“Are you excited to be off on mat leave, Sam?” Paul asked, leaning against the door frame to Sam’s office.
“Yes.” Sam was sitting at her computer, her hands still on the keyboard. She finished what she was typing, then swivelled in her chair to face him. “Although it’s kind of scary as well.”
Paul waved her off. “You’ll be fine. You make games for a living. You’re pretty much trained for this!”
“Games are made with adults,” Sam laughed. “And usually you can reason with them.”
After sharing in Sam’s laugh, Paul casually glanced into the hallway behind him. “Have they figured out who will replace you as lead designer yet?”
“No.” Sam sighed. Paul noticed the dark rings around her normally bright brown eyes. “They’re hoping to promote someone from within the company so they won’t have to spend much time training.”
“That’s true. I just hope they decide soon.” Paul smiled his brightest smile. “You’ll be gone on Friday!”
“I’m sure they will.” She turned back to her computer, her shoulders slumped. “But you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got a lot to finish up before then.”
“Of course. Good luck!” Paul said, flashing her another smile as he left. He closed the office door behind him.
Rather than head straight back to his desk, Paul stopped to grab a quick glass of water. Jeff was standing next to the water cooler, his left elbow perched on top of the tank. “You coming from Sam’s office?” he asked.
“You sure don’t miss a thing,” Paul laughed, reaching for a glass.
Jeff smirked. “I try not to. Does she know who’s going to replace her?”
“Not yet. But she thinks it will be someone in the company.”
“Probably one of us then.” Jeff’s gaze roamed across the floor. “Unless they want to promote a non-game designer?”
“I doubt that. They don’t have time to train anyone.”
“True enough.” Jeff carefully put his glass down on the counter. “I’ll see you later.”
Shaking his head, Paul finished his drink then washed both glasses before making his way to his desk. He managed to get a lot of work done, even with Jeff’s comment about their superiors promoting one or the other of them worming its way through his thoughts. So on his way home from work, he decided to stop at the supermarket and grab some baking supplies. Everyone likes cookies, right? Maybe he could subtly sway the decision in his favour.
The next day, Paul showed up to work early with dozens of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. He left one for everyone, making sure to leave a note as to who made them on his superiors’ desks.
The morning passed pleasantly enough. When lunch time rolled around, Paul smelled pizza. He glanced up to see his coworkers clustered around a table, with Jeff in the middle of it all, handing out pizza slices.
Paul made his way over to the table. “What’s all this?”
“I just thought I’d treat the studio to some lunch.” Jeff handed him a slice, shooting Paul a sly smile. “It can go with the cookies you brought.”
Paul made his way back to his desk. He sat for a long while, chewing in silence, ignoring the din of his happily-eating co-workers. But really, why should he be sad? Food doesn’t determine who makes a good game designer! With that thought in mind, Paul set the piece of pizza down and hurriedly got back to work. The sooner he was done, the sooner he could get home and get stuff ready for tomorrow!
Early the next morning, Paul made his way to Sam’s office. He was clutching a small stack of papers tightly to his chest. Her office door was closed, so he knocked lightly.
“Who’s there?” Sam called out before opening it.
“Do you have a minute?”
“Sorry Paul,” she turned back to her desk, grabbing a stack of papers. “I’m already running late for a meeting. I’ll come and find you when it’s over.”
Head lowered and shoulders slumped, he made his way over to his own desk. He’d forgotten it was Thursday. Sam was usually in meetings all day. Who knows when she’d be free. He frowned, looking down at the papers he still clutched. Where would be a safe place to leave them?
“What’s the matter?” Paul glanced up sharply to see Jeff, who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. “Did they announce who the new game designer will be?”
“What? No, not to me.” Paul shot a sideways glance at the other man before turning to consider his desk. “Have they told you?”
“No. You just looked so dejected. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing really.” Paul was just about to put the papers in one of the drawers when Jeff snatched them out of his hand. “Hey!”
“What’s this?” Jeff flipped through the papers quickly. “Looks like a game design document to me.”
Paul reached for the papers. “It’s none of your business.”
“When have you been working on this?” Jeff asked, handing them back.
“At home.” Paul carefully put the papers in his bag. “I just wanted to get Sam’s opinion on it before she’s gone.”
“Of course.” Jeff glanced over his shoulder towards his own desk. “Well, I have a meeting to get to. I’ll catch you later.”
That seemed a little weird. Most meetings Jeff went to, Paul had to go to, too. But Paul didn’t spare that much thought as he had a lot of work to get through today. Luckily the day passed in a blur, which also meant he didn’t have time to fret about what Sam would think about his game design document. Especially since she didn’t come and get him until 4:30.
“What did you want to show me, Paul?” The circles around her eyes looked even darker than they had been on Tuesday.
“Are you okay?” he asked, handing her the game design document.
“I’ll be fine.” She flipped through the document quickly. “When have you been working on this?”
“At home over the last few weeks. I was hoping to get your input on it before you go.”
“This sounds like a really fun game.” She said, flipping through it more carefully. “May I keep this overnight? Then I can give you better feedback tomorrow.”
“If you’re sure, Sam. I mean, I don’t want to give you extra work right now.”
There was a knock at the door, interrupting her reply. Jeff strode in, not bothering to wait for an acknowledgement from Sam. “Hey Sam, do you have a minute?” He cleared off a pile of papers from her desk. “I was hoping to show you the prototype I made for a game.”
Without waiting for a reply, he set down a board and some tokens on the desk, launching into a half hour explanation of the game.
“Thank you for that, Jeff,” Sam told him when he finally let her get a word in. “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you some feedback tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Jeff nodded. “I think it will make an excellent game. I’d like to bring it to our staff meeting tomorrow to show the rest of the company then.”
“I’ll meet with you first thing tomorrow morning then.” Sam glanced up at the clock. “Now you’ll both have to excuse me. This has been a really long day.”
“Alright,” Jeff said, gathering up his prototype.
Paul paused in the doorway. “Will you be okay?”
“I’ll be fine.” She gave him a tired smile as she reached for her coat. “I’m off after tomorrow.”
“Have a good night then.” Sam really was the best. Paul made his way to his own desk, meaning to finish up the few things he was working on before heading home. About a half an hour later, he saw Jeff getting ready to leave. I wonder when he made that game? Paul thought. It didn’t seem all that polished. He decided to go and ask.
“Hey Jeff, your game seemed pretty fun.” Paul caught the other man by the arm. “When did you make it?”
“Oh, you know. I just whipped it up when I had the idea.” Jeff’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “See you tomorrow.”
After heading ack to his own desk and finishing up his work, Paul made his way home. What was he supposed to do? Jeff seemed to be one-upping him at every turn. Well, tomorrow was the last day. Then Sam would be gone and the studio would have to name someone in her place.
Paul made a quick dinner and slumped into his chair to eat it. He pulled his laptop over towards him, thinking he’d watch videos or play a game to get his mind off of Jeff and Sam’s position. Somewhere along the way, he came across an article about a guy who had delivered his artist portfolio in full costume, getting a job in the process.
Hmmm, I wonder if I could do something like that? Paul thought. He didn’t have a costume that elaborate, and there wasn’t time to go and make something. But he did still have his assassin costume from Halloween a few years ago. With a bit of modification, he could turn it into the main character from the game his studio was currently working on!
With that thought, Paul hurriedly finished his dinner and got to work.
On Friday morning, Paul decided to show up a few minutes late. He was normally one of the first people at the studio, which wouldn’t really work if he wanted to make an entrance. So he took a little extra time getting ready. He wore a light coloured robe with the cowl up, hiding his hair. His beard was neatly trimmed in the same style the game’s main character wore. And he had a fake sword belted to his side. He wished he’d been able to make some sort of wrist dagger to complete the look but he ran out of time last night. But that didn’t matter, he still looked good.
With a deep breath, he got out of his car and strode toward the building. His heart was hammering as he walked through the entrance. Everyone he passed turned and gaped at him.
As he was about to sit at his desk, he noticed Sam’s door opening. He glanced up and saw an armored giant exiting her office. The armor was a camo colour, making the armor look like it was made for a desert battle. In space.
The space marine walked over to Paul’s desk and pulled off his helmet, revealing Jeff’s most dazzling smile. “Looks like we had the same idea today, Paul.”
Paul didn’t know what to say. But luckily he was spared having to reply by Sam.
“Come on, guys. It’s time for the company meeting.”
Paul trudged after Sam and Jeff, following them to where everyone else was gathered. Slowly, Paul’s mood began to improve as the CEO talked. Apparently he loved how the team was progressing on the game. It seemed like in no time at all he was calling Sam up to say a few words.
“I know I’m only going to be gone for a year, but I’m really going to miss everyone,” she said. “I have such a great team, particularly Paul and Jeff, who have been very enthusiastic this week. They brought us all pizza and cookies, and have been working on some interesting new game ideas.”
“Thinking of new game ideas,” the CEO said, “I think it’s time to announce who our new lead game designer will be.” Both Paul and Jeff were leaning forward in anticipation. “Everyone, put your hands together and welcome my nephew, Kyle, to the team!”
Paul and Jeff sat back, mouths agape, as the CEO continued. “Kyle was the genius behind the award winning Battle Shock Live. He was planning on starting some work on an indie project, but graciously agreed to put that off for the year while Sam’s away.”
The rest of the meeting passed in an unpleasant blur. As soon as it was over, both Paul and Jeff found themselves in Sam’s office.
“What happened?” Jeff demanded, thrusting his helmet onto her desk. “I thought they were going to promote someone from within the team?”
Sam gave a small frown. “They were. But when Kyle agreed to come, no one could pass him up.”
Before Jeff could say another word, Paul gave Sam a quick hug. “You’re right. They would have been fools to say no to him.” He let go of the hug, holding her at arm’s length. “We’re going to miss you too, Sam. Be sure to stop in sometime with the baby when you’re feeling up to it.”
Paul turned and strode from the office, pulling Jeff with him. They walked in an unpleasant silence until Jeff finally broke it. “Look, I’m sorry about everything this week,” Jeff ran a hand through his hair, his gaze firmly pointed downward. “I just really wanted to be lead designer.”
“It’s okay, Jeff. I wanted it, too.” Paul clapped him on the shoulder. “But maybe this wasn’t all in vain. I mean, Sam noticed what we were doing.” He dropped his hand, glancing back towards Sam’s office. Maybe we can carry our enthusiasm forward.”
Jeff nodded slowly. “Yeah.”
Paul smiled. “And maybe then we’ll get to be lead designers on our own merits. Not thanks to cookies and pizza.” Then he turned, still smiling, and headed back to work.