2014 Year in Review: The Year Everything Changed

It’s been a long year.

I used to always do these for my deviantArt page, where I’d go over my various works and accomplishments. And in the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about this year. Thinking about how different a place I’m in now.

Most of you know that I’m a diehard fan of Babylon 5. People would ask “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” and my answer was always “Babylon 5.” Best damn science fiction series ever done. And yes, even better than Firefly. (Shun me if you must, but it’s true)

Season 4 was probably the best season of Babylon 5. You had the Earth Civil War and the end of the Shadow War. So much happened in that one year of storytelling. But what really stood out to me was the opening titles.

Babylon 5: Season 4

It was the year of fire… the year of destruction… the year we took back what was ours… It was the year of rebirth… the year of great sadness… the year of pain… and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. The year is 2261. The place: Babylon 5.” 

That…is a very effective description of the last year. You know, save for the whole 2261 and Babylon 5 bit.

A Year of Fire, a Year of Destruction, The Year We Took Back What Was Ours…

2014 started with me on short-term disability from severe panic attacks in relation to…conflicts…with the Apple Store I was with at the time. Though I returned to work shortly after my birthday, the panic attacks resumed within two weeks. It was then when I realized that Apple–or at least that Apple Store–wasn’t the place for me anymore.

As I searched elsewhere for an escape from the madness and depression, things became apparent to me. That there were those who sought to see me gone from my position I had fought so hard to earn. I saw the “writing on the wall” as it where.

It was during a conversation where I saw these motions in play when I received a voicemail that changed everything.

You see, a week or so before, I had interviewed for a position with Blizzard Entertainment. That was within a few weeks of me applying. This was after several phone interviews, all of which I simply called out of work for.

Even in the midst of pain, fear and mental agony, everything changed. And a week later, I went outside to take a phone call on my last break of the day. During that phone call, I was offered the chance at a dream. A chance I never thought would actually happen. A chance to work for Blizzard Entertainment.

It was that day when I put in my two-week notice at Apple. It was the end of my history with Apple. After a fashion. I was sad to leave my friends. I was not sad to leave that store. I still hope for the people who remain…but even before my departure, many long-time employees had fled that store. I still have friends at that store…but they are few and far between.

I have no intention of ever walking in there again. Because the suffering my family endured at the hands of that Apple Store wasn’t over.

However, at the beginning of June, I got to walk onto Blizzard Campus for the second time. The first time was for my in-person interview. The second time…it was as an employee of Blizzard Entertainment. The things I’ve seen there…they still take my breath away. Even six months later (can you believe it’s already been that long?), I still make sure to drive by Building 1, with the huge “Blizzard Entertainment” logo in blue letters stand proudly at the top of the third floor.

I found a purpose there. I found people who respected my knowledge and my experience. A place where I can truly be myself. Where my crazy ideas aren’t shot down because “that’s not how we do things” or “that’s not the direction Corporate wants us to go.” Instead, I’m told “go for it.”

I did.

And I’m happy to say that in my time at Blizzard, I have completely rewritten the book on how they handle–ironically–Mac computers. I’ve said many times that I’m no Apple-head. I don’t think everything Apple does is perfect. I’ve endured too much to have any such illusions. But what I’ve accomplished there in six months has had a bigger impact than my entire time at Apple Retail.

Sadly, the suffering wasn’t over. In the months after my departure, my wife was subjected to cruelty, cowardice and mistreatment. They refused to accept her new schedule since I now had a job with regular hours. Instead of simply saying goodbye, they strung her along for six weeks before suddenly, one Saturday, terminating her for “attendance violation” because they forced her into a position where she would be required to call out, despite her constantly trying to get her shifts covered and notifying them well in advance.

That was a hard blow to us.

Thankfully, through multiple miracles, we were granted unemployment despite Apple’s “claims” on how Laura had left the company. And so, God gave us enough to survive even with my new pay at Blizzard.

And I prospered at Blizzard. Laura herself has said many times that though it is a little harder on us with me there, she’s far more happy that am happy. That’s what really matters. While things haven’t always been easy, I have to say…I do truly love my new job. And as I go into the new year, things look even brighter.

 

It was the year of rebirth… the year of great sadness… the year of pain…and the year of joy.

Yes, while the information above can very easily be handled by those words, other things did happen. Such as during December, both of my daughters had seizures within a few days of each other. We did three separate ER visits. Two overnight stays in the hospital. One fully battery of neurological exams including CTs and MRIs. I ended up watching each girl by myself for at least a day and a half each. And it happened the week before Christmas. It was also the week when Blizzard had all their special Christmas events, save for the actual company Christmas party. I remember when I called out on Wednesday because Caitlyn now had had a seizure…thinking that this was the most ridiculous excuse ever. Like calling for your sixth “grandmother’s funeral” in Discworld terms (If you’ve reach the City Watch books, you’ll get it).

In addition, the panic attacks haven’t really stopped. I thought changing jobs would help. And while that has helped, I’ve found that there is much more happening behind the scenes. I don’t pretend to understand it at all. At the moment, I’m just struggling through.

On rebirth though…I usually don’t like another year passing. It’s a reminder of everything I want to do but haven’t yet. Did you know that I had planned to have two novels published by now? Why didn’t this happen? Blizzard. And that’s okay. Blizzard changed everything for me. In fact, I’m going into my next birthday happy…looking forward to what the years ahead have in store for me at Blizzard.

It was a new age. It was the end of history. 

My writing? Well, I managed to knock out another NaNoWriMo, making this my fifth year running for winning the 50K race. This time it was a close one. And I finally rewrote Stormhaven, a project I’ve been meaning to do for years. I’m fairly happy with the outcome too.

In addition, I’ve published my second short story: “Beyond the Waterfall.” You should go check it out. Like right now. And if you could leave a review, it’d make my day. I published that back in September, though it was ready in July or so. There’s a process you have to go through when publishing fictional works now that I work for Blizzard. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for working there.

I’ve recently started writing again. I took most of December off, as I’ll admit I was swept up into World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. Makes sense since my name is in the freaking credits now!

WoW:WoD Credits

 

My name should also be in the credits for the “Goblins vs. Gnomes” Hearthstone Expansion, but I haven’t actually looked that one up yet. But I have to say…seeing my name in the credits for World of Warcraft is a mind-blowing experience, especially since our subscriber base went from 7 million to 10 million within about a week of the launch. People like it. A lot. In other words, WoW isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Anyway, a little obsessive about that game. Heh. And that’s my “new age.” An age where I can finally be doing something that’s going to affect millions of players across the world. I’ve found bugs in places no one’s thought to look. Remember those Panderan Phoenix mounts you got from the Silver Challenge Mode Dungeons in Mists? Well, during August or so, I discovered a rather surprising bug that they weren’t going account-wide as was initially posted in a blog post. It was just something someone overlooked and that stuff happens. Let’s be honest…within a few minutes of people logging into WoD for the first time, people would have noticed. But I stopped that from happening. I got it in and even got some praise by the Dev saying “Good catch.” (I’m not revealing anything here. It’s actually buried in the patch notes somewhere).

That was awesome. Now that’s long past and I’ve found plenty of other things. I’m even happy to say that some of the hotfixes in the game have been from me, especially some of the ones involving legacy raids involving the whole stat squish thing. For all you legacy raiders out there, you’re welcome. 🙂

It’s totally awesome to see your work in the classic “Blue Text” of patch notes.

The funny thing is that’s not actually my job! It’s not my job to find bugs in the game itself. I’m supposed to handle the hardware side. But since I play this game every day the same way I’ve played it for years even after starting at Blizzard, I’m coming in with a unique perspective. I read the quests. I explore the details. I look around. There’s a lot of players who just hit “accept” the moment the quest pops up. I don’t. I’m emotionally attached to the characters. (And let’s just say that when I finally get in Creative Development, the Alliance is going to have their day (okay, I’m totally kidding, it would be years before I could do anything like that, but it’s a fun fantasy)). I play. And that’s gotten me a lot of cool things.

Otherwise, we now have two kids. That was the same as last year, but Tali’s now yammering away in her own speech, though she can say Mama, Dada and Yay. I love this. She danced to the Opening Intro of My Little Pony. Heh. Caitlyn was raised on Mass Effect and Tali’s going to be raised on My Little Pony. I’m okay with this.

But that brings about another change. I’ve said a dozen times that one of the reasons I threw myself into the Brony fandom is not only because of the amazing community, but because I realized I was afraid of what people might think if I decided to like this show. And that ticked me off.

Well, I’ve taken it to a whole new level at Blizzard. I’m actually leading the Blizzard Bronies. When I first arrived, I searched for the group, as there are Pony references littered throughout their games. (My favorite example is from Diablo 3. There’s an achievement named [Magical Mystery Couture] which just means you equip a wand, a source, and a wizard hat on your wizard at the same time. That’s a direct reference to the Season 3 finale “Magical Mystery Cure,” the musical episode where Twilight Sparkles ascends to alicorn and princess.)

Anyway, I was utterly shocked to find that there wasn’t one! After some internal debate, I decided “Screw it! I’ll start one!” For months, I was the only one in the group, because I had no way to advertise. Then someone in HR decided to do the old Summer Rush idea (you know, when all the college clubs would come out and have booths so people could sign up?). Well, I knew I would be the only one there, but I did it. I had my Build-a-Bear plushies, along with my vinyls, PMVs playing on my laptop and a signup sheet and a raffle with prizes I purchased myself. And I got eleven people.

Since then, my desk has become a tourist attraction for anybody who likes Ponies. (I have about a bajillion of them decorating my desk, screensaver and walls) A lot of the people are parents like me who got into it because of their daughters. Some of them are original Bronies, who just checked it out probably because the internet was flooded with them. But no matter what, it’s a good group now. There’s still some misunderstanding about the Brony sensation, but I’ve made it my mission to make sure people get it. They don’t have to like the show, but I want them to understand the purpose behind this culture and that it’s not weird or creepy.

I’m never going to convince everyone, but who knows? Maybe I can get a full “Elements of Harmony” quest line into the next WoW expansion. Heh. That would be awesome.

It was the year everything changed.

I think 2014 is the year of the greatest changes for us as a family. I know the addition of the kids are enormous changes to handle…but…well, remember those websites that list the events that cause the highest levels of stress? I just decided to pull one up at random. Now I know this isn’t purely scientific or anything, but here’s the events. (It’s based off of the The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, apparently)

#6 – Personal injury or illness – 53

#11 – Change in health of family member – 44

#15 – Business readjustment – 39

#16 – Change in financial state – 38

#22 – Change in responsibilities at work  – 29

#25 – Outstanding personal achievement – 28

#26 – Spouse begins or stops work – 26

#30 – Trouble with boss – 23

#31 – Change in work hours or conditions – 20

#38 – Change in sleeping habits – 16

#42 – Christmas – 12

My total is 364, which (according to the website) means I’m way above the normal line of stress. Heh. I could have told you that. Anyway, it’s just a random website I pulled up. But a lot of these events were one time events. The key is that we survived.

Laura and I have been through more than you can possibly believe. Things that I will not be sharing with you all, but know that since we managed to survive them before we had kids, it made us all the stronger. While we will probably always have the occasional fight, miscommunication, broken expectation or issue, both of us know that neither of us is walking.

Everything has changed. But instead of changing for the worse…or seeing the slow decline of my life into mediocrity, boredom and self-doubt, I can actually see a bright future ahead for the first time in a very long time.

The war with Apple is over. Laura and I are both done. We passed through it, battered, cracked and scarred, but we passed through it alive. And now, we have a whole new life to look forward to.

I think it’s only fitting that in the last few days, I’ve started a new story. You see, I’ve had trouble sleeping this last week (I got Christmas Eve-New Years Day as paid vacation) because of intense dreams. And I remembered something…that happens when I haven’t written.

This story isn’t actually new per-se. It’s a massive revision of a story I began in 2010 called “Rain.” It was a story I didn’t really know what I was doing with. Then I had this cool idea called “The Last Dreamer” about a future where humanity has done away with sleep after an unexplained plague of nightmares prevents the entire human race from sleeping properly. They’ve replaced eight hours of sleep with this wondrous technology that requires them to enter stasis for three hours a day. That was after most of the population of the solar system went half-mad…or worse. So about a hundred years later…we have someone who can dream…someone without a name, without an identity…

Someone who isn’t affected by the nightmares. And what this individual has the ability to do will change the entire course of human history…and human society.

Cool, eh?

Anyway, this has been my year in review.

So there’s only one thing to do so I can end it properly.

That’s right…it’s PMV time.

I’ve done two major events for the Blizzard Bronies. A Double Feature starring “Double Rainboom” and “A Brony Tale” and Hearth’s Warming Eve with “Snowdrop,” “Children of the Night” and a couple other things. And I’ve found the perfect finale that I’ll be using for every Blizzard Bronies Featured Event.

“House of Ponies” by Racercarghost.

 

And then I just realized something. It’s actually not New Year’s Eve. It’s New Year’s Day. So I can’t “end” this. I need to “start” this. So there’s only one thing for it.

This is the introduction PMV I play to every one of my Blizzard Bronies events: “Together” by TheAcelps:

Here’s looking forward to a New Year for the first time in a long time. May it be filled with fun, friends, games and a hell of a lot of writing. 😉

-rks

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Back in the Saddle

Seriously?! Has it really been around three months since I posted in this thing?

I really shouldn’t be surprised. I have a terrible habit of getting really hung-ho about stuff like blogs and then just losing interest. Well, that’s not accurate. It’s more that I have a thousand other things that I decide to do.

So. What have I been doing for the last few months?

Well, let’s see…

  • Started a successful Brony group at Blizzard, who’s had one major event and is about to have a second.
  • Made it through an entire week without the kids or the wife as she took a vacation up in Reno while I remained working. That was a strange week. (And yes, it was really just a vacation)
  • Had issues with panic attacks on and off.
  • Successfully won NaNoWriMo 2014, making it my fifth year running.
  • Finished my rewrite of the webcomic novella Stormhaven into a full novel clocking in at 84K words.
  • Helped launch Warlords of Draenor, one of the most successful expansions Blizzard has ever released.
  • Played WAY TOO MUCH Warlords.
  • Before Warlords launched, I managed to secure the Challenge Mode: Gold achievement for Tyrimon, my Paladin, getting me the special transmog set and the now-impossible-to-obtain Pandarian Phoenixes.
  • I also managed to get Heirloom Weapons from Garrosh Hellscream for all my major characters and managed to get Laura a Heroic Kill of Garrosh as well before 6.0.2 launched.
  • Made it through Tali’s birthday party and associated events.
  • Attended my first Blizzcon as a Blizzard Employee and worked my first Blizzcon as a Blizzard Employee (I helped out with the SC2 tournaments…funny because SC2 isn’t something that really grabs me).
  • A thousand other things that I can’t even process.

I’m still doing the Pony thing. In fact, after today, I’ve decided I’m even more into it than ever before. I’m going to make it my mission to get it through people’s head that being a fan of MLP:FiM isn’t a disturbing or weird thing. Now there are always going to be ignorant people who don’t want to learn things. I don’t care about them. I care about the people who have brains and who just don’t know.

Because I used to be one of them.

I’m not leaving Blizzard anytime soon. I’m making a difference there. A big one. 🙂

But right now, I’m just dropping by to say I’m here.

Next week, I’ll have something more substantial.

Until then, good luck and have fun!

-rks

Final Considerations

So, you’re probably wondering AGAIN about Waterfall.

Sadly, it’s still in committee. I pray that it’ll be done soon. And I also pray that after I deal with this one, I can get a carte blanche clearance to publish without having to go through legs. But since I’m new, I want to follow the rules exactly by the book. So it’s totally out my hands.

I’m waiting. And that’s all there is to it.

Other writing things? Let’s see…I’m still working on my rewrite of Stormhaven, but I’ve probably allowed WoW to take my lunch time a bit too much. But since the new expansion is coming out soon and there are a few specific things I want to do before launch…eh, it’s a hard decision. I’m trying to go back and forth.

By the way, if you happen to play WoW and you’re interested in assisting me in killing Garrosh just once on 10-Man Normal, let me know.

The Inklings are having a bit of a hard time lately. We’ve lost a few people due to inactivity. If you’re interested in a writing critique group, please let me know. However, we’re still making it work. There are a few who are dedicated to making this work. Some folks believe in summer breaks. They can do that, but I’m not going to. If you’re serious about writing, you need to keep at it.

Pfft. Look who’s talking. *Sigh*

 

There’s not a lot else to report. Things are going pretty well at Blizzard. I’m definitely enjoying my time there…is so much better than Apple. And nothing new for Laura yet. So it’s just me as the provider at the moment.

It’s been a long weekend…and pretty stressful, so this is about all I have left in me right now.

So instead, you don’t get a PMV. You get an official flashback on Season 4 instead!

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Season 4, do NOT watch this.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Dreams + Reality = Epic

Well, it’s hard to believe I’ve already been at Blizzard for over a week now. It’s still not even real. I got to have lunch with Laura and the girls there with a few friends, to take tours, to know some actual stuff that others don’t know and to meet my entire team. Hell, the second day was a pancake breakfast for my team. Seriously. This place is freaking amazing. Even had to chance to score some cool Blizzard swag. It’s funny how long time employees complain (good-naturedly) about having too much, but I’m just starting out, so I’m thrilled.

But the best part? The people I’m working with are my kind of people. I mean that by saying they are gamers, techies, nerds and geeks. But not only that…they are also parents of small children around my age.

You see, at Apple, I always felt I was surrounded by jocks and party kids. People I had little to nothing in common with. But now? I feel totally at ease with these people, aside from my stupid natural shyness which is rearing its head something fierce.

This place is unbelievable. I wish I could tell you all the reasons why…but it truly is. I know this is where I’m meant to be. And I’m so thankful to God for pulling off this insane impossible miracle. It’s still not real…and it won’t be for a long time, I suspect.

As for my writing, things are actually going well. Last week, even with my new schedule, I managed to do some work on Stormhaven. This week, I’ll be focusing on getting Waterfall done. There’s also been some development on that whole anthology thing…aside from enormous amounts of drama. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Other than that, there’s not much to report. I’m behind on my critiques for this week, so I need to tackle that tonight. Not sure what I’ll do later, but that needs to be done today!

And just to celebrate the Blizzard thing (and no one even blinked twice about the Pony thing), here’s the 20th Anniversary Special Video!


Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part V (Finale)

Part V: Miracles

Today’s date is Saturday, June 7, 2014.

I’m T-2 days from Blizzard.

I know I should be freaking out. And I think a little part of me is, but it’s a small part. The rest of me is trying to survive my two little girls, getting a bit too obsessed with Bioshock Infinite and a few other things. At the moment, I’m pulling my hair out because the second I finished my personal journal, Tali woke up. I don’t know if it was Caitlyn’s weird yelling in her room or what…but it was just as I got everything ready to do this. *Sigh* Kids have a magical way of knowing the worst possible time to wake up from naps.

But more than anything, I think I’m really excited. I’m excited to find out what Blizzard has. Part of me is excited to actually park there as an employee. To see their cafeteria. To know about any cool discounts. To just…BE a part of it.

Now, of course, I won’t be able to breathe a word about what I really do. I’m sure they’ll have me sign at least 10 NDA forms or something. Apple’s just as bad, really. The only difference is that when I worked for Apple, I worked Retail, so I never knew anything (by the way, NEVER ask an Apple Retail employee about when the next iPhone, iPod, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, Macbook Pro, Macbook, iWatch, iThingy or any other Apple product is coming out. You’re not being clever because we’ve all heard it hundreds if not thousands of times. Retail NEVER knows anything. They find out the same way everyone else does: watching the Keynote if Apple puts it up or reading the livestreams from MacRumors/Engagdet/Gizmodo/AppleInsider/Whatever just like everyone else).

…ahem.

A bit of a tangent there. I’ve been hearing questions about when does the next (BLANK) for six and a half years. *Shudder*

Anyway, I never knew anything at Apple Retail. I’ll know everything (ish) at Blizzard. Weird to actually KNOW THINGS! But I’m still not going to tell you, so don’t ask.

So…that leaves us with now. The grand finale. Last time, we stopped shortly after my return from my personal leave. The faces were very different and I started to realize that there weren’t many of my friends left at Apple SCP. For example, the picture below is everyone who showed up to Laura’s Surprise Baby Shower for Caitlyn in September of 2010.

Baby Shower for Caitlyn

All of the people within this photo save for two no longer work at the Apple Store at SCP (excluding Laura). Everyone else has moved on. Some to other Apple Stores. Some to other businesses. Some to other states. Some to other countries.

Aside from that, there wasn’t much else to do at the Apple Store. I didn’t have any mountains to climb. I wasn’t interested in Retail Management and aside from lateral moves within the store or to other stores, the only other option was to move to Cupertino to work at Apple HQ. I didn’t want to leave Southern California. It’s my home. So…what was I to do?

However, it was more complicated than that. Far more complicated. You see, I have a rather dry sense of humor and sometimes have trouble expressing my opinions in locations where it would be wiser to keep my mouth shut. These traits, along with others, started to cause serious tension for me. In addition, a new policy was handed down, demanding that both the full-time and the part-time employees have more availability (days that you are considered available to work) than ever before.

However…here was the long and the short of it: I wasn’t happy at Apple. I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to progress to. I had concerns about the direction Apple was going, both in retail and in respect to the company itself. The availability thing was the final piece though. I started looking…because I had to. You see, Laura and I long ago committed that strangers would not be raising our children. We didn’t want to throw our kids in daycare. Could we have made more money if we did that? Maybe. But you know what? Money has never really mattered to me all that much. I’ve always viewed it as a tool, nothing more. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense for people living in Orange County. Here, we have Coto de Caza, Newport Beach and far more expensive places. South Coast Plaza itself caters itself as a tourist location…really ritzy and fancy most of the time. I know I don’t belong here…but that’s okay. I like being different.

I started to look into other companies. Tech companies and other random places, even Microsoft, since I knew they used to poach Retail employees a lot when they were first getting started. But I wasn’t getting a single nibble. I tried networking, but nothing was happening. Comments were being made…and I was afraid. Really afraid for my future.

((I’m not going to go into specifics about any of this. Today I got the standard “end of employment” letter reminding me of all the commitments that are still in effect even though I’m no longer with Apple at this point.  The intention of this is not to bash Apple as a company or Apple SCP as a store. All I am saying here is that I was having some issues. Some of those issues were personality conflicts within the store, some of them were new company-wide policies. Also remember that I had been at Apple SCP for six and a half years. That’s no small feat. It’s not something I would throw away casually. I’ve been through plenty of very difficult times where I’ve considered leaving Apple, but I stayed because I realized that the problem was more me than the circumstances. I’m a stubborn guy. But family is more important to me. The true purpose of this is to show the miracles that happened and the threads wove together to result in what happens on Monday morning))

The Miracles

Sometime during March, I was looking at Blizzard’s career website. It’s something I did every month or so, just to see if there’s something I could apply for. This time around, it was for Compatibility Analyst, the same position as what I applied for the first time I applied at Blizzard some years ago. I updated my resume (which had recently been updated anyway because of my searches), added the Mass Effect 2 game analysis from my first application, a cover letter and sent it off with the help of Jason, my Baby Stalker. Sent it through him and through the external portal. I then promptly forgot about it. I had been rejected so many times, I just offered a quick prayer to God and moved on with my life. Even during everything else that happened, I didn’t even think of that one.

I realized after the fact that the ME2 Review was actually written before Mass Effect 3 came out and was written reflecting that. I never changed it. Eep.

Then, on our nine-year wedding anniversary, March 26, 2014, I got an email from Blizzard Entertainment while I was getting ready to take a shower. Telling me they were interested in my latest application for Compatibility Analyst, which I had applied for and promptly forgotten.

I couldn’t believe it. Seriously. It was like a dream. Even thinking back on it now as I write this (still working for Apple and waiting for the final phone call), I still don’t believe it.

A whirlwind proceeded to happen. I took a few days off of work for these events. I prepared for the first phone interview with 40 pages of notes, questions, answers and more. I memorized their Mission Statement. I watched the 25-year anniversary retrospective. I asked questions for everyone I knew in the gaming industry.

And during my phone interview…within a half hour in they said they wanted me in for an in-person interview.

Eight days later, I get the email to set up the in-person interview. And a week later from that, I drive to Blizzard Entertainment and enter the gate for the very first time in my life.

Of course, there was a full NDA for the interview and everything else, so I can’t divulge anything about the process. But I’ll say their lobby is freaking awesome. I remember waiting for my recruiter in the Blizzard Museum. Seeing a version of the Sword and Shield used for the Five and Ten Year Anniversaries. Seeing the various models for the Holiday Gifts they do every year. The massive mural they had on one wall that they use as their primary art piece for Hearthstone. The utterly insane amounts of awards they have in glass cases. The giant statue of the Queen of Blades. And I even got the man who was behind the entire scheduling process to take my picture in front of the great orc rider statue before the main building. It was like walking into a dream.

In truth, I didn’t think I did that great during the interview. I kept thinking of the dozens of different or better answers I could have given them after the fact. Coming home, I was quite depressed. My own internal critic went nuts, tearing me apart from the inside out. Over the course of the next fifteen days, I mentally ripped myself apart, sending myself to severe depression. I think part of me was shoring myself up for failure, so getting rejected wouldn’t completely destroy me.

I’ve been in constant prayer the entire time with Laura. I was asking for family members and friends to pray over us. The moment I got that first email, I ran to God, knowing full well I was completely incapable of doing this without Him. I prayed at least four times a day about the job.

Then on a Thursday, while I was at home talking on the phone with a friend about my methods behind the OC Inklings, an online critique group I’d been running since the beginning of the year, I get a phone call. My iPhone identifies the call as coming from Irvine, California. I freak, tell the person I had to go and pick up the phone.

It’s my recruiter with some questions about pay rates and such. During our conversation, he mentions getting the gears in motion to get to the offer stage.

I managed to keep it together during the phone call, but the moment I hung up (as Laura is completely freaking out in joy and putting Tali in her Blizzard onesie (“My other stroller is EPIC”)), I literally fell over onto the bed and just stared at the wall in complete and total shock.

For the rest of the day, I wander around the house in a daze, my brain completely on the fritz.

Because I knew what a phone call like that meant.

 

The New Horizon

That was three days ago (at the time of originally writing this).

Since then, I got a chance to tell a few friends, while keeping everything quiet on social media and public front. I texted those who knew about what I was trying to do. Even as I write this, it doesn’t seem real.

But everyone I’ve talked to say that if they’re talking pay, then the job is in the bag. God performed the miracle. The third greatest miracle in my life.

The first is finding a wife who wants to be with me and deal with all my insanity.

The second is two beautiful and healthy baby girls.

And this is the third.

Yesterday, I started writing my farewell email to Apple, a tradition for our store when it’s time for someone to move on. I’ll be tweaking that until the final moment. And I started writing this yesterday after finishing the email.

You see…the real reason I want to work for Blizzard isn’t for the free stuff or the pay or the insider knowledge. I have no interest in becoming fabulously wealthy or crazy famous. That’s not where my priorities lie. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but all I’ve ever wanted out of life is to be a husband, be a father and leave a legacy.

The reason I want to work for Blizzard is because of the culture. From everything I’ve seen, Blizzard is full of geeks and nerds. And somehow, I ended up at the Apple Store with all the jocks. In Genius Room meetings, more guys talk about shoes than they do about video games. (I’m not kidding. I’ve called them total girls for it and reminding them that’s coming from someone who watches My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic). Blizzard has LARPing, Magic the Gathering and and endless supply of geek. In fact, one of their Mission Statements is “Embrace Your Inner Geek!”

The other reason? Because I see endless potential. Blizzard is a company I could see myself working at for the next thirty years. I’m starting at the bottom right now, but there are so many paths available within the company. I don’t know where I’ll go. I don’t know if it’ll be game design and development, internal technical support or maybe something else. Eventually, I’d love to join their creative development team and write the stories that I loved so much.

This is my greatest dream. And God has done amazing things in getting me here.

But the best part? It didn’t end there. No way. It got both harder and better at the same time.

 

God is my Tank and my Healer

What? It’s a WoW Joke. In case you don’t know (and you seriously should know this), a Tank is a character usually in an MMO who has high health and gets the various enemies to target them instead of the more fragile damage dealers or the healer. They take the punishment so the rest of the team can kick ass.

That next Tuesday, I get an email from the recruiter and the scheduler. We quickly make a new appointment for the coming Thursday…where I find out I’ll be doing my final phone interview. I don’t believe it.

That Thursday, while a neighbor watches the kids, I have the final interview. And I felt very happy with the way it turned out, especially when he told me the decision would be made within a week.

Ironically, a few days later is the Season 4 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now why on earth would I mention this? Aside from the fact that I’ve already gushed about how epic it was, there was a song in there that really spoke to me.

It was Twilight, singing about the fact that she’s been placed in a position of authority but doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s her questioning her role and her purpose. What is she meant to do? She wants to contribute so badly…but seems to do almost nothing.

Then the other three Princesses come in…telling her that “you’ll play your part.”

I can’t even explain why, but it comforted me. It gave me hope. Granted, I’m not an alicorn princess, but I found a very close connection with what I was going through, fighting through doubts, questioning my place and hoping for something better.

Here’s a line from the song:

But I wonder where I’m going now

What my role is meant to be

I don’t know how to travel

To a future that I can’t see

And this is from my journal a few days later:

It really resonates with me. Because right now I can’t see the future. I’m in neutral, waiting for the light to change. My engine’s revved up and ready to blast ahead…but I’m waiting for the light…for the go or the stop.

But I have to have faith that God knows. And I have to trust him that it’ll happen in his time. I can’t hurry God. I can just do my best to muddle along, asking for help along the way.

 

The Jump

On May 13, a friend of mine gives me some very troubling information about my place at Apple. I won’t go into specifics, but it obliterated my good mood for the day as if someone had dropped a nuke on my head. I had tried my best to keep my shields up during the problems I’d been having at work during all of this, but this last bit of information shattered them into tiny shards.

I was so upset about this new information, I seriously considered calling out the next day. However, for some reason, Laura encouraged me to go to work anyway.

The next day, I discover that I have a meeting with one of the managers, likely about the thing mentioned the day before. I spend the day focusing on my customers as best I can and even watch Doug Field’s service at Saddleback Church that gave me comfort some weeks before. The service was called “Have I Got a Surprise For You!”

And it’s about how Jesus handled Lazarus’s death. The key is he didn’t go right away when Mary and Martha sent the messenger asking for help. He waited for two days before leaving. Lazarus was dead and already buried when Jesus got there. Mary and Martha were asking “Why?”

But there was an answer. The answer was to show one of the greatest miracles Jesus did while on Earth. He raised him from the dead. Mary and Martha just wanted healing…but Jesus did far more than that.

And this is from my journal after watching that:

I have to jump.

If Jesus decides that the bridge needs to burn out and I have to throw myself into the unknown, that’s what I need to do.

It’s the only way.

Because I have to trust him that he’ll catch me.

Okay God, you want it like that?

Then I’m jumping.

It’s all up to you now. If you don’t catch me, it’s game over.

So it’s all to you.

 

The Tenth Miracle

At 3:40 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, while I was in this meeting (which was not a happy meeting), I felt my phone buzz. I peeked at it while talking with him and saw “Blizzard Entertainment” on the Caller ID. But I managed to stick it out with the conversation.

Afterwards when we came back down to the store, well, I think I need another direct quote from my journal here.

After the meeting, I headed to the restroom, locked the door and listened to the message, my breath held. I remember judging his voice as he spoke about the stuff after the final interview. Apparently, I did it. I fucking did it.

No, that’s not right.

GOD DID IT.

And he told me that they were ready for the offer stage.

I got the job.

I was literally jumping up and down around the room like some sort of psychotic jackrabbit, whisper-shouting YES! over and over again.

I GOT THE DAMN JOB!

That’s right. I was grinning like a lunatic for the rest of the day. I sang and shouted in praise and thanks and just sheer glee the entire way home.

We have a quick exchange the next day saying that they’re just processing the final paperwork and should have it done by the next day, Friday, May 16.

God waited until the last moment. At 5:10 PM Pacific Daylight Time, my recruiter presented me with the official offer. Even better? I got Compatibility Analyst II instead of I.

And finally, a few minutes after telling the managers and putting in my notice, I got to tell the Genius Room. I actually got applause to my surprise.

Best. Day. Ever.

 

The Time Between

The next two weeks flew by in a blur. Literally. I was actually startled by how quickly the days passed. My final day at Apple was May 30, 2014. At my final Genius Room meeting, they actually did a group hug. Slightly awkward. I got to have lunch with another Genius who was leaving the same day (coincidence, she’s actually moving) and a member of the Genius Team who’s been with Apple for almost 20 years. He’s a good man.

And finally? My going away party at Red Robin near SCP. We had about 15 people or so show up. And it was a grand old time, because people came out who had left Apple years ago. It was wonderful, simply wonderful. I remember when I got home I was so exhausted, but it’s the kind of exhausted you get after visiting Disneyland. A very good kind of exhausted.

 

The Tapestry

To think that this all started because my old CompUSA manager wanted me to try WoW so badly that he bought me a copy using his own money. A thousand threads starting there (and further back with my obsession with video games for years), intertwined and leading to this moment. Moving down here, meeting Jason and Amanda, meeting those contacts at the Genius Bar, winning Honorable Mention with “Ashes over Stormwind,” getting a job at Apple, getting Genius and everything else…all of it was for a far greater purpose than I could have ever imagined.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen by coincidence. It’s all too complex, too complicated for that. I can’t believe that for a heartbeat. There was a great intelligent design behind all of these that started almost ten years ago.

God wove a beautiful and astonishing tapestry through my life…a tapestry I never saw coming.

I don’t think it’s chance that the quote I used for my senior year in high school is the same quote that gave me comfort in my times of doubt: “‘For I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” That’s Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

It’s a good verse.

A very good verse.

 

Dawn

And there you have it. My Adventure to Azeroth. My journey to Blizzard. It was a hell of a ride. I left out the worst parts of it, primarily because I want to think of the positive things…and the miracles. All the amazing miracles. I say that there were thirteen miracles, but that’s not true at all. There are dozens if not hundreds more that God has done, big or small, to get me to where I’m going on Monday morning.

If you’ve actually made it this far and read the entire thing, congratulations. I wish I had something to give you, considering this last part is almost 4,000 words by itself. But all I have to offer is my sincere thanks for being on this journey with me.

Don’t worry, my blogs will not stop. My writing isn’t over. It’s just going to change a little. Writing is a part of who I am, just as much as family or gaming or ADHD or my faith. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this experience…it’s that the sum is always greater than the parts.

But that’s usually God doing.

I’m okay with that.

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

PS

I’ll have one more blog tomorrow night, which will be about the possibilities of two stories being published very soon! They will be published by June 15 at minimum.

 

 

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part IV

Part IV: Pushing the Apple Uphill

Panic

During 2012-2014, I was having my own struggles with Apple. As you know, while I had been promoted within two weeks from part-time sales to full-time Inventory Specialist, I wasn’t really happy there and the managers knew it. So I was transferred to Visuals where I blossomed and I learned an enormous amount about our demo systems.

In fact, I learned so much that I wrote a 40-page document on how to perform demonstration installs and configurations, since everything had to be set up by hand. I ended up running entire overnights at the Apple Store while the Visuals Manager just kinda hung out. I trained the time, set up numerous computers, configured every new machine that was released, set up the security systems and more.

This led me to want to join the Genius team, the team dedicated to working on Mac computers, but two weeks after I declared my intention, they launched a new position called Family Room Specialist, which was a position between my current position and the Genius position. I gritted my teeth and went for that. But that was harder than expected to get into. In fact, it was a serious issue. I had to have several meetings with management. And very little of it was about my performance. In fact, during my entire time at Apple, I don’t think I ever had any performance problems. According to them…it was people skills and attitude.

And in 2012, I decided to apply for the position of Compatibility Analyst. Another form rejection, sadly. I was starting to get a little depressed and nervous. I was seeing that the requirements for the positions were getting steeper, going to places I couldn’t reach without years more of experience.

Eventually though, I managed to make to FRS. There, I blossomed again, not only taking charge of the Data Transfer aspect of the job, but also creating a full-blown certification class from scratch that got the notice of Apple Corporate. While it never became widespread due to Apple changing the direction of how data transfers were done, that was really cool. In fact, during my last conversation with our Market Manager, she said that it was really my defining moment, coming up with this program.

Cert Class (V4).002

A slide from my Certification Class (V.4)

Let me tell you a little about it. You see, the FRS position was still fairly new to the store…especially the data transfer part of it. During this time, the sales team and the FRS team pretty much hated each other. The sales team were always getting yelled at about data transfers (which they were checking in) and the FRS team hated the sales team because they didn’t know how to properly check it in.

It started with a guide on how to perform data transfers (at that time, there was no official direction from Apple on how to do it) but after a random comment from a manager and a couple employees, I decided to create an entire class. With the blessing of the management team, I launched this certification class to teach the sales people (and anyone else) how to check in these transfers properly. More than anything, it was about creating proper expectations.

I used my own sense of humor for the whole thing.

I used my own sense of humor for the whole thing.

This actually did several things. First, it solved a vast majority of the problems we had with the entire data transfer process. We no longer had to get yelled at by customers who were promised one thing and then told after the fact that we couldn’t do that thing. The second thing was it made the entire team much more approachable and accessible. We were the ones teaching it (with me leading the way). And best of all? Morale improved dramatically. We started really enjoying the job and the challenge that went along with it. Because believe me, getting Macs and PCs to talk to one another to transfer data was a pain in the rear.

(By the way, since Apple never decided to use my certification class and the current policies and procedures are radically different than what they were back then, it’s safe to post these. I also did not post anything with actual information in them.)

However, my next goal was not nearly as easy.

 

genius-bar

Genius

The road to Genius was probably the hardest road I walked in Apple. I was passed over numerous times, sometimes for people incredibly qualified. Sometimes for people who weren’t so much. I interviewed at multiple stores in the area as well. Some interviews went great. Some were utterly horrible. I was constantly trying to prove myself to anyone and everyone. I even ended up in the “Grow Your Own – Genius” program, which allowed me to at least take Mac Appointments at the bar. I was a fully certified GYOG for at least 2 years before it became anything of value.

I knew I had the support from most of the Genius Team, but sadly, that didn’t account for much. It was always in the hands of the managers and leads.

I could go on for a very long time about this fight, but that’s not what this is about. So let’s move to the good part.

And then, in September of 2012, I finally landed the job I’d been fighting for for years, the job I’d been passed over for at least ten times. Genius. In November of 2012, I spent three weeks in Cupertino, California at Apple HQ where I did my official training and actually landed as top of my class in both hardware and software…and got the nickname “Classic.” Most of the other new Geniuses had only been with Apple 2-3 years, while I had passed my five year anniversary with Apple while in Cupertino.

In truth, that was actually a very difficult time for me. I didn’t want to go. When I was thinking about it, I sometimes broke down into tears. I didn’t want to leave my wife or daughter. It was heartbreaking to leave.

 

A New Direction

I’m going to leave the details of the intervening time a little vague. South Coast Plaza had gone through several changes in management and management style during my time there. Some of it was good, some of it I wasn’t comfortable with. And I couldn’t seem to land a transfer no matter what I did.

The stress of the position and the coming birth of our second baby, Talissa, expected in November of 2013 finally drove me to severe panic attacks where I ended up taking a leave of absence from Apple for four months (short-term disability and baby bonding leave). I was gone for the entire holiday season.

During this time, I focused heavily on my writing and trying to work through my personal issues. The writing helped a lot and I managed to win National Novel Month for the fifth year in a row.

When I came back, many of my friends had already left Apple. Most of the other gamers were long gone into different jobs or different stores. It was a very different place. So I started to think beyond my current position. I didn’t have much interest in going into management and I didn’t want to move to Apple Headquarters in Cupertino.

So that left the question where was I going to go? Especially since matters were moving in a direction that would force Laura and I out of our positions at Apple for the sake of our children.

I considered many places during these months. I searched up and down…but finding a job in this day and age is a difficult prospect even for someone super-qualified.

And so…something awesome happened.

But that’s for the finale, Part V.

It’ll come out tomorrow! 🙂

Miracles

I’m a believer in miracles. Why do you ask? Because in the last month and a half, I saw a whole lot of them performed. Some seriously impossible things came to pass. Things that shouldn’t have happened. Things that happened in such perfect timing that somebody had to be controlling it. In fact, God’s a freaking showoff most of the time. If you need further proof, look up at the night sky in the desert sometime. Tell me that’s not God just showing off. So what’s this all about anyway? Well, as many of you know, I’ve been talking about the “Cryptic Thing” for weeks now. I’ve already made the official announcement on Facebook, texted many friends and told people at work. It’s no longer a secret. Blizzard Achivement   That’s right folks. It’s official. As of June 9, I will be working at Blizzard Entertainment as a Compatibility Analyst II. This is what’s consumed my life for the last month and a half, since March 26, 2014. After six and a half years at the Apple Store at South Coast Plaza, I’m finally moving on. It’s still hard for me to believe. But an enormous weight has lifted off of me. Part of me was just exhausted all the time from carrying the secret. Another part of me was just desperate to have it over with so I could stop worrying/doubting/questioning what the final result would be. And another part of me is grinning like an idiot. Even as I write this, having returned my offer paperwork yesterday, it’s still not real. But it actually happened. God got me a job with my dream company. A company can easily see myself working at for the next thirty years. A company who can take their pick of anyone in the world. I’m sure hundreds, if not thousands, of people applied for this position. But God had my resume stand out to my recruiter. I don’t know why this happened. I really don’t. But I am thankful beyond words that it did. This is truly a dream come true to me.

Rawr.

Me standing before the 12′ wolf-riding orc before Blizzard HQ.

In celebration of this amazing event, I wrote a retrospective on my journey to Blizzard. You see, as I neared the end of the process, I looked back and realized that this had been in the works for something like ten years. From the arguments I used to have with my manager at CompUSA about WoW, to sitting at Fry’s during the Wrath Launch, to meeting our baby stalkers, to my honorable mention in the 2011 Blizzard Global Writing Contest to my finally getting Genius after years of work…it’s all led to this moment. It’s a rare moment when you can look back at your life and see all the threads weaving together to form the tapestry of this moment. I am blessed beyond measure to see that. And I thought I should share it with you. Now, as you may know, I’m somewhat long-winded, being a novelist and all. So I’m not going to dump all 6,000 words on you in one swoop. I’m going to do it in a few parts. In fact, I’ll be posting the first part right after this one. I might do the next tomorrow or the day after. Haven’t decided yet. We’ll see. But you didn’t think I’d let you get away without some awesome Pony stuff, did you? The Season 4 Finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic premiered last Saturday. And is was one of the most kick-ass episodes I’d ever seen. It shot straight to the top of my favorite episodes, because unlike many previous episodes, we get to see two magical titans going at one another. The gloves were off and it was a full fledged magical brawl. So I’m going to do a little spoiler here. And I’m stealing it straight from Equestria Daily’s Episode Followup of “Twilight’s Kingdom.” Library

If there’s one thing you don’t mess with, it’s Twilight’s books. Or her house. I’m having trouble deciding which one is actually making her more angry. Oh well, I’m sure this dispute between godlike magic users can be decided over a nice cup of-

Magic fireball 1

HOLY CRAP

Oh crap

JESUS CHRIST

Throwdown

IS THIS REAL LIFE

 

The magnitude and the spectacle of this scene can’t be done justice by words. The screencaps themselves are hardly describing how intense what’s happening is. This is like the battle between Luna and Celestia in the premiere but on a much more devastating scale, and a more emotionally impactful one I might argue because we actually don’t know how this is going to turn out.

You're toast.   … Still think this is a show just for little girls?   The moral of the story: Don’t &$@# with Twilight Sparkle.   And now…time for a PMV. 🙂   That’s it for today folks! Check out the Retrospective coming soon! 😀 -rks