Megan Ginter, PGSS 1998

Originally published as an “Alumni Spotlight” in the PGSS Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2013

Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Megan Ginter enjoyed math, science, computers, reading, and video games. However, she didn’t think of applying to PGSS until a friend did so and others assured Ginter the program would look good on her résumé. Her friend was not accepted; fortunately, Ginterwas. “I didn’t really expect it to be as much of a life altering experience as it was! It was really the first time in my life where I felt truly intellectually engaged by a group of my peers.”

Whether doing research, taking college-level class, or simply staying up late to talk to like-minded peers, Ginter found herself immersed in and enchanted by excitement for science and technology. She discovered that same enthusiasm when she visited MIT, where she ultimately chose to study computer science and engineering. While there, she did research in the Comparative Media Studies department. “At that time,” Ginter recalls, “the department was just starting to get into research on video games and how they can be leveraged for educational purposes. I was a part of a team of students that designed and programmed an educational game that taught principles of electromagnetic physics.”

A short while later, Ginter’s team worked on a project with a company called Leapfrog, which led Ginter to an internship with Leapfrog in the San Francisco area, which in turn led to Ginter falling in love with the area and vowing to return after graduation. Ginter did return to work for a string of computer and video game companies, including Electronic Arts and Zynga. “One of the best things about working in the game industry is that you have a very good excuse to play lots of video games in your spare time. Not only is it fun, but it’s important to know what the latest trends are in gaming, and you have to know what the competition is making.”

Indeed, Ginter’s current role is video game producer, which means she has to understand more than how to code an exhilarating game experience. She has to know which games will sell and how they can be improved and which games aren’t worth pursuing. She also has to keep a team of people moving forward on a tight schedule with a defined budget without destroying their creativity and motivation. “Often there is a lot of pressure to cram too many tasks into a schedule,” she says, from the features the developers want to the inevitable iterations of debugging and adjustments to increase fun. “The philosophy of a game producer is often, ‘It’s better to be done than perfect,’ which is not always easy for a perfectionist like me.” Nonetheless, she decides which tasks deserve attention and which can be safely postponed or pruned, all the while acting as “the team cheerleader” to keep people working happily to the release date.

In addition to video games, Ginter enjoys a gamut of other games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Settlers of Catan plus swing dancing, karaoke, and the occasional crocheting and knitting. Indeed, given her combination of technical expertise, social interaction, and fun, it’s surprising that she almost missed the PGSS boat. The greatest benefit of PGSS, Ginter notes, is that students “learn what they accomplish by collaborating with their intellectual peers.”