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A Gamer's Story

An autobiographical story of my hardships trying to get into the gaming industry.

It's 3:50 AM in a tiny studio apartment in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm sitting in front of a computer screen with the only light being cast by the computer screen. It's reached the time of night to where the quiet radiates, enveloping the landscape. My stomach aches from hunger, my head throbs to an inaudible beat and my eyes are wide open. I can't sleep. To my left sits my beloved 360, covered in old grocery store advertisements. Behind it sits a small TV, covered in dust. The two aren't connected. My CD case that once housed over one hundred games sits in a shrunken state from a lack of content within. I haven't opened it in months.I can't help but remember a time when it wasn't like this. Where I had multiple shelves of titles waiting for me.

Each week was looked forward to with excitement.  Where I had a nice big TV to play on and where I had friends that used to come visit me. We'd play games together. I had online friends that I used to play games with on Xbox Live every night.  I remember those times where I was up till dawn,  cracking jokes and smoking people online. All those players I once knew no longer even play anymore. My friends list is emaciated.  I'd given up my online and offline friends, my family, my pets and my entire life as it once was to come down here to accomplish my dream. And as it stands right now, it's entirely wasted.

My eventual end goal is to be a Game Designer.  I don't really care which path I take to getting there. I originally started with a deep appreciation for games. I've been playing them since I was very young. My best weekends as a child were spent playing games. It started with me begging my mom to take me to Blockbuster and if I managed to get her to do it, I knew I was going to have a great weekend. I remember constantly reading in magazines about which games were coming out, whether it be EGM or Nintendo Power and picking out one in particular and bringing it home. I used to play a little bit of everything and I found that I really enjoyed myself playing them.

Of those, I would only pick the best of the best to deem it 'Birthday Game Material' much to the annoyance of my parents.As I got older, my appreciation started to branch out into different genre's. I was about 12 the first time I played my first RPG on the SNES, Secret of Evermore. Before hand, I used to think RPG's were massively boring and ultimately pointless menu clicking but here, we had a story, action and a really nice combat system that compelled me to keep playing. From there and well into the PS1 era, I played tons and tons of JRPG's and despite a few exceptions, enjoyed myself greatly.

By the time I got in high school, I was entirely focused on games. I read about games, I wrote on the internet games, I talked to other classmates about games, I played games when I wasn't doing anything else and as soon as I got any form of relevant income, I was thinking about what game I wanted to buy. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to write, design, direct or otherwise have SOME kind of part in games. It's my calling in life.

One thing that anyone gains from playing so many different games is critical perspective. I read Gamefan, Gamepro and EGM religiously and that I would try becoming a game reviewer to reach my end goal. Unfortunately, I had almost no idea how in the world to get into that sort of job market. I deduced that probably the best way to start was to start writing my own game reviews for practice. Any game that I owned or rented, I wrote game reviews for. I put them on a general gaming website for people to digest.

They were above short "This game sucked" or "This game was AWESOME" posts commonly found on gaming forums, they had all the details you would need to hear to make an educated opinion, but I generally never edited them and the forums I frequented had little traffic so not many people read it. When the website went down and stayed down due to inactivity, I turned to the web to try to make a job out of it. The first thing I ran into is that my computer at the time was old and most game review sites were looking for PC game reviewers, not console gamers like myself.

But my searching did finally pay off a year or two after high school. I found a website called CGNO that was looking for reviewers of all sorts. I sent them a few of the reviews I did and sure enough, they' hired' me. And by 'hired' I mean, they simply let me into their database and allowed me to write reviews for them. I didn't get paid. The only thing they did was send me games to review. That was enough for me. I finally had a website where people could listen to me. It was a happy feeling to know that I was kind of an official reviewer now, even if it was on a small website.

Sadly, the website had really low traffic  and the only real feedback I got was from my boss, who showed me a few nice tricks to make my reviews read better. I also felt the pinch of trying to review games underneath a schedule and even reviewing games that I didn't quite understand how to play (I'm phenomenally bad at sports titles and despite saying this, I still had to review two of them).  Eventually, the backend of our website got hacked three separate times in the four or five months that I 'worked' there.

When the third hacking occurred, the company was sold off to another website, who promptly shut down about a month afterwards due to a lack of funds. I was spun out into the void without a place for my ideas and critiques to be seen but it was nice while it lasted. I continue to look for small time websites for another possible position but I haven't found another that has been willing to take me in.

At this time, I also was quite the collector. I was up to my neck in current (then PS2 Era) games and had been taking my free time buying up the newest games to chat them up on the gaming forums. I even managed to pull together a few friends  to play games with. For a few years, it was great fun. We beat Crystal Chronicles together. We played Super Smash Brothers and Halo 2  and nearly every other big release at the time. It was alot of fun being a part of a group that shared the same interests. For the first time in my life, I had other people to play games with. This feeling of belonging to a group, fitting in and not being some third gear that nobody cared about was great but was not to last.

One day, during the spring of 2006, someone broke into my house and stole nearly all of my games. I had well over 60 PS2 games, two dozen GC games and  a couple of GBA games and all of the equipment needed to play them. All gone. The only thing I had left was a few old PC games that weren't taken because I kept them in a dusty old chest. Needless to say, I was crushed. My entire hobby went up in smoke, all five-thousand plus dollars of it.  What do you do when something you love doing is suddenly taken from you? If you truly have passion for your hobby, you rebuild it. Start over.  So I did.

And it happened again. This time by someone I thought was a friend. My heart ached. I did not put him in jail, but instead, accepted money from his mother to pay for her son's mistake. But I didn't want it. I wanted my games back.  I retreated back into my anti-social shell, depressed and turned to the internet to further my study of my hobby. 

At this time, someone pointed me out towards, a website about a man who has plenty of experience in the gaming field, particularly in working overseas. I asked him what I should do to get into the gaming industry. I mentioned my writing talent and that I wasn't too particularly keen on going to school for it; I was more than happy physically working up through jobs to get there. He replied to me that the first thing I should do is get into school and that I wasn't as good as a writer as I thought (which was a massive slap in the face to me but a little humility never killed anyone).  I begrudgingly took his advice and with the help of my parents, enrolled in a community college...for graphic design.

Clearly unhappy at this choice, I eagerly wanted to find a college that had what I looked for. Some personal events caused me to drop out of the first community college, but I enrolled into a second a year or two later and after the first six months, they opened up a new program in Game Design. Needless to say, I hopped on it immediately. Only to run headfirst into my first brick wall.My computer sucked. It was too slow to run almost anything and ill-equipped for most average web surfing in the late 2000's let alone any games. I spent a large chunk of my next financial aid  check buying myself a new computer. I made sure to get a fairly nice one by standards of those days.

That following fall, I got into my first set of classes...and to my massive dismay, they were terrible.First and foremost, the classes themselves were online only. There was no labs capable of supporting my chosen degree on campus, which meant that I only really had a very low level of immersion in my class. Secondly, the program they used to house the forums and online infrastructure of the school was constantly in a state of disrepair. When it did work it was slow and that's if it decided to work at all. The first two weeks of my first online class, the entire system was offline which was fairly catastrophic. The entire class had to play catch up to try to stay on schedule.

Despite this setback, I completed my first game design class handily and took my second class, a 3D Rendering class. And this time, I didn't just hit a brick wall, I hit a diamond-coated one.Turns out the basis of the problem was the fact that I had Windows Vista 64-Bit as it was just coming out and the program they gave us, Virtools, was a bit on the old side. The two didn't get along. It wouldn't render almost anything I told it to, would often lock up, and despite having video's detailing what I should and should not be doing, refused to work. When I told my online teacher, he told me to talk to the technical support for the school. And by talk, I mean play phone tag.

For the better part of a month, I spent every opportunity I could trying to talk to the technical support for the college and being told countless times to reinstall the program, find useless patches and massive amounts of confusion as they couldn't figure out what was wrong. At the end of that month, I finally got a hold of the head of technical department of the school and she delivered a final ultimatum, the likes of which filled me with great anger."If you didn't meet the requirements for the class, then you should not have taken it."

That statement alone filled me with pure rage. I'd spent alot of money, time and effort for something that was doomed from the start because they decided to use an old program that would be incompatible with anyone buying a new computer and wasn't warned ahead of time about problems. I stopped going to school there immediately. I refuse to attend a school that blames me for a problem they completely overlooked. Unfortunately, my luck with my next school was even worse. Looking back on it, I'd like to think it was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life. It was late 2008.

My parents and I were not getting along and I would need a new place to stay. None of my friends had a spot for me and I didn't have a job, despite my search. I spent alot of time watching Adult Swim in the late evening while roaming the web when I stumbled upon a commercial for DeVry University. A gaming college that was apparently  rich enough to put up a series of commercials about game degrees!  Sign me up! I called there the next day and got in contact with a recruiter who was more than happy to talk to me. I talked with him several times, both on the phone and in e-mail correspondence about the school. We went off the script a few times and started sharing interests with one another.

He told me about the location down in Phoenix and the fact they had an agreement with the nearby apartment complexes to house students. A place to stay and study gaming? It was sounding like the best thing I'd ever heard of. I felt like it was a godsend. I asked him a few questions about the gaming degree they offered, what sorts of things it'd teach. He said that it'd teach me a little bit of everything about games. He said it was a well rounded education. I very specifically asked him how much programming it included. I have done programming before and I didn't enjoy it and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a career out of something I highly dislike. He told me it had a little bit, but it was not the focus of the program. When I initially inquired to the contents of the degree, he told me that it was being revised and therefore unavailable but assured me of its contents.

On December 27th, 2008, I left my old life behind and moved down to Phoenix, Arizona. It took around six hours to make the trip over the breathtaking Rocky Mountains to get down here. I was greeted by a busy airport and highly overpriced food. I jumped on a shuttle to take me to DeVry University.  Half an hour later, I arrived at the school. The recruiter said we'd meet as soon as I showed up. He wasn't there. In fact, I never heard from that recruiter again. Instead, I was set up with my classes, given an apartment key and showed to my first apartment. It was cold from a lack of use. It was supposed to be three to this apartment and since this was Christmas break, nobody was there. The kitchen was in moderate disrepair. I went into my room and found only a bare bed and no other furnishings.

They failed to tell me that my room wasn't furnished (though they did have a stiff, uncomfortable couch in the front room that I'm not sure who it belonged to.) The first night I spent in Phoenix was a chilly one, with only my street clothes and my jacket for warmth. I should have taken that as an omen.Fast forward to a month later. I'd already started classes and despite not having a gaming class yet, I was fairly happy. I  knew that soon, I'd start working towards my dream, finally.

During a random trip to the front office, I decided to ask about the curriculum again; I wanted to know what classes I had to take to be finished. I was given the freshly printed copy of the teachings that lie ahead in wait...and I damn near bit my tongue off. Fundamentally all of these classes were programming based. The final goal of this program was to be a programmer, the very thing I TOLD the recruiter I did not want to do. Period. I was livid to say the least.  I decided that I would find a new school almost immediately, but a catch was already apparent; I lived in student housing.

The second I stopped going to DeVry, I needed a new place to stay. Since I didn't have a job and didn't want to break my lease, I continued going , only to continue taking classes that would later be ported over to whatever college I wanted to go to.So in the meantime, I decided to mingle with the student population.  I'd been down there for three months and my previous roommate left the state after being removed from school for lack of attendance, so I could use someone to talk to. I figured that a fairly good chunk of the students there were going to be studying the gaming degree, so I went ahead and tried talking to a few of largely unsociable people. The few I tried talking to made it readily apparent that they didn't want to talk to me at all. They'd much rather mumble incoherently to the computer screen they were looking at, or completely ignore everyone around them entirely.  

My social experiment appeared to fail until one day, I happened upon a SGDA poster looking for new people to join. SGDA is a gaming centric club at the school. The first meeting was that Thursday. I made space in my day to go down there and join them.I got there on time that Thursday afternoon and took a seat and waited for the rest of the students to show up. Nearly all of them arrived in one big pack, talking about the latest events. When the meeting started up, they introduced themselves to me, but completely failed to let me introduce myself. For the entire duration of the meeting, they acted as if I wasn't even there. Nobody asked me any questions, spoke directly to me or allowed me any chance for input.

The next hour of the meeting consisted of whining about the previous club's leader being given a higher position within the school, meaning he could no longer attend the club's meetings regularly and showing off a student made, story driven game modeled directly after Missile Command. Towards the end of the meeting they started sounding off ideas to drive up student awareness of the SGDA. At this point, I spoke up, growing annoyed at being ignored so heavily. "Why not have a gaming tournament? Gamers love to compete and everybody wants to win something."The group looked at me with expressions of bewilderment. One of the students running the meeting spoke up. "Ah... We won't do that."I blinked quizzically a few times. "Why not?"She responded with a shrug. "Our president is an electronics major and he isn't into that kind of thing."

The conversation moved on without me at that point while I contemplated the previous answer. Why the hell is someone who isn't into gaming in a gaming centric club? Why did they elect him? Why were they okay with this? The meeting ended shortly after and never attended another one, out of massive disgust. My apartment life wasn't fairing much better. The first two months I was down at DeVry, they moved me from my first apartment because one of the students had vacated without letting the housing company, R&R Real Estate, know what was going on.

Rather than find another one, they elected to shut down the unit and set me up with two other roommates. These particular two roomies were some of the least hospitable people I've ever met in my entire life. Despite the fact that we were in the same degree field, they absolutely refused to help  me with anything. They wouldn't let me on their internet bill, so I had to pay for my own internet, they wouldn't let me go shopping with them, so I had to spend four hours to take the bus down to get food and get back, they hid all of their games from me as if I was going to steal it from them when they weren't looking and seemed to only to talk to me in a stern manner  if I left any of my dishes out in the sink while they had company.

I summarily did my best to completely ignore their presence and go about my business, only exchanging a monotone greeting whenever we ran into each other in the living room I was generally never allowed to use.Spring 2009 was a curious time for me. I was looking for another school to go to and taking classes at the same time and almost completely immersing myself in whatever games I had to play to take my mind off of the fact that I was completely alone in a foreign state.

Randomly, I got a message from R&R; DeVry was switching to another Housing Program, Collegiate. As such, everyone had to move out from their housing  into the new one this summer. Knowing that I still had several months left on my lease, I contacted R&R. This could be my chance to stay in the apartment and avoid being a part of DeVry. They assured me that I could stay if I chose to switch schools, the part about being a DeVry student being nulled now that they were no longer apart of them. They would move me into a new apartment in the summer where I could stay till August. I relaxed and waited for summer to come, confident in my game plan to find a new school.

Summer came and the fateful week of the move had arrived. My previous roommates left early in the week, leaving me to the place to myself. I celebrated being able to use the extra space, even if it was only for a week. I kept calling R&R to find out where I was moving to, they wouldn't give me an answer. They told me not to worry about it. It would be nearby, though they were still working out the exact place. I asked them for the weekend to move since I didn't have a car. They agreed. That Friday morning at 8 AM, R&R uninvitedly came into the apartment and informed me that I had to move, immediately. Annoyed, I told them that I had the weekend as quoted by the phone conversation I had days prior.  

Taking this information, they left, seemingly deterred. They returned a hour later and proposed that if I agreed to move now, they would put part of the stuff in the moving truck they had. Sensing a deal, I agreed to it and got dressed. It was certainly a better alternative than moving by hand in 100+ degree weather. However, on the second trip, the number of the apartment they had told me to move to had changed. I didn't think much of it. When they returned and moved part of my stuff, they didn't have any room for me in the truck so I walked to the new apartment in the middle of the hottest part of the day, carrying things they didn't have room for.

By the time I had arrived, I was severely dehydrated and tired from the lack of sleep I had gotten. I made one more trip after refreshing myself to find that the apartment that still had some of my stuff in it had been left wide open. I counted my blessings and grabbed the few boxes I had and moved them to the new place.  A few hours later, in the evening, the Collegiate housing official showed up. Instead of being moved into an R&R apartment, they moved me into a Collegiate apartment. Since I still had my lease with R&R and the fact that I wasn't going to continue going to DeVry, they demanded that I leave. Immediately. When I attempted to contact R&R to rectify the situation, they washed their hands of the matter. It was no longer their problem.  They allowed me to stay the night, but needless to say, I didn't get much sleep. 

The next day, I had to move, but to where?  A few workers showed up to help move another student into the apartment and also to deal with me. Repeated attempts at trying to resolve the issue by calling R&R was highly ineffective and Collegiate was not willing to budge on making me move. So essentially, I was homeless for the majority of that Saturday.  After hours of calling and getting no answer, we got a hold of the housing officer at Collegiate who initially suggested I move in with one of his workers as a temporary measure. When that proved to be highly imposing, he suggested going into an R&R apartment. So Saturday, I had to move all of my stuff again. Into an apartment at least within the same complex, but the power appeared to be shut off, which turned the living space into an inferno.

There was a student living there as evidenced by the dirty dishes and kitchen full of food. Soon to be spoiled food considering the heat. This same heat also claimed all of my cold food, which was the majority of what I had at the time. I had to toss it out and skip dinner that evening. The amount of restful I got that night could be counted in minutes.The next morning, a representative of R&R knocked on the door. The other student who was staying with me temporarily answered the door. The representative wanted to talk to me. I rolled lazily out of bed and went to see him.  He spoke in an assertive tone, as if he were reprimanding a child.

He said that I was not allowed to stay in this place either because I was violating my lease that I had due to me not being a DeVry student. All of the previous information I had received was false.  I like to think of myself as a patient, calm person.  This particular sentence caused me to twitch. My brain set itself on fire as I struggled to maintain my composure. I was mad. Scratch that. I was enraged. Moving two times in two days in the middle of the hottest part of summer, mostly by hand, was exhausting enough. But the fact that they told me to find my own place to stay and move by myself a third time for the third day in a row all because they couldn't make up their minds what they wanted to do with me? I had enough. He attempted deflect my anger by suggesting to talk with his superior, but I told him I wasn't about to even waste my time. He just sent you down here to tell me this utter garbage, what would be the point in trying to argue with someone who can't even keep his word?

So I was homeless. Again. And now I was hungry. And to add insult to injury, I continued going to DeVry because I needed the money to survive. And I couldn't go back to DeVry's housing because the new housing company wished to charged roughly two hundred dollars more for the same service I had before. Fortunately, one of the workers and his roommate invited me to stay with them temporarily while I found a place to stay on my own. It was a small one bedroom apartment. I slept on the floor with all of my boxed up stuff in the same room. I didn't have a bed anymore. I didn't have any food. But I did have finally have some friends who were sensitive enough to my problems to do me a great kindness by not letting me get tossed out on the street.  I was...content. At least for about a month. 

An early morning argument sent the one of the  roommates packing. The explosion of anger between the two, primarily the former, scared the latter roommate so badly that he quit his job and his school and immediately left to stay with his grandmother...which left me alone with just the one roommate. I elected to never make said roommate mad for any reason for the fear of having that explosion of anger towards me. I managed to succeed in my mission for the better part of three months but it got hard. Said roommate liked to drink and liked to have plenty of people around, neither of w

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