The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
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...
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
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.
(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
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
(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:
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?
(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
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
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
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.)
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.