It's "self-evaluation" time again at Electronic Arts, a formal process undertaken by all employees, no matter where you fall on the org chart, in which you must go over your responsibilities, goals, and effort of the past 12 months, and judge how well you feel you did. You also must solicit the opinion of a number of your peers as well, who will fill out a separate form and submit that as well. Eventually, I guess, the managers do something with all that information--and in the edge cases probably determine raises/promotions....and firings.
So I'm doing mine now--on the last day they're due, of course--and it's an odd one for me. Because in the past 12 months, the first 8 of those were still with The Sims group; only the last 4 have been as editor-in-chief of EA.com. The oddness comes from the fact that it seems like a lot longer than that. Two-thirds of the year in which I'm self-evaluating come from a job I'm no longer at, doing something I no longer do, and am quite likely never to do again. And because this form only really is only for my current manager, those 8 months aren't all that relevant to him either (and that's not just my speculation about the matter--he told me as much.) But, then, if I really only have to consider the previous 4 months....well...that's not a lot to go on. And I'm not sure how thrilled I am with my performance. Yet.
One thing I can say: It's been a tough transition for me out of the press and into this side of the biz. On the whole, I have learned a *ton*, and for that alone this has been an amazing life experience. And I've met all sorts of great people, both in The Sims group and in my new job, that have helped make me feel "at home" in what for me is a totally different world than the one I spent my 20s and 30s (and, heck, over half of my 40s) in. Even though I decided that it wasn't quite working for me with The Sims group, I did have moments of great creative challenge and satisfaction: working on the initial design of SimAnimals Africa, writing up sample puzzles, writing dialog and text for MySims Agents, collaborating with artists and engineers on gameplay features.
All of this and more was fascinating and rewarding in and of itself--it was just that in the grand scheme of things, I felt it was just going to take far, far too long for me to "prove" myself with this group, and to have the self-confidence on my own, to get the kind of responsibility I was hoping for in my head, before I took the job. It was no one's fault, and there are no hard feelings, which is why I'm still pals with the folks in that group. It's just probably something I should have thought of doing 20 years ago. As it was, it wasn't really benefiting anyone--not me, not the Sims group, not EA, not gamers--that I was essentially discarding 17 years of journalism experience to become a junior apprentice designer/producer (and one with no technical training, besides).
I've written about my transition to EA.com before, so there's no real need to rehash it here, other than to say: I pitched this job. It was born of my desire to apply the skills, experience, and talent I had from my days at CGW/GFW/1up to something new at EA, something that made sense for all of us. As soon as it crossed my mind that I could do this stuff for EA--host a podcast, write articles, dream up other content around EA games that the community might dig to read, watch, and listen to--I knew it was the right move, and I was thrilled to make the transition.
I still am. The thing is, it's just hard. Making this transition, and doing this job for the past four months, has turned out not to be the great deus ex machina for me, or The Answer To Everything...but simply another beginning. Doing this self-evaluation now, I realize I have a long, long way to go before I will feel like I've accomplished what I envisioned in my mind. I've put a couple pieces into play now--the EA Podcast, the Mailbag, a "voice" on blogs and Twitter and elsewhere--but this is so just the tip of the iceberg that it's both personally frustrating and disappointing to me that this is all I've done. I know, it's only four months. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a long time. It's just that I can see in my head where I want it to be, and it's just not remotely close yet. (I should be clear, here, I suppose, that I'm not looking for either validation or pity. I'm just putting my feelings into this blog post as a way of coming around to this dang evaluation form I gotta turn in soon. You are drive-by witnesses to my self-reflection.) I'd like to write a sterling evaluation of myself, but all I can see is what I haven't done yet. On the other hand, I *do* know what I *want* to do, and feel confident in my ability to do it. So I'm going to let that count for something.
Honestly, I'm enjoying the challenge of kinda "forging new ground," both for myself and EA, but it's certainly weird ground, too. At the Game Developer's Conference this week, I realized just kind of how in my own No Man's Land I really am. I weaseled my way into getting a press pass, but, that's the thing--I had to weasel my way into getting one. I'm not press anymore. But I'm not a "game maker" anymore, either. Nor am I in PR or marketing, though I suppose those are closer to what I'm doing. But not actually being part of those departments means I'm not part of *that* community either. I have an awesome partner in managing editor and podcast cohost Samantha LaPerre--thank god, or I'd be going insane by now--but it still feels a little like we're in a rowboat, in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but a Bic lighter to help illuminate the way ahead.
But: Forge ahead we shall! I just hope in the year ahead that I can make EA.com, and my job there, somehow equal to the ideas in my head, and worthy of folks' (and EA's) time and attention.