Please help me interpret this encounter
November 16, 2008 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Something weird happened and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to do anything. Please help me interpret this encounter.

So a weird thing happened earlier this week. I don't know what to make of it, so I'll just describe everything that I can recall in detail.

My friend and I are both in our early 20's. My buddy is recently graduated and I will be pretty soon. We sort of... look the part, if that means anything. We're both unemployed at the moment.

We were riding the streetcar downtown, and for pretty much the whole trip we were talking about our experiences playing Fallout 3, which is a video game we've both been pretty into recently. Mostly our discussion was centred around the games open world design and the various choices we had made with respect to resolving situations in the game. We are both huge fucking nerds, and also I have a computer engineering background, so our talk was fairly technical in nature.

Anyway, after about 10 minutes of this, a dude sitting besides us spoke up. First, he wanted to clarify that we were talking about a game. After we replied in the affirmative, he was interested in the idea of open world games and wanted to know about the degree of freedom provided. We gave fairly rambling answers, I don't remember exactly how cogent they were. Next, he asked where we working or if we were students. We gave our statuses\backgrounds. Immediately after, this guy gives us a business card and tells us a little about what he does. Then it's his stop, so he tells us to drop him an email sometime "if we want to talk" and gets off the streetcar.

I estimate this entire encounter was between 2.5-3 minutes long. So not a lot of time to clarify what was going on. Later, my friend and I check out the website given on the business card. Turns out this guy is the founder of a web\new media company. He's got a Ph.D and some pretty serious credentials.

That was on Tuesday, and since then we've been indecisive about what to do, if anything. Was this a job opportunity, or does this guy just want to know more about video games? Should we email him? If so, what exactly should we say? So far I have come up with "Hi, that streetcar ride was pretty okay. I like video games. Please give me a job now", but I feel like that probably isn't the best thing to say.

I don't want to lose an opportunity if there is one here, so any input or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. What do you guys think?
posted by tracert to Work & Money (34 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
E-mail him! Yes! Do it!

At best, you'll get a job offer. At the very least, you'll have someone educated and interesting with whom you can discuss Fallout 3 or open world games in general. Just play it by ear.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:20 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eat it!

I mean, do it!
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

Marisa pegs it. What do you really have to lose with a polite email reminding him of your conversation?
posted by gudrun at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2008

I fail to see the downside of contacting him. Don't ask him for a job, talk to him and present yourself as smart and capable. See what happens.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:25 PM on November 16, 2008

What do you have to lose? E-mail him and say "my friend and I enjoyed talking with you, we'd enjoy a chance to continue the conversation."
posted by adamrice at 3:26 PM on November 16, 2008

Definitely contact him - you don't have anything to lose.

As far as what to say, just a simple "Hi, my name is (x), remember me? I spoke with briefly you on (date/time/location) about open world games." - if he doesn't steer the conversation, you could bring up something interesting you read about him/his company online, or ask him for his opinion or advice. I would call rather than e-mail, it'll be easier to get a feel for the situation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:28 PM on November 16, 2008

The idea of just e-mailing and asking to continue the conversation is nice, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2008

Nothing to lose my emailing! Might not be a job offer, but he might want some feedback or input, and was impressed by your level of geekiness.

This is assuming he is not going to invite you to a dark cabin in the woods with a sex dungeon. Hint: if there's a woodchipper outside, keep driving.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2008

Just remember if he's legit he will NOT make you take your clothes off.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 3:30 PM on November 16, 2008 [24 favorites]

You should definitely e-mail him. Tell him that you visited his company's site and that you found it interesting and would like to talk (you could also elaborate a bit and let him know what specifically you were interested in and why).

I have been offered similar ambiguous "business proposals" in the past, and I try to always take them up on their offers. Some of them turned out to be scams and/or awful experiences. But the good ones more than made up for it, and the bad ones turned in to funny stories. So there are really no downsides.

In addition, this guy doesn't sound like a scammer, nor does it sound like he has a lot of time to waste talking to people about video games. He probably picked up on something in your conversation that impressed him.

So yeah, go for it.
posted by helios at 3:31 PM on November 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do it do it do it. Sounds like an interesting opportunity.
posted by limeonaire at 3:31 PM on November 16, 2008

Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship, where conversations that might normally be considered creepy or rude are a necessary tool for success.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:40 PM on November 16, 2008 [14 favorites]

Yes! Email him. Drop him an email about some more thoughts about Fallout, and ask him a question or two about his business. See where it goes from there.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2008

nthing contacting him. do it soon, do it now. just do it. enjoyed meeting you and would enjoy continuing the conversation. if you know anything about his company or what he does, then mention that you'd like to learn more about that.

a friend of mine was working at freaking barnes and noble years ago. someone asked him a question about how he was categorizing things. they had a long conversation, he thought nothing of it. a few days later the guy came back and handed him his card, said, if you're ever considering a career move, get in touch. the guy worked for yahoo.

my friend retired about five years ago and owns a house with acreage.

email him.
posted by micawber at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2008

I think the consensus is clear. Talk to him. It's taken me years to begin networking outside of my comfort zone -- I generally thought that was best left to the natural extroverts (and occasional freaks). It has yet to make any big career difference, but it has resulted in some interesting conversations ... and I think it's like compound interest, where the earlier you put in the effort, the more opportunities you'll encounter down the road.

So yeah, do it.
posted by lesChaps at 3:53 PM on November 16, 2008

Also, Fallout 3 is awesome. Anyone that recognizes that is cool.
posted by lesChaps at 3:54 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely! Especially with the "big world" games that are being worked on either in open-source or closed source communities, ex Infinity.
posted by SpecialK at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2008

I got a job once from someone that listened to me yammer about something on a public bus. It can happen. I suggest you drop the guy a note.
posted by jessamyn at 4:14 PM on November 16, 2008

Guys who run things are always on the lookout for people with talent. I would guess he's thinking along the lines of a potential column on his site.

It probably wouldn't pay much, but learning how to take your opinions and turn them into 500 coherent words weekly is huge.

I would suggest writing down ten or so good story ideas, and then dropping him an e-mail. Ask him what his company's all about. If he's looking for help, his response will start laying the groundwork. That's when you give him the ten ideas. If not, you've made another friend.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:16 PM on November 16, 2008

This is how one lucks into the MOST AWESOME jobs -- they come out of left field when you least expect it. Be cool. Follow up.
posted by troy at 4:17 PM on November 16, 2008

This is something that happens in life. Get back in touch. When you're looking for work, follow every lead - no one will force you into signing anything or doing anything you don't want. There's nothing to fear here - it's worth exploring. See what he has to offer you. If he doesn't really have anything you want, ask him if he'd offer you an informational interview - in which you interview him about his career, how he got where he is, and where he sees the field going.
posted by Miko at 4:38 PM on November 16, 2008

Dude, here's a thing. Half the trick to finding jobs is not "you can give me jobs, plz?" but building your network. I know, I know - it sounds hideous and smarmy and Amway. But what it actually means (for those of us with some integrity) is meeting cool people in our fields, hanging out, and then maintaining the connection with people we genuinely like and find interesting. Often nifty people know other interesting people, and some of those people have nifty jobs.

It's not the same as being friends, exactly - most of us tend to be friends with people like ourselves, and network with a wider range of people - but it should be genuine interest or admiration or something beyond blind usefulness.

So look, anyway - meet the guy for coffee, geek out, stay in touch if you think he's neat and or interesting, and see what comes of it.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2008

Do it, yes, and then let us know how it goes!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2008

You should definitely check it out. My fanciful theory is that he's really a spook. The various intelligence agencies have been taking a lot of interest in virtual worlds lately. No telling what side he is on though...

Or maybe, its nothing as cool as that, but its definitely worth following up on it.
posted by Good Brain at 5:20 PM on November 16, 2008


And then tell us about it.
posted by divabat at 7:51 PM on November 16, 2008

rxrfrx is abso-fucking-lutely correct. This, my friend, is how it begins. Or at worst, how an interesting story begins.

(if this actually might be something, mefi-mail me, there are probably other questions with regard to equity, options, vesting and various and sundry finance-speak that might be baffling, and to which i might be able to provide some semblance of clarity.)
posted by Freen at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2008

Note that he did not offer you a job: he said to contact him if you wanted to talk.

Most likely he will offer you a job, but this is not the time to be presumptuous.

I'd send an email saying, "Hi, I'm the tall guy from the bus on Tuesday- we talked about Fallout. I checked out your website, and your company looks cool. I've actually been thinking a bit more about [x thing we talked about], which sounds like it might tie into {y thing you seem to be interested in}. Would be cool to chat more- I'm around this week if you wanted to meet up. Cheers, tracert (phone)(website)."

Don't specifically mention jobs, and don't send him an email "just to network"- those emails are just noise. Instead, make sure your email mentions a specific shared interest- wrack your brains to come up with something based on what you talked about before. You want to somehow elaborate on the conversation, so that you continue the excellent 1-incident streak you're currently on, which is, so far, that every single time this guy has talked to you, your end of the conversation has provided insight & value to him. That's how you get hired.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:46 AM on November 17, 2008

Won't it be cool to tell your grandkids that they castle they are currently sitting in listening to you tell a great story about how you helped create THE game of the 2010s all began on a streetcar one day while you and your buddy were talking about a game you were playing?
posted by micklaw at 3:22 AM on November 17, 2008

Totally contact him, but also maintain your bullshit detector. Could be a thingology or other "religious" recruiter.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2008

pseudostrabismus has it basically right.

Contact him.

Don't ask for a job, and don't say you want to "network" - there is no value in this to him and it's pretty idiotic to come out directly & say it. I got an email from a girl the other day that ended with "keep in touch" - this is the same sort of meaningless filler you should keep out of your conversation. How should I keep in touch? Why should I keep in touch? This is basically saying "your move if you want to put in all the effort in moving the relationship along."

Don't just say "keep in touch" or "let's network" - give a reason why they should keep in touch & a mechanism to do it - e.g. going out for drinks.

Most of all: offer value in your email.

:: I estimate this entire encounter was between 2.5-3 minutes long. So not a lot of time to clarify what was going on. ::

Great, so write an email that spends some time further expanding on the things he was interested in. Show him just how passionate you are about this topic, and then invite him out for coffee to talk some more. This is how you get jobs, this is why most cover letters fail. Convey passion, offer value, prompt him to follow up in a concrete way that's more than just "let's network!" and make sure there's a damn good reason for him to follow up - e.g. you'll have more value to offer when you meet - e.g. "I could explain this better with a pen & paper" or "I could bring my laptop & walk you through some of the levels" (even if the walkthrough is not the game itself, but youtube vids of the game that you can narrate to).

- Contact
- Offer Value
- Demonstrate passion
- Provide a mechanism to follow up
- Tell him what value he'll get by following up

Do it. Do it now.
posted by Muffy at 11:55 AM on November 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

My gut tells me that this sounds genuine. Give the guy a call, it couldn't hurt.

Caveat: If, at any point, he poses something that requires you to spend any of your own money, run away hard and don't look back. Meanwhile, explore, and see what's up.
posted by Citrus at 12:01 PM on November 17, 2008

Definitely contact him. He could be looking for employees or just doing research, but who cares? Sounds like an interesting encounter. In that vein, if anyone wants to expound on their relationship with videogames to me, I am all ears. (On chapter 4 of my dissertation on games and critical theory, wherein Fallout 3 has a significant place. Awesome game!)
posted by villain extraordinaire at 3:08 PM on November 17, 2008

If nothing else, he might be a valuable node in your job search network. He may not have a job for you but his friend, or his friend's friend may have one.
posted by Megafly at 5:22 PM on November 17, 2008

Hey guys, thanks a lot for your advice and encouragement. My associate and I just wrote and sent off an email. I'll update the thread if anything interesting happens.
posted by tracert at 7:42 PM on November 17, 2008

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