“Real Support”

If you have talked with me, my skepticism with regards to Avyd and what they are doing should not be much of a surprise at this point. (I hesitate to talk about it much because there are good people I respect who are doing business at and with Avyd and I am of course always worried about causing hurt.)

I need to say something about this, though.

Today, they are talking about the support they’ll offer as part of their service:

This reminded me of the job posting they’d put up a couple of weeks ago, about which I’d intended to say something more directly.

The listing is here, but I’m assuming that it will expire at some point, so I’ll put the pertinent bits below:

Responsibilities

  • Customer Service Representatives are responsible for handling our Client’s highest level of service issues to ensure customer issues are resolved in an efficient and timely manner. Agents provide knowledge and expertise to all online customers to effectively resolve any service-related, while balancing both the needs of the customer and the business.
  • Use empathy with the customer; allow them to vent frustrations, while staying in control of the conversation and maintaining focus.
  • Must be able to multi task
  • Follow up with customers to ensure issue has been resolved
  • Will be answering customer support tickets, inbound calls, and support chats.

Successful Candidates will have:

  • Previous Customer Service experience
  • Proficient in typing and computer skills
  • Energetic and motivated personality
  • Gaming knowledge
  • Available to work nights and weekends as needed
  • Be fluent in English
  • Team player
  • High School Diploma or equivalent

What We Offer:

  • Unparalleled work environment
  • Unlimited growth from within
  • Paid training
  • Continued development beyond entry level
  • Travel opportunities
  • Career advancement into management

On its own, that’s mostly fine. It’s a lot of attention-splitting, and the bit about nights and weekends without specifically stating what that means is a little concerning.

And then you get to the stuff about “growth” from the support position. It’s so much of a focus that it’s literally half of the bullet points in the list of “What We Offer.” It’s a red flag, especially when you hit this part:

Job Type: Part-time

Salary: $10.00 /hour

I don’t suppose I need to state that this is in an office and not remote, because the job posting should lead you in that direction on its own.

This is troubling because it doesn’t see support as a worthwhile career in and of itself. I am growing to understand that my current employer is somewhat unique in this, but I want to see the idea and the respect for support professionals continue to grow.

User support has been my full-time, salaried and benefited career for the last six years. It supports my entire household. I have had different responsibilities and been on different teams, but through the whole thing, I have been well-appreciated and been given the ability to build my career on having pride in the fact that I make our customers’ and clients’ lives easier, and that the ability to do so in an exceptional way is deserving of being a full-time employee.

The wage and (lack of) benefits in this Avyd job posting is sadly reflective of how a lot of tech sees support. Support is a place where you go to wage slave until you earn yourself a place as a supervisor, when you make a bit more and maybe get full-time, and then after even more time you might end up in charge of support for something and possibly get a salary and benefits. Or you have the (often just a) pipe dream of learning another skill and changing job responsibilities, which is seen as a promotion simply because you aren’t doing support.

I’m proud to work somewhere that prides itself on seeing professional support as a career, helping people build that career by supporting them and helping them develop, and giving those people good compensation, good opportunities, and good resources with which they can make the services we provide amazing experiences for the customers who pay for them. We make all employees who don’t work in support do a rotation in support every year, and every new hire regardless of position does front-line support for the first three weeks.

User support and respect for the people who work it is foundational to the culture here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter your industry, I encourage you to consider making it just as important to your company as well.

And yes; we are hiring.

Prelude to Combo Breaker

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The road started yesterday morning, very early. We tossed the kids in the car and started on our way.

The weather was pretty crazy a good chunk of the drive up to the Chicago area, including this rather impressive-looking cloud formation:

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Before arriving at Pheasant Run for the 4 p.m. check-in, we decided to do a bit of a tour with the family to visit various locations from our college years—where we met and then got married, so a bit special to us.

After taking them around the Concordia University area, we met my in-laws for dinner and enjoyed some family food while we waited to take off for the venue.

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The floor wasn’t open yet (it opens up at noon today), and I had to be up for the volunteer orientation at 10 p.m., so we took the time to enjoy the resort and have some fun. So far’ it’s been a great stay and everyone is having a good time.

I got a good peek at the show floor, which is seriously impressive and I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing.

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If you are interested in following along while I see what I’m capable of this weekend and just play some games, meet some people, and have a good time, here’s my schedule and links to the brackets (with links to streams if my pool times are scheduled for stream). I’m also judging some brackets to give back to the community.

PLAY – Mystery Game: A1 – 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_myst_a1
(http://www.twitch.tv/teamsp00ky)

PLAY – Tekken 7: B1 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_t7_b1
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

ADMIN – Street Fighter V: E2 – 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_e2
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

PLAY – Killer Instinct: F1 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_ki_f1

PLAY – Street Fighter V: G4 – 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_g4
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

ADMIN – Tekken Ball: H1 – 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_h1

PLAY – Tekken Ball: I2 – 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_i2
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

The floor is almost open – time to get playing. Here’s hoping to no 0-2!

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WordCamp St. Louis Presentation: Code Review

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Howdy! I just finished giving this presentation at WordCamp St. Louis 2016 about code review: about why and how you should do code review on your projects.

The Presentation

Here’s a SlideShare embed of the presentation deck:

And you can download the source Keynote presentation file here.

References

I referenced a bunch of things in my talk and mentioned that you could find those sources in this post, so here’s the list in the order you’ll run across it in the presentation:

Have any questions?

If you have any questions, comments, corrections, or whatever, please contact me. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

STLBarWars 4/11

I’ll write more about STLBarWarz in a future post as I talk about my road to fighting game growth, but some thoughts about tonight’s outing, which was my third trip to the St. Louis FGC (bi-)weekly:

After some work the last two weeks and my session last week where I learned that I’m functionally horrible at the game, I’d hoped that I’d get a first round match-up where I could try to get some work in, maybe win a round or two, and see if I could push into another round.

Well…

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German Luger is a name that I knew even before I started trying to engage with the StL scene, and I’d watched his Vega play in SFIV. I knew I was in for a match I was probably not prepared for both because:

  • I hadn’t played against German Luger before, and
  • I don’t see too many Vega players online, so the tendencies aren’t in my brain very well yet.

This match was also on stream, and I’ll try to grab a highlight of that once it’s up on YouTube and critique my own performance. I have already taken a look at the video and I can see quite a bit I did poorly. I did not control any space at all in the first game and was pretty soundly roughed up.

For the second game, I had more success with pushing into my opponent’s space, but I did poorly on some of my reactions (I dropped at least three possible combo opportunities, and failed to connect some cr.MK > MK tatsu combos). A lot of this was just nerves, which is something I’ll need to work on as I try to play more in-person matches.

I also made the mistake of not paying attention to my opponent’s V-gauge, and one round that I lost was due to my getting whiff punished by a Claw V-Trigger. I use st.HK to try to control a lot of space as Ken, and I completely forgot that a single whiff would mean I’d die to V-Trigger followed by Critical Art.

Such is life.

This sent me to losers, where for once I did not lose to the same player:

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First, I want to point out that I won my first game ever at the weekly, which I’m taking as a sign of growth and really all I wanted out of the night.

Second, I would have taken the set if I’d played more calmly. The first game was mine, with decent space control and some good interrupts. (Omi was playing as Karin.) The second game I bombed because I got too excited and got a touch too aggressive. And the third game was just me making all the wrong guesses pretty much everywhere.

This match was not on stream, but I feel like it was among my better efforts to date. I’m slowly learning to play the person on the other side and not the matchup specifically.

Scrub

This is the start of a journey.

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First Sight

I’m 11, and my favorite thing to do when traveling with my family is to find the local arcade. I’ll play anything you put in front of me, but I love games where you work as a team, so I’m searching for games that have two sets of controls.

There’s a new-ish game in the arcade, and it’s bright and colorful. Someone’s standing at it and playing; it looks like a beat-em-up, like Final Fight or Double Dragon. Punches and kicks happen. It looks and sounds amazing.

I walk up to the machine and ask if I can play with him. He nods or something and I put in my quarter and hit 2P start.

I recall being very surprised when the game pitted us against each other and I suffered greatly at the hands of a weird green manimal-thing named Blanka. I walked away from the machine, disappointed at the meager time my quarter granted.

The impact Street Fighter II left was real.

Later, the Pizza Hut out by my house kept a Champion Edition cab forever. Other cabs would come and go, but that one—that one was always there. We’d sit down and order our pizza; I’d ask my dad for some quarters and play against the AI because we always got to the restaurant early to get in our order before the dinner rush and no one else was there.

I always picked Vega because the wall dive was cool.

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Arcade Rats

Kevin was a kid at my school who knew a lot more about video games than I did. He was almost always better than I was at them, too. I’d stay at his place Friday night through into Saturday, and we’d play anything and everything we could get our hands on.

We’d also take regular trips to the Red Baron in Taylor, Michigan.

I looked it up recently; the Red Baron has been gone for years. It was the ugliest thing you’d seen: an arcade stuck inside a building constructed to look like a giant barn. It had armed security and operators who hated it when you got salty and slapped a machine.

We were there the first week Mortal Kombat came out, and I remember the insane crowds around the cabinets. It was bloody, it had real people in it, it was janky—it was fresh and new. We’d go back there only occasionally as it wasn’t a short drive and we didn’t have our own cars, but I played a lot of Mortal Kombat, MKII, and even vanilla MK3 there before I ended up moving away.

The arcade in my new city didn’t have any good fighting games.

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Scrub-Zero

I recall a specific day at the Red Baron where I had untold riches to spend on the day’s games: twenty dollars’ worth of quarters. Kevin and I had played a lot of Mortal Kombat II over a period of months.

I never won.

That day was going to be different. I changed my twenty dollar bill for a pocketful of quarters. Stepping up to the machine, we started the challenge. I was convinced that if I just tried enough times, if I dropped enough coin in the machine, if I tried the right characters and did the right specials, sooner or later I’d end up with a victory.

I dropped every quarter into that machine right in a row and lost every match.

It was only recently that I recalled this and finally understood why.

I was a scrub.

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Ultra

I bought Street Fighter IV like a lot of other people, even played through the single player here and there.

Around AE and Ultra, things changed. I started stream monstering a lot more. I made some friends via various internet channels who also loved fighting games—we watched matches and talked about them, and even played here and there. I started learning more about the game.

I read sites and tutorials. I learned what footsies were, and what it meant to make an attack meaty or keep an opponent guessing with pressure. Understanding combos, positioning, and execution were new to me, but I made an effort to see the game underneath the game I had thought I was playing.

I picked up a “main” for the first time, and started playing onilne. My play became more frequent. I bought a stick. I learned to react to things, and I had a money Ultra I could execute with good reliability. My win rate was maybe 10%, but it was slowly getting better.

I thought it was pretty rad that I was a C- Sakura player by the time Street Fighter V released.

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Deconstruction

I bought in to Street Fighter V hard.

At the beginning of 2016 I told myself that I’d stop messing around with buying a bunch of games I never play and instead focus more of my time on getting better at something I had loved for decades.

I’ve been spending at least an hour a day playing Street Fighter since launch. Some days, it’s more, some days not at all, but it’s been consistent. I win a bit less than half my matches in ranked, which is only good enough to get you into the Bronze tiers.

I wanted to learn more and get better. Maybe prove myself. So I went to the local for the first time ever a couple of times last month.

I lost every match I had both times 0-2.

I went to Wizard World and entered the SFV tournament there.

I went 0-2.

I decided I needed help and asked for some assistance with my game from the local community. The response wasn’t stellar, and I got kind of salty about it. Even with my grumpiness, I did find someone in the local scene who offered to play me a bit and evaluate my game. I figured I wasn’t that bad – I had some problems with strategy, but my basic reactions were OK.

I got demolished.

And then came the evaluation:

“You suck. You’re not good at much. Your reaction timing is bad. Your AA is bad. Your neutral is nonexistent. I haven’t seen you combo yet, but I assume you can do those. You’re like a human training dummy.”

I used to think that the instant you realized you were a scrub and you wanted to learn, you weren’t anymore.

Now I’m pretty sure I’m still just a scrub. Deep down, I’m still that kid who just keeps dropping quarters into the machine, hoping that maybe this time he’ll get the upper hand.

It’s pretty disheartening.

Combo Breaker

Knowing that I don’t know very much and that I don’t understand the neutral game is something I’m trying to incorporate into my play. I was always looking at it and trying to figure out why I didn’t win, but I thought it was the adages you still hear: you jump too much, you press too many buttons, you press buttons at the wrong time.

When I started trying to play more seriously, I realized that I was always backing into the corner. I don’t know how to approach an opponent. I don’t know what moves to use to get in and I don’t know how to make an opponent respect me enough for me to even start getting in anything more than random strikes.

I am still not sure how I am going to learn this. I am fairly certain I don’t really understand how to use training mode, even though I’m in it a lot of the time. I’m not going to stop trying, and I’m not going to stop playing.

I’ll be streaming and writing about my journey out of the basement of fighting games, and I hope you’ll join me. I stream on Twitch as Backlogathon and you can follow my Twitter here if you want to know when I’ve posted. I’ll try to do what I can to keep up with what I’m doing with regular videos and updates on how things are going. I’ll try to analyze my play better and figure out what I’m doing wrong.

Combo Breaker is coming up in less than two months in the Chicago area. It will be my first time attending a fighting game major. I don’t plan on wasting the opportunity.

I’ve dropped the money to register. I have a room reservation. I’m going. I’m not going to get out of my pools for sure, but you know what?

I’d like to not go 0-2.

Puppet Twitch

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Is this Peak Twitch? Is Peak Twitch even an attainable concept?

Evan Narcisse on Kotaku:

There’s A Puppet Playing Diablo on Twitch Now

Because of course there is.

He’s only got three archived broadcasts so far and no bio but it’s plain to see that the fuzzy blue puppet called Bennyfits has the glow of game-streaming greatness about him. That gravelly voice, the way that he mumbles his way through Blizzard’s loot-tastic and his banter with text chat make for some of the most entertaining stuff on Twitch I’ve ever seen.