathering of video game developers, a place thousands come to share, to learn, to network, and, occasionally - although I sense through gritted teeth - talk to press people such as me.
Laidlaw is instantly affable, entertaining and interesting. He is willing to talk about things, which might sound like an odd thing to mention, but in this business, it is a rare joy indeed to speak to people who are willing to talk about things. I get why they do not, why developers are hesitant to say too much, because when they do, the fans sometimes come calling - as they have at Mike Laidlaw at points during his career.