Today marks my first year anniversary to working at IGN Entertainment. I went back and re-read my initial post on my Windy Post to My Windy Road to IGN, if only to relive, even for a moment, on what working at IGN would mean to me then, before knowing the things I’ve learned and the distance I’ve gone since then.
In one of final rounds of interviews, the interviewer once told me that IGN is a place that you have to keep striving, because they’re (we’re?) very content with laying people off for “just doing enough.” I was obviously intimidated by that statement, but what he didn’t say was how naturally that happens at IGN.
My career began months after my college graduation in 2004, and IGN is currently my third so-called real job. But never have I worked this hard or cared this much for a company as I have with IGN.
I’ve worked long hours before (my work hours at Hallmark was 9am-10pm on average), but never have I left the office at midnight and still have this sense of accomplishment the way I do here.
In fact, I don’t recall ever being told (or asking) what the work hours are at IGN. Is it 9-5? Is it 9-6? The work hours is the time it takes for you to do your work, period.
A month ago, I once mentioned to a Sales Director how I can simultaneously wonder if “it’s already been a year?” and “has it only been a year?”. He replied saying it’s sometimes like dog years working at IGN.
I’ve grown a lot this year, but much of that is because I get to work with a select group of people who’ve patiently let me fall and stand back up. I still remember the first few months when I was always confused and there was this constant fear that someone would call me out in a meeting and ask “Why are you even here?” My dream job was but a dream and I would soon be awaken not because of my own will, but because of this sudden jolt from the lucid imagery of abruptly falling off a cliff. (I get that dream a lot.)
There are too many people to list out specifically, but I simply would not still be at IGN without them. They call me out, yes, but they also push and challenge me to improve what I’m doing.
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In the past few days, I’ve asked my Twitter followers to send me questions about my job. The answers are lengthier than I’d like them to be, but it’s important to jot down my thoughts now, if only to mark and compare them in the future.
What exactly do you do at IGN?
There is a wall between Sales and Editorial (by design — so reviews can be written as neutral and unbiased as possible), and my job (as well as the team) is to be that wall. They don’t talk directly with each other, and instead come to us when they have specific requests. It is my job to filter and translate requests between Sales and Editorial (and mediate if issues arise). We also develop new products that Editorial wants to do (e.g.: The Future of Gaming, IGN Video Game Presidential Election) and turn them into sellable opportunities.
I kind of understand what you do, but can you detail your day to day? Curious.
My day-to-day varies because my job encompasses a diverse spectrum of Sales Development, but in general I have meetings with Sales on their client requests and offer feedback on what products (and also what kind of upcoming ideas Edit is working on) may fill their needs. From there I will gather all the information from various departments at IGN, create a client-friendly media package, and get back to Sales.
That’s a very topline summary of what my job is. A big part of my job is also to keep an eye (and watch out for trends) on the overall gaming industry. On most days from 9 to 10, I ease into work by make a fresh cup of coffee using my Bodum French Press and using that hour to read about the overall gaming industry, all before launching my email program.
What are some of the best moments on the gig? Worst?
Not to sound cliché, but there are a lot more best moments than worst. I think in general the best moments are when I get to meet the people that got me into gaming in the first place. Surreal moments like sitting across Fran Mirabella (@franmirabella) at a Korean restaurant, or talking to Matt Casamassina (@mattcasa) for an hour on how much we constantly root for, but end up disappointed in Nintendo. And then there are heartfelt moments when Peer Schneider (@PeerIGN) introduced me to the Editorial team as “Not that evil, actually” or Tina Palacios (@teanah) telling me that “I’m one of the good ones.”
Worst moments usually happen not because it’s anyone’s fault, but because they genuine challenge my idealist beliefs and this pressure I have on myself that I must make everyone happy. Being the wall and the main liaison between Sales and Editorial, there are days when all I hear is “No” from either party, or worse, when things fall apart. It’s a rewarding job, but it can also be very stressful sometimes.
What has been your greatest surprise?
I think the biggest surprise is how much of what I learned from school applies to what I current do at work. I studied New Media Publishing at the Rochester Institute of Technology because I initially wanted to review games at IGN. I even minored in Japanese because that’s where most video games were created then.
In those four years we were tossed in to a hodgepodge of courses ranging from printing, web design, digital video, photography, creative writing, programming, marketing, data analysis, media law and more. Back in 2004, we had countless seminars on “The future of printing” and the head instructor would always predict that within ten years we will have internet-enabled televisions and a portable tablet that will revolutionize the publishing and desktop industry. We all thought he was nuts, yet here we are — a world filled with iPads and app-enabled smart TVs.
So how does any of that apply to my work? Through those seminars we were taught to not look at any one medium as the answer, but how media will flow from one to another. In design classes we were taught not what button to press in Adobe Photoshop, but the reasons (and effects) behind pressing the buttons and the importance of following the fundamental elements of design.
And somewhere along the line it all clicked. I’ve never used Microsoft PowerPoint before this job and now I’m known as the guy who makes pretty decks. On a daily basis I’m analyzing data from Google Analytics and have daily meetings with various teams on media convergence. I help Sales extend their client campaigns from one screen to ten. Of all the times my college classmates and I complained how useless our major is, only to have my dream job land on my lap and be exactly that — New Media Publishing.
Having worked at IGN, has your thoughts on the gaming community changed? What are your thoughts on the community in general?
I don’t think my thoughts on the gaming community has changed much, to be honest. I still think the community is pretty great overall, and I know better than to ever doubt the passion of the gaming community. That said, I do think that passion can also sometimes be the weakness of the community.
Working at IGN, I often read comments readers make on the site and I’m constantly baffled by some people’s strong opinions on review scores. “Why is this a 7.5 when it’s clearly a 9?” “Why did this game receive a 9 when the other game is a 10?” These are questions only gamers seem to ask, because when was the last time you hear anyone asking “Why did this movie receive 4 stars instead of 5?”, or “Why is this album a 4 out of 5 when somebody else’s album got a 5 out of 5?” It’s weird right?
I know what I like, but I don’t expect people to agree with me on why Bjork’s Vespertine is the best album of all time. I’ve previously written posts like Cool Your Grits, Srsly and Curb Your Fanboyism reflecting my opinion on this and I still pretty much stand by them today.
This post got a lot lengthier than I’d like to be, so I’ll stop now. But if you have a question, feel free to ask by leaving me a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer. The year zoomed by but the road is just as windy as my original path to IGN… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Winson Shuen works at IGN but is not an editor. All opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not represent his employer by any means. You can follow him on Twitter @vdot90.