Part 1: The Rise and Fall of CompUSA
So the news is out by now and you know what the Cryptic Thing is: I’m leaving Apple and joining the QA Team at Blizzard Entertainment. I’m actually writing this just after posting “The Days Between,” so I pray to God this isn’t presumptuous. (It wasn’t). However, on Thursday, May 1, my recruiter contacted me about pay rates and everyone I’ve talked to about it says that if they’re talking pay, I got the job.
First and foremost, I want to recognize that I could not have done this alone. Laura, my wife, was extremely supportive during this entire process. It was no coincidence that I got the first email from Blizzard about setting up a phone interview on our 9th wedding anniversary. We talked endlessly about it. She held me as I had panic attacks from worry about if they would like me or not and prayed with me when I was begging God for strength to make it through the waiting and the interviews. She was always there and always with me.
She was awesome.
But even more awesome was God.
I don’t know your religious backgrounds or preferences. And while some might scoff, that doesn’t bother me. I credit this job entirely to God. He performed over a dozen miracles in getting me to Blizzard.
- He got Blizzard interested in me.
- He got me past the first gate of the resume DESPITE me not having the “required” QA/Game Testing Experience.
- He delivered the request for a phone interview on Laura and my 9th Anniversary.
- He helped me prepare for the phone interview and gave me total peace beforehand.
- He gave me the right answers during the phone interview, to the point where they said they wanted me for an in-person interview and that I’d make a “great fit in our Mac team.”
- He got me the email requesting an in-person interview within hours of the dressing down by Apple management, where I felt my job being threatened and I was at my lowest.
- God had Blizzard pick a day where Laura can be with the kids…and still see me off.
- God provided this miracle in the midst of the most difficult time at Apple Laura and I have ever suffered, where everything was in question.
- He had them call back to talk about pay rates the night after I was in tears begging him for a sign or something to give me hope.
- He had them call me about “finalizing the offer paperwork” while I was in the middle of a…difficult conversation with someone. It was perfect timing.
- He got me the job offer.
- He got me Tier 2 instead of Tier 1 during the offer.
- He got me a freaking job at freaking Blizzard Entertainment.
This entire experience has completely revitalized my faith in God, which had taken some serious damage a couple years ago when I got turned down for promotion for the 13th time (and yes, I’m serious). It was only after that time that I got Genius, but my faith never really recovered.
But during this process, I started to see the threads of my life, winding together for this moment. And it started many years ago, in a city far, far away.
A city called Reno.
CompUSA and Tom McComas
I had been working at the CompUSA in Reno for a while when Tom McComas, my assistant manager, started harassing me about playing World of Warcraft. At this time, I was playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was easily one of the greatest games ever. I won’t even tell you how many hours I lost to that damn game.
I didn’t want to play WoW though. The lack of permanence in the game really bothered me. I didn’t like the idea of going into a dungeon, killing a boss, finding that I didn’t get what I wanted, so I just went back in. I felt like I couldn’t affect the world (little did I know that they would introduce phasing in Lich King which would give us the power to affect the world in very serious ways).
This was also still during vanilla WoW, before the launch of the Burning Crusade. Crazy, eh? Anybody remember those days?
Anyway, since I had personally redone the entire gaming section of the store (which was starting to make an actual profit for the first time), he knew I loved games. And he insisted that I play WoW…
To the point where he bought my original copy of World of Warcraft himself.
Yup. You heard that right. I didn’t even BUY Vanilla WoW. Someone else had to actually pony up the dough to get me to play the darn thing.
I created a Tauren Shaman named Jaberan on Gorgonash to play with him (who still exists as a Level 8). I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but it was pretty easy to pick up. I remember I tried to run and meet him in the game at one point…and got nailed by some wolves just outside the original Camp Narache.
But then I found out that an entire other group of friends was playing WoW too. They, on the other hand, were playing Alliance. I remember talking to a friend named Robert, describing the class I wanted to play. I wanted essentially a battlemage or spellsword. Someone who used both melee weapons and spells, since that was what I played in Oblivion. Well, as you know, that kind of class doesn’t truly exist (save for Paladin and Shaman), so he ironically pointed me at Warlock…who could use swords, which–because I didn’t understand the game mechanics–was important to me.
And so, I created my first Alliance character, a human warlock named Dayshaun on the PVP server Destromath. I started to play and slowly got dragged into the game. I did some dungeons back in the days when you would cry “LFG” endlessly in a city. And with warlock being one of the hardest classes (damn Soul Shards), I had some trouble here and there. I don’t remember a lot of specifics during these times, but I was one of those people always eager to keep trying for more and to learn better.
I remember a few incidents of note. I remember the Scourge Invasion event where Blizzard actually allowed Horde and Alliance to communicate for the first time ever directly in game as we were infected by the zombie plague. God, that was amazing. It was for the launch of Naxxaramas in patch 1.11. I know a lot of people didn’t like the event because it disrupted the normal gameplay, but for me, it was something freaking AWESOME.
In fact, I even started a small guild of my various coworkers, called “Legacy of Light” (LOL). In fact, Xhadien, my night elf druid, is still actually leader of that guild…though there’s no one in it.
Eventually, I brought Laura into the game and we enjoyed it together occasionally…not as much as I’d like, but that’s okay.
Leveling on a PVP server sucked, by the way. But let’s not talk about that. I’ve blocked most of those memories out.
The Burning Crusade
I remember the day BC came out, because I had a huge stack of Collector’s Editions for BC out on display at CompUSA (I was Lead Merchandiser by then, in charge of various sales and displays). I came in on Launch Day, though we didn’t have anything big planned. However, I was very surprised to come in on that freezing cold January morning to see shattered glass all over the front of the store. Someone had taken several shots at the front glass doors of our store with some sort of pellet gun. Broken a few of the panes.
I suspected it was some disgruntled customer who was ticked we didn’t have a midnight release for Burning Crusade.
I continued to play my character for a while, grouping with my fellow coworkers. I even went through the entire Netherwing quest line back at 70. That was a nightmare. Took me over a month of dailies…and after the big finale…I stopped playing for about six months. I do that, I finish some huge accomplishment in the game…and then take a break.
I did enjoy that time though…and my original black Netherwing drake is still among my favorite mounts in the game.
It was also during this time that a friend of mine, Nate, loaned me his copies of Warcraft III: Rise of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Went through them pretty quick and I was happy to get a much better handle on the story of WoW afterwards. Totally new understanding of everything.
The Fall of CompUSA
I was at Disneyland down in Orange County when the first axe stroke went down and CompUSA closed half of their stores in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. All the Southern Californian stores were closed. My friend called me while I was at Paradise Pier in DCA…I couldn’t believe it. I contacted my store…but couldn’t get a hold of anyone. This was in May of 2008, I believe. Anyway, it was scary. Didn’t know if I would have a job, but thankfully, the Reno store was spared…for the time being.
At this time, I was Lead Merchandiser, in charge of all the various sales, setting the ads and all sorts of other things. I even threw special E3 parties and other gaming events.
I headed back to work, nervous and watching very carefully. At this point, they offered me a position as management, but I didn’t think that was a good idea, so I turned down the position. Had to train the guy who took the job though…wasn’t the most competent of individuals.
And then, after some health issues with my mother and several major conflicts with management, Laura and I decided to make a huge change: to move down to Southern California to help my mom.
When I made that decision, one of my old friends was working for Apple in Reno at the time. He strongly recommended I go to Apple because it was such a different environment than CompUSA. So I applied to the South Coast Plaza, Irvine, Mission Viejo and Fashion Island stores six months before I was going to move, knowing it would take them a very long time to get back to me.
I was wrong. Mission called me back within a month or so. That was an awkward conversation. Heh. They wanted an interview, but I had to tell them the truth…it would be a few more months until I was able to move.
I left CompUSA without a definite job to move down to Southern California in September of 2007. And that miracle was only possible from an incredible gift from my grandparents, who footed the bill for our moving expenses. It was amazing. Laura drove our enormous used Buick down there with Tang the cat and I drove the U-Haul truck with my cat, Cheea.
I found out later that the rest of CompUSA folded within 3 months. The CompUSA where I once worked is now an enormous Goodwill store. I remember walking back in there once…and I could still recognize parts of it despite the fact that the entire place was totally gutted to make room.
And while CompUSA wasn’t the greatest of places to work, I was happy I was there. In the end, it was more than worthwhile. It got me here, after all. But the journey doesn’t end there. No, it’s just getting started.
(Stay tuned for Part II coming out either in the next few days or next Saturday!)