My most popular columns to date have been those which explore the relationship between my personal and professional life. Most recent among these were “Life Lessons,”, both Part I and Part II. I felt that my debut article for StarCityGames.com should give the reader a chance to see what it’s like to be a member of Research and Development for Wizards of the Coast. I am going to share four key experiences in my life, and explain how those experiences helped me grow both as an individual and as someone who is responsible for the well being of Magic: The Gathering.
As you may recall, I first began working for Wizards as a direct result of my hard work and determination while contributing to the Duelist. When I first moved to Renton, it was a whole different world. I was unaccustomed to the culture of Wizards of the Coast. They had many strange policies that just did not jibe well with my upbringing. One of these was Pizza Day.
Now, if there’s one thing that everyone knows about it, it’s my love of pizza. No matter where I go in the world, I will always find a way to get a slice of cheese, sauce, and crust. In short, I have met no pizza that can do harm by me. Why was I so put off by Pizza Day at Wizards?
Back in those days, Wizards did not have as much of a corporate structure as it does today. People would roam the halls in sandals, Hawaiian shirts, and Mohawks. The boardroom was a place where you went to have a three hour lunch, and meetings were held after hours at the corner restaurant. Our one routine was Pizza Day.
The pizza place that Peter Adkinson (the president of Wizards) would order from was named St. Mark’s, and it was owned by a second-generation Irish family. Each Friday, they would have a special deal — you could order an extra-large pizza for just five dollars, delivered. They did have a gimmick involved. Each pizza was treated with food dye, so that it was colored green. The owners of St. Mark’s called it the “Greenbacks for Greens” special.
I was skeptical of this pizza the first time it arrived at work. The pizza I knew and loved was a blend of yellows, browns and reds. I approached the table where the pies sat. They smelled like real pizza. Everyone else was eating slices without any ill affects. “It’s just green pizza Mark,” I thought to myself, “I bet it tastes just fine.”
I grabbed a slice and put it onto the plate. It sat there, green sauce dripping from the tip. With trepidation, I leaned in to take my first bite. Not bad! Then another. Then a third. With every taste, St. Mark’s green pizza tasted better and better.
I had a second slice. Then a third. Everyone else had finished eating for the day, so I was able to eat all the pizza I wanted. I was more than satisfied. This was probably the best pizza I had ever eaten in my entire life — how could I have let it just sit there because it looked funny?
After that week, you couldn’t tear me away from the table on Pizza Day. This began causing me problems at work. I would arrive at the office an hour early on Fridays and camp at the pizza table. I would be the first and the fastest to get to the pizza once it arrived. Entire departments would show up to get their green pizza only to find that I had finished entire pies on my own.
After about a month of this behavior, Skaff Elias (father of the Pro Tour) approached me. He informed me that my obsession with green pizza had gotten in the way of other people’s enjoyment of Pizza Day. I thought back to the past few weeks, and I decided that Skaff was right. I had to find a happy balance between my enjoyment of St. Mark’s pizza and other people’s enjoyment of St. Mark’s pizza. From that day forward, I learned an important lesson, which I always carried with me during Magic development:
From that day forward, all Green cards I designed had an eye towards sharing with the other player. There no greater pleasure in this world than sharing your pleasure with others. I’ve applied this design philosophy towards countless cards. From Eladamri’s Vineyard through Weird Harvest, you can see the legacy of St. Mark’s pizza in the world of Magic.
Eating all that pizza was not without its ill effects. I am blessed with an overachieving metabolism, so weight gain was no my concern. The dye they used to color the pizza was causing me to give off strange odors. More accurately, they were causing me to smell exactly like St. Mark’s green pizza.
No matter how much deodorant I put on each day, I still smelled of cheese and sauce. This led to a newfound surge of popularity at work. People would stop by my desk at all hours of the day, just to inhale my aroma. At first, I liked the novelty of the idea. I was the popular guy, the one that everyone wanted to be around.
Quickly, I found that this quirk had a downside. People were coming to my desk so often that I could not get any work done. Not only that, I was suspect of their motives. Tom Wylie (the then rules-manager) would drool unconsciously during our conversations. I caught a custodian trying to smuggle out one of my handkerchiefs to use as an air freshener in his car. Still, I liked that pizza a lot and did not want to give it up.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came during an early meeting with the Japanese. They were pitching Pokemon to us, and the meeting was running longer than we were accustomed to. Remember, most of our meetings occurred at informal gatherings off premises. After the fourth hour of the meeting, I felt a sharp stabbing in my arm. I looked down, and who should I see but Richard Garfield himself biting into my tricep.
I looked down. He looked up. Our eyes locked for what seemed like minutes, and slowly he disengaged his mouth from my arm. I excused myself from the meeting, and ran to the bathroom. Patrons at every stall turned to look as I flew through the door, the scent of lunch arriving. I ran out of the bathroom, out of the building, and drove myself straight home.
How had my aura gotten so out of control? I doused myself in cologne, but it was to no avail — I still smelled like St. Mark’s pizza at work. A dozen deodorants had no effect at all. There was no disguising my distinguished scent. That’s when I resigned myself to the following lesson:
I couldn’t hide from being myself. I trusted that people would value me as a person regardless of my hygiene — no matter how tasty I smelled. Resigned to my fate, things fell into place for a while. I received many promotions at Wizards, and continued to enjoy St. Mark’s pizza every Friday.
One of the biggest changes at Wizards came years later, when Hasbro bought the company. Suddenly, the entire atmosphere of Wizards changed. That is, the entire atmosphere except for me. Even though Pizza day had been discontinued by then, I still made a weekly trip down to St. Mark’s pizzeria to get some of the green I loved. Most of the people at Wizards had become accustomed to my aroma by then. Nobody really complained until Randy.
Randy Buehler joined Wizards of the Coast around the time of Invasion, and immediately took a strong disliking to my pizza-aura. Actually, a strong disliking would be an understatement — Randy hated it with a passion. He would go out of his way to sit as far from me as possible during meetings. We would never pass in hallways — once he saw me coming, he would immediately turn in the other direction and walk away.
I was baffled. I hadn’t done anything to antagonize Randy, but here he was treating me like a pariah. I decided to ask Randy directly what his problem was with me. My first opportunity was the next morning. I left a message for him to come see me in my office. He came, but was irate.
“What do you want, Rosewater?” he growled, obviously irritated at being in my presence. I was aghast. “Randy, I want to know why you go out of your way to avoid me.” “None of your business, Mark!”, he yelled. With that, he turned around, stormed out of the room, and slammed my door shut.
I was stunned. What had I done to deserve such treatment? Who was Randy, a newcomer, to treat me, a veteran, with such contempt? I was known as the good-smelling guy at Wizards, and I prided myself at my ability to talk out my problems with my workmates. I resolved to give Randy a second chance the next week.
Next Monday rolled around, and I gave Randy a second opportunity to smooth things over. “Randy, I know we had some problems last week, but I want us to have a good working relation.” Randy’s face stiffened and his veins bulged. With a single motion, he swept almost all of the items off of my desk, and sending them crashing to the floor.
As he foamed at the mouth, I realized it was fight or flight time. I grabbed the one item left on my desk — my fountain pen — and stabbed Randy through the neck. He slumped to the ground bleeding, and my head immediately cleared. “Oh my God!”, I screamed, “I just stabbed Randy Buehler in the neck with a pen!”
Employees from all over the company ran to see the commotion. Skaff bandaged Randy’s neck with a makeshift tourniquet, and Mike Elliott (a fellow R&D member) called 911. As the ambulance workers arrived to carry Randy onto a stretcher, I had the following epiphany:
Just like every night has it’s dawn. Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song. Randy had pushed me and pushed me and pushed me and finally I had snapped. No more pizza-smelling Mark — I felt badly that I had put a co-worker in the hospital, but hadn’t he instigated the incident?
I felt even worse when the doctors said that Randy’s behavior was due to an extreme allergy to me. It turns out that Randy’s anger, neck-vein swelling and foaming at the mouth were due to a rare condition that caused him to be allergic to my pheromones. In fact, I had nearly killed Randy twice — once with my pen, and once just by being near him!
I felt like a jerk — I had completely misread the situation. I gave up the green pizza for good, and did my best to make amends to Randy. Without any medical conditions preempting our encounters, Randy and I were able to not only make up with one another, but we became fast friends. When it came time to rotate cards into 7th Edition, I remembered my reconciliation with Randy and had the following thought:
Author Blurb: On April 1st, 2006, Mark Rosewater joined this website. He is one of the only MagicTheGathering.com columnists that did not originally get poached hired away from StarCityGames.com. He is known for his fine sense of humor, reluctance to sue for parody, and his enjoyment of good-natured ribbings at his expense. We hope.