"You don't have that much management experience," the Microsoft interviewer said from the other side of her desk. "Except - what is this online game you've listed on your resume?"
That item, which read, "Coordinated development of online game which averaged 60-70 users at a time with a volunteer staff of approximately 30 writers/coders," was a decade worth of experience managing a team as large, high-powered and challenging as any I'd ever encounter while working at Microsoft. Over the next few years, this overlapping of the game and business world would occur over and over. I'd apply lessons in conflict management or negotiation I learned in MUDs to resolve situations, and the next day find myself in a management class thinking how best to use the material on the flash cards in front of me to steer my coders down a particular path.
While some staff (like me) list Armageddon, the MUD on which we work, as professional credit, other staff members are more reticent about their online lives; feeling that listing a MUD on a resume would hurt them far more than it might help. Accordingly, several of them preferred to not have their real names mentioned in this article. Nessalin, for one, said, "I think few employers want employees who have hobbies that A) so closely mirror their jobs, and B) eat up so much time." Another staff member said, "I'd rather not have my real name associated with the game in any way, in case I get a client who thinks MUDs are evil or something."
Fear of being perceived as a geek also encourages this silence. One staff member noted that when dealing with fellow employees, he wants "to be taken seriously, and not seen as that middle-aged guy that plays games." Another said, "There's a social stigma attached to people who play any kind of RPG, especially Dungeons & Dragons." A third said, "Most of my work is for Fortune 500 Corporations or the government, and the people conducting interviews tend to be conservative and non-technical. A mudding reference might raise questions as to my suitability to someone who doesn't understand the MUD culture."
Although he chooses to list games on his resume, David Lipa (Dyrinis) said, "I try to keep the two worlds totally separate, even more than most mudders. For example, I've never attended any real life events from my MUD, and even talking on the phone to someone to get an account password was difficult for me." He continued, "When I was younger I tended to deride mudding as just a game or pastime; in hindsight, it has done more for my professional development than just about anything."
Those who have mentioned games in interviews have no disaster stories to tell, funnily enough. Raesanos said, "I'm a software engineer, so it's just straight up good resume material," while Xygax said, "Having worked on MUDs before I interviewed at Origin almost certainly helped my case."
Lipa related how he "was actually interviewed by an Armageddon player when I was applying for a position at Merill Lynch. She was surprised to share this interest with me and passed me on to the next round ... It was definitely a geek-to-geek moment. It helped to break the ice." Even one of the staff members who is most private about his mudding admitted that his last two jobs came about as a direct result of mudding connections.
Listing a MUD on a resume is often a way to showcase skills or experience that one hasn't had a chance to exercise on the job yet. Mentioning the MUD I work on lets me list expertise I developed working with the game. In fact, when the buzzword, "online community," started going around Microsoft, I already knew much of the associated vocabulary. By then, Armageddon had experimented with several discussion boards, online chat, a LiveJournal for collaborative game history, a staff wiki, staff member blogs and other forms of community-generated content.