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It's been one year. On March 19, 2014, I had officially been working at the same place for a whole year. That place, which many of you entertainment buffs out there might actually know, whether from our physical stores or our website, is Hastings Entertainment. A lot has happened in my one year at Hastings. So much so that I felt like sharing my journey with you...
It all began when I moved into my parents' new place to get my life back in order after some crap with the last house of residence (something about rent, bills, people moving out, yadda yadda yadda). This was in August of 2012. I enjoyed having freetime, and I was finally able to do stuff on Game Podunk, but I needed a way to make an income. And while GP paid me at the time, it wasn't quite enough to make a living. So I applied, applied, and applied some more.
March came, and I didn't have a job yet. I remembered my sister telling me about this place called Hastings that she really likes shopping at. She told me about it months earlier of course, and while I knew of the place, the only time I entered the store was to sell a few games, movies, and books. But this was an entertainment store. It sells games and isn't a GameStop or a Walmart. This was the perfect place for me to work, I thought. So I applied.
It didn't take very long to get the call to come in for an interview. I entered the store at around 9 AM one Saturday morning with some black slacks, a dress shirt, a tie, and a pair of dress shoes probably. I met the store manager, who greeted me, asked me to take a seat, and began firing at me with questions. It was your typical interview - me telling her about myself and her telling me how they do things there - and I eventually was out the door and on my way to take a drug test. I was in as soon as the results came through.
Me, the New Guy
I was hired as a "Customer Service Associate," or "CSA" for short, and I was a little nervous on my first day, as this was my first real retail job, with the only retail experience I had being at the tiny market portion of the fast food/ice cream/grocery place I worked at prior. Of course, as I would later learn, most people are nervous when they first start working there.
And as I also learned, it gets easier. Inevitably, I got the hang of things; checking customers out at my register became a cinch, checking in rentals became a quick and easy task, and everything else from answering phone calls and paging other employees to making announcements and cleaning my area became a breeze.
Not everything became a breeze, however. There were certain goals we who worked at the front counter had to try and meet, and I was very much an amateur at all of them. Adding emails to customer accounts, signing up new members, and upselling our featured candy seemed simple enough, but I rarely met my goals for either of them.
Then there were reservations (like reserving games), which no customer ever did. And finally, there was this magazine subscription program where we offer to customers three subscriptions free for two months when prompted to. I got some numbers, but rarely met my goals.
And when it came to hours, I got the short end of the stick, working no more than probably 10-12 hours a week at first. It began to irritate me, but I figured I could at least write as much as I could for Game Podunk to pay for a few games here and there, as well as the occasional review copy. I began receiving more hours eventually, but it was no doubt not enough for someone to live off of if they lived on their own.
I Done Messed Up
But then there were mistakes made, some big, some small, and I would no doubt learn from them. The first time I got written up, I don't remember what it was for, but it was merely a verbal warning and wouldn't hurt me in any way. Just a learning experience, you know?
But then I got the real deal. When I got my first written warning, it was due to my drawer being over. And it wasn't just a few bucks, it was a whopping $20. It was then that I began questioning whether or not I should be working there and feared I may get fired before long.
But it only got worse. My second nonverbal write-up was for something I was not expecting at all. One day, soon after I began my shift, there was a paper we had to read and sign. It was about how we were not allowed to accept checks for gift cards.
AND GUESS WHAT I DID! That same shift, I was scammed. Two women had approached me with handfuls of Foot Locker gift cards. To make a long and embarrassing and I WANNA DIE story short, I accepted checks for gift cards that potentially lost the company over $1000 (I never really found out if the checks went through or not). Go me. And since this was the kind of job with a "three strikes, you're out!" type thing, I had one left until I was out.
It Got Better from There
But over the next few months, it got better, and I never got a single written warning since. My salesman skills became more refined, allowing me to do better at hitting my goals every day that I worked. I got more hours because I worked hard and was actually willing to go the extra mile.
When someone called in, I usually was the one who was called to fill that shift. When I was already working a shift and the person who came in after me called in, I agreed to stay and work a double. And when I got, erm, a bit intoxicated when my twin bro came to visit and hang out, I would agree to come in when called in early, even though I had about two hours of sleep and a hangover.
Then there was the thing with the magazine subscriptions (which we call "synapse"). Of all the goals I was able to reach, I became something of a synapse master. The normal goal is usually three, basically meaning you only had to get one person to get three. One day, I got 27. That same week, I had over 70, putting our store at #1 in the area. Coworkers began to have more respect for me and my growth as a salesman (I like to think, anyway). It may seem silly (because it kinda is), but synapse is important to the company. Plus, we get $0.25 for every one, so that's cool.
Me, the Heroic Manager
For all my hard work, willingness, and synapse numbers, something interesting happened. You see, after Summer had ended, we were down two managers, or if you want to be technical, we were down two "Counter Team Leaders." One had left to tend to her daughter after her babysitter sat on her couldn't help out anymore, and the other got a teaching job after graduating from college earlier in the year. Both had been replaced by new hires, but they wouldn't last.
One of these new CTLs left for a reason I never quite figured out (the jist is that she called the SM crying, and next thing you know, she's gone). The other just plain sucked at her job and requested to be demoted to a CSA. I must thank her for that. Shortly after she stepped down, I was called into the backroom to speak with the SM. I was offered a promotion. I accepted. From then on, I was a CTL, or if you want to be basic, a manager at Hastings.
A lot happened over just a few months, and I no doubt improved during my time there. I wasn't the only one who thought that, as was made most apparent during a meeting we had one Saturday morning. The meeting was, for the most part, about how we'd be handling ourselves during the holidays, as well as ways we can improve. But then we got to something I had never heard of - a title given only to a select few known as the "Hastings Hero." There were two awarded that title. I was one of them. You can check out the award itself RIGHT HERE.
The following few months weren't all that interesting. I saw new faces come and go, experienced my first holiday season, and occasionally had to deal with...the more unique customers. Overall, though, my first year at Hastings has been quite interesting, and after getting bumped up to full-time just in time for my anniversary, I can't help but wonder what my second year will have in store...
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link is a time-shifting hero chosen by the gods to save the land of Hyrule from the most evil man in existence. Yeah, that“s cool and everything, but don“t you think he“s also kind of a ****? I mean, while he does go down in history as a legendary hero, that won“t stop people in his world from perceiving him as a vandalizing, time-wasting, cucco-abusing kid/teenager. If I were in his boots, I think I would do things a bit differently to avoid being seen in any negative lightâ€¦
Put Down the Pots and Stop Stealing Rupees!
â€œIn Hyrule, residents have a tendency to stash their money in antique pots they apparently all have plenty of. Knowing that, why am I holding a pot over my head? Was I honestly about to go around smashing them all and stealing other people“s hard-earned rupees?
â€œNo, I“m better than this! Sure, it may be tough financially for a fairy boy like me who grew up deep within woods that rarely anyone can even visit, but I have to suck it up! There are more noble ways a hero can earn money than resorting to a life of crime. Maybe I can set up shop somewhere and sell fairies or somethingâ€¦â€
Don“t Get Distracted By Games!
â€œAlright, I“ve made it to Hyrule Castle Town at last! It“s been a rough adventure so far, and once I meet with Princess Zelda, we can stop this evil guy from wreaking havoc. Now let“s seeâ€¦ Well, I should go ahead and waltz on over to Hyrule Castle nowâ€¦ Oh look – GAMES! I love a fun game! Alright, let“s head intoâ€¦
â€œWait a minute, I can“t play games now! I have a duty to uphold. I know games are fun and can help ease the stress this journey has caused me thus far, but this is no time for that. And sure, it may help me financially if I can win at one of these games, but money and ammo aren“t going to help if the world gets taken over by the forces of evil. Unless, of course, I can use my rupees to sue him for all he“s worthâ€¦â€
Put Down That Fishing Rod!
â€œAlright, now that I“ve got a fishing rod, it“s finally time toâ€¦ Wait, what am I thinkingâ€¦? Hyrule is being taken over by the King of Evil and I“m actually thinking about fishing?! While I“m off fishing, anything could be happening. I could be here looking for that fabled Sinking Lure while Ganondorf destroys even more of this land.
â€œNo, I can“t let myself get distracted like this! No matter how much I love to fish, there are more important things I must attend to. And no matter how hard I think about it, I“m pretty sure a fishing rod will have no effect on someone like Ganondorf. Unless, of course, it somehow slows him down during battle. Hmâ€¦â€
Don“t Mess With the Cuccos!
â€œLon Lon Ranch, huh? I remember this place from when I was a kid. Yup, that horse is here too. Looks like she grew up since last time. And if I remember correctly, this place should have some – a-ha! Cuccos! Come here, you flightless littleâ€¦
â€œNo wait, am I serious? I did this last time, and back then I almost got myself killed. I really shouldn“t go messing with cuccos if I know what“s good for me. Seriously, they might even pose a greater threat than Ganondorf himselfâ€¦â€
Video games have always been a hard medium to truly define. When a game is creatively constructed with artistic values, whether due to a lack of opportunity for realism or simply a desire to be the game developer version of Leonardo Da Vinci, video games can come off as a legitimate form of art. But then there are those modern games that are built to be realistic, proving to be more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than anything else. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Should game developers aspire to make their games more realistic or should they be focusing their art direction to something more unique to the medium?
Creative Art Direction
There was a time when games really couldn“t pull off such the realistic flair you see today, turning to more unique means of art direction to compensate the limitations they had. This, of course, gave gamers an experience neither real life nor any other medium could provide. Whether you were a hero fighting for the fate of the world in an RPG, a young traveler on an important quest in an adventure game, or aâ€¦ermâ€¦plumber saving a princess from a giant turtle-dragon in a platformer, these games always had a unique look to them that still hold up to this day.
But over the years, with such rapid advancements in technology, more and more games take a more realistic approach to art direction. In my many years as a gamer, however, born into a SNES lifestyle thanks to my older brother, I“ve come to really appreciate games that take a more creative approach. This could be a manner of things, such as the beautiful art-in-motion styles of games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Journey, the crafty styles of games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Kirby“s Epic Yarn, or games like Lone Survivor and Cave Story that use retro styles to remind us all of what makes the classics so timeless. Whatever the case, these creative art styles really make me feel that games deserve to be labeled as â€œartâ€ alongside â€œentertainment.â€
Realistic Art Direction
That“s not to say that I don“t like games with a more realistic appeal to them, though. I mean, some people prefer abstract paintings to realistic sculptures, but that doesn“t stop either from being works of art, does it? Of course not. With video games, a lot of the time, the more realistic of the bunch tend to feel more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than what the more unique-looking games provide in the visual spectrum. But hey, some people prefer movies and real life to paintings and the like, and I“d be lying if I said I don“t enjoy watching movies or going out and about in that thing they call the â€œreal world.â€
It“s also sorta like choosing between watching an anime series and watching a live-action TV show. On the one hand, you“ve got a show you can better relate to, although I sure hope you aren“t a serial killer or anti-heroic meth cook. On the other hand, you“ve got a sort of art-in-motion show, watching drawings (beautiful if pulled off well, like Studio Ghibli) moving around within a certain story, and with a lot of room for the abstract. And I find both styles highly entertaining in their own right. In gaming, however, you“re in control, and sometimes I feel like realistic games try too hard to be interactive live-action movies or TV shows that the more artistic side of gaming is sometimes shunned (Roger Ebert, anyone?).
I guess it must be the artist in me, but when it comes down to it, my bread and butter (mmmâ€¦) in video game art direction has to be the more creative type. By that, of course, I mean that I tend to prefer games that seek out a unique art direction that other games don“t normally have. I still enjoy playing more realistic games that provide a more cinematic and/or â€œreal worldâ€ experience, but I admire game developers that really take their art form seriously and try to do something different in their medium, and I would like to see that more often. Developers like Nintendo and thatgamecompany love doing that, and that“s one reason I tend to like their games a lot. With that said, both directions have their places in the world of gaming, and I wouldn“t give up either one.