Dianna Lora is an account manager at Massive Entertainment, the Ubisoft studio working on the next Star Wars video game. She is an accomplished multimedia maven, having written reviews, produced videos, and edited podcasts for such outlets as Sony, DualShockers, and GoodgameTV. Now, from her new home in Sweden, Dianna manages corporate relationships with producers, developers, and creators to ensure everyone has what they need to build a successful product together — something she learned from her days in musical theatre.
In this interview, I ask Dianna more about the role an account manager plays in the video game industry; what it’s like to be working with as storied a brand as Star Wars; how being an actor taught her to handle rejection; how someone who’s lived in New York, San Francisco, and Europe defines “home”; what we can do to make it easier for people to go to college; and the problematic behaviors that pop up around Black History Month.
Stream the audio edition of this interview below or from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Overcast, Pandora, Pocket Casts, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, RadioPublic, or the Internet Archive. Click past the jump for a transcript and links to resources mentioned in this episode.
- Dianna Lora on Twitter
- Women of Ubisoft — Dianna Lora
- Massive Entertainment
- Ubisoft announces new Star Wars game developed by Massive Entertainment
- Manhattan Love Story
- Tanya DePass on Diversity 101
Voiceover: Welcome to the Polygamer podcast, where gaming is for everyone. Join us as we expand the boundaries of the gaming community.
Ken Gagne: Hello and welcome to Polygamer podcast episode number 109 for Wednesday, January 27th, 2021. I’m your host, Ken Gagne. Fun fact: My day job is not in the video game industry. I work for Automattic, the developer of wordpress.com, the hosting platform. When I was hired there three years ago this month, my job title was technical account engineer, but we eventually realized that that job title doesn’t translate well within the industry. So, we eventually adopted the more standard technical account manager. That is my full-time day job.
Ken Gagne: And since that title does somewhat translate, I thought, “Well, what does it look to be an account manager in the video game industry?” So, why not go right to the source? Today, I’m speaking with Massive Entertainment Account Manager Dianna Lora. Hello, Dianna.
Dianna Lora: Hello, hello!
Ken Gagne: Thank you so much for making time for me, all the way from Sweden.
Dianna Lora: I know. Hello.
Ken Gagne: We were juggling the time zones to coordinate this podcast. This may be the earliest I’ve ever recorded a show.
Dianna Lora: Oh, my gosh! I super appreciate you being so flexible. It’s really difficult to schedule podcasts with y’all West Coast folk.
Ken Gagne: Well, I wasn’t always on the West Coast. I’m a digital nomad. I move around almost every month. I’m natively from Massachusetts, which was a little closer to you.
Dianna Lora: Mass! Oh, my goodness.
Ken Gagne: Yeah.
Dianna Lora: Are we mortal enemies, because I’m from New York City?
Ken Gagne: No. New York’s great. I love the Big Apple. Take a train down there from Boston, go see some shows.
Dianna Lora: Or the Fung Wah Bus, which is-
Ken Gagne: As long as they don’t explode.
Dianna Lora: As long as they don’t explode or have crazy things that happen in them.
Ken Gagne: Right.
Dianna Lora: Well, I’m glad you know that reference. Not that many people know it.
Ken Gagne: I got you. I’m picking up what you’re putting down.
Dianna Lora: Hey! Hey, hey, hey! Super.
Ken Gagne: So, tell me. I want to know more about Sweden, but first, let’s back up. Tell me more about being an account manager and, for those who haven’t heard of it, what is Massive Entertainment?
Dianna Lora: Well, Massive Entertainment is a studio in Malmö, Sweden. We’re in the southern part of Sweden, so we don’t get all the snow, but we do get foggy days because we’re technically by the water. And so it’s a video game studio. We’re under Ubisoft and yeah, and being an account manager is fantastic. I think it’s one of those roles that I never thought that I would be working, that I would have. I started out in musical theater, which is kind of funny and being account manager is sort of a marriage of all of that, of being a theater person with the outward like, “Hey! I’m very personable. I know how to talk to people,” but then also have the production background and also the technical knowhow in gaming, in game development.
Dianna Lora: So, it really is, it’s a very interesting position. So, you’re kind of like the bridge that connects everybody together and it’s awesome. I love it. I absolutely love it.
Ken Gagne: The way I describe my role as an account manager is to play that clip from the movie Office Space. “I deal with the goddamn customers so the developers don’t have to. I have people skills.”
Dianna Lora: Yeah. That, too.
Ken Gagne: But you’re not technically interacting with customers per se, are you?
Dianna Lora: No, no, no. I work directly with the developers. So, we have a platform called Ubisoft Connect that just launched, that initially used to be Uplay. And, yeah, and so I helped the developers launch on Ubisoft Connect as well as the ESA PC client platform. So, I regularly meet with the developers, also communicate with the game developers as well as the platform developers and the client developers. So, I’m kind of, like I said, in the middle of all of it. So, I am a part of a lot of different meetings every single day and sort of communicating techspeak back to HQ or prepping a game team for their particular launch, which, like this past fall, we had four games that launched. And so that was a really busy time for us, as well.
Ken Gagne: And what sort of games does Massive Entertainment produce?
Dianna Lora: Well, we produced the most popular one that we had was The Division and The Division 2 as well as World in Conflict. We’re currently in production of the Avatar game as well as just announced a new Star Wars game as well, which is very fun.
Ken Gagne: Oh! Very exciting.
Dianna Lora: I know.
Ken Gagne: Some of the games you mentioned are original IP. Star Wars clearly is a franchise that has a lot of gravitas behind it, a lot of history. It’s very influential. What does it feel like to work with a brand that we all grew up watching?
Dianna Lora: Oh, my goodness! It’s exciting. We’re not going to lie. I think it’s a huge, huge honor to be able to collaborate with Disney and Lucas Games and, like I said, we just announced, it’s going to be a new story-driven, open world game set in the Star Wars galaxy, and we’re so excited for that, and excited to sort of put the Massive spin in that.
Ken Gagne: That’s amazing. Is this Massive’s first take on Star Wars?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. It is. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ken Gagne: Wow!
Dianna Lora: Yeah. We have huge, we have the most fantastic team and with some really great technology including the Snowdrop engine, which is one of the tech that a lot of the video games at Ubisoft used as well. And we developed that internally as well as in Massive, too. So, it’s really, really exciting. I know I keep saying, “Exciting,” but it really, really is.
Ken Gagne: Well, given how early the game is in development, that’s probably one of the few things you can say.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. Pretty much exactly. Disney is always listening.
Ken Gagne: Gosh! Yeah, these are two big companies, Ubisoft and Disney. Wow!
Dianna Lora: Ubisoft, Disney. Don’t forget Lucasfilm Games. I mean, they’re back and so that’s exciting as well. So, it’s … I just said, “Exciting,” again, didn’t I? How many times? Are we going to have a number that pops up?
Ken Gagne: No. No, no dinging. No worries. You don’t have a quota.
Dianna Lora: Excellent. Yeah, but it’s great that Lucasfilm Games is back and we’re able to sort of take the IP and run with that, so that’s great.
Ken Gagne: So, as an account manager, you’re working with not only the internal parties that you mentioned like developers, et cetera, but you’re also working with Disney and Lucasfilm, et cetera. You’re the liaison among all these different moving parts?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. Pretty much, yeah. We’re still in early developments on how exactly that’s going to work with, but yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s going to be fun.
Ken Gagne: Did you even know that job titles like account manager existed because usually when people think about getting to the game industry, they’re like, “Oh, I need to be a developer and know code. I need to be a designer and know art.” Or, some people are aware that they can be narrative designers, marketing, community managers, but account manager seems a little bit more niche.
Dianna Lora: It really is. I mean, I think, again, it’s one of those things where we, the public believes that the video game industry is a specific way and, like you said, that the only way that you can get into the gaming industry is if you’re a developer or if you’re in community management or a producer. Everybody wants to be a producer or the ideas guy.
Dianna Lora: And so, I don’t think that folks realize that there’s a lot of different ways to be a part of the industry and really, I like to joke around that my path has always been wind-y and super out there. I joke that I’ve done everything but develop in the gaming industry. I mean, I started as essentially a journalist in doing video game videos in the early days of YouTube and then podcasting as well. That was on my list and helped some video game websites get on their feet. So, it’s a lot. There are a lot of different things that could be that stepping stone into gaming that I don’t think folks realize. And a lot of different skills sets. We need a diverse set of skill sets and you can’t all have a technical mind. Sometimes, being a theater nerd is awesome. It has its benefits.
Ken Gagne: I would agree with that. I’ve done a lot of community theater, nothing professional but it’s been a blast and I had a lot of fun doing it.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. I mean, what are the sort of skills that … I’m now going to interview you. What are the sort of skills do you think would transfer over to gaming?
Ken Gagne: Into gaming as an account manager, you mean?
Dianna Lora: No. From doing theater to being an account manager, you think.
Ken Gagne: Oh. Well, I mean, my account management occurs in the web posting industry, so that job, I would say, is a really important blend of technical skills and soft skills. So, my undergraduate degree’s in tech writing, which you could summarize as taking a very technical subject and translating it to a lay audience, whether it’s for a newspaper or a user manual or a magazine. So, I was a magazine editor for six years. I would say that that is a very valuable skill is being able to translate one audience’s topic to another audience, because you need to know not only the technical stuff. You need to not be a developer, but you need to understand what the developers are saying, so there’s a technical experience and background that’s necessary there and the people skills to be able to communicate it.
Dianna Lora: Exactly. Exactly. So, you have the technical ability. You have your people skills. You’re all working together toward a common goal. I mean, we’re all working together to launch a video game into the public, but also, support it in any way that we can and sort of get it out into the world so that it can do its best. It’s like this little baby.
Ken Gagne: Aw!
Dianna Lora: Aw! It’s great. I mean, and all of that, to go back to that, the theater of that is, it’s a bunch of nerds all working together to put something out into the world, so it’s kind of how theater translates into gaming.
Ken Gagne: Now, in theater, were you one of the people on stage who gets the applause at the end of the show?
Dianna Lora: Yeah, I was. I was. But, also, I did enjoy putting it together as well, too. So, I have my abilities in directing and a director as well as being a producer, too.
Ken Gagne: Yeah. I saw that you worked on Manhattan Love Story. Is that right?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. Yeah. That was, for Manhattan Love Story, though, that was also being a part of a crew, so I was crew for that. Worked as a PA for the carpentry.
Ken Gagne: That would be a production assistant?
Dianna Lora: Yes, a production assistant. Yeah.
Ken Gagne: Cool.
Dianna Lora: That was one of the best times of my life, being a PA. It was fantastic.
Ken Gagne: What did you love so much about it?
Dianna Lora: Well, I really liked the getting my hands dirty part of it. It was, you’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning and get to the office at 6:00 or on set. And it was grunt work. So, it was just like, “Hey! I need some donuts.” And this was in New York and Queens in this studio and there’d be just like, “Hey, give me some donuts. I want some donuts or get some bagels.” And I’m like, “Okay. How many bagels do we need today?” Then, going to Costco and buying loads of granola bars and setting up the food table for everybody and then, just paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. It’s like, “Yeah.” It was great. It was fantastic and always, always, always busy. And so it was one of the great things of getting a car as well and driving around the city and to pick up paint and wood. It was so random for one day, but it was awesome. It was great.
Ken Gagne: Well, I hope nobody listening takes this literally and says, “If I want to get into the game industry, I have to be good at getting coffee and bagels.”
Dianna Lora: Yeah. It’s a part of it, though. But, it’s also humbling, because you just, you realize that, “Okay. I’m getting the coffee and I’m getting the bagels for folks,” but that’s important because these folks are working really, really hard to build the sets. They get their requisite breaks. When you get them the candy that they like, they’re just, “Oh, my god. Thank you so much,” because you’re an important, vital part of the production. And yeah, you’re just getting food, but you’re also keeping these folks happy and they have fantastic, fantastic stories that are not safe for work that you should not be talking about in public but they do and because they’re just like old, old guard IATSE construction guys who just have a story about Martin Scorsese or something like that. It’s wild. It’s wild.
Ken Gagne: Well, I would say that more broadly, my role as an account manager at least is to make sure people have what they need to do their job. And, in my case, instead of coffee and bagels, that could be, “Do you know how to install PHP_CodeSniffer on your local development environment? And if not, here’s the documentation.”
Dianna Lora: If we have it.
Ken Gagne: “And if we don’t have the documentation, I’ll write it or I’ll find somebody who can.”
Dianna Lora: Exactly. Exactly. You’re really being an account manager, you’re in service of others and in service of the cause of the production or any sort of thing that can happen that particular day and it’s really a lot of communicating and a lot of reaching out to folks and I think this is where that theater experience of not being afraid to fall flat on your face, not being afraid to fail. Being the person asking the questions all the time and saying, “Hey, why is it this way?” And they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know why it’s this way. Why don’t we fix it?” And then, you’re just like, “I’ve got it. Let me fix it.” Kind of scrappy.
Ken Gagne: One of the things you mentioned both in this podcast and in the Women of Ubisoft interview that you did was that theater auditions taught you how to accept no, but it can be really hard to persevere when you’re constantly getting rejected. So, yes, it can be valuable to learn to accept no, but how do you get to that place where you don’t just let it defeat you?
Dianna Lora: I think it’s the people that you surround yourself with to be frank. It just, with every rejection, you would … You cry a little or you’re just like, “Damn, man. I wish it could have been different.” And then you pre-COVID, when we could all hang out with each other, you’d hang out with your friends and you’d be like, “Man, I didn’t get this audition,” or, “I didn’t get this show,” or, “I bombed this audition.” You’d just be like you have your friends around or just like, “No. It’s all cool. Don’t worry about it. You’re fantastic. You’re gorgeous. You’re amazing.” And gassing you up, as they say in New York. It’s like just making you feel fantastic and knowing that like, “Okay. If I didn’t get it this time, I can get it next time.”
Dianna Lora: But then, also just accepting that there are things that are beyond your control and I think that that’s what kind of it taught me, even though you keep getting told, “No,” there’s always the possibility that someone’s going to say, “Yes.” And having that particular bit of hope keeps you going.
Dianna Lora: And then, also, you just, it really gives you a moment for self-reflection or just like, “Okay. Why didn’t it work this time?” If we’re talking about specifically theater, “Oh, I did crack when I hit that A,” or, “I did party a little too hard last night,” or, “Maybe I should have gone to bed a little earlier to prep,” or, “I was a bit cocky.”
Dianna Lora: So, it gives you that opportunity to sort of reflect upon what about, on yourself, how you got here, what does that no mean, and also like, “Ugh!” Sometimes, you’re up against, I don’t know, like what’s her name? Jordin Sparks. I made it to a final call back for actually for In The Heights and for Broadway, too. And so, I didn’t get it and that’s fine. And I found out later that it was this chick who got out of American Idol, ended up getting it and I was like, “All right. Cool.”
Ken Gagne: That makes sense.
Dianna Lora: All right! I mean, if it was between us and her or between me and her, all right. It’s like, “That’s cool.” Like, “I don’t have a problem with that.” So, it’s also a bit of perspective. You kind of take pleasure in even the smallest things. “I made it that far.”
Ken Gagne: I mean, it is a good opportunity to self-reflect and see where you can improve but I imagine in any industry but especially theater, you don’t want to lose your core identity by changing aspects of yourself that you love just to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Dianna Lora: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it’s so easy to do that, too. I think that that’s where a lot of folks, I mean, in general, it’s not just theater, but I think in life, I think we lose a part of ourselves when we think we need to do that and I think that getting the nos, constantly getting the nos taught me that there’s nothing I’m going to do about it. At some point of the day, the person sitting at the other side of that table is just going to say, “Uh! I had coffee today. I’m really not in the mood to be here,” and then just not pay attention to anything, which has happened. So, you can only control the things that you … I feel like there are a lot of things beyond our control and we can’t drive ourselves crazy to fit some particular mold that other people want you to fit and that was a valuable lesson that I took with me when I got out of theater and moved onto working in the gaming industry where it’s just like, “Yeah.” Folks want you to fit in a particular way or they want you to fit into a certain demographic or whatever, whatever, whatever. And I was just like, “I’m not going to do that. I’m sorry. Do you want to work with me or not? It is what it is. I’ll talk to you later.”
Dianna Lora: So, yeah. So, it took a lot of that to sort of teach me that who gives a shit. Like, “What the fuck does it matter?” It doesn’t fucking matter. Be you. Be yourself. Who cares?
Ken Gagne: Was there a breaking point for you where you said, “I’m going to stop pursuing a career in theater and try my hand at video games”?
Dianna Lora: To be frank, it was really the recession. There was a recession happening in the United States. I had just graduated from college. I did the tours. I toured around the United States and stuff and that was great. And then I was auditioning like crazy and it was … And theater, at that particular time, was only hiring superstars. They were hiring stars because film, I feel like it was during the writer’s strike. You remember that, ages ago?
Ken Gagne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. So, actors were looking for other places to work and everybody went to theater. And so, it was very difficult to find work. And so, that’s when I started to say, “Okay. I need to make a decision here. I am not making an income.” So, it’s getting very, very difficult. And so, I was still doing the working on YouTube and that, although YouTube videos and the podcasts and things like that. And I was like, “Well, at some point, I need to make a decision, because I can’t keep supporting myself on dollar pizzas.”
Dianna Lora: And yeah, and so I already had the connections and I had the experience and the work because I would … While I was auditioning and stuff, you say, “You have your day job. What’s your day job?” At that point, I was working in Sony. And yeah, and so I was just like, “Okay. 100% working at Sony. I’m not going to audition anymore. I’m not going to do any more shows. I’m going to take this seriously.” I got a promotion, which was really great. And then, I was like, “All right. I’m getting really serious working at gaming,” because folks were saying, “Hey, we need your experience. We need your voice, and you should join us.” And so, that’s what I did. I just started applying and got the opportunity to move to San Francisco and I started working at a job in this mobile gaming company, which was great.
Ken Gagne: Do you miss theater?
Dianna Lora: I do, but I scratched that itch with … When, I was in San Francisco, I was a part of a band where I was a singer. I would occasionally do an appearance where I’d sing a couple songs and that would be great. I really enjoy doing readings, so occasionally, a friend would be like, “Hey. Want to do a reading on …” What is it called? The Google Hangouts and things like that. So, I’d do that as well.
Dianna Lora: So, I do miss it. I’m actually doing auditions for a possible, a community theater around here since there’s a lot of free time here. There’s a perfect work/life balance in Sweden. And so actually, if I leave, my day ends at 5:00, it actually does end at 5:00. So, now I’m like, “Oh, man. I have time and not just because of COVID, but I actually have time after work to do things.” So, I’m auditioning for some theater around here as well.
Ken Gagne: And there actually is theater to audition for during the pandemic?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. There is. In Sweden, at least or at least at Malmö, the theater groups are moving online, which is a common sort of thing that everybody in theater is doing. We’re all moving online to do Zoom shows, which some shows are fantastic. I saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream on Zoom that had me in stitches. It was fantastic. So, yeah. So, folks are moving online and doing shows that way, because you got to innovate. Got to innovate.
Ken Gagne: That’s true. We all have to adapt to these strange times and I hope that some of the innovation is going to stick around because it’s good, but I am also looking forward to the days when we can go to a theater and see everybody perform.
Dianna Lora: Oh! I 100% agree.
Ken Gagne: So, as you mentioned, you are in Sweden, but there is a pandemic. And is that a place that you need to be with so many people telecommuting to their jobs now?
Dianna Lora: I think, if you had told me a year ago that we would be able to move completely remote, I would have laughed in your face, but I don’t want to … I get really heated when I talk about this, so I apologize in advance, but I think that we were told, in no kind terms, a lie that working remotely was impossible and I think that the pandemic has proved that that is not impossible at all.
Dianna Lora: So, I think that, with the improvements of technology, you could do your job anywhere. I mean, now you could sign on remotely onto your office computer and do what you need to do. I think, for me personally, I do need to be here because I am working with the Massive team. So, it does help to just, when eventually the COVID is over, I can just walk over and just be like, “Hey, guys. I have a question,” and then, that would be super helpful. But I think that, when it comes to working remotely, especially when it comes to being able to do your job in gaming, I think that now that anybody that says that a role isn’t remote is lying to you. It’s totally possible. Don’t believe them.
Ken Gagne: Yeah. The company I work for has been remote ever since it was founded 15 years ago.
Dianna Lora: Oh, really? Whoa!
Ken Gagne: We’ve never had an office.
Dianna Lora: What?
Ken Gagne: But this is my first job like this. I’ve only been in this role for three years. Every job I had before this was in the office and you’re right. So many of these jobs could be distributed and there are pros and cons to that, but it’s good to have the flexibility.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. I agree, and having that flexibility I think opens the doors for others. I mean, I think that one of the number one things that I’ve heard is from my disabled friends who’ve been, who wanting to find work and being told, “No. We can’t offer this role for you remotely.” And it’s just like, that’s ridiculous. Why? It’s a writing gig. Why do you need me in the office for this when we have a way to sort of communicate through video? Yeah, it’s a lie. It’s a very, very big lie that people push to try, I guess, to up their numbers, but really, you could do your job anywhere.
Ken Gagne: Yeah, and as you said, it’s not only to the benefit of the employees but also the employer, because I forget exactly how our CEO puts it but it’s something like intelligence and ambition are evenly distributed around the globe but opportunity is not. And when you go remote, you now start fishing in a very big pond instead of just the people who can afford to live in San Francisco.
Dianna Lora: Definitely. Definitely. And really, I firmly believe that opportunity is that key word. It’s just like an opportunity was given to me that completely changed the path of my life. And when I started working at Sony, there’s a gent who gave me an opportunity. He didn’t have to give me the job. I was very rough around the edges. I mean, I was a theater person, but I was also like, that still hasn’t gone but I was scrappy and I was like, “Hey! I’m from New York. Hey! Hire me.” I had to like, “Please don’t. Nobody make fun of me,” but I literally had my … Because I was working, I was applying to Sony and I was also applying to Sony PlayStation at the time.
Dianna Lora: So, I sent my résumé to both offices and this particular office responded, “But I have my gamertag online.” And my gamertag on my résumé was like that. It was totally like that, which is supposed to be a huge faux pas at that time anyway. Now, if you’re applying to gaming, people want more information about your gaming abilities, but at that point, this was a very office-y job. Yeah, and this guy just gave me the opportunity. He was like, “There’s something in you. You’re cool. You’re also honest and you’re sincere and I do want to work with you.” And that was awesome. I think that that opportunity needs to be given to everybody, not just the folks who are in your particular town.
Ken Gagne: So, given that break you got at Sony and that so you were, as you said, coming from musical theater, which industry would you say was harder to break into, acting or gaming?
Dianna Lora: Honestly, I think gaming. I think gaming at that point really, because I think gaming puts up a lot of, is very gatekeep-y. Like I said earlier, folks think that the only way to work in gaming is if you’re a developer or if you’re a writer or … Those typical roles that are advertised, and I don’t think people realize that we, as in the gaming industry, we need a breadth of skills and abilities that aren’t just technically minded. We need those soft skills as well. We need folks who are able to communicate and collaborate. Those sort of things. We need a lot of those types of folks. And so I think getting past that barrier of where, as I was applying to be a producer at that point, and they were like, “Oh, we need this particular, this many years experience.” And I’m like, “I don’t have that many years experience. I have the skills for that, but I don’t have this many years experience in gaming because this is my first gaming job, and this is an entry level gaming job.” So, why are you making it harder for me to get in when I have the skills and abilities for this particular role?
Dianna Lora: So, I think gaming makes it very difficult for folks who don’t have that path to get in. And so, on a side bar to that, I really make it my business to, when I recommend people for roles or through my career, is to sort of look at folks who are not typically, that fit into that gaming bubble, that gaming circle that is very specific. So, I like to hire theater nerds. I like to hire folks who worked in film and TV. Yeah. I think that those are the sort of things that are super important that we as an industry need to sort of really consider.
Ken Gagne: I think it’s important to hire people interdisciplinarily because they bring all those different perspectives. I mean, there are all kinds of diversity, which we’ll talk about, but professional background is one of them.
Dianna Lora: Exactly. Like Massive is really great about that. We have somebody who used to be a professional puppeteer, who works at Massive right now. So, he was a puppet master, so that’s really, really cool. The folks who worked in film and TV work in Massive, too. So, I think that’s important. Those are really important things that we need to consider when we start bringing folks in.
Ken Gagne: There are several account managers where I work and two of my peers with that title, one has her law degree. The other has a PhD in performing arts.
Dianna Lora: Oh, yes! Awesome.
Ken Gagne: And now we’re all account managers.
Dianna Lora: Look at that. That’s awesome. That’s fantastic.
Ken Gagne: So, you currently work at Massive. At a previous job, you worked at Deep Silver, which has published such games as Dead Island, Saints Row, Shenmue III. If I understand your LinkedIn profile correctly, between Deep Silver and Massive, you had a couple of years as a freelancer. Is that correct?
Dianna Lora: Right, right. Yeah.
Ken Gagne: So, what were you doing in that role as a freelancer?
Dianna Lora: Honestly, I was unemployed at that point, because I was laid off from Deep Silver. Yeah. That was a very interesting time. I did a lot of odd jobs, I guess you would want to say, where I would help somebody with their site or I’d help somebody with their script or I’d helped somebody with their writing, their marketing, or their pitch doc, or something like that. So, I was doing a lot of different things. At one point, I even worked at … What was it? The PlayStation … Why can’t I remember the name of it, but the PlayStation event. Oh, my gosh! What’s the name of the convention?
Ken Gagne: PlayStation Experience?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. That’s it. The PlayStation Experience. Thank you. Yeah. So, I worked the PlayStation Experience and I was working for Naughty Dog at that point with their, they had a booth and so I was helping with the booth there.
Dianna Lora: So, for those couple of months, that was just a lot of hustling and also networking and getting to know people know that I had more time. I just be like, “Hey, so why don’t you tell me what you do? Let’s talk,” and just meeting a lot of different folks as well, because I was still in San Francisco at that point.
Dianna Lora: So, I’d just be like, “Hey. Does anyone want to go get coffee? Let’s go get coffee.” So, yeah. So, it was a lot of hustling. Never stopped hustling. And also, looking for a job, so just applying to … I applied to a lot of different companies. I made it to the final selection process at that point for a lot of different company. Oh, so many! And I randomly applied to Massive. I was like, “Oh, it’s in Sweden. Nah! Why do they want this mouthy broad working in Sweden?”
Dianna Lora: And so, yeah. And then, I got it. When I went to Malmö and I came over here to Malmö, it was my first time outside of the United States. Well, that’s not true, but outside of the Western Hemisphere. So, it was my first time in Europe, which was amazing and I was like, “Oh, look at that. Look at all these buildings. This is such an old town. Oh!” And I loved it. I feel in love with the town. I fell in love with Massive and yeah. The rest is history.
Ken Gagne: So, as an account manager, you’re now constantly in communication with all these different external and internal parties running things back and forth. As a freelancer, you were hustling, always looking for your next gig and also applying for jobs, which can itself be a full-time job.
Dianna Lora: Yeah, pretty much.
Ken Gagne: Which would you say is more, I don’t know if hustling is the right word, but which lifestyle is more frenetic, having a full-time employer or being your own boss?
Dianna Lora: I think being your own boss is hard. It’s so hard. It was one of the most challenging moments of my life because it’s like, I was very dependent on that next paycheck, very, very dependent on that next paycheck and let’s be real. I also lived in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. My rent was ridiculous. I cannot believe I survived in San Francisco unemployed for as long as I did. I barely made it, barely and if it wasn’t for my beautiful, beautiful, fantastic friends who helped me make those connections and helped me find those one-off gigs, I wouldn’t have made it. There was no doubt about it. I would have left much sooner, but being a freelancer is really, really hard. It’s one of the hardest things I think that … And it’s a very brave thing.
Dianna Lora: I have some friends after the pandemic here, during the pandemic who essentially, they weren’t employed but they decided to go freelance and we talk about that, the complexity of being your own boss and having that responsibility and always be working and finding that balance between, okay, so not only am I working from home because I have to be home, but I also have to make a paycheck because, and make it myself. So, how am I going to do this? I have to make calls. I need to constantly be on social media and advertise myself and advertise my abilities and my skills. So, it’s a lot of work and then, also refining that constantly so that you can actually have a particular product or a particular skill or ability to put yourself out there.
Dianna Lora: And so I think that that is a very, very difficult thing to do and it’s a very, very brave to do and also making that decision that I’m going to make money on my own and not be under anybody, not be under a major company, which I also think is extremely freeing, which is another thing that my friends have been saying when they made that decision to go completely freelance is that it’s one of the most exciting and scary moments of their lives. And I 100% agree and I only did that for a few months. I was like, “I don’t know if I can do that. I do not know if I could do that again.”
Ken Gagne: Yeah. Sometimes, in my life tried to go freelance. I had a full-time job and I had a gig on the side. I was like, “I hate my day job. I would much rather be doing this other thing full time.” And I could just never build it up enough and maybe that was lack of opportunity. Maybe it was lack of ambition, but I could never just get to the point. Maybe I should have quit my full-time job so I’d have to do it. I don’t know, but you’re right. It is very brave.
Dianna Lora: It is and I remember even before that when I was doing, when I was in theater, in having to make the decision between keeping the day job or continue to audition and do the shows that you’re doing. That balance is always there and you always be like, “Well, but I need to pay my bills.” And at some point, you have to make a decision or you’re going to have to pay your bills or just jump head first 100% faith on your skills and abilities and yeah. And that’s a very difficult decision to make.
Ken Gagne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). There was one point where I want to try my hand at acting as a career, not just in the community. And I got a call one night to come be an extra in a Sandra Bullock film that was filming in Massachusetts and I was like, “Great. When is it?” They said, “Tomorrow.” I’m like, “That’s 12-hours notice. I have a full-time day job and I have not given my manager any notice that I’m just not going to be there tomorrow.” And so I had to say, “No.” In order to be an actor, I had to be unemployed, basically.
Dianna Lora: Yeah, pretty much or have some form of income already or have income because of your family supporting you, which is a very real thing, so you have your situations where folks are just like, “Oh, my family supports me. My parents support me because I want to be an actor,” and you’re just like, “Well, shit. I wish I had that opportunity. My family can’t do that at all.” They love me and they want me to be fantastic but paying my rent and my bills so that I could go off and do that. That’s not a realistic thing for me.
Ken Gagne: Yeah. Yeah, you mentioned that in one of your interviews, you’re the first person in your family to go to college. Is that right?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. Yeah. First person.
Ken Gagne: Wow! Congratulations. That’s great.
Dianna Lora: Thank you. It’s kind of unbelievable sometimes and there’s a lot of honor in that but there’s also a lot of responsibility in wanting to succeed and doing your family proud that comes along with that and I think I’m doing all right.
Ken Gagne: I think they would be proud of you regardless.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. They are. They are.
Ken Gagne: Yeah. So, what can we do and I don’t know who we is. It could be the United States. It could be families, but what can we do to make it easier for those people who want to go to college to do so?
Dianna Lora: I think, really, it’s having a support system. I always say, “You need to surround yourself with really good people,” whether that’s family, whether that’s friends, whether it’s a combination of both. You just need to have good people behind you who are your cheerleaders and really who will respect your decision, because I don’t think college in … We were told that we needed to go to college, like that was the important thing. I was told I needed to go to college, I needed to get a degree and I did. I got my degree. I got my theater degree, my BFA, bachelor of fine arts.
Dianna Lora: And then, when I was working in gaming or when I was starting out in gaming, I was like, “Oh, I need to be able to know what I’m talking about,” because I also, one of my things that I was doing was I was also working on a streaming service back, again, in the early, early days. This was before Hulu came out and kind of blew us out of the water. And we were going to all of these really big, important meetings with these big, important dudes in suits and I needed to be able to understand what they were talking about. So, I was like, “Okay. Well, I make it my business to understand what the hell I’m talking about,” and so I went back to school and I got my master’s in business. And so I did that and so I have my master’s as well.
Dianna Lora: But that was my decision and that was something that I think that I remember when I was trying to make the decision if I wanted to get the master’s or not, I remember a coworker saying, “Dianna, I don’t think this master’s is necessary. If you want to work in gaming, it’s not necessary. You just need to have the ability and you have the opportunity.” I’m just like, “Well, I don’t have the opportunity and so, this will help me.”
Dianna Lora: So, at the end of the day, it did and I don’t regret getting my master’s at all but that was my path. That’s the direction that I went and I will say that having that degree, having that master’s, having that BFA, going to college, that was something super, super beneficial to me personally and that was something that I had full support behind me from everybody that I loved. Am I going to suggest that for somebody else? I don’t think so. I think college kids, kids these days, as they say, I think there are better opportunities, there’s more opportunity out there to enter gaming.
Dianna Lora: So, find what you’re really good at, find what you’re looking for, want what you want to do and then just find the community from there. I’ve been telling folks that find your Discord community. There’s lots of Discords. There’s a lot of Reddits. Reddit is a fantastic resource. There’s a lot of places where you can talk to folks. Twitter, I was just mentioning on Twitter yesterday that LinkedIn, people sleep on LinkedIn, but it really is a fantastic resource. It’s a great resource to connect to people.
Dianna Lora: So, I think that there’s a lot of opportunities right now for folks to get into the industry. My footsteps are wind-y. They are very, very wind-y. Like I said, I feel like I’ve done a lot and I’ve had a very, very wind-y, fantastic journey that I say folks, that that was my journey and if you need help, I’m here to help guide you, but I don’t recommend going my way because there was a lot of hardships. It’s a lot easier now. Yeah. Just find the resources. There’s a lot of resources if you want to get into gaming. There’s a lot of folks who are also out there who are willing to help and reach out and reach out to folks who want to get into gaming as well.
Dianna Lora: So, I think in this very, very long story short way, I think it’s not a matter of making it easier. It’s just a matter of making your own opportunity.
Ken Gagne: I absolutely agree about finding your community, whether that’s on Twitter or Discord or LinkedIn, I got my master’s degree and I would say the most valuable thing I got out of it was the connections I made.
Dianna Lora: Right. Right. Right. I mean, it really is and I think the connections that I’ve made are just the people that I’ve met throughout the years. Going to an event and just be like, “Hey! Oh, my gosh! Hi. I haven’t seen you in ages. Let’s talk. Let’s catch up. Oh, what? You’re looking for a job? Oh, here’s my résumé.”
Dianna Lora: So, it’s really like that. And just not being an asshole. Being a sincere, good person can get you a long way. I think a lot of folks think that there’s strength in being cruel and mean and just ignorant as fuck to get your hot take of the day. I don’t think that that is an effective way to get folks to like you. I just think being a sincere, good person can go a long way.
Ken Gagne: Well, it’s very similar to how we started the conversation about being an account manager. Be of service to others. I found the most valuable things that I can do in the gaming industry is introducing people to other people or just giving them opportunities, like being on a PAX panel and making sure that it goes well for them.
Ken Gagne: One of my friends, Francesca, who’s been on this podcast says that she loves being on my PAX panels because all she has to do is show up. And when she shows up, I already have everybody’s little name placards out. I have notepads and pencils so they can take notes during the presentation.
Dianna Lora: What?
Ken Gagne: I have the slide deck that introduces them, so there’s nothing for them to worry about. It’s just all ready.
Dianna Lora: That’s awesome. That’s so nice of you. Oh, my gosh! I want to be one of your panels.
Ken Gagne: I want you to be on one of my panels.
Dianna Lora: Ah! Did we just make a connection?
Ken Gagne: I think so. OMG!
Dianna Lora: Ay!
Ken Gagne: So, we’ve both been at Paxies and that was easier for you to access when you lived in New York. Before that, you lived in Louisiana. Then you lived in San Francisco, and now you live in Sweden. Has any one of those places felt like home to you?
Dianna Lora: Oh, man! I’m a born-and-bred New Yorker.
Ken Gagne: Really?
Dianna Lora: I mean, born-and-raised New Yorker, and I guess bred, too. I love New York. I love New York so much. It’s in my blood. It’s in my soul. And I miss it desperately. I’m getting teared up just thinking about how much I miss New York.
Ken Gagne: Aw!
Dianna Lora: Aw! So, I think that that’s my home, but that’s my home. It really is. But it’s just like sometimes you just get tired of your home and that’s pretty much what happened with me that made me move to San Francisco. I just needed that moment that was just like, “Dianna, there’s more things out there. You need to open your eyes.” And getting the opportunity to move to Malmö, Sweden, a place that, if you had said to me five years ago. “Oh, yo. Dianna. You’re going to be living in Sweden,” I’d be like, “Yo, you fucking crazy.” Like, “Get the fuck out of here. What the hell is in Sweden for me? For me?”
Ken Gagne: And yet, there are you.
Dianna Lora: And yet, here I am and I’m not going to lie, but Sweden is kind of feeling a little bit like home now.
Ken Gagne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). How long you been there now?
Dianna Lora: It’s going to be three years.
Ken Gagne: Wow! Already?
Dianna Lora: Right? Yeah. It really is. Time flies. Time really flies.
Ken Gagne: Well, I’m glad you got to experience Sweden before the pandemic. I started nomading a year and a half ago,-
Dianna Lora: Oh, my god!
Ken Gagne: … which means I move almost every month, and for the last year, almost every place I go feels the same because everything is shut down and you can’t see any people and there’s no community or no culture. So, I’ve been to some great places like Bend, Oregon and Portland and I’m supposed to be going to Alameda next.
Dianna Lora: Oh, fun!
Ken Gagne: Well, you would think but-
Dianna Lora: But what’s the point? Yeah.
Ken Gagne: … what’s the point of being in Alameda where you can’t see anybody or do anything?
Dianna Lora: That’s true, true. That’s true. I was just a literally about to say, “You should go to the theater,” that theater in Alameda but that’s shut down, too.
Ken Gagne: Yeah. That’s my point. When I would arrive at a new city before the pandemic, the two things I would look up were the community theater and the contra dances and I would get to see all the culture and meet all the people and now, I go to each place and my question is, “Does it have a TV so I can watch movies and play video games?”
Dianna Lora: And internet, internet.
Ken Gagne: Right.
Dianna Lora: Yeah. You know what’s so funny is that this year … Isn’t that how everybody’s story is? It’s just like, “This year was supposed to be the year.” Like, this year was going to be the year where I was like, “Okay. Now, I’m comfortable in Sweden. I’m feel good. I’ve got my place. So, I’m feeling pretty good. So, now I’m going to travel,” because we’re so close to … What’s great about Malmö is that we’re connected to Copenhagen and it’s a major airport. And so you can fly anywhere from there. So, I was just like, “Oh, man! I’m going to go this place. I’m going to go this place, and go to Spain,” which I haven’t been to yet.
Ken Gagne: Oh!
Dianna Lora: I haven’t been there yet. It’s like right there. It’s two hours away, man. And yeah. I will say this, though. Last year, not last year like pandemic last year, but the year before that, I did go sailing and that was in the Mediterranean and that was one of the most amazing things in my life as well. I was like, “Yo. Again, this Dianna from the Bronx sailing in the Mediterranean. I’m so booshie right now. Look at me.”
Ken Gagne: It’s so amazing when you just take a step back and you look at the context of where you were and where you are and you’re like, “I could not have seen this coming.”
Dianna Lora: No. Then, it’s been a blessing every … Sometimes, I’d walk down the street and I’m like, “I’m in Sweden.” It’s just walking and I’m like, “Where … Oh, yeah. That’s right. I’m in Malmö. I’m in Sweden right now. I’m in Europe. I’m not in the United States.” Really, it’s a very odd thing. It’s something that I’m talking to some of my co-workers who are also from the US who are just like, “Has it hit you that you live in Europe now?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I’ve been here for six years and it’s always amazing.” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah.” It’s a blessing, though. It’s a blessing.
Ken Gagne: See, with me, I move around so often that there are mornings I wake up and I have to ask myself, “Where am I?”
Dianna Lora: That’s so awesome, though.
Ken Gagne: It gets a little confusing.
Dianna Lora: I need to ask you questions offline about that because that’s pretty sweet.
Ken Gagne: I am open to questions.
Dianna Lora: Right.
Ken Gagne: So, we’re coming up on an hour, but there’s one other topic I want to talk to you about, which is that, as we’re recording this, it’s late January, which means we’re on the cusp of February, which is often observed in the United States as Black History Month. And your Twitter timeline was referring to people falling into bad habits, artists being exploited, et cetera. So, as a white person, I’m aware that Black history should be celebrated every month, but beyond that, I’m not familiar with any negative connotations of how Black History Month is observed. I hate to be the white dude asking you to explain things to me, but can you help me understand what’s going on?
Dianna Lora: Yeah. Of course. I think this simple, where white folks have been joking about is that I think folks forget that, like you said, Black History Month, we should be celebrating every month. We should be celebrating all the time. And I think what ends up happening is after the Black Lives Matter movement, folks were like, “Oh! Oh, we need to pay more attention to the Blacks and we need to pay more attention to the Latinos because they’re angry. So, we’re going to use this opportunity to say that we support Black Lives Matter.” And it could seem opportunistic and kind of makes you feel a bit token-y when somebody reaches out to you to say, “Hey, we want to highlight you for Black History Month.” It’s just like you didn’t pay attention to me and my skills and abilities for the whole entire year, but for this particular month, all of a sudden, now you’re interested in what I’m doing.
Dianna Lora: And so, that can be extremely insulting and obnoxious, because folks are here all the time. Black folk don’t become visible just that one month out of the year and I think that there’s a bit of saltiness around that because there are people who are actually doing legitimate work all throughout the year who are constantly reaching out to major companies and major outlets for some form of visibility and 11 months out of the year, they’re constantly being annoyed. And then, the only time their services are needed is to essentially elevate that company or elevate that outlet’s platform.
Dianna Lora: And so, it’s just like, “I don’t want to be a token. I don’t want to be anyone’s token. I’m actually …” And so, there are some folks who are just either refusing wholeheartedly to just not participate in any of that sort of foolishness of being that particular token but then also saying, “Okay. You want to use me. Then pay me,” like, “Fuck you. Pay me.” It’s like, I think Black public speakers, when folks are asking for their rates, you say, “Hey, these are my rates.” And then, all of a sudden, the person asking completely disappears because they only want your voice for how much they want to pay you for. So, if you think that my voice is important, then you’re willing to drop down that cash to support it.
Dianna Lora: So, I think that’s kind of what’s happening right now. You don’t want folks to be exploited. We’re also reminding a lot of folks, “Hey, guys. Do not forget these … If you want to work with me, then pay me double what I’m normally worth.” And I think that it’s extremely valid, because as soon as the protests started to die down, Black Lives Matter started to disappear from folks’ timeline.
Dianna Lora: So, and the importance of that message and what people were protesting about was gone and all of a sudden, it’s those Black voices were just not as valuable and that’s extremely disrespectful because folks exist outside of these sort of circumstances and I think that’s what’s incredibly frustrating as well and I think Tanya DePass said it really well on Twitter. She was just like, “I don’t want to do … Why? I’m this person, underscore person in gaming. I don’t want to do those insert. It’s very difficult to be a Black woman in gaming or difficult to be et cetera, et cetera, et cetera in gaming. I don’t want to talk about those conversations anymore.” Nobody wants to talk about how I was a theater major or how I was, in this case of Tanya was, she has a breadth of experience and abilities and she is beyond that, she’s beyond that, and we’re beyond that and stop exploiting people at the end of the day is what it comes down to.
Ken Gagne: I mean, there is value in Diversity 101 for those who have no prior introduction to it, but-
Dianna Lora: Definitely.
Ken Gagne: … that corpus of literature has been produced. It’s out there for people who need it and, to Tanya’s point, it’s time to move onto Diversity 201 and 301.
Dianna Lora: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And really, and highlight people all throughout the year, not just during Black History Month, not during just insert this particular month. There are Latinos in the gaming industry that are working extremely hard. There are Asians working extremely hard. There are Native Americans who are working very hard. There’s a lot of people in the industry who are working very, very hard and you should not only highlight them that one particular month out of the year and we need to respect that and understand that it does get exploitative when you’re only highlighting them that one time of the year.
Ken Gagne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, we should celebrate diversity year round and pay people what they’re worth. It sounds easy.
Dianna Lora: It’s so extremely easy.
Ken Gagne: I mean, it should be.
Dianna Lora: Right? And just, it’s a matter of what I said earlier. It’s just like, “Stop being an asshole.” And that even goes with not paying people what they’re worth. It’s like you know you have the money to pay people more. It’s just that you just don’t want to. And that’s incredibly disrespectful.
Ken Gagne: Absolutely. Well, thank you. I appreciate you putting those things into context for me. I mean, now that you’ve explain it so easily, it sounds obvious but these are not things that I had been made aware of.
Dianna Lora: Yeah, and honestly, it’s like you said. The information is out there and if you have any questions, just it’s perfectly okay to just ask, too.
Ken Gagne: Well, thank you. And where is here online? Where can people find you?
Dianna Lora: I’m on Twitter. That is one of my main platforms so you can find me at GrlpantsGR and that’s G-R-L pants G-R.
Ken Gagne: Is there a story behind that?
Dianna Lora: There actually is. I was bowling. I was in high school, was bowling and we were trying to come up with nicknames. And somebody was just like, “You’re a girl and you’ve got pants, so girlpants.” I was like, “Ha, ha. Okay.” But I couldn’t fit the full girlpants, and so it was just like, “G-R-L pants.”
Ken Gagne: But do the pants have pockets?
Dianna Lora: Always. Always.
Ken Gagne: Always. Of course.
Dianna Lora: They always need to have pockets. It’s a requirement. Why don’t you get pockets? I don’t understand.
Ken Gagne: Me, neither. It makes no sense.
Dianna Lora: No sense at all.
Ken Gagne: So, primarily Twitter. Anywhere else?
Dianna Lora: I’m also on Instagram, but pretty much if you just need to find me, you can find me on Twitter and there’s a link there that connects you to other places as well.
Ken Gagne: Awesome. Thank you. So, we have talked today about being an account manager, about being a freelancer, living in New York, San Francisco, Sweden, going to college, Star Wars, Black History Month. Is there anything else you wanted to chat about today?
Dianna Lora: I could continue to talk if we need to. I just want to say, “Thank you for inviting me.” This has just been such a wonderful experience and yeah, just, I always make myself available to folks. If you have any other questions, just reach out to me. Very, very open. I’m in the book, so I don’t have a problem about people.
Ken Gagne: I’m so glad to hear that. Dianna Lora, account manager at Massive Entertainment, thank you so much.
Dianna Lora: Thank you.
Voiceover: This has been Polygamer, a Gamebits production. Find more episodes, read our blog, or send feedback at polygamer.net.