The Dark Side of NVIDIA: Trooper CC-883 Tells All

by Brian Caulfield

Strike hard. Strike fast. In a galaxy far, far away, Trooper CC-883 is one of the shock troops of the Galactic Empire.

In this one, he’s known as Clay Causin. And after leading a team that transformed a colleague’s Honda Fit into an enormous pink pony, there can be no doubt the former Marine is an NVIDIAN to be reckoned with.

The wiry 38-year-old has more than a few personalities. There’s the Harley-Davidson riding social media Stormtrooper, the detail-oriented senior engineer focused on multimedia cloud streaming services, and the subversive prankster.

The unifying theme: Clay’s an enthusiast.

He finds as much joy talking about the prospects for a Star Wars spinoff featuring bounty hunter Boba Fett as he does making sure SHIELD works as it should.

It’s an attitude reflected in the huge collection of gaming memorabilia that adorns his cube.

He’s got a StarCraft II box signed by all the original game developers, a badge from the first BlizzCon held in 2005, and a full-sized replica Doomhammer, among other treasures.

“I’ve always loved gaming and the videogame industry,” says Clay, who worked a series of part time jobs with NVIDIA’s demo team for years before joining full time in 2007.

Among the treasures to be found in Clay's cube: tk tk tk tk.
Among the treasures in Clay’s cube: a StarCraft II box signed by the real-time strategy game’s developers.

Sympathy for the Stormtrooper

Like Clay, Trooper CC-883 has been around, too.

Clay sees CC-883 as a bit of a bumbler. He likes to think he’s the one who bonked his head when storming C-3PO and R2D2’s hideout on the Death Star in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

When not rounding up rebel robots, CC-883 can be found on social media. It’s the ideal platform for the “average Joe trooper,” as CC-883 describes himself on Facebook, to humanize fellow members of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps.

“Since when is a Stormtrooper a villain? We just work our government jobs,” CC-883 complained to his followers on Facebook after a British paper described Stormtroopers hired to patrol the streets outside one local retailer as “villains.”

Updates from the Imperial trenches.

Clay posts three to five items a day on Twitter and Facebook as CC-883 to help keep followers up on Star Wars related news.

CC-883’s take on a photo of a member of the U.S. Army sporting a Darth Vader mask under his combat helmet shared to Facebook: “The US military has upgraded Vader’s armor.”

His comment on a photo of a Stormtrooper holding a sign saying ‘will kill Jedi for food’ on a freeway median: “Times are getting tough.”

And a picture of a woman in a low-cut top and a Storm Trooper helmet elicited more information about CC-883 than most followers will want to know: “This is not what I wear under my armor, I prefer going commando.”

The next step will be to take his Stormtrooper persona into the real world. Clay is saving up for a Stormtrooper outfit that doubles as protective motorcycle gear that he can wear on his daily ride to work – or to use to have fun with kids, like his own six-year old son.

Clay’s military background will give him all the experience he needs to pull off that act. Clay spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school, so he knows how to assume a military bearing, even if his sense of humor wasn’t always appreciated while an active duty soldier.

“I have a smart mouth,” Clay says. “I was really good at speaking the lingo and being correct, but when you say everything right and it still makes your officer break out laughing during an inspection… it’s still your fault.”

A Rebel Alliance

That subversive sense of humor has served Clay well at NVIDIA, however, in his role as a leading candidate for prankster in chief.

Most recently, Clay led a group that worked to bring balance back to the force in NVIDIA’s ongoing prank wars after Chris Holmes – a veteran NVIDIA prankster – told the corporate blog that his many targets weren’t “brave enough,” to strike back.

A ragtag alliance swung into action to prove that wrong, and Clay’s project management and military skills quickly came to the fore. First came a series of skirmishes – posters bearing Chris’ likeness and mysterious excerpts from NVIDIA’s corporate blog began appearing around campus.

It’s a Trap

Revenge is a dish best served pink: tk tk tk tk.
Revenge is a dish best served pink.

Then, when Holmes left his keys on his desk, Clay struck. The keys were snagged, Chris’s Honda Fit rolled into the parking lot, and a team equipped with pink paper, pink balloons, and a cardboard pony head transformed the car into Pinkie Pie.

Holmes had been got. Clay, however, isn’t going to brag. In part, that’s because he knows his memorabilia packed cube makes him vulnerable. He also knows CC-883 would not approve of his hijinks.

“I’d like to think that Stormtroopers are smarter than that,” Clay says. “Pranks like that are the kind of thing only the rebels would pull off.”

Or a bunch of NVIDIANs.