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Friday, May 13, 2005 

Anger: Video Games

INDC Journal points to this article where the author puts forth a view of the future of video games that is not very pretty. I am a game industry insider, I have been for a very long time and I have been saying much the same thing for over a year now.

The author misses a very important point, that being that the industry is doing its best to drive true talent away. The quality of life of the average game developer is pretty bad. The rant by ea_spouse doesn’t do justice to the real situation in the industry. The “crunch time” mentality exists even in “enlightened” studios. It is so ingrained in the fabric of the industry that many veterans tell stories of long sessions and extended crunch times with pride and with reverence. I have told my stories in this way many times over the years and was proud of them. Now I can clearly see that those times were a waste of my talents and my life. Many studios (not just EA) schedule in “crunch times” throughout the schedule. Some even see the long hours and high stress levels as “team building”. This guy mildly defends the practice. If the industry doesn’t have a purge due to a major crash in the market, it will need a systemic shift in the way games are produced.

Let me say here that I have been lucky in that the last job I had/have, the management and people share my feelings on quality of life issues and we have worked hard to avoid sinking into the morass that so many other studios have become ensnared.

In addition to these issues, there is the new trend that will make working in this industry even harder, and yes, that is possible. Look at the back of any game industry magazine and you will see all kinds of ads for schools with “Game Development Degrees”. In the recent past, only shady schools set up by industry giants (can you say Digipen and Full Sail?) offered programs designed to take a kids hopes and dreams (not to mention the parent’s money) for an education that gets your resume tossed into the “no effin way” pile (I have been a hiring authority, so I know). Now even big name colleges like the University of Texas are starting up Game Development programs. Who is going to hire all these kids? The endless supply of naïve kids looking for fun, fame and fortune in the game industry is the fuel that drives the quality of life down the tubes. EA and its oppressive ilk follow a brilliantly evil business plan. Burn ‘em out, there’s plenty more where these came from.

From “The Ten Commandments":

Moses: The city is made of bricks. The strong make many, the starving make few, the dead make none.
Unfortunately, there are always a lot more of “the strong” to replace “the dead”. If Moses had a seemingly endless supply of young Hebrew slaves at his disposal, history might have been vastly different.

An old boss of mine would say “Hire ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out”. We did, and he did as well… That was a long time ago, but the practice is still alive and well in the industry. If you don’t work 112 hour weeks and go months without seeing your family, there is a new grad that will, and for half your salary too! Wait, you have a family? Get the heck out you slacker! The time you spent meeting and wooing a spouse was wasted buster! You should have been squeezing another 5 cycles out of that render loop, idiot!

It is a crime against humanity that real colleges are handing out these useless degrees. There is little chance that someone with one of the degrees will get an actual game job. Consider who would hire someone with a degree in “Game Development” for a straight job? Only the stupid or the desperate, do you want to work for someone in those categories? Once you DO get that elusive game job, try getting a straight job; it isn’t easy, let me tell you.

I am leaving the industry for a number of reasons; one is my belief that the new round of consoles will flop and the industry will crash. Not that there is any kind of job security in this business; one flop and a studio can cease to exist, but the crash will make getting and holding a job impossible. Add to the crash, the flood of younger and more easily exploited kids entering the job market, it will be hard to get and keep a job as a veteran.

The blood, sweat and tears required to make games takes its toll over time and I have left too much of my life spilled into the back-alley of game development. I have more worth than the game industry deserves.

I want my life back.

Related Posts:
 My New Job
 Work Stress
 More thoughts on the industy crash

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