I was a professional video game player. No lie. Someone actually paid me to play video games five days a week, eight hours a day, for nine months. My mission? To figure out the secret codes and hidden levels in the hottest games and then work them into one-page summaries of the games’ instruction booklets. After I’d wax brilliant for 800 words, single-spaced and in ultra-tiny font, my company would sell my summaries to video rental stores. That way, when a kid rented a video game from a store, it didn’t matter if the instruction booklet had been lost or chewed by someone’s dog or ripped to shreds in utter frustration, the store just printed up my how-to page and stuck it in the rental bag.
Tough gig, eh?
My brother-in-law kept telling me that with that job, I’d be the most popular mom on the block when I had kids. His mom had been the ice cream lady in his school cafeteria, so he knew whereof he spoke. When I quit my video game job, he couldn’t figure out what I was thinking. There have been days when I wondered that myself. I mean, whenever I felt stressed in jobs after that, I fondly recalled those days of sitting at work with my feet up on my desk, my eyes glued to my TV screen, my thumbs wildly whacking the game pad. Ahh, the good ol’ days. Something else I remember about that job was that editors in my company’s Plumbing Catalog Department hated me. Can you blame them? There they’d be, slaving over their keyboards all morning, typing in ISBNs for PVC fittings, ISBNs for copper valves, ISBNs for threaded couplings, and ISBNs for pipe nipples, only to finally get up to stretch their legs in the hall and have to pass the double cubicle I shared with my fellow “Games Editor” and see the two of us with our feet up, laughing and high-fiving each other as we played, er, worked. My, the things those plumbing editors muttered as they passed by,
Wait a sec, was it a plumbing catalog department? Maybe it was an automotive parts catalog . . . ? Shoot, I forget. Well, that just goes to show how exciting their job was. I would’ve hated the video game girls, too, if I were cataloging machinery parts all day. My games partner and I finally had to hang a curtain across our cubicle doorway. Not that a curtain stifled the muttered name-calling.
I love hearing about “odd” jobs like this. Believe it or not, a lot of my friends had even odder jobs. My husband, for instance, cleaned fish tanks for restaurants while he was in college studying ichthyology. My girlfriend’s buddy makes up street names for a living. Seriously, that is someone’s job. One fifteen-year-old I know spent a summer washing store windows at the mall. He’d don a pair of flip-flops and his swimsuit, grab a bucket of suds, and he was ready for a day on the job. Fantastic.
One of my favorite sources for “odd” jobs is the back flap of book jackets. Right in the author bios. I swear, writers have the strangest resumes. I was just reading Thomas Perry’s upcoming thriller, Silence, and discovered in his flap bio that at one time he’d been a weapons mechanic. Now, I don’t really know what a weapons mechanic is, specifically, but it sounds perfect for someone who writes thrillers about assassins and other weapons wielders. I hope Perry was in the habit of taking notes back then.
Not that I was smart enough to take notes during my stint as a professional video game player. Still, I managed to parlay that odd gig into a more “legitimate” profession: as an editor of books for children. Somehow, it seemed a natural progression. And now here I am, a writer of books for children. One foot in front of the other, eh? The natural next step would be video game writer then, right? And after that? Who knows…professional video game player, perhaps? Ah, the circle of life.
So kids, when your parents tell you to turn off the video games and get studying, tell them you are studying . . . for your future careers. But don’t tell them I told you to say that, because, ooh, the things they’d e-mail to me . . . and I can’t put a curtain across my computer.