Some of us never grow up; others grow up and get paid for fun stuff - like video games. Dale Jackson is one such fortunate individual. From 3D modeling to art managing and directing software development for Madden NFL Football, NCAA Football, and NASCAR Thunder, he's done it all. He's currently involved in NCAA Football 2004, and the sky is the limit for this cutting-edge industry.
Not that he didn't earn his success. After transferring from Purdue's art department to the School of Technology ("I was more interested in the practical side of design graphics"), he received a B.S. Explains Jackson, "In my 3 1/2 years in the [Technical Graphics - now Computer Graphics Technology] department, I learned a lot about the world of production graphics, desktop publishing, and graphic design through the curriculum. I was also provided with many opportunities to participate in independent studies in 3D modeling and animation."
He and his wife then moved to Orlando, Florida, where he began work with JHT Multimedia, which specialized in computer-based training for the military and which was beginning to use 3D graphics and animation extensively. Within eight months, he was promoted to assistant art director, and began looking for even more rewarding opportunities.
Such an opportunity came in the form of Tiburon Entertainment, a small, independent game developer just making the transition to developing the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn from Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. He was the 15th employee in a company made up of only programmers and artists.
Jackson moved into management of projects in the first few months, then into managing both the programming and art for a title, and then development director for their largest title, Madden NFL Football. But his skill for juggling multiple projects soon manifested itself in the new position of director of software development for Tiburon. This meant managing all of the programmers and development directors, managing central processes for development, staffing, career development, and the "Usual firefighting involved in software engineering projects."
Currently, he is senior producer on two of the products in development at the studio. As he explains it, "All that this position really entails is being the person who can figure out how to put out all types of fires while working ever harden to make sure they don't start in the first place." He adds, "There are a lot of new pieces to learn, and some exciting new projects to develop."
Dale, his wife, their two sons, Devin and Zach, and pond full of koi enjoy Florida. They spend a lot of time swimming and roughhousing outside (and in the house when Mom is away!). The boys are getting old enough to start enjoying playing video games, which is Dale's main hobby. Dale enjoys golf and is eager to take his boys with him. Dale laughs, "Not to make them the next Tiger Woods, but so I might be able to win a few holes."
This was originally written for the Distinguished Technology Alumni Awards in 2003.