Networking 101.3


This seems to be a popular topic, so I’m just going to go ahead and write another bit on it.

We’ve talked about your social networks. We’ve talked about your resume. Now let’s talk about what you can actually do to build your network.

This is actually much simpler than it sounds, yet it’s another of those steps that most young developers just don’t follow through with. It is this…


That’s right. Get active in your local IGDA chapter and volunteer. And the very best job you can volunteer for? Handing out name tags at their next mixer. Seriously! This is the best way to put names and faces together and see who is who within your local community.

Then, get active and not just in the fun stuff. Help clean up after a meeting. Help haul off trash. Help with the down and dirty details of running their mixer. Why? Because not only will you be seen as someone who “gets things done even if they have to get their hands dirty” but you will also be present. You will be seen. You will be noticed as someone active in the industry. AND you will be there when the conversations happen that might include the fact that someone is looking for a hire candidate!

Now, what do you do if you live in an area where there is no local IGDA chapter? First you make sure there isn’t another organization like it. Is there a computer gaming group at the local college? Is there a Casual Games group? Maybe a social games group? If you are so unlucky as to live in a place that is devoid of game industry, then you must get active on a National level. The IGDA has SIG (Special Interest Groups) that cater to nearly every discipline and group that you will find in the industry. There are groups for minorities, for designers, for programmers, for educational game makers.. just about every facet of the industry you can think of.

Take advantage of this. Join the mailing list.. and.. .. now here is the key to it all.. START READING IT!

That’s right, once you join you actually have to read the messages that come through. Even better, you must reply to/get involved in the conversations. This will begin to get you face time with people who are important in the industry.. and important to your career.

Finally, now that you are using social networks, gathering your business cards and sending out regular emails and have joined up and are volunteering for local IGDA events, there is one more thing you must do.


I don’t care if you are an artist.. designer.. programmer or marketing person. The way to make games for a living is to start making games! There is no excuse today. Yes, back 20+ years ago you had to pretty much be a C++ programmer to make a game, today we have tools that are sophisticated enough that you do not HAVE to be John  Romero to put together a game demo.

And if you really can’t get your head around scripting, then Mod! That’s right, start building mods for your favorite games. There are several really solid tool kits out there available for free! Build your mods, put them out for others to view and critique and then make another. This is invaluable education for you and also gives you something to show in your next interview.

SO, in a nutshell. Get out there and volunteer and if you want to make games, then do it!

RESUMES…. a quick “how to”



Sheri Graner Ray

There has been a lot of activity lately with people asking me how to write a resume.  I usually send this out to them, but for now I decided I would post it here.  You are welcome to print it out and use it, if you keep my name with it.. Thanks and good luck in the job searches!

People always want to know how to write a resume for a job. The problem is, you shouldn’t be writing a resume for ALL jobs. You should be writing a resume for EACH job you apply for. That may seem like a lot of work, but you can develop a template that you can then adjust for each job you are applying for.


You must adjust your resume for each job you apply for. Otherwise you end up sending “generic” resumes. Generic resumes usually list all the jobs you’ve ever had with a long listing of all the responsibilities you’ve had in those jobs. These require the potential employer to sift through your resume to see if there might be anything there that matches what they are looking for.

Employers won’t do this.

They will scan the top half of the resume to see if there is anything there that catches their eye, then they will flip through the other pages and, in less than 30 seconds if they haven’t seen something that really catches their eye, your resume ends up in the slush pile.
You need to tell the employer just how well you fit into their job requirement in the first 5 seconds they look at your resume. How can you do this?

Here’s how….

STEP ONE –  Build your pool of qualifications.

To do this, sit down and make a list of all the things you’ve done in your professional life that you are proud of.

Yes.. all of ‘em.

This is simply the hardest part of writing any resume. It’s the part that takes the longest and it’s the part people just won’t or can’t seem to do -  and yet it is the heart of a successful resume.

The reason it’s so hard to do is most people (particularly women) are hesitant to “blow their own horn.” But, it simply is not possible to get that great job if you can’t convince people that you are worth hiring!

So, make that list. Think of what things you’d tell your grandmother or your favorite aunt about if they asked about your jobs.

Look at your old resume, the one with your job history and start at the oldest job. List two or three specific things you did at each job that you are proud of. If you have trouble thinking of these things, think of what you would say if your grandma asked what you did at that job. The list may look like this.

Sylvia’s Casuals dress shop
1.Top sales recognition
2. Won Christmas sales competition
3. Employee of the month

Now go back and look at the list. If there is a number and or a date you can associate with each bullet point, add it. If there is an award name, or certificate title, add it. Keep it to one sentence if possible, two short sentences at the VERY longest.

So from the example above:

Sylvia’s Casual dress shop
1. Top sales recognition for fiscal quarter 2001 with $8500.00 in sales
2. Won top sales competition for Christmas 2001 season with $2200.00 in sales and a customer service rating of 9.8
3. Received “Employee of the Month” award for Jan 2001. Award given based upon customer approval reports combined with sales figures.

STEP TWO – Build the Resume

Now you have developed your qualification pool to draw from and are ready to go on and build your resume.

Name and contact information
This is SOOO important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received resumes that had NO contact information on it! Some people will put an objective here. Hopefully you have told me what job you are interested in, in your cover letter. But if you have not, then you can put it here under your contact information. Just make sure you customize is EXACTLY for the job you are applying for. An objective statement of “A job working with people that utilizes my creative skills” is a waste of VERY valuable space.

First Section: Selected Accomplishments


And here’s why…

It is HIGHLY likely this is the ONLY thing the resume reviewer will ever actually read!!!!

So.. this is where the list of all the things you’ve done that you are proud of in your career comes into play. Look at the job you are applying for. Then pick out the top five things from your accomplishment list that would apply to the job you are applying for.
Put those five accomplishments in this section.

If you have trouble figuring out which ones to put there.. think which five things you’d like them to ask you about in the interview…which five things that, if you talked about ‘em, would show how qualified you are for the job…. Because it is highly likely they will ask you about them! Think of it as stacking the deck in your favor. You are priming the interviewer with the questions to ask you!


Now comes the work history. This is the second hardest part for most people. KEEP IT SHORT. Frankly.. the potential employer very likely WON”T READ this stuff, other than to get an idea of what companies you’ve worked for and what positions you held.


List the company you worked for and where it was, your position, what dates you worked there (month and year or years only is fine) and then a VERY VERY VERY short description of what you did. (Did I mention keep it very short??) Here’s an example from my resume.

Sony Online Entertainment
Austin, TX
Senior Designer
May 2003 – December 2005

  • Served as Content Lead for Star Wars Galaxies, overseeing team of 7 designers.
  • Served as lead designer on an innovative, original IP MMO. Took design from concept to first four milestones of production

Do not go back more than 10 years… and only that far if it pertains to the industry you are applying for.


Make sure all time is accounted for. If you were unemployed, you can list “self employed” and mention volunteer work you did. Make sure time is covered.


If you are not applying for a game industry job, skip this.
If you are applying for a game industry job, this should just be a list of the titles you have worked on and the platform they were released on.

That’s all.


If you use any specific tools that are normally used/required for your
job, list them here.


If you have any higher education or certifications, they go here. List institution and date and any specific focus. Additionally any awards or recognitions you’ve received go here.


Now… this one is controversial, but I will mention it because it has done me well in interviews. I always list that I show dogs and participate in high performance driving. I can’t tell you how many times that has served as a great ice breaker. “Sheri, you’re the one that shows dogs, aren’t you? What breed?” or ‘Oh yes… Sheri.. you do the high performance driving! What kind of car do you drive?”

So, don’t put this in if you are just going to list “reading science fiction” or something.
The only caveat to this is, I think it’s important to list that you play games, if you are applying for a game job.

Step Three: References

On your resume, you should put a line that says “References Available Upon Request.” Don’t put anyone’s name.. or you risk looking like a name dropper.

However, when you go for an interview, take a sheet that you can hand out that has your references and their contact information on it.

And that’s it.

Now you have a resume that you can quickly and easily customize for each job you are applying for. Good luck in the search!



Networking 101.2

I wrote a bit about how to use Twitter and Facebook for networking, now I want to talk about conferences and business cards and how important they are to networking.

Again and again in this industry you will be told “it’s all about networking. If you want in, you have to network.” That’s great, but what does that mean and how do you do it? I spent a lot of time going to industry parties, standing around, uncomfortably with a drink in my hand, smiling and wondering what else I should do… what else would be considered “networking.”

Somehow, going to the parties wasn’t enough. I always wanted someone to tell me exactly HOW to network. I wanted the steps.

Well, after 20 some years, I finally figured out the steps and now I’m going to share them with you. Because no one should have to stand at loud parties with a watered down drink in their hand wondering if they were doing networking “right.”

So, here they are.. the steps for networking.

Step 1

Go to conferences. This is insanely important. You have to go to the conferences if you want in this industry. If you can’t afford them, then go as a volunteer and work. In fact, this is an even BETTER way to network in the industry. If you are a volunteer, then you may find yourself in a room alone with John Romero helping him get his talk set up. What a perfect way to make a connection! So, get to the conferences, volunteer if you can.

Step 2.

Get business cards from everyone you talk to. You’ve probably already been doing this and what usually happens to them? You bring them home and drop them on your dresser or your kitchen table. They sit there for a few days til your cat knocks them off and chases them across the floor. Then finally you scoop them up and dump them in the trash.

Not any more.

Business cards are your key to the world of game development.  BUT there will be a process to these cards. When you get a card from someone, immediately turn it over and jot down a note about where you met them, who they were with and some other information that will remind you of this person.  Then keep it in your bag until you get home.

Step 3

When you get home, sort through the business cards. Separate out all the cards from people who you think can help you in your career. People who are senior to you in the industry. People who are in management. People who are working on a project that you particularly are interested in.

Then, write those people an email.

That’s right. Write them an email. Re-introduce yourself. Tell them how pleased/honored/happy you were to meet them. Thank them for taking the time to talk to you. Mention something they said that impressed you. Then sign off.  Keep it to one short paragraph. No more than just a couple sentences.

Here’s the important part.


It is highly likely that the people you will be sending emails to will be VERY busy. They’ve just returned from a conference, they are digging out from under a week’s worth of email and backed up client requests. They are swamped. So do not expect a response and DO NOT give up hope if you don’t hear.

Frankly, think of this as a thank you note for a gift. The gift they gave you was their time. You don’t expect a response to a thank you note, so you shouldn’t expect a response from these people.

Step 4

Four weeks after sending that first email to those people, send them another email. That’s right, you are going to write to them again. You will remind them who you are. Where you met them. Then tell them about something you’ve seen or read that reminded you of something they said or did. Do NOT make this a fawning fan letter. Do NOT go fanboi over their work. Instead, mention how something they said or did influenced something you did. Then thank them again for their time and sign off.  Keep it short. Keep it polite. Keep it professional.

Again.. do NOT expect a response.

This is where it gets tough. It’s hard to continue to reach out without any feedback. You will probably worry about bothering them or irritating them. You won’t be, I promise. And if you are, they will delete your email and never think about it again. But the chances of that are small.

Step 5

Now, about four to eight weeks after that second email, you are going to write to them again. You will again introduce yourself, remind them where you met them. And again, mention something you’ve seen, read or done that was influenced by something they said or did.

Now here’s the trick.

Ask them something they can answer in ONE sentence.  Ask them if they will be at PAX East. Ask them if they have a book recommendation. Ask them what game they think you should be playing right now. Anything that can be answered quickly and in once sentence.  If you do this, it’s much more likely you will get a response.  If I get an email and they ask me something that I can answer quickly, then it’s very likely that I will simply hit reply and answer that quick question.

Then.. voila! You have made a connection in the industry!

Now like any tender young plant, this connection takes VERY careful tending. If this person does  answer, then you should respond with a VERY short “thank you” AND THAT’S ALL

Do NOT take this to mean you are now BFFs and inundate them with questions and long paragraphs detailing your latest greatest idea. You are not. You are now business acquaintances, so keep your correspondence just that. Short. Professional. To the point.

However, they may NOT answer your question. They may not answer at all. Do NOT get discouraged.

Continue on the path. Every other month, drop them another email. Short, professional. Tell them something that pertains to them and how they have influenced you. Do NOT regale them with tales of your latest great game idea. Do NOT tell them how it sucks to be wanting in the industry and not be able to find jobs and.. for god’s sake …


This is not about them hiring you. This is about keeping your name front and center so that when someone, somewhere mentions that they have an opening for a young environmental artist (or whatever) that they say, “Hm.. there’s this person I met at GDC last year. They seem very nice and professional. Let me send you the link to their portfolio.” THAT is how networking works.

So, keep up this file. (In the old days this would have been referred to as a “tickler file*”) and keep up your contacts. Follow these people on twitter. See if they will friend you on Facebook. Then look for them at the next conference party and then, instead of standing there, holding that drink, you will actually find yourself engaged in conversation with exactly the people you need to, to enhance your career.

Good luck.. and next time you get a biz card from me, I expect to see an email from you!

*A tickler file is a collection of date-labeled file folders organized in a way that allows time-sensitive documents to be filed according to the future date on which each document needs action. Documents within the folders of a tickler file can be to-do lists, pending bills, unpaid invoices, travel tickets, hotel reservations, meeting information, birthday reminders, coupons, claim tickets, call-back notes, follow-up reminders, maintenance reminders, or any other papers that require future action. Each day, the folder having the current date is retrieved from the tickler file so that any documents within it may be acted on. Essentially, a tickler file provides a way to send a reminder to oneself in the future—”tickling” one’s memory.

First Look at Star Wars, The Old Republic (TOR)


First Opinions on The Old Republic

I know a lot has already been written about Starwars The Old Republic (TOR) but I wanted to add my two cents to the mix.

Let me start by saying I like TOR.It’s a fun game. The writing is good. I wasn’t sure I was gonna like the voice overs, but I do. The stories are entertaining and I like the plot twists. Overall, I like it.

However, the play experience in TOR is vastly different from other MMOs, and I don’t just mean the voice overs and stories. I’m talking about the complete play experience. Now that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s different.

Let me explain.

Playing World of Warcraft, or City of Heroes or Lord of the Rings Online or any of the other major traditional MMOs out there is a lot like playing cards with friends.

When you play cards with friends, you all sit around a table, facing each other. There is the card game going on, and at the same time there is conversation going on between the players. This conversation may be about the card game or it may be about something totally random. But in either case, the focus of the group is inward. The interaction is between players. You can play card games until the wee hours of the morning.

Playing TOR is more like going to a movie with friends. You all sit, facing the screen, usually in silence or in only occasional whispered comments. It is usually a 1 – 2 hour experience after which you may or may  not socialize for a short while afterwards as you leave the theater.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad thing. I LIKE to go to movies with my friends. It’s just the focus of the group is different than if we were playing cards together. And, like the movies, I find that after 1-2 hours of TOR, I’m ready to go somewhere else where I can talk to my friends.

And before you suggest that I simply haven’t found a group yet, I will tell you that groups of my friends from two of  my previous MMOs, all of whom I played with regularly, if not daily,  all went to TOR and started a guild of which I am a member. In fact, I’m in several guilds. Still, I find that the experience is not inwardly focused. It is not focused on the group. Instead it is focused on the movie we are all watching. My groups are silent. There is no chatter in guild chat.  And why is that? Because we are each watching a movie in which we are the star!

The question is, does that matter? Is the story telling enough to keep players playing (and paying) for TOR? I’m not sure. I have found that I leave TOR after an hour or so and return to my former MMOs mostly so I can talk to people. I actually find I get lonesome after a couple of hours of TOR.

Now it is said that social stickiness is the key to MMOs. That it is the social that keeps people coming back and playing. What about TOR’s social stickiness? I’ll take a look at that shortly!

Thanks for reading!

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You know, I started to write more for my 20 years in gaming.. but sorta came to a stop. The reason was.. if I continued further into time, the companies I would be writing about were all still in business.. and I didn’t want to get into trouble with any of ‘em. So.. I’m gonna take a break from writing this for.. oh.. another 10 years or so ;) .. but I will keep writing in the Random Musings section.. so thank you for reading this far!


Ah, summer time! As a wonderful birthday present, Tim took me on a cruise leaving from Venice Italy and crusing around the Adriatic with stops in Slovenia and Croatia as well as two other ports in Italy. We had a truly amazing time and are fully sold as Cruise Fans!

Of course, I took a bunch of books on my trusty Kindle again. This time, because we had a lot of time on airplanes, I managed to get through six books even though we actually spent less time on the boat and more time on shore excursions than usual.

Anyway, I thought I’d go ahead and run down the titles I read, just to give some insight into some summer reading

  1. After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Many of ya’ll know my predilection for super hero novels. Before we left on the trip I spent some time in the Barnes and Noble, looking for books to buy on my kindle. I found this one and knew it would have to be my first book. The basic story is over a set of Superheroes who have been patrolling the city for close to 30 years. Two of the supers are a couple and have a daughter who hasn’t manifested ANY superhero traits. Through the story we follow the daughter as she comes to terms with her lack of powers, her family’s notoriety and her complex relationship with her father. The interesting twist is, we also follow the family as they come to terms with the fact that their time may be over and the next generation’s time starting.

I really liked this book. It’s the first by Carrie Vaughn that I’d read and I found it to be quite satisfying. I enjoyed the bits of realism it brought to traditional super heroes and also, although I saw it coming a long way off, was pleased with the revelation of the romance story. I recommend this as great airplane fare!

2. The Midnight Hour – by Carrie Vaughn

This is the first book in Vaughn’s well known werewolf series. I have enjoyed a number of my paranormal book series but have been totally horrified by the lack of quality in others. So it was with trepidation that I bought this one. However, buoyed by how much I enjoyed her superhero book, I launched into this series with this opening title

I enjoyed this, albeit not as much as her superhero title. Maybe it’s just that I’m not as much a werewolf fan. I did get a kick out of the reactions of the non-paranormals to the werewolves however and I did enjoy the story. I will even admit that when I got back to US soil, I went ahead and bought the second in the series, tho I haven’t read it yet.

3. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read any Neil Gaiman before this book. I don’t really know how he slipped past my notice, likely that I do not normally read comics nor graphic novels so somehow just didn’t manage to pick up his fiction either. Wow.. what a shame that has been! Neverwhere is a dark urban fantasy about a girl named Door from London’s “Below”  a fantasy dimension and what happens when a Londoner from “London Above” happens upon her lying injured on the street.

I completely enjoyed this story. It was evocative and interesting. Being a designer I’m always interested in new takes on magic systems. The idea of a family who’s magic consists of “opening doors’ was refreshing and I enjoyed it very much. That said I did find it a bit “fluffy”. Of course I didn’t realize at the time it was the compilation of a television series from the 1990s, which could account for the “light weight” feel of it. However, I found his writing to be delightful and his characters interesting. I will be looking for more of his stuff in the future.

4. Married with Zombie – Jesse Petersen

We all know that zombies are hot right now and this book is a fun  trip on the zombie bandwagon.  The story begins as our two heroes are going to see their marriage counselor. Imagine their surprise when they find their good doctor chewing on the arm of her previous patient. This begins their wild ride through zombie mayhem as they try to make it to his sister’s house and work through their marriage problems all at the same time.

This was the last book I read on the trip and I admit to being pretty tired on the flight when I read it. I enjoyed it and found myself chuckling out loud at times, but I really think I would have enjoyed it more if I had not been so tired. It was a different twist of the whole “zombie” craze and alot of fun to read.

I think if i had any criticisms of my book selection for this particular trip it would be that ALL the books I took were light and fluffy. They were VERY quick reads and I found myself kinda wishing I had a bit more meat to sink my teeth in to. But, it was a fun summer read and there isn’t one in the group that I regret spending the time on.

Does he fit in?


I recently did a talk at the IGDA Leadership Conference on the top ten ways to get and retain diversity in your company. Lately, however, one of the the main topics in that talk came up again in casual conversation with a couple of industry veterans as we were talking about hiring for our companies.

“Finding qualified talent is really tough,” I said.

“Yah, and finding qualified talent that fits with our company culture is even tougher,” One of the vets responded.

“Huh,” I said, warning flags beginning to raise in my mind. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, I mean, someone who.. you know.. fits in. Someone who we all would like to work with and who ‘gets’ us,” he said.

And there is one of the most basic problems in hiring in our industry.

How many times have you gotten an email notice that a candidate was being brought in for interviews and your scheduled time with them was from 3-4pm. You are only told ‘See if you like him. See if he would fit in.”

When someone is told this, what they are actually being told is “see if he’s just like you.”

Don’t believe me? It’s natural. We all tend to like people who are like ourselves. It is because we can easily identify with them. We share similar backgrounds and experiences. We ’speak the same langauge.’ We have common interests, likes and dislikes so it is only natural that we would feel most comfortable with those people who are just like us. And the converse is true. Someone who doesn’t share a similar background or experiences may, at first, not feel as “comfortable” to work with.

The problem with this is, while it may produce an office where everyone is very comfy working together, it also produces an office that is completely homogeneous. An office of people who are all alike in looks, background and even life experience. So, an office full of young, straight, white, able-bodied men will, unless coached differently, naturally want to hire other young, straight, white, able-bodied men. .. and this is how we end up with offices that are completely non-diverse.

To overcome this we need to stop the practice of, when all things are equal, hiring the candidate who is most ‘like us.” This means we have to train the people who are doing the interviewing on *what exactly* to look for. Skill sets, experience, tools, problem solving. And we need to not even mention the  “do they fit in.”

In short, we have to be willing to hire outside our comfort zone to hire the best, most diverse workforce possible.

It is this way we can begin to build products that reach the broad market we all want to reach.

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Intro To Networking


I recently had lunch with my brother and he was asking about Twitter. He’s heard me talk about it but simply didn’t understand how it worked or why it would be important. I did my little spiel for him on how and why you should be using Twitter and Facebook. I realized that it probably wouldn’t hurt to put it up here… so.. here we go.. Intro to Networking 101

Twitter and Facebook are probably the two most important tools for networking today… particularly if you are in the game industry. (For other industries, Linked In takes the place of Facebook – but the games industry is SUCH a family, that we use Facebook!)

Here’s the deal with Twitter. Twitter is the break room of the virtual office you share with EVERYONE who is important to your career.

So, say you are a programmer in the game industry and you walked by the break  room and John Romero was there, talking about the latte he got on the way in that morning… .. and you DIDN’T say “hi”… how dumb would that be?

And how dumb would it be if you walked by the break room 50 times that day.. he was in there all 50 times.. and you never said “hi” … would be pretty catastrophic for your career, huh?

Well.. Twitter is that break room… and the best part is YOU get to decide who is in that break room and who YOU want to say “hi” to every time you walk by!

So it works like this.

First  – Sign up for Twitter.

Second – Find someone you know who is active on Twitter and go look at the list of who they are following.

Third – follow the people they are following who are relevant to your career.

Now comes the tricky part

Watch what they are saying, when they say something that is particularly relevant to you or is something you have a good reply for… Reply to the tweet.

By replying to their tweet, you will send a tweet out that has their name attached to it. It’s highly likely they will look at it. Come on.. it’s like vanity surfing, we all do it and when someone says something that mentions you, of COURSE you are going to look!

So.. reply to something they say. Make it short, make it polite, make it relevant. It is HIGHLY likely that person will see it. If you do this a couple times (NOT all in one day please.. then you just look like a stalker) and you have smart, thought provoking POLITE things to say, it is very likely that person will look you up.. see who you are.. maybe even reply to you. Heck .. they may even FOLLOW you!

Then.. voila’ ! you  are having a conversation with someone who is very important to your career!

Now just because you have made contact with these people won’t immediately make that person your new BFF. Just as saying “hi” one morning to John Romero in the break room doesn’t mean he’s gonna invite you to lunch or something. Those people are busy! So it is up to you to FARM that contact. By careful tending and maintenance, you can grow it up into something very valuable. But, it will be up to you to do it!

How do you do this? You do it by continuing to respond to things they say, tweet some things on your own that pertain to them and include them on the tweet… etc. Then, if and when you ever get a chance to meet that person, you can tell them “Hi, I’ve exchanged a few tweets with you.. ” and it’s likely they will say, “Oh yes, you’re the one that responded with that New York Times article..” or something similar.

So.. Twitter is the breakroom for the world’s office.. and one of the strongest networking tools out there.

Facebook, for the game industry, comes in a close second. The trick with Facebook.. and ANY social media for that matter is.. NEVER PUT ANYTHING ON FACEBOOK YOU WOULDN”T PUT ON YOUR BUSINESS CARD.. because that’s what it is. It’s your virtual business card. It’s where people will go to look when they are going to interview you. It’s where people go when they want to think about hiring you. It’s what will be brought up when it’s job review/promotion time. So, let me repeat


So, here’re the rules

  1. Change your facebook status daily
  2. Tweet twice a day.
  3. Never put anything in social media you wouldn’t put on your business card

That’s it.. do it.. just do it like its your regular job. Because it is!

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20 Years and Counting


20 Years and Counting

So after Sirenia Software shut down, I was at a loss as to what to do next. There really weren’t any game companies in the area that were looking for designers and I was getting kind of desperate.  But, it was the beginning of the “Dot Com” era, so there were tons of people looking for anyone who had any experience with computers. I started applying for editing and/or tech writing jobs.

I was getting worried until I got a call from Metrowerks. This was the company that originally made the Code Warrior compiler. They were looking for someone who could set up a webportal for the Code Warrior users – particularly the game industry. And then serve as the game industry liaison.

In this position,  I would be actually be responsible for designing the site, getting the bids, overseeing production of the portal and then managing the content for it.  Seemed like aperfect way to stay in touch with the game industry, while making some money.

So I thought.

At that time, Metrowerks had JUST been purchased by Motorola. So they were in a state of transition. I dove in and started working on my assigned product right away. I talked to everyone involved, gathered requirements and built an RFP. I feted the RFP to all the “powers that be” and was then asked to do a full presentation at the newly organized monthly “brown bag” sessions. I did the presentation, complete with my development plan and timeline. Six months.. I’d have it up and operating in six months.

Yah… right.

Everyone applauded and I got many thumps on the back for it. The Marketing VP made over it and went on and on about how this is how projects should be run. I was home free! I sent out the RFPs to the selected vendors, got the bids back. This narrowed the list down to three and I set up site visits. I took my boss with me and gathered notes. When we were done I decided on what I thought was the best vendor and then wrote up a report for the marketing VP and the Prez with the info on the three finalists, my report on the visits and my recommendation. Done, right?


Then the politics started.

“This looks alot like a content management system,” said the docs manager, “Maybe we should look at something more all encompassing. I’ll set up the meeting with Microsoft.”

“I think this is something IT should be more involved in,” grumbled the IT manager. “I’ll get them to look at some alternative solutions and then set up a meeting with all the IT staff. I’ll get you a report on that outcome.”

“Oh! I saw something just like this at the last convention I was at! Only.. it did PR stuff too!”  said the PR person. “I’ll call that vendor and we can have a phone meeting about it!”

“Wait… this is just too expensive! We could do it with freeware ourselves, in house,” said a programming manager. “I’ll get a prototype together.”

And.. so the squabbling and indecision took over. For the next THREE YEARS.. my project  – that should have taken six months, soup to nuts -  waffled in executive indecision as everyone wanted a piece of the pie.

During this time I was moved from department to department,  I managed IT content, but not IT. I managed some outside websites, but not all. I chased down who owned what and dealt with a squatter that picked up one of the motorola URLs when it went unpaid. But.. mostly.. I waited.  .. and waited… and waited.

During that time, the Dot Com turned to the Dot Bomb… and everyone got the yips about doing anything on the web. The tool provider that I had originally tagged as the vendor I wanted, went bankrupt. Metrowerks got notice they were being moved .. consolidated into one of Motorola’s other locations… and at that point we all knew the handwriting was on the wall.

We all started preparing for the layoffs a week ahead. By the time the dreaded day rolled around, we had it all planned.

When you were laid off from Motorola you were marched out the door. You didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone so there was no closure. To deal with this, we all made an agreement. The first to be let go would head over to Star of India restaurant and grab the big table in the back. Then, as others got the axe, they could join us. That way we would have SOME amount of closure. Of course, anyone who wanted to join us could come along and many did, even those who hadn’t been let go, as it gave everyone a chance to say goodbye to friends.

So I was back on the streets.. wondering what I was going to do next.


20 Years and Counting: THe Sirenia Year

Well, it’s been over a year since I started recounting my experiences in 20 years in games, so now it’s 21 years. Hard to believe!

So I left this story with me and Tim leaving Her Interactive and returning to Austin to start our own software company dedicated to girls games.

We did. We came back to Austin and established Sirenia Software. We contacted our good friends Steve and Ellen Beeman who had just set up a company called Illusion Machines here in Austin. They offered to let us sublease some room in their offices so we’d have a place to work.

I began work with a prominent games industry business agent at that time. Mr. Agent was (and still is!) one of the nicest, smartest, all over greatest guys in the industry. At the time the concept of girls and games was still pretty new but he “got it” immediately and we set up to figure out how to get Sirenia Software into production on a girls product.

We had just raised our first round of “friends and family” funding.. a whopping $50K dollars. Hey.. that was a HUGE amount of money for us! I had a great idea for a game where girls would be able to own and care for a virtual horse. They would take care of the animal and then participate in virtual horse events, such as hunter/jumper events etc.

The concept was one player would set up an arena with jumps and obstacles and then invite up to 8 of her friends to come compete. Other friends could attend teh event and “watch” via chatting to each other. How well the player did on the event was a combination of their skill playing the game and how well they had cared for their horse. They kept their horse in a personalized “stable” where they could brush, feed, play and train their horse. They could also display trophies and ribbons as well. They could own as many or as few horses as they liked. We called this game A Horse Of My Own and went to work building a prototype.

We were about three months into this process when I got a certified letter.

We were being threatened with a lawsuit from Mr. New CEO and the board of directors of Her Interactive. They claimed I had stolen their technology when I left.

This both terrified and infuriated me. We had to retain a lawyer of our own and a series of letters went back and forth. No law suit was ever filed, but it did end up costing us almost $5K to defend ourselves from this attack. That was a full 10% of the ENTIRE amount of investment capital we’d been able to raise. At the end of it all, our lawyer told me that I should have NO contact with these people without legal representation present. This was to come back into play later.

Anyway, while that was being settled, Mr Agent began to try to dig up not only places to pitch A Horse of My Own, but to see if we couldn’t find some regular dev and pub stuff to get us going. I guess during that time I must have flown into LAX 20 or 30 times. However, again and again and again we sat in offices and had door after door slammed in our face.

Probably my favorite moment was sitting in the office of BIG PUB COMPANY and having the VP of Dev pick up a phone call and say, “Seriously? We got BIG LICENSE NAME HERE for only 1.2 million dollars? That’s amazing.” Then he hung up the phone, turned to me and said, “So, girls game huh? What can you give me for $15oK?” That let me know right there what the “girls market” was worth

(Please see Pink Poison on this blog for more on the “pink games” movement”)

We drug that game all over and back, trying to find someone who’d fund it or take a chance on it. Today, it was what would be called a “casual” MMO. But back then there was no such category. Heck, there weren’t even MMOs. I could see that the people we were pitching to simply did not get it. They couldn’t see what I could, that the future of the female game market was in games with a strong social component.

One of the more “eye opening” moments in that was  from BIG NAME TOY COMPANY with BIG NAME GIRLS LICENSE. We had done a pitch for them and they had looked at me with no understanding. But they called me a few days afterwards. “Are you sure about this?” they asked. “Tell you what. You bring us some demographics.. show us that girls like horses and that there is a market for a girls’ horse title.. and then we’ll talk”


I could only wonder what planet they’d been living on if they really didn’t know that girls liked horses and that they would spend money on horses. It was finally Barbie Riding Club that proved that for us.

However, the final straw was Microsoft. We had begun talking to Microsoft early in founding Sirenia and they had shown an interest in the girls game market. Mr Agent talked to them about us and they were intrigued. They showed up at one of my talks.. then they brought me up for a paid consulting gig where I talked to them about designing for girls. Then we pitched our idea to a high ranking female programmer in the division we were working with and she completely “got” the idea and loved it! Finally, we had all our ducks in a row and pitched the head of the division.

By now we had a working demo of the game and went in to the pitch with high hopes. He really seemed to like the idea. He asked intelligent questions and began to look at the budget. We went away from that meeting optimistic.

then we waited for a reply.

A few days goes by.


Another few days.


A week.


Finally,  two weeks later, we contact the high ranking female programmer. She puts us in touch with the division head’s assistant. She tells us we should expect an answer in the next day.

the next day we got a one line email from the division head, sent from his blackberry.

“We don’t think it is the time for us to do girls games.”

And thus ended Sirenia Software.