The name Marcus Bishop may not ring a bell, however, I’d wager you’ve killed your fair share of Grimiku variant monsters in your time playing Diablo 3.
Grimiku served as a CM during the launch of D3 through ROS and was kind enough to let me pick his brain and lift the veil behind the job.
X:When did you start at blizzard and in what capacity?
MB: I started with Blizzard back in Aug of 05 as a Billing and Account Service Rep. The department at that time was just a fraction of what it would grow to for the height of WoW, and was at a different location than where Blizzard presides today.
X:What’s your gaming background? Favorite games?
MB: The first “book” I ever bought for myself was Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules, Set 1 when I was in 5th grade, and a few years later I lost an entire day play Super Mario Bros on the NES when my father bought one for me. I don’t think he knows it, but buying me that system was a major turning point for how I would value games as entertainment for the rest of my life. I immediately got hooked on games like The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and possibly my all time favorite of that era, Castlevania II. These days I’m big into Mechwarrior Online, and Ark. I’m playing a Barbarian in Season 7, too, but I took the the last Season and a half off.
X: The Diablo community as a whole is a mixed bag of vitriol and passion, what were the highlights and lowlights of your community interaction?
MB:The best part of being a CM is all of the friends and acquaintances you make along the way, and working so closely with something you love. Unfortunately the downside is that everything is a ton of work, and you’re always feeling like your getting yelled at, or about to be.
X:As a CM what were the biggest challenges of the job? Rewards?
MB: As a CM you’re constantly juggling a large number of priorities and it’s simply exhausting. Another thing that becomes exhausting is that you’ve always got to have your game face on when you’re in chat or hanging out with your gaming buddies. The reward though, is sometimes putting together an amazing piece that you’re very proud of. I’ll always be thankful that I got to write the Ruins of Sescheron intro blog.
X: Was the job as a CM harder as the game was in its infancy or as the content began to dry up?
MB:Oh, the difficulty was definitely front loaded. A lot of the wide spread severe issues at the beginning were long since addressed by the time content began to slow down, so the difference between the two is night and day. Just about everyone I know (confirmation bias?) agrees that Diablo III is in a much, much better state than it was at the beginning. Sure there are some things that were very important to some players that have yet to be resolved, and perhaps never will be, but overall Diablo III is pretty bad ass. I believe I’d feel that way even if I had never been a part of it.
X: What CM projects were you involved in during your time with the team? What was your favorite?
MB: I got to do a lot of the Diablo Twitter engagement, forum responses, and Fresh Meat n’ Greet but I think Twitter was my favorite. I really liked being the voice of Diablo on that medium, and responding to all the players who kind enough to loop us in to their conversations. I liked Fresh Meat N’ Greet, but it was tough to justify the work it took for the views it got. I feel like it was honest effort to help the community, though.
X: How hard is it to keep the secrets about new games/ ideas?
MB: It’s like trying to keep a secret about the game you love the most from the people you love talking to about it with the most. It fucking sucks, man.
X: When I was considering a job with Blizzard one thing I heard was the struggle of work and home balance, did you find that to be the case? How did you handle it?
MB:Well, in my case my hobby had become my work, so it was easy at first. Juggling family is a little trickier, but manageable. I think where that starts becoming even more of an issue is when you start getting higher up in management, but that’s sort of expected in any corporation.
X:Having left now what are you doing?
MB:Absolutely nothing related to the game industry, and I’m very happy there. I like to describe what I do as support for a site that’s sorta like Amazon, but for hotels.
X:You mention gaming as a passion and I know you’re keeping that going with streaming. Where/when can we see you stream and what can we expect to see?
MB: I do stream now and then! I like a casual variety of games, but lately I’m playing a Barb for S7, some MechWarrior Online, Ark, and Earth Defense Force 4.1. If I’m honest then I gotta admit I’m terrible about keeping a set schedule, but I tend to randomly stream from 9pm to 11pm on weekdays (Pacific Time), and then sometimes from 8pm till 1am on Saturdays. I’m also @3Stonekegs on Twitter, and I lurk there pretty often.
X: What advice would you have for anyone looking to break into the industry?
MB: You don’t need a degree in game design, but good for you if you do. What you need is the discipline to work on your skill every single day. Your skill is whatever it is in the game industry that you want to do, but make damn sure you work on it every single day. That’s what your competition is doing, and they are likely every bit as smart and capable as you are.
X:What is the (in your opinion) the biggest misunderstanding about being a CM?
MB:I think the greatest illusion is that a CM just sits there and fucks around with anything remotely related to their brand on social media all day. That would be a fun job, but no company needs someone to do that, so there is actually a ton of reporting, resource management, relationship management, event planning and coordinating, and tons of other draining foot work that makes the job less and less about actually talking to people, and more about proving that you’ve spoken to people, or are planning to do so.
X:Are games more or less enjoyable having seen how the sausage is made?
MB: I know some CM’s that say they’re less impressed now that they’ve seen the wizard behind the curtain, but I’m not one of them. I find the entire process interesting, the end results are often exciting to play, and the communities that evolve around these games fun to be a part of. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to be a CM again, but for now I’m happy with what I got to be a part of, and thankful I got to meet the people I did. This whole experience has taught me that while I love being an engaged member of a community, I also have no business trying to run one. Figuring that out about yourself is a no brainer for plenty of people, but who could blame me for not passing up the chance to try?
The role of a CM is not as simple as we may think, but it’s great to hear that working in the industry doesn’t necessarily sour you from what you love. As Blizzard and Diablo have grown the people behind the scenes can lose some of their autonomy and I appreciate Marcus letting us see what the person behind the text is actually like.
What did you find most interesting, and what Grimiku memories do you have?
One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published (semi)weekly. Post your comments below, Follow me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly.