A virtual leap of faith Print
Youth Column
Thursday, Oct. 06, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

While reading, writing and arithmetic took up the majority of my time in grade school, there are very few specific classes that stick out in my mind. It's not that those lessons weren't important; I use each of those skills on a daily basis. It's that the instruction was all similar in nature; few moments stood out as individually important.

The specific lessons that I still remember now, many years later, are those that were different. They taught practical skills in an applicable manner.

In seventh grade, one unit in English class involved learning how to write a formal business letter. We received two grades, one if we used proper style and grammar in our composition, and a bonus grade if we received a response.

For someone in middle school, doing something businesslike can be intimidating. For me, that was especially true when I looked at the samples of business letters. When written properly, they looked impressive.

I don't recall the grade on my composition, but I remember the pride I felt when I received a response to my letter. The extra credit didn't hurt either.

I recently recalled this seventh-grade lesson after reading about Joey Sellers. Back in 1995, while in junior high school, Sellers wrote a letter to Sierra, a video game company that made the iconic games he loved. In the letter, he shared his dream to become a game programmer.

Unexpectedly, someone at the company wrote him back. Actually, no one wrote him, it was a form letter. But that didn't change what the response meant to Sellers. The letter became a prized possession.

While Sellers kept the letter, he lost track of its exact location. He graduated school and got a job that he describes as "dull and miserable work." Eventually, he found the letter and read it for the first time in many years.

One line in particular stood out: "In order to be successful in the field of computer programming, we recommend a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a Master of Science in Computer Science."

Sellers never earned those degrees. But rereading the letter provided inspiration. He investigated the skills necessary to follow his teenage dream and learned that the world had changed. While degrees best prepare someone for any technical field, they're no longer essential.

It's not easy to make a significant life change, but sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. That's exactly what Sellers did. He quit his job and decided to learn how to write code.

It took a year for Sellers to learn if his risk would lead to reward. That's when Sellers released his first video game. It's a text adventure game called Survival Horror. While its generic title leaves much to be desired and little to the imagination, reviews were positive.

The game can be found on Google, the Apple Store, and Amazon.

While a self-employed title of independent game publisher is nice, those games rarely earn enough for a person to make a living. Soon after, Sellers found a new job -- without the dull and miserable experiences he disliked so much. He began working for Jundroo, a game company that creates plane and rocket simulator games.

It took 20 years, but today Sellers is living his childhood dream. He's making video games like the idols of his youth. I wouldn't go so far as saying the response letter from Sierra that he kept was the reason for his success, but I'd like to think it provided inspiration.

After all, there's something impressive and inspiring about a properly written business letter.

Erick Rommel works for a nonprofit youth organization. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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