ST. LOUIS — It's unlikely Ben Siders would be a lawyer, much less a partner at Lewis Rice or an inventor and patent holder, if it weren't for his love of video games.
Video games have been a big part of his life for as long as he can remember, and they led him to a five-year career in computer programming before he found a path to the legal industry and intellectual property, technology licensing and compliance.
He works with video and board game clients and has put his expertise to a variety of gaming products, including fantasy sports, mobile device games and publishing services. He also is a co-author of the American Bar Association's "Legal Guide to Video Game Development."
As you'll see, he has come a long way from Atari 2600.
Your college career was somewhat disjointed, wasn't it? After high school in Waterloo, Iowa, I went to Marquette University in Milwaukee for two years to study electrical and computer engineering. I wasn't especially good at engineering. I didn't develop real study habits in grade and high school. I moved back home after my sophomore year and went to community college and worked two jobs — in maintenance at McDonald's and on the second shift of a parts painting line — while I worked to repair my GPA.
How did you end up at the University of Iowa? I transferred there after community college to be a business major but didn't particularly like that, either. But I had always liked reading and writing, so I majored in English with a minor in computer science. My GPA was much better.
When did you first become enamored with computers and video games? I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't enjoy video games. My parents bought me an Atari 2600 in the early 1980s. Then it made you a nerd; now it just makes you normal.
What did you do after college? I worked as a programmer at APAC Customer Service in Cedar Rapids, at Amdocs and Computerized Medical Systems in St. Louis, and finally at what was A.G. Edwards. I was a bit of an oddity. Who does coding with an English degree? I was, and still am, a very good programmer, but I didn't find the work challenging, even though I liked the companies and the people. I was in my late 20s, looking to settle down. I left A.G. Edwards to go to law school.
Why law school? The people who would be making decisions in the legal industry didn't understand the technologies. Likewise, there was a lack of understanding and curiosity about the laws on the part of software developers. I was frustrated by the ignorance. These people don't know how to speak to each other. I had the tech background but not the legal background.
Click here for the full interview.
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