Electronic Arts' Community Engagement Manager Told Us What Makes The Sims Community So Special

You may not know her name, but The Sims games you love wouldn't be quite the same if it weren't for Electronic Arts community engagement manager Emma Siu.

Emma's background is actually in genetics and microbiology—she did a research degree in pharmaceutical science and worked in science fields for many years—but when the opportunity arose to work in games, she tried it out and fell in love with the industry. Today, she works at EA's Firemonkey Studio in Melbourne, Australia.

We had the pleasure of catching up with Emma in the middle of the hustle and bustle of E3 to find out what draws her to gaming communities, including what makes The Sims community so special.

Sweety High: What does your role as a community engagement manager at EA entail?

Emma Siu: My job is primarily to interact and engage with the community. Gaming communities rally around titles, and in the process you make fantastic friends. Building that connection and relationship with people is something I feel very passionate about. I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories and feedback, and working in conjunction with developers to then create something with those communities.

The people in the games industry are incredibly talented, brilliant, hard-working, friendly, supportive people. In part I continue to love working in games because of the people and their support, but in addition to that, I personally find something deeply fulfilling in making human connections with players and being able to see games touch the lives of the many people who relate to them. It's not just about entertainment. It's very much about the storytelling and narrative. Everyone has a different connection to each game.


SH: Is there any one community you love working in most?

ES: I work across a large breadth of games. One of the franchises I work on is The Sims, and while most games have a passionate community, The Sims' really takes it up to the next level. They're amazing people who produce so much custom content. You can really see that creativity stand out. It's very inspiring. It's the ultimate sandbox storytelling game, and it's been around for a very long time, so The Sims community is one that I feel very strongly about.

A group of friends meeting around a table in The Sims

(via Electronic Arts)

I also work on Need for Speed: No Limits, as well as another racing game called Real Racing. The dynamics of those communities is different but they're equally passionate and they love their games, always eager to give feedback. I don't think I could ever pick a clear favorite.

Screenshot from Need for Speed: No Limits

(via Electronic Arts)


SH: Is there a community moment that really stands out to you as a highlight of your career?

ES: Last October I traveled to Manchester in the U.K. for Simmers Meetup and the turnout was incredible. Some people traveled a fair distance to get to Manchester for the meetup. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of the Simmers there as well as to speak a little bit on The Sims Freeplay, which is very much a part of The Sims family. Afterward, so many people came up to me saying it looked awesome and that they'd tried it before, but thanks to my talk they were interested in giving it another shot. People asked me for photos and autographs, and some even gave me feedback on the spot, which I really appreciated. Being able to meet these fans in person and share anecdotes and insights and hug them was a huge highlight for me.

The Sims FreePlay screenshot

(via Electronic Arts)


SH: What do you think keeps players coming back to these games and their communities again and again?

ES: People relate to games in different ways, whether that be a sandbox simulation game such as The Sims or a first-person shooter. We all feel a certain way toward our favorite games. There are many motivations behind a community rallying around The Sims. It can be used as escapism or a storytelling tool, and other people are just interested in living out their wildest dreams in the game. It's hard to pin down and I think the reasons are personal for each individual.


SH: Do you have any advice, particularly for young women, who might someday want to work in games?

ES: Seize the opportunities that come your way. I got my start quite randomly through a friend. Also, do your research and reach out to studios you'd like to work with and see if they offer an intern program. If you'd like to be a game designer, grab yourself a copy of a tool or engine that's simple and user-friendly and make your own game. Even if it's a clone of something that's been done before, getting hands-on and doing things yourself is a really different experience, and you'll learn a lot that way. Learning code is for everyone, and considering how far technology has come and how many programming languages there are, it makes sense to pick up HTML as a basic and work your way up. It's invaluable these days, and it's not just applicable to games if you find out that's not what you want to do. It's valuable in lots of different sectors.

Moderation is another way to build up your profile and learn the tools of the trade early. I have quite a number of friends who started off as forum moderators for small art and games communities, eventually using that experience to apply for community as well as communications roles.

Also, make friends and network. The games industry is fairly small, but it's a tight-knit community that supports each other and we're always glad to see new talent, especially women and girls. We're all for a more diverse community.


For even more on how The Sims gets made, click HERE to read our interview with the game's executive producer Lyndsay Pearson.