If a fellow employee looks me up in the address book, they will be informed that my title is “EMULATION NINJA”. Regardless to say, this continues to evoke the common “what’s with your title?” questions, especially since the original lore around this topic is quickly fading into obscurity. Interestingly, I’ve been getting this question a lot recently, so the below history represents a longer version of what I typically reply with:
Back during the development phase of the Xbox 360, someone thought it a good idea if the console was backward compatible, meaning that a customer could drop in an original Xbox game and play it. Unfortunately, the Xbox 360 is wildly different in its hardware compared to the first console. This means that it becomes a very difficult task to enable this functionality. Imagine trying to use your sink’s garbage disposal as a wood chipper. Sure the chipper and the disposal unit do similar things, but even the coolest garbage disposal just doesn’t have the right hardware to handle something as different as a tree branch.
So, given the extreme technical challenges inherent in this problem, they threw some of the team’s greatest developers at the problem. On the inverse side of the coin, I had to throw some of my best / most technical testers at the problem as well. This team of dedicated individuals slaved day and night towards just getting a single game to run at decent frame rates. The lead developer kept a sign by his door which displayed the current frame rate (which for a long time remained in the single digits). Needless to say, this team had to pull out every trick they had plus do some amazing magic in order to meet the launch goals. Fast forwarding to the launch of the Xbox 360, the team surpassed the goals, and enabled users to play around 200 Original Xbox games.
Anyway, back to the address titles. On Wednesday, November 16, 2005 (at 3:47 PM) J Allard sent an email to 16 individuals thanking the team for their work and tireless efforts over the past long months. Near the bottom of this email, he goes on to say (in his standard non-capitalized prose):
you are each officially promoted to the rank of ’emulation ninja’ in my book. thanks and congratulations.
Then several days later, the titles started to appear in the corporate address book. At that instant in time, developers, testers, PMs, and even a marketing guy all became unified under one (very cool) title; except, that is, for the dev lead who had the one and only “Lead Emulation Ninja” title.
Now, as people have left or moved around the company, titles invariably change, and people disappear from the database, leaving only a small handful of mysterious employees who still have the address-book title of “Emulation Ninja”…