Many of us are enthusiastic about getting into the game industry. And the more enthusiastic we are, the more we might wonder why people are happy to leave the business again. At the end of 2004, a blog entry widely known by the authors nickname, ea-spouse, rocked the boat. I remember that many professionals joined in complaining about the working conditions. Recently, I read two similar articles again: Jurie Horneman of ex Rockstar Vienna wrote that he was glad when the studio was shut down. He refered to another article entitled The joyful life of a lapsed game developer whose author was glad to have left the industry for good.
How can it be that so many want to get in, and at least some are happy to get out again?
Let’s face it. The trouble is that the game industry still is an industry. Like in every other business, be it software or whatever, there are customers, deadlines, and consequently there are crunch times. And I’d expect my employees to commit themselves to the project to some level. This does not mean that overtime should be the custom, nor this means that a company has a right to exploit its employees. But for me, the willingness to do extra hours was part of my employment contract. On Sundays or holidays, if required. Also, I had to agree to relocate to another site of my company if necessary (which could be Cologne<->Calgary in my company, for example). Working in a fast moving industry requires some flexibility.
The second thing is how people got laid off recently at Rockstar. Apart from the many creative and technologically skilled people and those people who feel that making games is their profession, there are business people who don’t care about your great story, your cutting edge technology, whatever. Those people just see these little numbers at the end of the fiscal year. Those people might make mistakes just like we (the creative idealists on the other side of the table) might do, but in the end they’re just doing their job. I believe – well, I hope, at least – that they had a good reason for their decision, and I’m confident that those who are skilled and flexible enough will find a new job soon – be it game development or not, there are a lot of related fields. If not… Darwins natural selection comes into mind.
While this is my very rational point of view, the emotional one is that I feel deepest sympathy for those who got laid off in such a bad manner. And I never want this happen to me. But it will, and I will have to face it, too, I guess. My employer handed out a little book called “30 minutes for sovereign dealing with changes” to all employees several months ago. The actual intention is still unknown to me, but you might guess what many of us feared…