Rationalized Irrationality

Whether it's Steve Jobs, the myriad of other successful people, or the many I have known personally, they routinely demonstrate justifiable irrationality. Fantastically contrary to a rational, calculating, literal thinker, I have come to understand even sometimes apparently asinine irrationality is one of the most critical components of advancement. As it is that conflict is the core phenomenon of which evolution is the symptom, it is also illogical irrationality that allows the boundaries to be pushed far enough in a direction that we are granted the amazing things that happen when the one time in a million chance occurs and the impossible actually becomes possible.

Regrettably, this is also the function underlying the existence for war, strife, pain, and suffering. This is the universal balance, and the price we all pay.

By no means exclusively, but with irrationality at the root of all great successes, should we refer to them as genius, or insane?

You Played Video Games At Nintendo For A Living!?

Yes, starting around 1999 I lived the dream. Exactly as described in this Wired article and on A.V. Club.

Starting as a game play counselor, I commuted 90 mins every day to Redmond, WA to sit on the phone in front of a computer and rush frustrated people to the next level, to solve a puzzle that has then stumped, reveal the latest cheat codes, or just keep them company for a while.

After my time as a game play counselor I graduated my way to the secure Product Acquisition and Development department (PA&D).

This period of my early professional career was exceptional, incredibly valuable, wonderful and so positive. This was the second opportunity I had to turn my high-end troubleshooting training into results. It was my first experience with using a positive attitude to solve irrational but understandable customer frustrations. It was also my first exposure to an exceptional legal department and practices of IP protection that I carry with me to this day.

Nintendo runs an extremely efficient operation. During my time at Nintendo the call to a game play counselor (GPC) in our department might cost you $1 per minute, but only to cover costs, not to make a profit. Proceeds beyond those needed to cover expenses were donated to charity. However, despite that fact and combined with frustrations of "ambitious" players, you would have been startled to hear some of my conversations.

"...no, let me explain that again very quickly for you otherwise you're going to get stuck."
"This doesn't make sense! I have to get through this and off the phone, you're racking up the time on me!"
"Let's work together quickly here ma'am, there are only three steps, listen carefully..."
"Why are you making this complicated! You're making this cost me more than it should!!"
"No ma'am I truly assure you that I'm trying to get you through this as quickly as possible, there are three steps and we'll be done right away. Write them down, try them, and call back if needed."
"No! You're taking advantage of me and racking up a bill!!"
"Ma'am, Nintendo doesn't make any money with this department, they donate all profits to charity, I have no reason at all to keep you on the phone longer than you want to be."
"You're a liar! You're a liar and a jerk! I can't believe you're doing this to me!"
"Just three steps, quickly write them down and we'll..." [click]

Two beats... [ding] What are the odds...?

"Nintendo game play, this is Justin, how can I help you today?"
"You... have... GOT... to be kidding me. You again!? Oh hell no..."
"Hold up there! No! We are GOING to do this! Right now, you and me, we're going to knock this out, you ready!?"
"... ... 'aight! Let's do this!"

As it turns out, we are Nintendo, but I assure you we are mortal:

"Nintendo game play, this is Justin, how can I help you today?"
"Hey, hurry, what are the Turok 2 cheat codes?"
"Oh I'm sorry, we actually don't know what they are, but is there anything I can help you with?"
"Bullshit, you're Nintendo, give them to me!"
"I'm so sorry man, we didn't develop the game and the developers haven't told us what they are. If I had them I assure you I'd give them to you. I've heard they might be online, you should try searching for them..."
"Listen asshole, I don't know why you're lying to me but I'm going to fucking hunt you down and kill you if you don't give me those codes right now!"

And you'll never know this kind of precious heartbreak:

"Nintendo game play, this is Justin, how can I help you today?"
"Hi Justin, my name is Dr Johnson. For Christmas I bought my son Pokemon for his Gameboy. He has been playing it for countless hours and has captured most of the Pokemon. Accept now, he turned off the Gameboy - maybe while the game was saving - and when he turned it back on everything was gone."
I can hear a small boy sobbing sweetly in the background.
"Everything is gone, no matter what we try we can't seem to get it back, is there anything we can do to get it back, what should we do?"
[pregnant pause] "... Dr Johnson, I am ...so... sorry, but it sounds as though you've already tried everything and I regret to tell you that there is no way to recover your past progress."
I hear a muffled explanation relayed to the young boy, a short pause, and then inconsolable wailing in the background.
"This is what I had feared. Thank you for your time Justin, I understand."

After my time as a game play counselor I was given the opportunity to take my skills to the Product Acquisition & Development department. A coveted position with a small, tight team in a secure space right off the call room floor.

This was during the time of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye was still very popular, and my efforts notably contributed to Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Slugfest, Pokemon titles for Gameboy including international versions, F1 World Grand Prix, and others.

Crack the case on Super Smash Bros. and I will crush you with Kirby.

This was an incredible time of growth for me. Next door to Microsoft at a particularly booming time, a highly competitive digital game design environment with Digipen around the corner, and experienced leaders opening my horizons with aspects of testing I had never considered before including licensing, rights management, copyright, trademark, and legal concepts outside the obvious scope of game development, game play testing, and quality assurance.

I will add that while it is a dream job, it can also be very challenging and meticulously thoughtful work. And you'll understand that at times playing the same game repeatedly, hundreds of times over countless hours, can sometimes feel much like what it feels like to eat far too much pizza or ice cream. Sometimes the "play" becomes a "job". That said, there was always respite found around Cafe Mario, options to break the monotony, like... play Killer Instinct! 

Of the titles I reviewed years later so I could show my kids, I found the individual names of my team and I rolled up into a single line thanking the product team. No matter though, we know who we are! (And I can show you how to crash Slugfest, render debug code, and break out of the stadium so that you can run so far away the console will crash! These of course referred to as "features.")

Radio Lab: The Rhino Hunter

Radio Lab episode "The Rhino Hunter".  A great opportunity for liberals and certain conservationists to experience some alternative perspectives. Sometimes the pathway to perspective is particularly uncomfortable. A sound and reasonable argument should be considered at all times. They should be covered and discussed with open minds and level heads, even if the argument must continue beyond just agreeing to disagree.

And for those who respond in egregiously inappropriate manners, in this case and all others, you've lost your right to have a voice in the debate. At that point your side isn't right or wrong, you're just wrong. You're just an embarrassment and a shame to humanity.

Here's one to those with the courage to listen. And to those brave enough to walk in another's shoes for a time.

The Rhino Hunter

We'll See...

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We'll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We'll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man's only son, breaking both his legs.
His neighbors said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We'll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer's son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We'll see.”


by way of:
by way of:
by way of ...

My Enlightenment So Far: Part One

My Enlightenment So Far: Part One

I can remember the day as if it were yesterday. Sitting on my couch in front of the T.V. just like the previous five or six hundred days thinking about nothing in particular as usual when I actually sat straight up with this first epiphany. Only once in my life have I ever actually gotten chills of excitement over a realization. My life changed in an instant.

My mother refers to this time in my life...