Chris Bartlett as TK409, Imperial Stormtrooper

WARNING! I cannot be held responsible for any physical, emotional or mental injury incurred while participating in this activity. Do so at your own risk.

By Chris Bartlett, July, 2005

Recently I landed a great job at a video game company. On the surface, putting on a helmet and storming into a 6-floor office building carrying a very large, weapon wouldn't seem like the most appropriate way to be considered for a job. Putting that aside, here's what I did...
When I submitted my portfolio and phoned the company, the receptionist said,
" I'm sorry, we have over 200 resumes of artists we're going through. We'll call you when we get to yours."

200? How the heck can I make a dent in that? I could go in and as my mild-mannered self, smile and say, "Hi, I'm Chris. Won't you consider me for this position?" Now where would that get me? How much of an impression would that really make? I'd just look like every other 30-something teenager who's dying to work at a video game company.

So, I thought... this sounds like a job for TK409.

I asked my wife about it and she was very uneasy about the idea, for exactly the reason I mentioned in the first paragraph. I decided I would, but first, I needed something for the receptionist to remember me by - something to pass along. So, I took one of my Sandtrooper figures, glued him to a plastic base (like a trophy) and wrote in silver pen on the base, my name and the url to my portfolio website. This would be my "leave-behind."

When I got to the location that Friday afternoon, I found a remote section of the parking lot and hid behind my car to suit up. I had a sore throat, so my voice was unearthly low and raspy - very Boba Fett-like. I was very nervous. Would security guards throw me out of the building? Would the game company think I was psychotic? Probably, but I had to try.

I got done and marched across the parking lot to the structure, in full, weathered Sandtrooper gear, backpack and Lewis Gun, I was really sweating this idea: I needed to just get in, stay in-character, make a small impression with the probably-unappreciative-receptionist and leave my mini-me with her to give to someone important - all before someone had me thrown out. This would be like a game in itself.

I entered the first floor lobby and headed straight for the elevators. Then there was the wait for the doors... "open, open, open..." I pleaded under my breath. Finally I entered the empty car unnoticed, because the large, sculptured-glass lobby was empty. I later learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (yes, that FBI) has an office in the building and I had marched right past their windows... twice!

So much for homeland security.

I rode to the 6th floor and the doors opened. An Epic Games employee stood there, mouth agape. My trooper voice said, "'Scuse me sir, ~click-shht~," and I headed down the nearest hall, looking for any open office door. Another employee appeared and the trooper asked, "Which way to Epic Games." It wasn't a question. I was telling him to direct me. Because by now the sweat from my forehead brought on by the humid 95 degree weather was stinging my eyes and I needed to get this done. With a big smile he asks, "Oh cool! Are you here for the meeting?!"

OK, right now a couple thoughts go through my head: Either I say, "Yes sir" and march myself to the head of a conference room in front of an entire company and play like I have a presentation until I reveal I'm just there to give them my portfolio... and they have me thrown out. Which would be painful on several levels. OR, I be honest and see where that gets me.
I was honest, sorry. Looking back I could have gone with the first option and it would have been fantastic, but you know, hindsight.

Little trooper found a place of reverence on Creative Director Jerry O'Flaherty's desk

I told him I was there to deliver a portfolio for Chris Bartlett. You see I wasn't Chris Bartlett anymore. I was Trooper TK409 on a very important mission. I talked about Mr. Bartlett in the third person. It seemed like a good idea, but sounds kind of geeky now that I write that. He said, "OH, You should talk to our Creative Director! He's right down here, let me introduce you." So the CD was just coming down the hall coincidentally and I shook his hand, to which he said, "This is... awesome." I told him I was there to deliver a portfolio for Chris Bartlett and I thrust the tiny trooper with the web address at him.

He says, "Oh, Chris Bartlett, yes I know his work, he's a graphic designer and animator, yeah, I like his work." Then he thought for a second and said..."Are you Chris Bartlett?"
Again, uncomfortable? Yes. But honesty is, after all, the best policy. I paused to consider the ramifications of being revealed as the world's biggest nerd. And then I confessed, "Yes........ clik-chht."

He was thrilled. But... keeping with my mission, I said goodbye and turned to head for the elevators. When I turned I saw that several people had filled the hallway of the sixth floor, all looking at me. Thankfully, many of them were smiling. Some even wanted photos! Then, this pair of 20-something guys walked up and said, "AWESOME MAN! What are you doing here?" I told them of my mission of portfolio delivery and one said, pointing to the other, "Well, this is the CEO."

Now, having been previously poked fun of by people with self-importance issues at various events or conventions, had thickened my skin a little. I dismissed his comment and said, "Yeah, thanks..." and I turned for the elevator. Behind me I hear him say, "No really!" Unconvinced, I calmly turned around and said, "This isn't a Jedi-mind trick ... is it?" They laughed and said, "Nope!" So I shook his hand, said it was a pleasure to meet him, and gave him the web address.

I turned to answer a couple questions and then made my exit into the elevator car, where I had to hold the doors open 5 times while people crowded through to ask me questions. Finally the doors closed and I sank with relief.

Little did I know that the entire company was heading into a meeting where, if I had been just a few minutes later, I would have missed everyone - no one would have been available to share in my giant display of dorkery. I later learned that the trooper was the talk of the meeting. Some had thought I was from LucasArts to make some big announcement. They told me that everyone was talking about me and my website and the guts it took to make an appearance like that.
Remember, I only thought I'd be able to meet with the receptionist. I was very pleased with this outcome.
When I returned home, there was an email from the CD saying how much I impressed the folks there and he said, "Huge points to you for showing up like that. That's the type of creativity we're looking for."

So, they tell me I moved to the top of the pile from that point on. 25 interviews later (this place is like Fort Knox) I was offered the position, and today was my first day at work. My first assignment? "Play these two particular games as much as possible and become familiar with every inch of them."
Um... that sounds... doable. Pass the free donuts and OJ. I'm going to be here a while!
Now, I don't think this would work for like, a banking job or a position at Intel. This formula will probably mostly work for creative companies who employ 20-30-something, video-game playing, sci-fi freaks.

If you try it, good luck! But don't come crying to me if it doesn't work. I warned you.