I’m Dusty Welch, a Video Game Developer, and This Is How I Work

Dusty Welch is a gamer. He is the COO of Respawn Entertainment , the independent game development studio behind Titanfall . But he started off by creating another popular franchise that you’ve probably heard of: Call of Duty .

Prior to Respawn, Welch spent over a decade at gaming giant Activision , turning Call of Duty and Guitar Hero into blockbuster franchises and regular products in gaming libraries around the world. Respawn has had success as well, with their premiere game, Titanfall, released to great acclaim in 2014. Titanfall 2 is now due out on October 28th, and the as-yet-unannounced Star Wars game is in development.

Welch’s gaming roots are rooted in the Atari 2600, a habit funded by his hard work as a newspaper peddler. He, of course, no longer has a paper route, but the habit of work remains, as does the game. This is how it works.

Location: Los Angeles, California. Current place of employment : Chief Operating Officer, Respawn. One word that best describes how you work: passionate. Current mobile device: iPhone 6. Current computer: iPad Pro.

First of all, tell me a little about your past and how you became who you are today.

When I was a child, my very first performance was the paper route. Half of the money I made went to fund the school, and the other half … well, it went to fun. I bought a video game for my Atari 2600 every month (no exaggeration) with this funny money. Many of these games were published by Activision, which sounds ironic, but was actually a very logical aspect of my career.

Fast forward 15 years and I work for global companies like Nestle and Dole with a full-time business career. I am very lucky to have been trained there by some of the best marketers in the world, but to be honest, I was bored to death of the 1% per year market share growth of these slower products.

Reflecting on a career change, I turned to my mom, who said, “Follow your heart, the rest will come …” and at that point my passion was still video games. So when my former boss at Nestle moved to Activision and said I needed to meet with the CEO, I decided to support the idea. I met with the CEO, Bobby [Kitty], and – I’m not kidding – he asked me to prove that I am a gamer. I had a patch in my notebook that I earned as a kid playing Pitfall, an Activision game. I had the patch right there, so I threw it on the table. He spat out his Coke and I spent the next 13.5 years there. Finally, after creating the Call of Duty franchise and launching Guitar Hero, I left Activision. This is where Respawn comes in.

What apps, software or tools can’t you live without?

Figuratively speaking, I could not live without my iPad – it is my daily lifebuoy for work and our partners around the world. This is a link. I can handle it all. I also love my Tesla app for cooling my car before driving. Literally, I couldn’t live without SmartBP , which allows me to track my health and fitness while traveling and tackle hard work. CyberGhost also saves me on my travels by letting me download and stream Amazon content and make Pandora a lot easier when I’m in other countries.

How is your workplace arranged? Coffee shop with laptop and headphones? Home office with a standing desk?

I sit at a board table with iPads and monitors, and the walls are decorated with bark to help me relax. Hanging on the wall is a collage of my Activision patches that I won as a child for inspiration and a photo of London at night to make me feel confident in the place where we do business.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

For my team updates, I don’t do the typical written agendas or PowerPoints. Instead, I ask about three main problems and where I can help. Get down to business and cut down on a bureaucratic agenda that is counterproductive (and boring).

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Pen and paper. Buy yourself a spiral bound notebook. It lasts five months and has everything you need.

What device or tool, besides a phone and a computer, can you not live without?

Blender My Magic Bullet . One at my home, the other at work. Plus, I can’t get further than six feet from the original formula Chapstick. It’s a bit silly, but I can’t live without it. Lucas’s Papaw also works well , but doesn’t fit in your pocket like the classic Chapstick.

What are some of your best everyday activities?

I will work on you … I do not need to sleep a lot to consistently work at a high level.

What is your sleep pattern?

I sleep unsteadily for less than four hours a night – this has been my whole life. I am fortunate to be good at this routine. It turns out that many great dictators throughout history have also had this trait – something less flattering.

What do you listen to while you work?

Station Pandora’s Tiesto / David Guetta . I love energy, it makes me so much more productive and awakens my creative juices.

What are you reading now? Or what book would you recommend?

I always recommend Unbroken – the superior strength of the human spirit.

And I’m going to start reading Carrying Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey .

How do you replenish?

Crossfit. It clears my mind and allows me to strategize during my workout.

Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.

Prince Harry (youngest son of Diana and Charles)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The same thing my mother told me when I was young – follow your heart, money and satisfaction will come.

What else would you like to add that might be of interest to readers and fans?

I was intrigued by what is happening in AR and VR. I’m a bit selfish as a gamer and game developer as games like Star Wars and Titanfall will have even more opportunities to wow people. But overall, I just can’t wait to see what happens next in space – how it will change our lives in the next 20 years.


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