Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moving Day

Today is moving day, or more accurately, loading day. We won't begin our cross country trip until Monday, August 1, but we're loading up our trailer today. Of course, we're still scrambling to get everything prepared, but I had to take a brief respite--especially since we ran out of packing tape.

The last few days have pulled at my heartstrings. Saying goodbye to friends has been tough. Saying goodbye to my car of 13 years (still in great shape!) was pretty tough too. I know that saying goodbye to this house (for now) will be tough as well. It already looks strange with all the paintings off the walls, furniture wrapped and moved out of place, and towers of boxes in every corner.

Honestly I've never been happier than during the time I've spent here. It seems odd then to leave, doesn't it? Today's sacrifice ensures tomorrow's happiness. Nonetheless, I'll miss this place and the people that made it great.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Double Broken Heart

With my first project under my belt and that first promotion, my confidence soared. So did my work ethic. I had my dream job, and I didn't want to screw it up. I remember working my heart out, trying to incorporate my boss's ideas while still making a cool game. That is often quite challenging for a designer, but most of us adapt.

Then the industry broke my heart--the first time. The game I had worked on for many months was canceled; not my fault, but there are always thoughts like, "If I had only worked a little harder on it, maybe they would have liked it more." I use this analogy now as a defense against those thoughts: Just because we couldn't save the sinking ship doesn't mean that we caused it to hit the iceberg.

Saffire ended up having fiscal stability problems, and eventually I quit to move with my wife to the San Francisco Bay Area.

My experience at Saffire and a great contact got me a job at Namco (famous for Pac-man, Dig Dug, and Pole Position). Namco was big-time. The teams were huge, the pay was almost triple what I made at Saffire. I was awestruck with how tight a ship they ran. And they were impressed with me, quickly expanding my roles and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, even Namco had fiscal problems. After a couple years, they laid off nearly everyone (80-ish people, if I remember correctly) in development, except for me and five other guys. I don't think I was the best designer, but my salary was probably the smallest (yes, even at triple the pay) perhaps I was the best value at the time. The good part of the layoff for me was that as the sole designer I had a lot of opportunity to guide and direct the games. But Namco had a penchant for cancellations too, and eventually it wore at my faith in the company. They broke my heart the second time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Game Career Beginnings

All that eagerness paid off pretty quickly. Hard work goes a long way in any industry, but this is particularly true in the games industry, where young, passionate rookies are extremely eager to prove their mettle.

My good friend Taran was already working for a local Utah game developer called Saffire. He clued me into an entry-level opening at the studio as a tester. Taran was also a tester, and Saffire let him go the day they hired me. It was an ironic way to start my career. Nevertheless, I pressed forward as best I could.

Testing is mind-numbingly repetitious. A focused tester with a logical mind and decent communication skills can be a strong help to the team, but more often than not, testers lack these traits. I had them. I would spend countless hours replaying all the levels looking for slight discrepancies from the previous version. When a new version would come out, I would redo it all over again, sometimes all through the night as deadlines approached. My observance sharpened as a tester, and no one was quicker or more efficient than I was at finding bugs and verifying fixes.

Towards the end of the project, the lead designer of the game, Gavan, trusted me enough (or was desperate enough) to let me design a couple of multiplayer (competitive) maps. Oddly, multiplayer level design has never been my forte, although in this case the levels worked out OK and the game shipped. I guess they were so happy with my work, they promptly promoted me to designer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rear-view Reflection

I went to lunch with my longtime friend Alan today. He got me thinking a little bit about my eleven-plus year video game career. For many months I have been quite focused on the future, yet now is also a rare opportunity for reflection while that game career still lingers prominently in my rear-view.

For a few posts, I think I'll talk about my career with games: my start, my rise, my disenchantment, and my exit.

It seems that in our youth we identify with a few things that give us a feeling of uniqueness, whether it be the music we listen to, the teams we like, or even our favorite subjects in school. Often one of those things rises above the others and becomes our passion--our identity. When I was just a game-player (i.e., pre-designer), games were my passion--my best friends loved movies (now directors), some loved music, and a few even liked sports. I loved games. I felt like I was part of an elite minority, and I was quite satisfied, proud even, with that status. Video games as a pastime really started in my generation, and thanks to my Dad buying an Intellivision and a Commodore 64, I was hooked early on.

When I started, I was a lot like the cardboard robot in this video: endless passion, but not much know-how. I couldn't be told "no". I loved grinding away, eager to show the world that I could do it better than anyone else.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Why do you want to be a lawyer?"

People usually ask some common questions when I tell them that I'm going to law school. The most common is something like, "Why do you want to be a lawyer?" I'll try to answer that question, although, truth be told, I don't have a stand-out, singular reason for going.

The fact of the matter is that some of the best people I know are attorneys or went to law school. I realize that some of the worst people you know may also be lawyers, especially those of you who have had direct dealings. However, my lawyer-friends are happy, stable, intelligent, well-to-do people. They have the freedom and flexibility to live life on their terms. Many of them serve in volunteer capacities, giving freely of their time to help those who are less fortunate. Some of them work in the public sector, protecting the interests of the people from criminals and organizations that break the law.

I respect them for what they have been able to accomplish, for their ability to think and speak clearly, for their self-reliance, and for their contributions to society at large. I hope to be that kind of person, and I'm hopeful that law school will help me down that path.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UConn Law

The University of Connecticut is a good school. This year the UConn Law School ranked 56 overall in the annual law school rankings of U.S. News and World Report. For reference, Utah and BYU are tied at 42 overall.

There are several reasons why UConn is a better fit for me than Utah. Firstly, I already have a degree from the University of Utah. Receiving a law school degree from a different institution than your undergraduate degree shows a nice diversity of experience, and certainly Connecticut and Utah are quite diverse from one another.

UConn has offered me a scholarship for Information Law, and their program for Information Law is stronger than Utah. This includes media and entertainment law, which is one of my specialty interests.

UConn has an externship program in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. Kim and I love Italy and are seriously considering spending a semester or two abroad. However, I would need to be able to speak Italian much more effectively than I can today (oggi io parlo l'italiano non molte bene).

Connecticut's Law School is separate from the main campus and the facilities are much nicer than the U. The main building is a renovated Gothic seminary. Here's the map showing how close we live.

Hartford is relatively small town without many distractions. In other words, it's a good place to focus on studies. However, it is right in between New York and Boston, two of the best legal markets in the world. Salaries are generally higher than Utah.

Finally, Connecticut is a place that I love. I spent some time as a youth there, and I remember it fondly. Here's hoping it is as nice now as it was then...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Not U?

There are two types of law schools, private and public. Public schools are (state) government-subsidized, while private schools are not affiliated with the government (although sometimes affiliated with religious or other organizations). Because public schools are subsidized by tax dollars from the school's state, they are typically much cheaper to attend for state residents. Unless you qualify for a top 15 school or want to specialize in some nuanced part of the law, the general rule of thumb is that the best educational value is attending a public university in your home state.

There are only two law schools in my home state of Utah, and only one of those is public: The University of Utah. Therefore, I applied to the U of U Law School.

At Utah, my numbers were fairly close to the medians of accepted students, and I felt like I had a good chance at being accepted there. However, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I was finally informed that I had been placed on the wait list. I have remained on that list to this day. August 6 is the final day that they could offer me admission, although the chances of that remain slim, and it is doubtful that I would even accept an offer at this late stage.

The University of Utah had been one of my top choices due to value, convenience, proximity to friends and family, as well as the fact that it is a (relatively) highly ranking law school. I felt like I did all I could to gain admission there, even having an on-campus interview. Of course I am curious as to why they passed on me without denying me altogether, but that is something I will likely never know.

In the end, Utah's loss becomes Connecticut's gain! And I couldn't be happier. More on why that is the case tomorrow...

Sunday, July 17, 2011


What exactly should one do to prepare oneself for law school? That is the question I have been asking myself for many months. The only suggestion the law school gives is to come well rested. While that is probably great advice, I can't help but think that there is something more I can do to gain a slight edge at the outset.

I already have my schedule for the first semester: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Lawyering Process (Legal Writing & Research), & Torts. I bought a few books on these topics, but study in a vacuum has not been easy so far. There are also a lot of distractions, what with a cross-country move a mere two weeks away. I'm hoping that once we are settled in our new place, distractions will become minimal, reality will set in, and I will be able to hunker down for a few weeks before school begins on August 24.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Anxiety Pendulum

I've heard that a lot of your ultimate success in law school and subsequent law career depends on how well you perform in the first semester. The theory goes something like this:

Law firms come interviewing for summer internships in the middle of the second semester of that first year. Of course the best firms want the best students. They can only judge the (ahem) best students by their grades from their first semester. If a student is offered an internship after his first year, the same firm likely offers him a second internship the next year and ultimately a job at the end of school, regardless of his performance in the second and third years.

This amounts to a lot of pressure to do well immediately. To make matters worse, grades in law school are almost entirely based on your performance on one exam, the final. P-p-pressure.

My anxiety pendulum swings violently between confidence and nervousness. I'm hoping that a highly regimented routine of study and practice will keep that pendulum squarely on the side of confidence, but will that be enough to keep the pressure at bay?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Career Shift

Today marks the final day of my (not so) illustrious career as a professional game developer and the beginning of life as student of law. While I cherish and appreciate the life opportunities I have had while making video games, this new and exciting challenge awaits.

Every aspiring law student must submit a personal statement to apply and be subsequently admitted into law school. In mine, I tried leveraging my games knowledge and history. Here's a snippet:
"For me games became something more than just a pastime or a simple amusement. I reveled in understanding the key to success within each game I played. Each had its own compelling system of rules and strategies to master."
Most of the schools I applied to apparently didn't think that understanding of rules for a virtual world could translate into understanding of rules (laws) for the real world: Denied. A few did: Admitted. I'm eager to prove my believers right.