Give yourself another chance and trust the goodness in others

Yesterday I decided to check my email while I was walking to work and there was an email with subject line that asked a great question, a question that I feel I need to contribute an answer to. “Do we need to talk about suicide?”, read an email/article that was published by Jason Calacanis, a tech entrepreneur and former journalist. Jason’s article focused on the pressures that company founders and entrepreneurs face, and how that pressure may lead to unfortunate outcomes. Jason’s question is a great question, it’s one that needs to be opened up to a much broader audience, rather than the relatively narrow niche of startup founders.

Over the past few weeks, the tech news sites have had a flurry articles about two prominent technologists that have committed suicide. Due to the nature of the small tech world that I live in, I happen to be friends-of-friends with both Jody Sherman (who passed away this week) and Aaron Swartz. Jason’s article also mentions a third person, Illya Zhitomirskiy, a guy who lived a few blocks from me and whom I had met at a party that a mutual friend invited me to. These three people are not just people I read about on the news and then forgot about, they’re people that have made very personal connections to friends that I care about. The articles about these suicides not only acted as a harsh reminder of suicide and its impact on my life, but also of the pain that it has now inflicted on my friends.

Working in technology is a highly competitive field, particularly startups and small companies that work hard everyday to make sure they exist and are relevant in the coming weeks and months ahead. Small companies don’t have the luxury of thinking in years or six-month plans, because there’s no guarantee that the funds required for such optimism will be available when you need it. This sort of pressure and reality results in many things that I love about startups, like not wasting time or working with people that are passionate about building amazing things today (not tomorrow, or next week), but it also results in a huge amount of pressure that is imposed on an individual, both externally and internally.

For some reason our culture revels in the failure of others. Sites like TMZ are basically Human Failblogs, and our tech news sites spend too much time speculating on and diving into the latest failure of CompanyX and the founders/CEO. The humiliation that inevitably comes with failure or mistakes is only compounded by the fact the everyone seems to be endlessly entertained by everyone else’s bullshit. Our culture needs to not just recognize the amazing wins and achievements of others, or laughing at the shortcomings of others, but it also needs to embrace the learning opportunities that come with mistakes and failures.

Failing gracefully is a skill that I hope to learn someday, as I absolutely hate failing at something. Failure in startups can lead you to the end of a company’s journey, a scene that features a Human Resources person handing out documents that you sign when you’re sitting in a room with all of your (now unemployed) friends, and the realization that the company and your hard work won’t exist tomorrow. The threat of failure is scary and intimidating, but it’s not the end, it just marks the start of your transition to the next chapter in your journey.

As cliche as it sounds, your life is a journey and a story. The lows that you experience help you appreciate and celebrate the highs in your jouney, and they also can prepare you and enable you to help others when they are experiencing their lows. Personally, I’m really good at convincing myself that my struggles and fears are unique to me, and that I’m just crazy and fucked up. My countermeasure to my negative thinking is to talk to others about how I’m feeling, the struggles or hardships that I’m encountering, so that I can get feedback and potentially have my feelings and concerns validated by others. I’ve found that it’s more than likely that my concerns and fears are valid, or if they aren’t, the person can help give me more perspective and change my thinking.

I’d like to encourage everyone to reach out to their friends and family when they’re feeling overwhelmed, as it will oftentimes help give you perspective and peace of mind. I know that this process can be scary to most people, since it involves making oneself vulnerable, exposing possible flaws and weaknesses to others. I’ve come to the personal decision that I accept the risks that are inherent to emotional vulnerability, because I feel that the risks involved with not opening up to others are risks that are just too high. The opportunities for growth, learning, and connection with others are much more attractive to me, and they help combat my fear of having my feelings hurt by someone.

Simply put: If someone isn’t able to help you when you need it, or able to listen to you when you need to talk, you probably can’t have that level of relationship with them(yet). But there are many others in your life, and even strangers, that will happily take you up on the opportunity to help you in your time of need. To trust someone in this way is taking a leap of faith, but that leap of faith will pay off.

I encourage everyone to open up and to try to help themselves and help others when they need it. Our conversations and experiences with others help us learn about ourselves, the world, and the goodness in people. Listen to others, share your stories, and I bet you will experience a greater connection to the world around you, and at the very least you can usually get a good hug out of it.

To end this blog post, I think I should include the story that I told that helped me connect with others in a new way, a process and experience that changed my perspective and helped me greatly. Here is my story about my father’s suicide, a story that I posted on Quora:

Read Quote of Sam Houston’s answer to Suicide: What does it feel like to have a parent commit suicide? on Quora


First day back

Today (7/23/2012) was my first day back at EA, otherwise known as Electronic Arts. It also marks my first day back in the video game industry, after a nine month fling in the ever alluring music industry. I’m now a Community Manager for Origin, EA’s one year old digital store and PC Game download client. I’m working alongside J “OneLetter” Goldberg, who previously worked for Volition as the Community Manager for games like Red Faction: Guerrilla and Saints Row: The Third.

Being back in video games, and being back at EA (for the 3rd time)…it honestly all feels quite surreal. The closest analogy I can come up with is your first day back at school, after a long summer break.

As I waited for the shuttle down to EA’s main campus (EA Redwood Shores), I ran into several people that I knew and used to work with. As I walked around the campus and waited for my orientation, I saw several people that I knew and they welcomed me back to EA. It was all a reminder that I used to work for EA..I used to work in video games..and I know some people!

And then came the meetings, meetings with a bunch of new people, and the hazy feeling I had for about half of the day. That feeling that you get when you show up for your first class, or when you sit down at your desk after a long vacation from work. I had a hard time shifting gears, changing my mindset from what works for musicians to what could work for an international public company with over 9,000 employees. I had a tough time remembering community management tactics and strategies for the game industry, as well as remembering what I like to do in this space and what I’m really good at. I knew that I was good and that I had fun with all of these things…but I couldn’t put anything into words just yet.

But luckily it started to come back to me. I started to remember how things worked, remembered all of the great people that I’ve worked with and met in video games, and I started to get genuinely excited about what could be done and what we should do at Origin. That’s not to say that I wasn’t excited before, but now it felt a bit different.

Up until that point, it was hard for me to understand what had happened in the past month. It was only just over a week ago that I was working at a 40 person startup in downtown San Francisco, but now I’m working on the 5th floor of one building that is a part of a campus of four buildings with thousands of employees.

When I left video games last year I was a bit jaded about the whole industry. I was frustrated with where it was going, with some of the latest trends, and with where my career was headed. But now I’m excited again, excited to work with J and the other Community Managers and marketing and public relations folks across EA, to work with the EA.com and Origin teams, and to help shape the future of EA’s relationship with gamers.

The team wants to make an impact and do something a bit different. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we can do it.

Thanks to everyone that reached out to me over the past few weeks and gave me support and words of encouragement, and recently all of the words of congratulations. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of very supportive and friendly people (friends!) in my life.

I’m still going to do some music stuff for fun and outside of work, and I hope to continue to explore my writing on this blog and perhaps other blogs.

Thanks for coming along for the journey! :)

Being Real and overcoming the Attention Economy

Last week I interviewed for a job and I met with several people. I tried to describe to each of them a problem that I see everyone facing in the very near future. The problem I see is this: We’ve got too much stuff to read/listen to/watch and a limited time to do it all. This problem particularly affects people like me, because my job is essentially to come up with stuff that is interesting to people and to engage them on a variety of different social platforms. If no one gives a shit about what I’m saying or where I’m saying it, I’m just wasting time and money.

This past December I was grappling with a number of different concepts, with the main concept being “Realness”, as in “being real” or authentic to others. I decided that I wanted to “be real” with everyone around me and I only wanted to interact with people that were being real with me, since I feel that this is the way to get the most value out of life. If we all drop our acts and speak honestly with each other, I think we can connect with each other in a more meaningful way and get what we want from life.

And I think that’s what everyone is looking for, and that need will only increase over time. The fact is, so much of our world is Bullshit right now. We’ve got politicians constantly changing positions and distorting facts, companies totally destroying nations, environments and economies, and a growing amount of mistrust in the people and organizations around us. It’s quite sad, and I think the public cynicism and apathy that will come out of these trends could force us to change how we live our lives and do business with one another.

We’re also running into a problem where everyone is becoming increasingly addicted to the Internet (read that article, it’s well worth it!). You can’t have dinner or drinks with someone without constantly checking Facebook, your email, or Twitter for the latest information. We’re disengaging with the world right in front of us to keep connected to the world around us, but I think we’re missing the bigger picture and losing out on the great experiences of every day life. Our ever increasing thirst for more information and content has warped our attention spans and our ability to prioritize what’s really important, since everything seems important and deserving of immediate attention.

Meanwhile every company and product is trying to get your attention with new advertising and new ways to access even more information, but we just don’t have enough time to give. And if it’s all a bunch of bullshit anyways, who cares?

Some people call this problem the “Attention Economy“, where we only have a finite amount of time that we can devote to the content and information around us.

My hope is that there will be shift in the way we communicate with one another and a change in what people find important in their daily lives. We’ll need to reduce the amount of noise in our life, focus on the few channels/people/etc that we consume and communicate with on a daily basis, and a big factor in this decision making process will be the way that we’re communicated with. We need to be communicated with in a way that makes sense to us, with information or content that adds to our lives in a positive way or connects with us on an emotional or intellectual level. There will still be room for mindless entertainment and fun escapes, but I think we will collectively have to find more balance in our life and take power over our Internet and content addictions.

There are companies already trying to figure out what’s important to you and filtering out content based on those inferences. Most notably is Facebook, with its somewhat controversial “black box algorithm” called EdgeRank, which is used to decide what you see on your Facebook News Feed. As a user of Facebook, you only see a subset of the content from your friends, the bands and musicians you like, and the companies you’ve liked on Facebook. That’s why you typically only see the same people/things in your News Feed, and never see any content from that random person from high school (that you’re not really friends with anyways). But EdgeRank isn’t perfect, and it still doesn’t solve the problem that we’re facing with millions of Blogs, constantly updating twitter feeds, and the bombardment of advertising and messaging that we experience every day.

In my opinion, it’s very important that companies, brands, musicians & bands, and individuals keep these trends in mind. If we focus on giving as much value to the people around us by being real and authentic and creating something that addresses real needs and wants, we will find the customers, listeners, and friends that are most important. This may result in fewer “friends”, or a smaller customer base, but it will be a group of people that will give us real results. Those results could be an increase in money if we’re trying to monetize relationships, like a band does when it sells a new CD at a show, or it could result in tighter, more enriching relationships with the people around us.

If we don’t do this, you’re going to have a hard time finding success. Sure, there are companies and people out there that will find success by Bullshitting and not creating real value, but do you really want to be like those people? We have a very small amount of time on this Earth, and I’d rather not waste it acting like someone I’m not, or doing something I don’t believe in or think is worth it.

Over the past two months I’ve tried to be more Real through my writing, by opening up about parts of my life and being more vulnerable. It started when I shared for the first time publicly the story of how my father died, when I made a post on Quora that answered the question: “What does it feel like to have a parent commit suicide?“. The reactions were stunning and happened almost immediately, with friends and strangers reaching out saying that they were amazed I went through this tragedy and spoke so openly about it. I even had a phone call with my mom about it, where we talked about what each other experienced during those couple of days. That was the first time my mother and I ever talked in that depth about the day my father died.

Last month I decided to share my story of why I’m not at BandPage any more, and that too  received some great reactions from friends. All of a sudden I’m talking to friends about how I feel, the struggles that I’m going through and facing every day, and I’m also hearing about their daily struggles and concerns. I feel like I have a deeper connection and understanding of some of my friends, and I think they have a better understanding of me.

Recently I’ve noticed others sharing publicly and it has been quite inspiring. Two weeks ago Frank Ocean, a new hip hop artist, got a lot of attention when he announced that he was Gay. The announcement created a lot of controversy, but it also resulted in a lot of support and a better appreciation for the great strength and courage that it takes to be open about who you are in an environment that usually is not accepting of “alternative lifestyles”.

On the video game side of things, Jeff Green recently made a post about his battle with depression, a post that surprised a number of people and received a lot of support from the gaming community. It was great to see Jeff speak so honestly about his 25 year long struggle with depression, and even greater to see hundreds and thousands of people support him.

I truly hope that over time we will see that letting our guard down and opening up to others about the common struggles and challenges that we face daily, will result in a better world. You could probably argue that I’m naive in that Hope, but I’m afraid of the consequences of an increasingly cynical and jaded culture. I think it’s time that we decide that we’re done with the Bullshit, that we need to connect with each other and companies around us in more meaningful ways, so that we can collectively live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. I encourage you to give it a try, and I’m going to continue to try it myself too :)

Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

Sam

I realize the above could be seen as perhaps a bit naive or altruistic, but these are things I’ve had on my mind for a number of weeks and months. Hopefully you get something out of this, as I honestly just needed to get some of these concepts and points out of my head and onto virtual paper. Please let me know what you think!

I’m speaking at PAX East this weekend!

Hey everyone – just a quick update…

Tomorrow morning I'm heading to Boston to attend Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East 2011!  I can't wait to visit Boston again, see all my gamerDNA buddies, and see a PAX East that has been reborn to be bigger and better. I'm also going to be speaking on three different panels, each of them about Community Management and/or Social Media.

Here's the list – I hope you can make it out to one of them (or all!) and say hello!:

How Your Favorite Game Companies Use Facebook
Manticore Theatre

Friday, 8:00pm – 9:00pm

Like this. Like that. Facebook has taken the world by storm and has become a crucial platform for community managers and companies to help keep in touch with and grow their online communities. With the constant evolution of social media and Facebook in particular, you may not know some of the cool things happening on your favorite game studio's Facebook page. Join Collin Moore (Community Management Vet) as he moderates a discussion with community managers from across the game industry (Insomniac Games, Playfish/EA, Harmonix, and Robot Entertainment), about the importance of Facebook to game companies, and how pressing the "LIKE" button is just the beginning.

Panelists include: Collin Moore [Game Industry Vet], Sam Houston [Online Content Manager, Playfish – EA], John Drake [Manager of Communications and Special Projects, Harmonix], James Stevenson [Senior Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Justin Korthof [Community Manager, Robot Entertainment]

 

The Roads to Becoming a Community Manager (East Coast Version!)
Wyvern Theatre

Saturday, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Based on the great feedback we received after this panel at PAX Prime, we've decided to do it again! East-Coast Style. You hear us on podcasts, see us in videos, read our blogs on websites, retweet us, argue with us on forums, and give us high fives at PAX. But have you ever wondered how we became community managers? From games journalism to forum moderation to public policy and QA, every road is different. Find out the random history of some of your favorite game studio community managers, and hear their advice on what skills and knowledge you’ll need to become one of gaming’s next-generation of community managers.

Panelists include: Alli Thresher [Community Moderator, Harmonix Music Systems, Inc], James Stevenson [Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Arne Meyer [Manager, Community, Naughty Dog], Sam Houston [Online Content Manager, Playfish, EA], Jennifer Kye [Company Blogger, Social Media Editor, Gameloft]

 

So I Still Have This Website…
Cat Theatre

Sunday, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

The community-focused panel from PAX Prime is making its way to the East Coast. You've spent the time and money building your community site, and now you're looking to take it to the next level. Maybe you want to get a job as a professional Community Manager, or maybe you're just looking for tips on how to get publishers and developers to pay more attention to your site. Whether you're just starting out, or have been running a site for years, this panel is the best place to get your questions answered. Together, these community managers have represented some of the biggest franchises, developers, and publishers in the game industry, and most of them started out just like you – running a fan site.

Panelists include: Justin Korthof [Community Manager, Robot Entertainment], James Stephenson [Senior Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Matthew Pruitt [FPS Community Manager, Electronic Arts], Sam Houston [Community Manager, Independent], Jessica Shea [Community Manager, 343 Industries]

 

Please stop by the panels if you can, I'd love to meet more gamer friends, and if you have any questions about Community/Social Media, I'd love to help you.  This is a total vacation for me and I can't wait to relax, walk around PAX, and try to experience the show as a gamer and not as a guy doing press interviews all day.  I also can't wait to see my gamerDNA buddies, as it has been over a year since I've seen most of them.

First day at Playfish/EA


Today was my first day at Playfish/EA, and I figured I'd give the blog a brief update on the excitement so far.  On everyone's first day at EA, you have to go through new hire orientation – something that isn't too exciting, but it's good to get an overall idea of what EA is up to as a company, how it works and motivates its employees, and the various benefits of being an EA employee.  The whole thing lasts a few hours or so and at times it was hard for me to sit totally still for that long (due to my ADD, more than anything), but at least I got some free EA cups and a copy of Medal of Honor out of it :)

Orientation had me excited about EA, and it also served as a great reason to head down to the EA Redwood Shores (EARS) campus.  Since my last blog post, the Playfish gods pulled some strings and got me a full-time desk at the Playfish office in San Francisco, so I'll now be working full-time in SF.  This is absolutely fantastic and I'm very excited for many reasons, but it does mean I won't get to see all my friends at EARS any more than I would outside of work.  Going to EARS for orientation was fun because the campus was awesome, but also because I ran into two awesome people on my way into orientation and while on a tour of the campus.  The first being Peter (Marketing guy for Crysis 2, Alice 2, and other stuff), who I sat about two feet away from while I was at EA over the summer.  Peter's a hilarious guy with similar music and gaming tastes, as well as a great sense of humor.  It was great to see Peter since I haven't seen him in about four months.

The cherry on top was seeing Jaap Tuinman, though, as he played huge roles in my being hired for both my summer contract gig at EA, but also this Playfish position.  Jaap's a fantastic Director of Community at EA Games, and I'm forever grateful to him for all he's done for me in the past six months.  I consider anyone who gets to work with him very lucky.

After orientation, I headed back up to San Francisco and straight to the Playfish office.  I already had a desk with some nice Playfish swag on it (pictured above), and I even had an inbox full of email.  I was shown around the office, introduced to everyone, and immediately went into a couple community/company briefing meetings.  It felt great to be at a job again, and I'm really excited to get started on some community projects for our upcoming games.

So far, I'm really impressed by everyone at Playfish and I can't wait to work with them all.  Across the board, everyone was very smart, nice, funny, and laid back.  The entire company was very welcoming and people seemed genuinely happy and excited to have me there, something that I'm very happy to see on my first day :)

The Online Content Manager role is new for the Playfish SF office and there is a TON of room for me to grow and make the role my own, and I'm hoping to make a huge impact not only on the SF office, but Playfish as a whole.  Community Management is relatively new at the company, so I'm hoping to take what I've learned over the past few years, add a bunch of new knowledge from the Facebook Game community, and do some great things for both the company and our millions of players.

I'm very excited and I can't wait to get started.  Stay tuned!

Accepting a position at Playfish (EA)!

Hello everyone!

Great news! Today I'm accepting at position to work at Playfish full-time as an Online Content Manager in their San Francisco office.  The Online Content Manager is basically a Community Manager, handling all community efforts for their particular game, and I'll be working on the games coming out of the SF office.  This comes with just about a week left before my prediction of getting a job before December would be void – I sure cut it close!

Playfish is a Facebook game company that was acquired by EA a year ago for ~$300 million,  and the company has created about 20 Facebook games over the years.  They're probably most famous for titles like Restaurant City, Hotel City, Pet Society, and most recently have recently released EA IP titles like Madden and Fifa.  It's very exciting to see the opportunities that Playfish has, to leverage both original IP, as well as EA portfolio IP's when creating new games.

While Playfish is owned by EA, they still manage to preserve a lot of the startup feel and atmosphere, and in general they're going to just trust me and expect me to do great work.  There won't be a lot of hand holding, just the expectation that I'll be creative, collaborate with the team across the board, and do great work.  This is what I LOVED about gamerDNA, and I can't wait to do it in a company that still has the backing of a company like Playfish/EA.  It's a great opportunity for me to learn more about community in the social gaming atmosphere, as well as a great opportunity to learn more about building communities at a large scale via social media and traditional community efforts.  Not to mention the Facebook casual gaming demographic is pretty new for me, so there will definitely be a bit of learning curve that I will have to adjust to.

From the first call I had with Playfish, things felt right.  All my conversations with the SF Playfish people were great, with very intelligent and easy to talk to people.  You can tell everyone is very talented and passionate about doing great work, but at the same time they want to have a good time doing it.  I've even been contacted by folks on the team already, urging me to accept and congratulating me, saying how excited everyone is to have me on board.  It feels great to be working at a place where people want me to be there and are excited about working together.

I should be starting next week, and I'll be working from the Playfish office in downtown San Francisco.  I'll also get to work at the EA Redwood Shores office occasionally, which will be great because the campus is great and I've got a lot of friends that still work at EARS.

This is just a quick post that I wanted to throw up since I literally just accepted on the phone.  In the future I'll be sure to post some more detailed blog posts :)

Haven’t we been here before?

Looks like I'm back on the job hunt again!  Yesterday I was let go from Perfect World.

It's a long story, but basically I wasn't a great fit for the company and they weren't a great fit for me.  We saw things quite differently in terms of social media, branding, and other areas..and (in my opinion) that lead to me no longer being at the company.

All in all, it's for the better, and I'm thankful for at least a few things.  I now live in San Francisco, which I love more and more every day, and Perfect World gave me the chance to do things that I hadn't done before.

In my next job I'm hoping to be more community management focused, while still utilizing social media to grow the fan base.  I want to build brand loyality for the game and the company/studio that I'm working for.  I want to do this usual the many social media mediums to give people access to the studio in new and exciting ways.

To echo my post last time I was in this position…I'm so thankful for my time at gamerDNA.  It showed me how a company should work and how people can work together, respect each other's opinions and expertise, and work towards a common goal.  The things I learned about web development, working at a company, branding, social media, and the game industry are invaluable.

Now I just know a bit better what I want in my next gig and some more questions I should ask next time I'm in an interview.

If you know of anything or would like to talk to me about a Community/Social Media position in the game industry, you can contact me on LinkedIn at Linkedin.com/in/SamHouston and via email at Sam at QforQ DotCom.

I'm hoping to stay in the SF Bay Area, but if something is exciting and the opportunity is great, I'm open to moving.

Thanks for your support everyone!

Just got back from E3 2010

Hello everyone!  It has been way too long since I blogged (as usual), but I thought I should write an entry since I just got back from E3..and since it's been over 6 months since my last entry.  Lots of things have changed since then.  I've moved to San Francisco, started the job at Perfect World Entertainment, went to PAX East and E3 2010, and even cut my hair (which I don't do enough!).

To pick up where I left off in my last blog post: Yes, I've started the job at Perfect World Entertainment as the "Senior Social Media Marketing Coordinator".  The transition from a small, very-flat (organizationally speaking) startup with little funding, to a huge Chinese MMO company with 80 employees (and 2k in China!) has been..pretty tough at times.  I'm not used to having multiple levels of people working on things, big departments of people – most of which I don't even know their names,  and in general the work environment/company is way different than GamerDNA.  

That's not to say things are bad..in some cases it's good, like having access to large budgets to do things like Facebook Games or Facebook Ads, where at a startup with a small amount of funding, you don't really get that kind of opportunity.  Working at a huge company like this definitely has its drawbacks, and I recognize that GamerDNA totally had me spoiled, but I've been given a lot of new challenges and tasks at Perfect World, and I'm going to come out of it with a ton of new experience.  I'm much more marketing/customer acquisition focused than I've ever been, which has been a challenge at times, but it's exciting to see how you can directly contribute to the bottomline with various initiatives.

Right now I'm working on a lot of different Facebook projects, one of which just launched – our Facebook Connect Project which rewards current players with in-game items if they promote our games to their Facebook Wall, similar to the way Facebook Games promote themselves.  You can check it out here:  http://www.perfectworld.com/blog/?p=62661.  We're also dabbling in Facebook Advertising, and I'm working on pushing forward a handful of other Facebook projects that are early on right now.  After we lay a great foundation on Facebook with multiple initiatives, I'd like to move into Twitter and other social networks.  Twitter's Ad platform has me pretty excited, and I hope to check it out later this year.

Being on a marketing team of 3 people (PR Manager, Marketing Coordinator, and myself), and being a guy that has no problem talking to press/the public, has given me the opportunity to represent the company at various events.  I went to PAX East (Boston) in March, and I just got back from E3 this week.  At E3 I did interviews with a lot of press that we couldn't schedule in for one of our product managers, and I talked all about Forsaken World, an upcoming high-quality Free to Play MMO that we have coming out this Winter.  It was great to do game demos and walkthroughs for press, something that I've seen so many times as a consumer, except this time it was me doing them!  It was great experience and I recognized how much fun I have talking to press about games.  Hopefully I can continue to do this at Perfect World and in the future.

Regarding my move to San Francisco:  It's freaking awesome.  I've found a great house full of awesome roommates (and now friends), found a great group of game industry friends that I hang out with every weekend and even during the week, I love my neighborhood, and I love this city.  I hope to live here for a long time, as the area is absolutely fantastic for the tech/game industries, and I love the chill vibe of everyone.   No matter your lifestyle or your interests, it's cool here.  I really love the acceptance of people's differences here..something refreshing coming after growing up in a very conservative town in Ohio.  My transition to SF couldn't be better.  I'm so thankful for my friends here!

As things move forward this year, I still have a lot left I want to do.  I've got a burning passion to get back into music some how…I'd really like to join a band of some sort.  I need to figure out where my professional passions lie…is it marketing, or community, or a mix of both?  I sometimes really miss interacting directly with consumers.  I also may want to start up a video game podcast of sorts, to give myself another creative outlet outside of work.  And I definitely need to explore more of this city.

This week I'm planning to pick up the new iPhone 4, another notch in my bedpost of complete consumer-whoreism.  Earlier this year I bought an iPad, which has been pretty great for me (I don't need a laptop and it's great for reading the internet and watching video!).

Next month I'm going back to Ohio for a much needed week long vacation.  It's going to be my nephew Adrian's 3rd birthday and I can't wait to see him!

See you guys soon.  Hopefully I'll update more often as ideas come up in the coming weeks.

Moving to San Francisco and working at Perfect World Entertainment

I've got a job!

Senior Social Media Marketing Coordinator – That's my new position at Perfect World Entertainment, a video game developer and publisher in Redwood Shores (South Bay of San Francisco, CA).

After about two months on the job hunt and several interviews and meetings with various companies, I was able to find a great opportunity with an exciting company – Perfect World Entertainment.  I will be joining the Marketing and PR team in just a couple weeks, working alongside ambitious and energetic folks that are trying to take over the Free to Play MMO space in the US.

Perfect World is probably most commonly known as the developer publisher of Perfect World International, their main MMO in the states which gamers can play for free, but can also buy items in-game through their cash mall.  You've also probably seen the Perfect World cash cards at your local 7-11 or GameStop.

Perfect World also has two other games out now, Jade Dynasty and Ether Saga Online.  They've got a number of new games coming out next year, with Kung FOO! coming out very soon.  What most people probably don't know, though, is that Perfect World published the popular PC RPG "Torchlight", which is a game that released this fall and was developed by former Diablo/Blizzard devs at Runic Games in Seattle.

To sum things up – Perfect World is a very ambitious company that is very successful in China and they want to make a big impact in the US.  Their current games are doing pretty well (1 million active players across their three F2P MMOs right now, I read in an article most recently), and they've got quite a few coming out in the new year and beyond.  They're doing some exciting publishing deals (Torchlight for example), and I'm very excited join Perfect World as they transition into a new phase of growth and expansion.

As I mentioned in my last post, the prospect of focusing 100% of my energy on using social media to build game communities and market games is *very* exciting to me..and it is ultimately what made this position a real winner for me.  I'll be joining a great team with some big goals and a totally open canvas in terms of what we can do.

Perfect World has community managers for their games, and I'm very excited to work with them to help build stronger and bigger communities around their games. With three games out now (and more coming next year), we should have a wealth of content to share and talk about with our community.  I'm going to try to really push things forward in the F2P MMO space, which based on some of my research doesn't seem to get a lot of love in the community department.  I'm very excited to get on Twitter, Facebook, build our blog presence, and hopefully get into other mediums/platforms so that we can interact with our community in the places that they are online.

Ironically, the week that I accepted the position, Perfect World relaunched their web portal and launched a new company blog.  I encourage you to check out the site – Nice work guys!

This job successfully rolls up my passion for community, social media and marketing into one role – and I'm very excited.  I've got big goals for myself in the social media/game space, and I think this company and this team will help me attain those goals.  I'm looking forward to starting in just a couple of weeks!

The whole F2P MMO space is new to me, and working directly for a game developer/publisher…but I'm looking forward to learning what works, what doesn't, and taking the journey along the way.  If anyone has any suggestions/insights on F2P MMO community, please feel free to contact me!

On a different  note – I now need to find a place in SF in a very short period of time. If anyone needs a roommate, or knows someone that does, *please* contact me ASAP.  I need everyone's help, since I need to move cross country *very* soon.  Thanks for any help you can provide!

In summary…I'm scared, excited, and very anxious to start a new chapter of my life in San Francisco at an awesome game company and in a dream role of a job.  It was a great Christmas/Birthday present, and I want to thank everyone for all the encouragement, support, and help that got me here!

Thanks!

Sam "QforQ" Houston

It has been a crazy ride on the unemployment train

It has been over a month since my last update and a lot of stuff has happened in that span of time.  My lack of updates isn't because of a lack of things going on, but has more to do with the fact that all the cool stuff I've been doing I can't really talk about at this time.

I still don't have a job, but I feel confident that that won't be the case very soon.  Just this past week I was out in San Francisco meeting with a few game companies, and all my interviews have gone very well so far.  I'm feeling very good about my chances of finding work soon/in the new year, and I can't wait to share with everyone where I land, and more importantly..start at a new company.

The past few weeks have been very exciting because as I talk to more companies, I'm getting a better idea of exactly what I want to do in my next job.  I'm getting more creative ideas, and getting more inspired about what I can do in my career and how I can be someone in the game industry that is moving game community and social media practices forward.  It has brought me to an ambitious goal that I now have, which is to be one of the best social media professionals in the game industry – and I think I can do that.  I'm very proud of and excited by what I've been able to do over the past year in the gaming social media space, and I hope to be able to continue on that path in 2010 and really make some waves in the game industry.  I think there is a lot of opportunity to utilize new social media technologies to build communities and engage with gamers, and I can't wait to get out there and do that for a company that I'm passionate about.

So far the unemployment train ride has been an interesting one, with lots of different waves of emotions going over as situations change or new things happened.  November was a bit rough, since it was my slow month and nothing was really happening, so it was definitely a tad bit sad and lonely.  Staying at home all day and no longer going into an office of your best friends took some getting used to, but things are much better now.  December in general has been a much better month, and I'm very thankful for all my friends and family that have helped me get through this temporary run-in with unemployment.

All in all, things are looking up, and I'm hoping to have some good news in near future.  At the very least, I'm excited to go back to Ohio for a few weeks of Christmas vacation, with plans to hang out with my nephew as much as possible and get my family together for some Beatles: Rock Band.  Then after that, I'll be turning 22 on January 2nd!  Lots of good things ahead of me :)

Lastly, I wanted to close out with an update on gamerDNA:  Today it was announced that the gaming news website Crispy Gamer has merged with gamerDNA.  I've met Chris (CEO of Crispy) several times, and I've always liked him a lot.  I wish Crispy and the remaining GamerDNA crew the best of luck on their new journey!

Thanks!

-Sam "QforQ" Houston