When David Montgomery was living in Senior House, he spent a fair amount of free time playing video games with classmates—especially Super Mario 64. But he never envisioned gaming as a career.
“I remember walking around an MIT job fair, looking for jobs in systems and engineering,” Montgomery says. “And I asked myself, ‘What’s the coolest job I can imagine? Computers games could be pretty cool.’ And then I went home and sent out résumés to gaming companies.”
That job fair epiphany led to a 15-year career in the game industry. He’s now chief technical architect for World Golf Tour (WGT), an online golf game that has more than 20 million players worldwide. Montgomery oversees the game’s custom-built simulation, which blends photography from well-known golf courses with 2-D and 3-D graphics.
“The most important aspect of golf is accuracy,” he says. “So that needs to be a core principle of the game. Our audience is people who are serious about golf—everything needs to be precise.”
For every real-life golf course that is featured in the game—there are more than 20—the WGT team will take nearly 200,000 high-resolution photos and, using hardware built by Montgomery, merge the imagery with an online environment that simulates details like course terrain, aerodynamics, and the physics of a well-hit ball.
Montgomery joined WGT—as one of the company’s first employees—in 2007, after more than six years working at Electronic Arts (EA), the world’s third-largest gaming company.
“It’s hard to feel the impact you’re making at a large company,” he says. “When I started at WGT, it was a very small startup. What I’ve enjoyed most is contributing directly to the company’s success and knowing I’m having a real impact on the bottom line.”
And while he wasn’t directly preparing for a gaming career, his MIT mind-set has played a role in his success. “There have been areas where I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I knew I could figure it out,” Montgomery says. “MIT gave me the skills to take a problem, break it down, and then execute a solution.”
One perk of working for WGT? A better real-life golf game—that admittedly still needs work. “My golf game has vastly improved,” Montgomery says. “But it’s still a mixture of humiliation and success. It’s definitely gotten better, but I wouldn’t say it’s great.”
This actually originally appeared in the November/December issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.