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Into the Breach

I went to Bay Area Gaming Studio this morning to sign my offer letter and complete other paperwork. Same as the day of my interview, I waited in a lobby with a couple other anxious people, no longer candidates but new hires. Another immaculate HR person hands us each a thick packet of documents, to be read and signed at our leisure, and guides us through the secure parts of the building in a notably less circuitous path.

I am lead to the place I was to work. About a dozen people are already there, interacting with two long rows of LAN connected computer stations. It’s a multiplayer lab.

I recognized one of the men who interviewed me. He had traded his bright shirt for a wool cap against the palpable chill in the room. Lots of running hardware in here – makes sense. There are vents in the floor among the ubiquitous cables.

I was greeted warmly and invited to sit at a station with the other testers. I settled into the game, some kind of third-person shooter. Though I’d grown up watching my step-father play at these kinds of games, I had never tried to play one myself. I’ve typically preferred something more relaxed and thoughtful, and DOOM scared the hell out of me.

The other testers were very, very good at this game. I tried to check my frustration over being unable to find the gun caches, negotiate the maps, or dodge snipers. I didn’t understand the team game objectives.

Lunch was served two hours later, and my initial enthusiasm of the morning had turned soggy. How am I supposed to push the game capabilities past the breaking point when I could barely strafe? Why did my first project have to be a shooter?!

The lab testers were friendly, took me in right away. As we walked together to the dining commons, they pointed out a long table to go back to when I had gotten my lunch. Between rich cheeseburgers and friendly words, I felt much better.

We go back to the lab, and I felt determined to develop fighting skill. I eventually found a shotgun, and to my surprise, discovered an aptitude for it. The testers had explained the game rules to me over lunch, and I elected to guard choke points in my team’s territory, which suited the shotgun’s deadly yet limited range. I racked 14 kills in the first match of the afternoon!

The day was over before I knew it, not just because I was finally having fun, but also because the lab room is not unlike a casino – no windows and no clocks. Knowing the time demands soon to be asked of me, I can see how this setup is beneficial. It’s easier to work 12-14 hours when you don’t see the time pass.

I was reminded around 6pm to catch my train, that was the last time I left work before dinnertime.

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