Meet Joey Guerra – The Man Behind Game Informer Online… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Meet Joey Guerra – The Man Behind Game Informer Online…

Some of you know a little bit about what I do in real life, but if I were to summarize it, I'd say I work in a facility equivalent to a regular company's IT department. Ah, the notorious IT department - the "behind the scenes" team of geeks who are often blamed for your slow Internet connection (there's no way it could be the fact you have 10 browser tabs open including one or two pointed at YouTube and another streaming your favorite Internet radio station); for the miraculous disappearance of your emails (even though we have an audit trail that clearly shows you deleted it), and of course one of my favorites...the "My keyboard quit working, no I don't think I spilled anything in it but somebody else might have..." crisis that is always an emergency and needs to be corrected right this second because you have an important project for the boss that was due yesterday and he/she might ask for it any minute.

NEWSFLASH - Your urgency doesn't make it my emergency.

Yeah, working in the IT department can truly be a thankless job. When everything is up and running like it's supposed to...nobody even considers the amount of effort that is exhausted to make that happen. But the second someone can't figure out how to use the fax machine, or the toner in the copier is low, or their work computer is running sluggish because, despite all of the corporate memos about not opening attachments from strangers, they do it anyway and it's now infecting the entire network with the virus it activated...because people just can't pass up on the opportunity to see one more funny cat video...

...they blame the IT Department.

The inspiration for this blog actually came about a few months ago after I was promoted to moderator status. For the record, I don't really view myself as a moderator as much as I do a "Deletor of Spam Blogs". Yes, Deletor is a word I made up about two or three seconds ago just for the sake of this blog and essentially means, "One who deletes". The rest of the moderators are the real warriors who work diligently to prevent civil unrest within the community, not me. But as one who has been granted moderator status, I get to see some of the "behind the scenes" happenings by the staff and moderators to keep the website chugging along.

Whether you know this or not, there is a place in the forums you can go to get help if you are having technical problems with certain errors such as you can't log into your account or you're having problems getting signed up for the digital version of the magazine...or any number of other issues. I, and most of the other moderators I would imagine, follow this forum and get an email anytime somebody posts to it. Most of the issues we can't even help with because they are beyond our ability to do so. The thing that surprised me the most about this forum was the person who responded to a bulk of the issues and the timing of the responses. It always seemed to be the same person - Joey Guerra - and the responses would occur day or night and even on the weekends. How could one man be available 24/7 and always seem available to lend assistance when needed? Was he even a man at all? Maybe he was really a robot or an advanced artificial intelligence designed to respond to queries from members, like those 'bots on the Citadel in Mass Effect who stand there just waiting for you to ask for assistance.

I set out to discover what I could about this man they call Joey Guerra, who I suspect most of you have probably never heard of or talked to even though he and a team of fellow IT engineers and system administrators work tirelessly to keep Game Informer Online online. He graciously accepted my request for a brief interview, and a transcript of that dialogue follows...

Enjoy.

SAINT: Most people probably aren't aware that you're a GameStop employee in charge of the Game Informer website, and you're based out of Grapevine, Texas - not Minneapolis, Minnesota. What can you tell us about the corporate offices and where you work? The Game Informer offices have cool prints of the magazine covers adorning the walls and the editors all have desks filled with collectibles - do you see that sort of creative expression at GameStop? Can people tour the GameStop facilities?

JG: GameStop headquarters is located in Grapevine, TX. There are 2 main buildings, the main warehouse called the SSC (Store Support Center) which is a warehouse with 18 wheelers on one side loading and unloading products and professional offices in front. The other one is called The ROC (Refurbishing Center - I have no idea what the O stands for here), where, you guessed it, they refurbish disks and hardware. That place is pretty cool. They offer tours for GameStop employees but I don't think for the public.

There are posters and video game memorabilia all over the place. The main difference between the Minnesota office and headquarters is cubes. Headquarters has a ton of cubes, Minnesota doesn't. Here are a few pics of just part of the second floor.

Also, all of our conference rooms are video game theme named. Here's a sign pointing the way to a few.

Yes, as you walk around headquarters you'll see cubes filled with collectibles and walls adorned with video game marketing and artwork. There's creative expression, tons of gamers who love to be surrounded by game graphics, figurines and collectibles. Some way more than others of course. GameStop is an attractive place to work if you're a gamer.

(Saint: Sweet pics! I know folks will love seeing a glimpse into what it's like inside of GameStop's HQ. I can't imagine working in a place where you could say, "Hey, the meeting in Warcraft starts in 15 minutes...don't be late.")

SAINT: You admit you're not a huge gamer, but have a couple of different consoles in your home. What's the last game you remember playing that you really liked?

JG: Assassin's Creed. I love imagining myself jumping around, climbing buildings, and landing in haystacks.

Yeah, I don't consider myself a gamer, but what's funny is that we have a Wii, Xbox, 2 iPads (1 and 2 models) and some old iPhones in our household. I play Skylanders, Lego Indiana Jones and Star Wars with my son every couple of weeks. He loves playing them and it's a really cool way to share a common interest and take on challenges together.

(SAINT: I hear more and more people talk about Skylanders, I really need to check that out. And, if you ask me, you can never go wrong with Star Wars anything.)


 

SAINT: Name an advantage and a disadvantage to working at GameStop and not being a big gamer. Do you ever shop at GameStop, and if so, do the employees know who you are and what you do?

JG: The disadvantage is that I have to get people to explain game references and names sometimes. I've picked up a lot since I started working here 2+ years ago, but there are still times when I don't get a game reference. Don't worry though; I have friends here who still like to tease me on not being a gamer and managing the site.

I think an advantage of not being a gamer is I bring a different perspective to the table, especially because I think I represent one of GameStop's target audiences. I'm a dad, between the ages of 18 to 45, with kids who love to play video games.

Yes, I buy ALL our games from GameStop. I get a discount :) And I introduce myself every time I go to "my" store. However, I haven't been often enough for the guys who work there to remember me. I'm sure they see lots of people and I imagine it's hard to remember who you meet. I also proudly state that I manage the Game Informer web site and software that runs the business. Game Informer, the brand, the editors, the people who run the business, are all awesome and I'm proud to be a part of it.

(SAINT: Well, it would seem to me not being a gamer might also be an advantage in your line of work because you can focus on the job and not get caught up in where you work, what you have access to and are surrounded by - truly an impartial entity.)


 

SAINT: Game Informer is one of the few remaining video game magazines available on the newsstand and is rated in the top five most circulated magazines in the United States. But in the online space, there are quite a few popular websites that provide much of the same content, thereby providing some stiff competition to Game Informer Online. Is this something that gets tracked or not?

JG: Not. We focus on our stuff, innovating as best we can. It's hard.

(SAINT: Well after the recent announcement about 1UP, UGO and Gamespy closing shop, I have to wonder if you all will see a surge in activity.)

SAINT: Is overall activity in terms of number of visitors per day on the rise or decline? Any major upgrades being discussed that you can talk about?

JG: Neither. Visits to the site have been level this past year.

No major upgrades being discussed. And right now we're busy working on backend stuff to keep the site up and responsive, in addition to updating our subscriber management software. I'd love to give you a scoop about a new design or a new web site built on cool tech, but alas, it's currently not in the cards.

(SAINT: Having worked in IT for a number of years, I know the challenges involved with migrating to a new anything...I don't think most non-IT people understand it isn't as simple as installing the latest version of Windows on your home computer. I am kind of surprised the number of visitors has been level though, since the magazine continues to grow in popularity.)

 

SAINT: How many of the Game Informer staff members have you met? Do you have any dirt or funny stories you can share about them?

JG: So I've met all the business folks, fulfillment team and the IT guy in the Minnesota office. As for the editors, I've met face to face Andy, Reiner, Matt Bertz, Kato, Jeff Cork, Ben, Dan, Tim, and Ben Hanson; so 9. Since we're remote from the Minnesota office, we don't get a chance to chum it up over beers after work. The only chance I had to get funny stories was at E3 2011, but everyone was bustin' their butts working. That's not to say that I don't have a funny story about the guys on my team at E3 that I can't talk about.

(SAINT: Hah Hah...what happens at E3, stays at E3...or so I've been told.)

 

SAINT: I have personally witnessed you assisting members every day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday; and at all hours of the day (and night). I assume you're able to do a fair amount of tech support from home? There are a couple of different ways to "request assistance" with website issues - what method do you prefer members to use when asking for help? What is the most common problem you get asked that people could fix on their own if they just knew what the solution was?

JG: Yes, I'm able to work from home. It's part of the job because I'm the primary contact when the site goes down, so I'm pretty much working all the time.

The Site Feedback forum:

http://www.gameinformer.com/membergroups/game_informer/site_feedback/f/258.aspx

That way other people can offer help too.

The most common problem used to be subscribers unable to sign in to the digimag which could be fixed by making your gameinformer.com private email address the same as the one used to signup for the subscription. But now the sign in errors are caused by something more complicated, so we have to fix the problem in the back end.

(SAINT: I think the first time I talked with you it was kind of out of the blue - you messaged me asking me how I was getting the data for my stats blog. I thought I was in trouble, hah hah. Never expected you were asking to see if there was any way you could help with the data collection.)

 

SAINT: If you could change one thing about the website what would it be?

JG: Forums.

(SAINT: I know many members who would agree with you. I've had other members ask me about the website before and some of its quirks - I always tell them the same thing - we get the same website the staff gets, and they have to struggle through the same challenges we do. Welcome to the wonderful world of software, where sometimes you don't know what you're getting until its too late. The products we use in the military are no better, and plagued with as many anomalies.)

SAINT: My sources tell me in college you were part of the Track & Field team and specifically into pole vaulting. Personally I think that is crazy, but what's the highest vault you ever (successfully) made? Any broken bones or stories you can share with us?

JG: Your sources, huh? Right.

1993 SWC Championships

I jumped in juco (Jr. College) for San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX where I was All-American (6th place at NJCAA Championships with a 15'-9" jump). Then transferred to UT at Austin where I walked onto the team. My highest vault was 17'-4", taking 2nd place at the 1994 SWC Indoor Track & Field Championships (No YouTube video for this one though).

Luckily, no broken bones but plenty of broken poles. It sounds like a shotgun when they pop.

I really just have memories, not so much stories. Like practicing underneath the football stadium, before it was rebuilt into its current version. We set up a board runway underneath the stadium on the east side. At dusk, the bats would fly out in a swarm on their way out for dinner. We had to be careful because if you stood up your pole, all of  a sudden bats would hit it, getting discombobulated for a second before continuing on, being blind and all. Note, no bats were injured during my tenure.

There's also that guy practicing his bag pipes on the hill, filling the Austin sky. It was as if we were practicing in the Highlands of Scotland.

We also drove a tractor, hauling the pole vaulting mats across campus to set up the runway inside the old Gregory gym (basketball gym). That was kinda cool.

There's other stories that involve fences and head butting too, but I digress.

(SAINT: The closest I have ever come to pole vaulting is playing Summer Games on the Commodore 64. No offense Joey, but I think you're crazy.)

 

SAINT: Do you hate the spammers as much as we do? How much grief do they cause you?

JG: Yes, so much grief that we've built a spam filtering processor to help us track and shut them down. Coming soon to your nearest moderators' web browser.

(SAINT: Hah Hah...that is great news!)

 

SAINT: If you weren't working in the video game industry, what would you be doing?

JG: Hard to say just because it's hard to predict. My professional experience is in the internet industry in general (dating website, telecommunications, ecommerce, social networking). So my guess would be something internet related. I can't imagine doing anything else. While some people play games when they're done with their day job, I write code and program the internet when I get home.

(SAINT: So, you're not a geek who games, but you are a geek... that's awesome though.)

 

SAINT: Do you get to go to any of the trade shows like the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) or E3?

JG: I went to E3 2011, but in general, no.

(SAINT: Hah! Must've seen enough to scare you off. Was it the COSPLAY...it was the COSPLAY wasn't it?)

 

SAINT: I've posted a ton of blogs full of pictures and change my profile picture every day - Is this a problem? Am I in danger of reaching a maximum capacity of storage space per user limit?

JG: No. You're not in danger of reaching maximum capacity. Although I will have to start having discussions about archiving images uploaded prior to 2011.

(SAINT: Hmm, note to self - make sure all old blogs are archived, pronto.)

 

SAINT: Is there anything you'd like to share with the community that I haven't asked?

JG: I graduated with a BS in Aerospace Engineering from UT @ Austin. Then worked at JSC/NASA on the International Space Station. So now I feel like I can call myself a Rocket Scientist Pole Vaulter. How cool is that?

(SAINT: THAT...is pretty effing cool. You might be the only one is existence.)


END TRANSMISSION

And that my friends, concludes the interview with Joey Guerra, the man behind Game Informer Online. I hope you enjoyed this piece as much as I did throwing it together. A special thanks to Joey, not only for providing us with a little information about GameStop and his personal interests, but also for all the hard work and energy he puts into operating and maintaining the web space many of us consider our online playground.

Have a great weekend.

Cheers.

 

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