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To Germany and Back: An American’s Quest for Opponents – Part 4

April 29, 2010

In the first three parts of this story, I explained how I found The Settlers of Catan through my brother’s family and searched the web constantly for online gaming sites to meet my need. In July 2008, I discovered the Catan Online World, and even though it was entirely in German, I had to become a member.

Chapter Four: What a Wonderful World

Even though the registration was in German, I utilized my online translator and persevered. I couldn’t find United States as an option for my address, even though it was there, quite obviously as “Vereinigte Staaten.” I mean, really, how stupid am I for not catching that!?? It was obvious to you, right? Still, the program took my credit card information even though I chose “Deutschland” as my country of origin, and I was happily playing online with a group of friendly German-speaking players who were (just like on the site) shocked to see an American online.

An announcement was made on the website that it would soon be available in English. Like many electronic games and their promises, it took an additional four or five months before the English version was up and running. But when it was, the COW was flooded with newbies needing guidance. Since I had already been playing the game online for seven months, and this was before the very handy Introductory Game was available, I found that my help was in high demand every time I logged in. The Forum for World Village became the place for English-speakers to ask questions and find comfort in this strange new world. Since I had spent many hours playing with the already-established German-speaking community, I felt it was my duty to help bridge the cultural and language gap that always looms and threatens to separate people just because of misunderstandings. My forum posts nearly always addressed this issue.

gg klein To Germany and Back: An American’s Quest for Opponents – Part 4

I just hope I don't meet these two in real life.

While I was engaged in helping newbies navigate through the World, I received a very nice letter from Gavin Allister who invited me to become a moderator. It also involved a free Premium account as compensation for being an active member in the COW (doing pretty much what I was already doing), so I quickly accepted. I even offered to help proofread the translations and suggested changes. Gavin didn’t just welcome the suggestions, he actually gave me access to the COW text files so I could make the changes myself!

An invitation to join Guido Teuber (Klaus’s son in case you didn’t know) at GenCon in August 2008 to demo the Catan Online World followed, so I quite happily did that also. And the following year, while helping out with the 2009 GenCon, Guido mentioned that he might have a job for me. Wow! How did I get here? I mean really, I get addicted to this game and just because I’m looking for people to play against, I get a free online account, followed by a job offer? And I can work from home? And I can set my own hours and the end goal is to support and promote something I have a passion for? Are you kidding me? So I played it cool – I casually nodded and said we should talk about the details later.

My “day” job kept me busy for the next few months after GenCon. After moving back to Indy in 2001, I had gone back to school and received a second degree and became a licensed teacher in January 2007. After working for a little over two years at a public middle school teaching eighth grade, then sixth grade, I was transferred to another middle school to teach seventh grade in Fall 2009. Ugh! So I didn’t have too much time to wonder what was happening with Guido’s job offer as I was struggling with creating a new curriculum for my third consecutive year. Did I say “Ugh!” yet?

PICT0050 klein To Germany and Back: An American’s Quest for Opponents – Part 4

Mr. Plane's students fall victim to his gaming obsession and help playtest Settlers of America.

Needless to say, Guido did call with the job offer in October, just as I was hitting my stride at school. Along with my new responsibilities managing the COW community with Gavin, I got a cool-looking caricature made for me (notice the plane on my t-shirt representing my nick Aero, along with the Catan sunrise colors?) and the fancy-looking Catan GmbH logo next to my Forum posts.

Jim 100x205 To Germany and Back: An American’s Quest for Opponents – Part 4

Jim Plane = Aero

I now do a lot with PR for the COW, handing out free coupons to reporters and bloggers to encourage press for our rapidly-growing site, and I’m one of those gatekeepers who prohibits offensive nicknames from our World. To make life even better, my wife has recently joined the Catan team and is helping in the same areas I am.

Of course, we’re the envy of our friends and family for having such cool part time jobs. And to think all this happened just because I wanted someone to play with me. Go figure.

Jim Plane