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Media Consumption: Electronic Arts' Neil Young

Today’s Media Consumption, a weekly column that digs deep to find out what our favorite game developers have been devouring in the four basic food groups of audio, video,...
Today’s Media Consumption, a weekly column that digs deep to find out what our favorite game developers have been devouring in the four basic food groups of audio, video, printed word and games, speaks to Vice President and General Manager of EA Los Angeles Neil Young. Young's career can be traced back to 1988, with programming and production roles at both Imagitec and Probe Software in his native England. With a move to the United States, Young joined Virgin Interactive and produced a number of products, including a handful of Disney-licensed titles, Creature Shock, Cool Spot, and Heart of the Alien: Out of this World Parts I and II for the Sega CD. In 1997, Young was named President of Origin Systems, and supervised the launch of Ultima Online. At EA, Young has had his hand in many titles, including creating the intensely-immersive Internet-based early 'ARG', Majestic, and has since presided over the shipping of titles in the Medal of Honor, Command & Conquer, and the Lord of the Rings series. We set up a meeting with Young via phone to find out what he's been consuming these days. Sounds: "I’m probably spending the most time with Demon Days right now," said Young, referring to the latest album by Gorillaz. "It’s great on so many levels, my favorite being that my kids think it’s the greatest album ever. They're 3 and 6." Young is also digging the new Coldplay album. "I think it’s pretty good!" he said. "It got fairly mediocre reviews, but I like it." Young has also been revisiting Radiohead. "Kid A and The Bends are my two favorite albums of all time," he said. "I do like Neil Young," he said, when asked. "He’s great. One of my favorites, really." Moving Pictures: "I just picked up the collector’s edition of 'From the Earth to the Moon,' which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time," said Young. "I loved the fact that they didn’t just go, 'Apollo 1! Apollo 2! Apollo 3!' They took the space program and did something from the perspective of the scientists, the wives, the politicians. It was a good way to give you a good comprehension of what was going on at the time. Episode 4, “1968” is one of the best television episodes of all time. It sort of encompasses the hope and challenges of the time." Young recently purchased the box set of the first season of 'Lost.' "I did not get into into it the first time around," he said, "but I thought, well, I’ll give it a try. And then 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' is just awesome." The last film Young watched was Layer Cake, "which was honestly worse than the reviews told me it was going to be." Young also digs the music video for "JCB Song" by a band called Nizlopi. "The animation is by one of the guys who’s done animation for Radiohead," he said. "I really really really like it. I like the visual style, I love the way that they sound, and I love the way that [it references that] if you’re a kid, you worship your dad. Even if he’s just a driver of a truck, you invent myth and lore around how cool he is." Words: "I am crap at reading," Young admits outright. "I read Newsweek, Time, and sometimes The Economist. I love the really short articles particularly, the one or two really interesting pages that speak broadly about the world. This week’s issue of Time Magazine, the one that has Steve Jobs on the cover saying 'What’s next?' is one of the best issues of Time ever. It’s like, every story is really interesting to me." Book-wise, Young is currently reading Malcom Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. "You know how as a human you’ve been sort of trained through evolution to make rapid assessments through limited pieces of information?" he asks, describing the basic principle of the book. "Through thin-slicing you’re able to project about 80% of the information in a second. There’s a section in there, one of the first chapters in the book, that talks about these scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle. They have been able to predict successful marriages by watching the faces of couples, if they watch them for two hours, they can predict with 90% likelihood whether or not they’re getting divorced. But it turns out if they only watch for fifteen minutes, there's still 80% accuracy, and even at I believe two minutes, 60% accuracy." Before Blink, the last book Young read cover-to-cover was Michael Lewis' Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game: "It's about the Oakland A’s, and how their manager basically built one of the most successful teams in baseball with the lowest payroll by identifying sort of the true stats that were important in the game, and then buying players that were effective at that, but undervalued because they weren’t sluggers... If you’re a scout, what you’re looking for is speed and hitting ability." Games: "I just got my personal copy of SSX On Tour, for the PSP," he said. "I love SSX. I've always loved it, and this version is a great little game." The last game Young says he played a lot of was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, "and right after work today, I'm about to head to EB and grab Shadow of the Colossus", continuing: "You know, personally, I’m not a World of WarCraft person at all. It’s big around EA, and I have to shamefully admit I’ve only gotten to like level 8. That’s not my personal cup of tea." [Frank Cifaldi is a Las Vegas-based freelance author whose credits include work for Nintendo Official Magazine UK, Wired, and his own Lost Levels website.]

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