Five years ago, Tara Teich went to a Boston mall with some friends, where they passed a store that sold video and computer games. Tara searched the window display, and there, right in the middle of a stack of games, she saw it—Star Trek: Armada II, the first real computer game Tara ever worked on.
“I was never as excited as that moment," remembers Tara. “It was a fantastic feeling. My friends thought it was just so cool. My parents didn’t really get the game, but they loved seeing my name in the credits.”
A Kid with a Computer
Tara can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a computer engineer. “When I was just a little kid, my dad was really into computers and he’d put me on his lap and talk to me about what he was doing. It was a great connection to have with my dad.”
At 11, Tara started programming, and, true to form, her first program was a game. “It wasn’t much,” Tara admits today. “It was just text and there wasn’t really any goal to the game. It was just ‘explore Tara’s three rooms,’ where the player basically went from one room to another.”
Dream Job at LucasArts
Today, Tara’s programs are much more complex. And she works in one of the most exciting companies in the game (and movie) industry, LucasArts, founded by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas. The game Tara’s working on now is called Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. “It’s the next big Star Wars story,” Tara says. “It’s a completely original story in which the game player is Darth Vader’s secret apprentice and his or her job is to hunt down Jedi.”
It takes many people to design a game like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. According to Tara, “The best thing about my job is working with such incredibly talented and creative people. The people who develop the games, and the artists who draw the characters, are really amazing.”
Creating New Worlds and Characters . . .
But it’s Tara’s job to bring those characters to life—to make sure they behave like human beings . . . or at least like living creatures. “My specialty is game play and artificial intelligence,” says Tara, which basically means that Tara and her team are the brains behind the characters in the game. “We’re creating worlds,” Tara explains. “We’re making characters; we’re making behaviors that we’ve never seen before.”
. . . and Running Into Them at the Mall!
Despite the variety of her work, one feature of Tara's job will always remain the same. When her new game gets shipped out, Tara will still be just as excited as she was when she saw her first game in a Boston mall. “It’s still a thrill when I walk into a store and see my game. And, if it’s not on the top shelf, I’ll usually move it up, because that’s my game and I want everyone to see it.”