My Career Path

Every resume tells a story. But that story is usually fiction, making the protagonist seem a directed journeyman willfully forging a path to master a chosen vocation, career, or trade.

The real story can usually be found between the lines.

The text in blue is the stuff you’ll find on my official C.V.:

  • Elementary School in Denver: I copied BASIC from magazines into my Commodore 64 to get free games. I joined BBSes to get free games. I learned some real programming to make some of the games better. I got an allowance sometimes.
  • High School: I worked at a podiatrist’s office linking a database about foot pain to a visual interface. I fixed my friends’ parents’ computers. I worked in an endocrinology lab putting radioactive rats in blenders. I made bad films. I wrote my first novel.
  • College: I got good pay from a wacky psychiatrist typing his scrawl into papers and submitting them to endless journals. I lost my job when AIDS got to him. I wrote my second, third, and fourth novels. I worked on the humor magazine, the horror magazine, and the daily newspaper. I volunteered at NYU’s Media Research Lab on a really cool project that let people walk up to a screen projection of virtual actors and interface with them. Wrote some software for interfacing between the video camera and a Mac and detecting some basic movement, but didn’t really touch any of the cool stuff.
  • Graduation. I almost went to ITP. I almost took a job working at a company that built databases to track TV ads, telling myself it was glamorous because it involved TV. Last minute, I got a gig doing Director coding at one of the original (and final) multimedia CD-ROM companies. I was working on my fifth novel.
  • When a semi-sociopathic game designer working on a sucky game I was coding quit in frustration, I took over. We worked 90-hour weeks. The game shipped, but still sucked.
  • Recruiters were on the hunt. I was offered nearly double pay to switch to an e-commerce company that for some reason was starting a game division. I gave it a whirl. I sat in the back room of a huge bullpen full of programmers hacking together a multiplayer real time strategy game in Java. I jumped in as designer on that one too because everyone else wanted to do “real work” and write code.
  • The game division officially spawned off into a game company called Actionworld. I wrote the engines for backgammon, chess, checkers, and some card games. I went back to my first novel and rewrote it to be more commercial. It still didn’t sell.
  • Actionworld spawned off into an online game store that turned the 11th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper into a retail warehouse and shipping facility. It also purchased a company that conglomerated game sites and sold ads called Unified Gamers Online (UGO).
  • UGO management talked to some investment bankers and knew it could go IPO. It became an affiliate site for all 18-24 web content and a Tier One Internet backbone. I played the role of big-time manager. One week, I hired a six people. I fired two the next week. We still made Java games and game lobbies.
  • UGO spawned off a pure game company called PlayLink. I became a Vice President and had an office. Everyone had an office. We were a handful of people in a 5,000 square foot office. I still made Java games and game lobbies. Every once in a while I’d hire someone or give someone some tasks to do. I learned a bit, but not much, about how to delegate.
  • When the IPO market for dot-coms dried up, UGO needed cash bad and stopped funding PlayLink. The company was sold to a gold mining company. The gold mining company purchased PlayLink with bundled stacks of actual cash money. The gold company had no active mines, but thought that the purchase would diversity their portfolio and draw attention to their stock again. It didn’t. They stopped paying employees.
  • Most people left. A few of us desperately looked for something, anything to do with our semi-cool multiplayer game site. I almost took a job working on web coding for an interactive ad agency, though the people that interviewed me made me nauseated with their hipness. This entrepreneur out of San Francisco just sold his prize site and had some seed cash and had this pretty decent idea of hooking up with PlayLink to make a skill-based game site where people would play games against each other and wager a few bucks, winner take all (minus our tournament fee).
  • And so I became one of the founders of NextGame. I worked for peanuts, but at least I had a (skill-based) job. I contributed to yet another Java game lobby and game server. I remade chess, checkers, and some card games. I wrote a new novel but didn’t know how to end it. I got married.
  • NextGame purchased a flailing company called iWin and changed our company’s name to that nice four-letter domain. We made a download version of one of our most popular Java games called Jewel Quest. I didn’t understand why people would pay $19.95 for a game they could play online for free, but it sold like hotcakes.
  • We abandoned the skill based model and focused on downloadables. I wrote a bunch of game and framework stuff in C++, which I had to dust off again. I co-wrote a screenplay and co-produced a low, low-budget film. I had a kid. I moved out to San Francisco. I bought my first car.
  • I began coding less and managing more. I designed some games and did story writing for other games, did some art direction, conceived of and did basic architecture of a DRM system, hacked up a system for playing ads inside games, envisioned a micro-transaction subscription model.  I had another kid.
  • iWin became one of the top “second-tier” casual game distributors.
  • I stopped coding altogether. I managed game engineers. I acted as producer on a game or two. I chased some albatross. I became a Vice President again and started attending financial review meetings. I began realizing why some of the seemingly stupid decisions I’d seen in the past were made. I vowed to do better.
  • I became the guy writing specs for all web product. I strongly opined about the games we were making and helped green-light some things that became hits (and many which did not).
  • I see a need, make a case, get some cash, and begin work on a highly experimental interactive experience that frames a game store and integrates it into a large multiplayer game itself. Stay tuned!

Summary: 15 years, two jobs, no clear description of my current job, and no clear direction for what’s next. And pretty much lovin’ every minute.

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