Before Xfire was Xfire, the company was called Ultimate Arena and had about 10 employees. Ultimate Arena was a pay-to-play online gaming system that we ultimately shut down. A group of us usually go to lunch together, and back then Yulius told us about My Thai, a very good Thai restaurant across the bay from us all the way in Fremont. About six of us would go there every few weeks, tempted by the good food and the lure of the fire dish. If you complete a fire dish, the waiter will take your picture with a Polaroid and mount it on the wall.
My Thai will make any dish at any spiciness level. If you order a dish "medium", the waiter usually says "Are you sure? That's very spicy". They also have "mild", "hot", and "fire". Fire is insane. Sitting next to someone with a fire dish (sometimes also called "flame") will make your nose run. The first people to eat fire were Garrett and Mike Judge. Mike Judge grew up in Texas and really enjoys hot food. Still, eating fire was pretty tough, but he did it multiple times. I'm not sure what Garrett's excuse was. One memorable time (I think it was the second time he had a fire dish) his left arm went numb while trying to finish. Andrew even managed to complete a fire dish, somehow. He had to leave work early and was out the next day, recovering.
We often talked about relative spiciness of food in those days, and the official unit of measurement for spiciness is called a Scoville unit. Not surprisingly, when we started working on a new product, we code-named it scoville. Within a couple months we decided on the official name of Xfire, but in our source code control system scoville will live on forever.
Xfire took off right after we launched it. Not surprisingly, we would sometimes go to My Thai for lunch to celebrate milestones, such as 1000 simultaneous users, 2000 simultaneous users, etc. Around the 5000 simultaneous user mark I invited everyone in the company to a celebration lunch, and everyone came. This was rare because a few people have very specific schedules and don't often come with us to lunch.
At this point, a tradition was born. At every major milestone the entire company goes to My Thai to celebrate with a lunch. It's always informal; short on speeches, long on fun. These days, we fill up more than half of the entire restaurant.
The highlight of every company lunch is seeing who will eat a fire dish.
First up was a bet between Dennis and Andrew. Dennis said he could definitely complete a fire dish faster than Andrew. After a tough battle, Dennis managed to complete his dish, though Andrew quit with a few bites left. A few months of trash talk later, they had a rematch with the exact same results. Andrew was completely shamed.
Daniel and Tom both had a fire dish on the same day, with relative ease. Daniel's accomplishment was extra impressive in that it was his first time to the restaurant. Tom has eaten a few fire dishes since, though not always with ease.
Adam and Frederic ate fire dishes on the same day. Adam did his quite quickly. I expected Frederic to have some problems (to be honest, I expect just about everyone to have problems, and I've lost bets with most people on this list about whether they could eat a full fire dish), but he pulled the amazing feat of drinking the remaining sauce from his curry dish. That was incredible and had not been repeated since--until he did it again recently!
Mike Ayer pulled off the sweatiest successful fire dish up to that point. His forehead needed quite a mopping, but he completed the dish.
Yulius surprised us all by telling us that he had eaten a fire dish, but not with us. He has since eaten quite a few fire dishes with us as well.
Mike Andrews tried to eat a fire dish after seeing so many others succeed. He ate quite a bit, but could not finish his rice. He claimed he was too full... but anyone who has completed a fire dish knows it's a mental game, not a physical game. If paying attention to what your body was telling you were part of it, no one would take a second bite, no less complete a dish.
The day before a My Thai lunch, someone asked Chad if he could complete a fire dish. For some reason unknown to me, he said, "I don't know if I could complete a fire dish, but I could definitely eat more than Chris!". Obviously I could not let that go, and we had a bet over who could complete a fire dish the following day. We decided to have the same dish to be fair.
When I took the first bite of my fire chicken yellow curry, my mouth tingled in pain. A few forkfuls later and I was downing a lot of water. Too much water, really; it fills you up but doesn't really reduce the pain. Chad was doing about as poorly as I was. We both slogged along, not wanting to lose to the other, but also wanting to eat as slowly as possible. Eventually we got to the point where I had finished the solid food and only had (quite a bit of) curry sauce left. Chad had sauce plus some rice.
We were spooning the sauce slowly. It didn't hurt the mouth that much, but very soon my stomach was rumbling. Adam suggested that I spoon quickly and I'd be done before my stomach had a chance to complain. I tried his method for three spoonfuls before nearly throwing up. Chad had a similar experience and declared he was quitting. I had less sauce less at that point, so I had won our bet. However, if I didn't complete every morsel on my plate I knew that I would be heckled mercilessly. I continued on, one spoon every minute or two, until eventually finishing the bowl. I was very close to hurling at this point, but I was done! Chad will never live it down.
On the same day as the contest between me and Chad, Sean was here from Canada, prepared for the challenge. He brought a towel to wipe off his forehead as he ate. He was in pain but he finished his plate in half the time I took.
Darron K is not one to be left out of trash talk. It eventually caught up with him, and he was forced to try a fire dish. Despite his bravado, he barely finished after nearly throwing up.
Ryan had been setting all sorts of conditions about when he would eat fire. At one company meeting, Mike C essentially bullied him into it. He completed his dish without too much after effect.
Brandon finally had a fire dish after missing out on the last company lunch. We went back a week later to force him to try. He had an unusual strategy of getting lots of extra rice, and it definitely slowed him down, but he willed himself to completion.
More recently, Mike Oxford and Kevin both ate fire dishes at a celebration lunch for the company acquisition. I was watching my kid that day, though, so I didn't get to see it.
After a long summer, Erin, our office manager for the summer (and Ryan's sister), boasted that she could eat a fire dish, so of course we had to head to My Thai for her good-bye lunch. She started very slowly, pecking at her plate. In the meantime, Chris B vacuumed his fire dish down in amazing time, followed soon after by John. Erin then declared, "I do not quit!", and proceeded to eat her dish deliberately in a very impressive fashion. Geoff eventually finished his fire dish as well; with him the question was not spiciness, but volume. His stomach must have expanded to handle the amount of food which was much larger than his typical lunch.
During his first trip to My Thai, Darren S decided to have a fire dish. Although his face turned red immediately and his pace started slow, he was able to move to another gear and ended up completing the yellow curry dish without too much trouble.
To celebrate 250,000 simultaneous users, we had another all-company trip to My Thai. We had a record number of fire attempts, including Matt and Dan both successfully completing their first fire dish. Andrew rejoined us and finished a fire yellow curry for the first time since his earlier miserable failures. Unfortunately, Sylvain took his place as a near-fire-eater who just couldn't quite finish. However, the big disappointment of the day was Doug--one look at his intense fire dish and he gave up! It was very sad to see him broken by the mere sight of the dish. Hopefully some day he can recover some of the mojo which he lost today, but I seriously doubt it.
Who will be next? Stay tuned!--- Chris Kirmse
VP Engineering, Xfire