100w100d: Keep Moving

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Day 12: It’s not an understatement to say that my job at IGN has been the most challenging in my career. Having been here for over a year, I still remember vividly how clueless I was for the first six months. I’d follow my teammates meeting after meeting, all the while petrified at the possibility of being called out: What are you even doing here?

But I kept learning; I kept moving. My responsibilities have increased tremendously since then, realizing my growth today as I sent off this email that wouldn’t be possible mere months ago.

You just have to keep moving.

1 Year In: What it's like to work at IGN

Road to my first-ever #E3! #myign

I will print and frame and lick and stuff this picture to my face.

So this also happened. cc @shannoncaitlin @an6elcakes

What a slut. #Sonic

Zombies crashing the IGN Party

Bitches be ready. #Borderlands2

Power Rangers Guido Force Extreme #FistPump

Hitman: Absolution is a hit. Ahem.

Ubisoft Booth @ E3

E3 Showfloor

"How gay is Eugene?" Asked Eugene

Untitled

Jason is always making sure the camera is on his good side; how vain.

Meeting room for my 10:30 call.

All business like.

So it begins.

Okay Reggie, my body is ready. #Nintendo #E3

Here's to getting through the rest of today! #MyIGN

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.

* * *

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.

❤ wins


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.

A Windy Post to My Windy Road to IGN

IGN LogoIn all sincerity, I cannot believe I’m writing this post right now. I’ve often dreamt about the things I want to say about this and the way to say them, but at the end of it all, I’m just… in awe.

So here it is: I got a job from IGN Entertainment. For those who know me from my high school days would immediately recognize these initials dearly and what they mean to me, but for those who don’t, well, they “won the Guinness World Record for the most visited video-game website in 2011.” At least according to Wikipedia.

As excited as I am about this opportunity, I’m trying to be careful as to not make this a boasting post. It’s not, and please allow me to apologize in advance if it reads this way. My friend Tommy once said I have “a knack for unintentionally sounding like a prick.” I’m not really.

So instead of writing what this job means to me, I really want to talk about how I got here. Or there. Whichever is grammatically correct.

Pretty much this time last year, I submitted my resignation letter to old company. I resigned not because I didn’t like what I was doing or that I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I just wanted something else. I spent the next few months traveling the world, well, more like lounging around the world. For the first time in a long time, I was able to not do anything and get away with it. So I didn’t do anything for a few months.

Reality finally sank in as my return flight landed back in the San Francisco International Airport. I quit my job because I wanted something else; now what?

All my life I wanted to be in the gaming industry. I’ve never been a particular good gamer, but I grew up being fascinated by videogames, and especially the gaming culture. This passion, geeky or otherwise, has always been a huge part of my life. But how was I supposed to go from being unemployed and inexperienced to something else? Anything else?

I didn’t have the answer, and in ways I still don’t. But I knew how passionate I felt toward gaming, so one night I created a blog and just started writing. I started writing about videogames and its perpetual man-child industry. I wrote about how frustrated I was with CityVille and how Nintendo needs to grow a pair. I wrote about when not to read videogame reviews and when top scores used to be good enough. My writing skill is passable at best and I probably don’t know enough as an industry expert, but I have my opinions as a consumer.

At the same time I started applying for videogame-related jobs. I put my Facebook friends to work and within a few weeks there were as many as four interviews a week. But the interesting part was that all of them responded saying while they loved my personality, they couldn’t hire me because of the lack of direct industry experience.

After the first wave of interviews there were nothing. So I started to apply to jobs based on my skills. Then just… jobs. Any job. I was still getting interviews here and there, but the positions were so random that it was hard to show enthusiasm for things I obviously didn’t care for. It slowly became less of finding a job I want to any jobs that wanted me. Unsurprisingly, none of them wanted me.

I didn’t mind rejection the first couple times, or even the first couple dozen times, but it’s hard not to take them personally as they slowly pile atop my head. And eventually I did. I stopped telling people how my job search was, because honestly, what’s the point?

You’ll get there. You’ll land on your feet. These words are difficult to take in when all you see in the inbox are rejection letters. I didn’t even know what to tell my friends when they asked what kind of jobs I was looking for. “I really want a job in the gaming industry!” “… Are… are you serious? You want to find your dream job? In this economy?” I’d imagine all of them to say.

Time and time again, I was kicked back to square one. Then what? Now where do I go? Being happy-go-lucky has never been my strongest suit, and it’s even more difficult when the task at hand doesn’t look like there’s a finish line. It was during this time that I had to really put my optimism to the test. I kept my enthusiasm and hopes high by keeping my gaming blog active. I read through three grammar books from cover to cover and I kept writing.

It was also around then that IGN acquired their long-time competitor 1UP (then owned by Hearst). I was intrigued by the acquisition because as a fan of 1UP, I was happy to see the financially-struggling 1UP finally able to secure their future by partnering up with the biggest gaming website in the world.

I haven’t applied at IGN during this time because I once lost my password from a long time ago and was never able to reset it on their old system. But I checked the site again after hearing about the acquisition and they changed it to a simplified, streamlined system. And, as luck would have it, there was a job listed there describing not only everything I’ve done in the past, but also everything I’ve *wanted* to do. The rest, as they s… So I applied, and was eventually hired.

This post is getting ridiculously long, so I’ll spare you all the interview details. It went pretty smoothly overall, but it was only when one of the interviewer told me that she’s read my blog and liked what I had to say did I realize just how much this job opportunity means to me. She said it nonchalantly so, without realizing the brick wall she just threw at me.

So, a thousand words later, I guess what I’m saying is that searching for a job sucks and finding the right job seems downright impossible. But it’s not, and it’s absolutely worth it. But unlike hollywood movies where they cram everything into a 20-second montage, you actually need to spend the time and work hard for it. Applying for this particular job took at most 5 minutes and writing for this blog took half a year, but convincing myself to actually take a leap so far away from my comfort zone? That took me a year, if not years before finally take the plunge.

As for what’s going to happen to this blog — absolutely nothing. I’ll still be writing here, in my own imperfect voice. I actually hope to write more, and better, now that I’m immersed by such talented and motivated people at IGN, all sharing the very same passion as I do. I am fully aware that landing a job at IGN doesn’t mark an end to anything, and in fact just means this is where the hard work begins. I have so much to learn and I’m excited to finally see where my passion can take me. So cool your grits guys, srsly.

Don't leave me, videogame journalists!

tl;dr – Videogame journalists are constantly leaving, but with technology the gaming community will grow stronger than ever before.

Instead of Superman, Batman, or any other comic book superheroes, I’ve often spent much of my childhood dreaming of becoming a videogame character like Mega Man. It was years before I had my first videogame console – the Nintendo Gameboy, but playing the original Mega Man on the NES for the first time at my friend’s house had left a gaping impression to this day that nothing else can compare. The action-packed side-scroller, as challenging as it still is today, always leaves me yearning for so much more. And in many ways, Mega Man (and his trusty companion Rush) was my ultimate idol.

When it eventually dawned on me during my teenage years that my right arm would not automatically turn into a robotic arm of destruction, I began looking for other, perhaps more human-compatible, opportunities. I looked at not only the things I’ve always obsessed over — videogames, but also the career paths that derived from that very obsession.

It was also at the beginning of the Internet, at the time when AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy roamed the earth at the top-notch speed of 14.4kbits per second. Anime midis and porn aside, videogames-related news was always my most searched item on webcrawler.com.

Reading about videogames eventually lead to the great discovery of this website called the Imagine Games Network. Known as IGN today, it was also where I was first heard of Matt Cassamina and Fran Mirabella III. Through their news updates and game reviews, I was instantly hooked and was visiting the website as soon as it’s updated, precisely every night at 10pm pst.

My source for videogame-related news has grown to more than just IGN since then, but my infatuation with the journalists remain. From IGN to The 1UP Show to X-Play’s feedback, I desperately wanted to become one of them.

And I’m not the only one. In fact, there are so many of us who grew up reading videogame reviews and now we all want to be professional journalists. The pool of journalists-wannabe is increasing by the minute, so the videogame journalism industry is growing strong, right? Continue reading “Don't leave me, videogame journalists!”