There are moments in life that stick clearly in our head. Falling in love. Traumatic events. Moments of pure exaltation. In even know the moment when I first learned to ride a bike which, moments earlier, I had fallen into a ditch and with sheer determination got back up to pedal down our dead end road. So, it is not surprising that I remember the moment where it was very clear what I wanted to do for a career. I remember the light bulb flickering on as realization settled in. 24 years had passed before my vision became clear. Now, at 28, I know I need to fully commit to pursuing this goal.
But let’s take it back a little further.
High school was a beast, but I managed it well. I was not popular, but I drifted between groups with the ease of a social butterfly. It was a small high school so I fit into so many roles. Band and ROTC. Cheerleading and National Honor Society. I was unique, creative and outspoken. Even then, just as I do now, I was very clear of who “Jessica” was. I knew I wanted to be a novelist, but I also knew that I wanted a more firm career in video games. At the time, I only knew two paths I could take – developing video games or writing about video games. So, when I applied to my university I chose Computer Science as my major…
…and I was awful at it! Midway through my first semester I decided I was never going to be able to learn much about coding or algorithmic design so I started to watch Naruto subs in class and flirt with the guy sitting next to me. Im ended up switching to English after falling absolutely in love with writing, criticism and analyzing. I wrote for my school’s newspaper and took all the creative writing course available. I was wholly content with my existence as a humanities major. I adored it.
Graduation happened. I was lost. I joined the work force as a retail employee at a trendy shoe store. And then a spark came in the form of the Frag Dolls team. I had first heard about them in 2005, but I had not kept too close tabs during my years of undergraduate education and debauchery. I got word that they had a Cadette program. I indulged in every bit of news from the 2009 and 2010 Cadettes. I watched videos, posted on the forums, followed them on social media, and readied myself a full eight months in advance for the next round of applications. When January 2011 came, I had done all that I could to be noticed by the team and I was chosen as a Spring 2011 Cadette. It is one of the proudest moments of my life.
I chose the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3, duh) as my first event. Why wouldn’t I?! I was a girl from a small town with big dreams that included going to E3 and being a part of this industry! The Cadette program was opening my eyes wider then they have ever been. I did not know there were so many career paths within the gaming industry. The moment I discovered community management…was the moment my fate was sealed.
Networking is a big part of any industry. I was (and often still am) a very shy girl with a big voice when it comes time to use it. Being at a huge conference in a city I had never been to certainly put me out of my element. I was on the shuttle bus with my Cadette roommate heading back to our hotel. All week I had watched her float around being incredibly social. It was inspirational. After such a long day of work, it was great to be on a bus with relaxation mere minutes away. I fully intended to stay in that last night as I did not really know anyone, but she insisted I go out with her to a Game Dev meetup.
I walked into the small bar apprehensive, but excited. We collected name tags and I was able to put the company name that I had worked for at the conference. It was in this moment, chatting with people from the industry and actually being a part of it all, that I knew I never wanted to be without it. It started a spark that has been growing ever since. I made a witty Batman-related comment and someone I did not know laughed. I belonged. That night I learned about community management and I was sold. I gave myself away to this fervent dream of bridging myself between a video game company I loved and the community that was the heartbeat of it. So after vising a private Wargaming hotel party and chatting with even more industry people, it was cemented in my head.
My trip to E3 was far more beneficial than I could have imagined. It created a monster. Since then, I have been trying to gain my footing in a world I am desperate to rejoin. It has been a long journey before that night in the courtyard of a small, hidden bar in Los Angeles. It was an unforgettable moment in time that I cling to whenever I feel like giving up. Recently I had a friend tell me that I can achieve anything that I want if I would stop with the self-doubt. The passion that I feel for community management flows through my veins. It consumes my soul. I will never let it go.
There is no other career meant for me.
(here is my really old post about going to E3!)