I was a gamer already early on in my life on DOS, Windows 3.11 and 95, Game Boy and Super Nintendo. I played the crap out of games like Doom, Stunts, Interstate 76, Anno 1602 and others together with my friends but never did it cross my mind that working for a games company was an actual career option.
I was born in 1984 – I´m part of that weird generation to be caught in the middle. We were the last ones to grow up without internet access but also the first ones having utilized it from a relatively young age. Gaming was frowned upon by our parents and the media and events like the E3 were insider tips. An Event like the GamesCom in Germany wasn´t even on the horizon back in the end of the 90´s. We went to LAN parties in warehouses or a side booth in the city hall. 30 “freaks” and “weirdos” cramped in a room, playing Counterstrike on 14 inch monitors until 7 in the morning. I remember secretly buying a 56k modem against the rules of the house, because nobody in my family really had a concept of internet yet, that was in the middle of 1999. I come from a small town in Germany and things there weren´t always quick to develop but in hindsight I find it really funny 😀 Of course they found out, since back then it was all dial up and would show on the phone bill. But that was all relatively new technology, back when ISDN was the latest tech in terms of internet speed.
Fast forward to 2002 – That was an eye opener. Battlefield was the first real shooter I could play online, aside from Counter Strike, that interested me. I sunk so many hours into that game and thought: “Who creates these games? They must offer jobs…” Every time I talked about working in the games industry people would just smile and say: “Oh Stefan, that is children´s play. You´ll stop that once you turn 18 and get a job.” But I didn´t. I became more active and games and after I moved into my first own flat at the age of 17 I got an internet connection and started to become active in forums and online communities about gaming. I have no artistic talent in design, drawing or modelling let along programming. I´m good with instruments but that´s it. Hence becoming a game designer was out of the question for me. But what else was there…?
Anyways, money had still to be earned and I did not have the cash to move to Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin where IT and games companies had their HQ´s. So I worked part time in really shitty jobs 5 days a week after school and on weekends, cleaning parking lots or hauling goods around in warehouses, sometimes until 10 PM. It paid the bills but my dream still was to work with games. I then joined the army for 2 years and after that went to business college to get my education sorted. Now I had some experience and an education but still no money to move or even a concept of where to get started. I was a country potato from a small town, did I mention that? I started working in sales, these were the shittiest years of my working life. I was good at my job, don´t get me wrong, even made employee of the month but it made me sick from the inside. I had to pretend to be someone I was not to impress people I did not want to spend time with. On the other hand I would have never met my wonderful wife if it hadn´t been for working in sales. In hindsight if I got the chance to do it all over I´d not change a single decision in my life… well… maybe I would not stop studying French but that´s it.
2011 was the year everything would change… I´ll write about it in part 2.