By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Former offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg (B.A., ’06) is the Gameplay creative lead designer for Madden NFL, a video game played by somewhere between 5 to 7 million gamers annually. How did Wyoming’s “Top High School Athlete of 2002” get to EA Sports in Orlando?
It all started with former CSU head coach Sonny Lubick convincing him to become a Ram. While at CSU, Oldenburg not only played football but also earned a degree in technical journalism, was named to the Mountain West Academic All-Conference team his junior and senior years, and served as a teaching assistant for a journalism course.
Taken in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft, Oldenburg spent time with several teams over the next four years. Then his brother showed him an advertisement for a 16-week internship with EA Sports’ NCAA Football video game, so he applied and was selected. Ten weeks into the internship, the company offered him a position as associate designer for its Madden NFL game.
In that role, Oldenburg used his knowledge of offensive line play to help engineers and animators make the Madden game more real and exciting. He began by analyzing how he was coached to be a great offensive lineman, from the stance to use and first two steps he should take to various blocking schemes. He then had to develop a design that would enable the engineers and animators to add this blocking detail to the video game. To make this design as effective as possible, he first learned the language of artificial intelligence, so he could adapt his explanations to how the technical staff thought. Then, he drew upon his communication skills to make the design both clear and persuasive. The acclaim given to that year’s title, Madden NFL 25, demonstrated his success.
The Madden team has three main goals as they continue to innovate and improve the game. First, they strive to deliver an authentic NFL experience. Second, they want the game to be fun. Finally, they gather and listen to feedback from their strong gamer community. According to Oldenburg, participating in these online discussions among players also helps him and the Madden team continue to make improvements to the game. For example, they learned that, while many older players actually played football, many younger players did not, so teaching the game of football became part of the Madden culture.
When asked to speak to students, Oldenburg tells them their major alone will not land them a great job; they also need to be skilled at interacting with others. He illustrates that point with his own story; it was not only his NFL experience that resulted in being chosen for the EA Sports internship but also his strong communication skills.
So, what happened to the prescient EA Sports employee who set up that original internship and then offered him the position? Shawnna’s last name now is Oldenburg, and she and Clint have a son whose name is Cam. Now that is a great Ram story!