How to Break Into Videogames Using Only a Single Hole in Your Stomach

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The Thursday Think Tanks are semi-random thoughts that may not necessarily fall directly into the category of finances, but I still feel are worth sharing. Read at your own risk!

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Stick with this post even if you don’t give a rip about videogames. It gets crazy towards the end!

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I was a kid who loved videogames. Keep in mind that I was born in 1975, and videogames were new and fresh at the time. You were a pretty popular kid if you had an Atari 2600 or a Commodore 64. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were not only in the financial position to afford both, but also felt that it was a worthy spend of their dollars.

I’m going to try to not get too “videogamey” with this videogame post, but let me get this out of the way for reference…

After my Atari, I had an NES, an SNES, a Genesis (with SegaCD and 32x), a Saturn, a Jaguar, a 3DO, and on and on and on. Like I said, I was a kid who loved videogames.

At a certain point, my Mom was fed up with watching my eyeballs shrivel inside of their sockets as I stared at Mario and Sonic and Pacman for far too long each day, and so she started using the line that every kid dreads hearing:

“Go outside and stop wasting your life on those videogames. You’ll never make a living playing games!”

Being from a small rural farming town in the middle of nowhere, I can fully appreciate her perspective. When a family is surrounded by dirt and mud as far as the eye can see and has never had a male family member graduate from high school, saying your child was going to have a career in videogames probably sounded about as plausible as saying your child was going to build the first Pizza Hut on Mars.

So I’d get booted outside to play sports or work with my Dad on farm stuff, and then I’d sneak back in to play games whenever nobody was looking. At a certain point, my parents decided that it was best just to let me grow out of this “phase,” but I just never really did.

Eventually I grew up, got married, and moved to the Seattle area with my wife. During all of that time, I continued to play videogames. Lots and lots of videogames. So it made sense that I would make the natural progression of getting a job working for an exercise company.

Wait… what?

Yes I went to work for an exercise company. Stairmaster to be exact. I started by servicing machines and answering technical support calls, and eventually found my way to phone sales in our home sales team. In a wildly ironic twist, the heaviest I’ve ever been weight-wise was while I was working for an exercise company, but that’s a story for another time.

Needless to say, I hated my job. I wasn’t into exercising at all at the time, and I had zero interest in being a salesperson, let alone one who only spoke with super wealthy people looking to buy a piece of overpriced workout equipment that they probably weren’t going to use more than twice.

I must have been a real poophead to live with because eventually my wife got tired of me walking in the door each night and proclaiming my disdain for my job, and in turn told me to quit and get a job that I enjoyed or to shut my mouth once and for all. She told me, “Think about the job you’d like above all else. What the thing you would do at home anyway that you might as well get paid for?”

At the time, I had exactly two hobbies:

  1. Playing guitar.
  2.  Playing videogames.

As called out above, I was a rather girthy person by this point in my life, so Rockstar was probably not going to happen. I already had back hair issues, and back hair plus a gut hanging over my bullet belt and tight jeans would have not made for a good fold out poster.

So I threw my dreams of being the replacement guitarist for Motley Crue out the window, and went instead with videogames. The problem was that I had no clue how to break into videogames. I mean, where do you even begin with something like that?

Well back in those days, you browsed the classifieds, which is what I did. It was there that I stumbled upon a post by a company called Sierra On-Line who was looking for people to work in the technical support department. This was PERFECT! I had phone experience thanks to Stairmaster, and I had videogame experience from a life of getting yelled at by my Mom!

I applied, and during the time I was waiting to hear back I had a medical emergency that resulted in me needing to be split wide open and have a large section of my small intestine removed. While I was recovering, Sierra called and asked for an interview. My wife was going to tell them no, given my condition, but I said to ask if I could instead schedule it for one week past their proposed date. The Recruiter on the phone agreed, and I was set for my interview.

The problem was that I had not allowed myself enough recovery time. The day the interview came, I had been home for a few days, but I still had 10-15 large staples holding my stomach together from a seam running from below my belly button to my chest plate. I couldn’t sit up for more than 20 minutes without getting extremely uncomfortable, and I was heavily medicated.

The morning of, I skipped out on taking my pain killers (mistake #1), got dressed (mistake #2), and went to the interview (mistake #3.)

I arrived for the interview in mild discomfort, but felt optimistic that I could make it through the interview. I sat in the lobby trying to not seem as wildly uncomfortable as I actually was, and waited to be interviewed.

The interview was in a panel format, where I sat at the end of a long conference room table, and 7 people sat around the table peppering me with questions. As I later found out, the Recruiter had not said anything to them of my surgery. Around 10 minutes into the 90 minute interview, I started to sweat from the pain. My stomach felt like it was about to split wide open, and I kept my hands under the table so that nobody noticed they were trembling.

By some insane miracle, I got through the interview. We were wrapping up and everyone around the table was thanking me. I was about to stand up when I looked down and found that I had split part of my incision back open and had bled profusely on my shirt. I was in a panic, not because I was physically about to fall open, but because I knew I had to stand up and the room would panic and I would never get hired into my dream industry.

The entire table had stood up by this point, and were obviously waiting for me to do the same. So I took a deep breath, and came clean:

“Everyone, I have a confession. I just had surgery at the beginning of last week, and I’m being held together with staples. I guess one of them must have popped or something, because my shirt has some blood on it.”

Nervous “he must be making some weird kind of joke” laugh rattled around the room.

So I stood up.

The faces went white, the eyes went wide, and the stark realization that I was telling the truth spread around the table.

Panic set in, so I calmed everyone by telling them my wife was waiting in a car in the parking lot, and she’d take me straight to the hospital. I thanked them all for the interview and said I needed to be on my way.

That’s when Tracy, who is still a great friend of mine to this day spoke for the room by saying, “Dave, you got the job. We don’t even have to wait to give you an answer. Anyone who would go through what you just did to get hired is obviously someone we want working here.”

Then he added, “But for future reference, lead with the whole staples in the stomach thing. I it will save everyone a lot of time.”

The room laughed as I tried to refrain for fear of popping even more staples.

At the hospital, the doctor told me it was fine that the staple came out, that the tear was fine and would heal on it’s own, and that the blood just looked like a lot because of how my shirt had soaked it up. He took the rest of the staples out, and sent me home.

Two weeks later, I started my first job in the videogame business, and the rest is history. I’ve been in videogames for over 20 years.

And I’ve got the scar to prove it!

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Do you have a crazy interview story? Want to tell me that I was an idiot for going to the interview in that state? Want to ask me how to break into the industry without causing yourself physical harm? Ask in the comments below!

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