If you're an avid gamer, the chance to work for a video game company — you know, actually getting paid real money to play games every day — just might be your dream job.
Same goes for any true tanker. Any job that gets you inside the hatch of a heavy metal monster on a regular basis is the gig to have. Bonus points if you're not getting shot at in the process.
And if you happen to be an historian, it doesn't get much better than getting dispatched to museums and libraries around the country to dig through archives and write up your findings.
If you're Nicholas Moran, you're all three of these people and, in your opinion, you happen to have the best job in the universe, amazingly mashing all three of these passions together.
Moran works for San Francisco-based Wargaming.net, best known for its "World of Tanks" franchise, sporting more than 100 million players across PC, Xbox and mobile versions of the game. It's free to download and play.
Moran's title is director of militaria relations, which is to say he's the chief evangelist, not just to the military and veteran communities, but also museums, scale modelers and other military gaming enthusiasts.
With his Irish accent and trademark Cavalryman's Stetson, he's also the face and voice of the company in the U.S., making regular appearances at gamer conventions and other events, not to mention all that daily online gaming.
An armor and cavalry officer in the Army National Guard, Moran is a veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that's not what got him noticed by the top brass at Wargaming.
How did he land the job of his dreams? By insulting the company's CEO, of course.
Heavy metal passions
Four years ago, Moran was already a big fan of "World of Tanks," the massive multiplayer online World War II set piece.
Working as an IT whiz for the Transportation Security Administration, Moran also volunteered at a local Bay Area military museum. When he heard the game developers were coming for a visit, he jumped at the opportunity to give them the tour.
"I wanted to tell them, 'Thanks for making a great game, and — by the way — here's everything you got wrong,' says Moran.
His beef was mostly with minor stuff — a mislabeled tank destroyer here, inaccurate armor thicknesses there — but "the historian in me was screaming that there was no need to be getting this wrong," he says. "I didn't even know the CEO was on the tour at the time."
The company's CEO, however, was so impressed with his critique that it wasn't long before Moran was offered a job, tasked with helping square away all those little details.
"People don't play 'World of Tanks' because it's a simulator; they play it because it's fun," Moran says. "That said, the vehicles are as close to representing the real thing as we can make them."
Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Moran grew up immersed in the history of the war. And immersed in gaming, starting young with the U.K.'s version of the Commodore 64, one the very first home computers. In college, that expanded to tabletop gaming, including "Warhammer" and "Command Decision," even as he found himself hooked on PC titles such as "Harpoon."
He served in the Irish cavalry for three years before moving to California in 2000.
"I came to the U.S. in search of more money, better weather and bigger guns."
He joined the California National Guard, got his commission through Officer Candidate School in 2002 and deployed to Iraq two years later, among the last U.S. tankers to go to that war zone with their actual tanks.
Later switching to the Nevada Guard, he commanded a cavalry troop in Afghanistan for a year before redeploying in 2010. He's now a major in the Nevada Guard's headquarters in Carson City.
But if you're a "World of Tanks" fan, you probably already know Moran by his gamer tag, "The Chieftain."
The call sign, he says, is as much a nod to his Celtic roots as an homage to the first tank he drove, he says.
His eyes light up if you ask about it. Despite its unreliable engine, he says, "the Chieftain is an awesome tank. If you ask a 15-year-old to draw a tank, that's the one they draw."
Actually, his eyes light up whenever he's talking about any kind of tank. Clearly, they are his singular passion.
"Why carry a weapon when your weapon will carry you?" he says with a grin.
He sees part of his mission at Wargaming as helping dispel myths and misconceptions — perpetuated mostly by movies — about armored warfare during World War II.
Consider the M4 Sherman tank, he says, long disparaged as the scrappy, if inadequate, answer to the Nazis' armored divisions.
"The Sherman was probably one of the best tanks in the world, but people don't realize it because they've been taught to believe that a Sherman blew up if a Tiger tank looked at it sideways."
Sure, the Sherman, a medium tank, had its challenges facing off against Germany's heavy Tigers, but that's why the U.S. started working on bigger tanks.
"Three years ago, most people didn't know the U.S. had a heavy tank program in World War II. I could say T29 or T32 heavy and most would have no idea what I was talking about."
While neither of those two tank concepts were finished in time to see action during the war, they see plenty of combat in the "World of Tanks" universe.
"Now everyone is an expert, or at least their interest has been piqued, through this game," he says.
Fresh from his archive forays, he writes a regular column dubbed "The Chieftain's Hatch" to help expand that knowledge.
"It really has nothing to do with the game whatsoever," he says. "It's just pure history."
His "Inside the Chieftain's Hatch" video series offers guided tours inside actual tanks, from a tanker's perspective. Last year, he traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, to cover — ESPN-style — the Army's Sullivan Cup "Best Tanker" competition.
Consistency was the hallmark of the winning team, he says.
"The Marine Corps team had one of the best day scores for shooting gunnery, but dropped badly in some of the other events," Moran says. "The top four crews that went to the final shootout weren't necessarily the best at anything. But they always placed well each time."
Of course gaming, particularly "World of Tanks" — which supports a robust community of league players — can be pretty competitive, too. And again, consistency is what usually separates the very best teams and players.
With more than 16,000 battles to his credit, Moran estimates he's logged some 2,000 hours in "World of Tanks." That's nearly three months of straight-up game play.
But that's not nearly enough to put him in the top echelons, he says.
"It takes a least five evenings a week, several hours a day playing with your team. Both playing battles and in regimented training, where you'll do force-on-force scenarios, practicing battle SOPS, just like you'd expect real military platoons and companies to do," he says. "The best deserve to be the best, because they put in the effort."
But one of the things he enjoys most about "World of Tanks" in particular is that it's accessible to all ages.
"I've come across three generations of players in the same game — granddad, dad and a 12-year-old kid. It's because you don't have to have the reflexes of a teenager on Monster to play the game. No matter how fast you are, the turret is only going to go so fast. So, it allows you a little time to think. The old fogies actually have a chance at beating the kids," he says.
"Plus, there's more tactics than something like, say, HALO, so it's not just reflexes."