Gaming Industry – Do not want

This to me is a very sad blog post.  It represents the death of one of my dreams.

You see, back when I was in High School, and getting the “You can do whatever you want to do” dream speech.  I decided (after a brief fascination with chemistry) that I wanted to get into Computer Science.

Why?  Well one reason only.  I loved video games, so I wanted to make them.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m in college, and this ‘Web’ thing appears.  It’s cool, it’s new, none of the ‘establishment’ understands it.  And so the interns/college assistants get tasked to deal with it.  I start working on the Web.   Which leads to my first ‘real’ job being doing ‘Web’ stuff … 16 years later:  Guess what, I’m still on the Web.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the web and everything that it has become.  It’s amazing.  But in the back of my mind, and my heart, there’s always been this little longing for my original goal: Games.

Once, I almost had my ‘in’ to the industry.  At the time, this little barely known company, called Bethesda Softworks, had an advertisement for a ‘Webmaster’ (ah, those were the days).  I tried to apply but we were having some issues between our fax machines, and an official piece of paperwork I had to sign that they would only fax to me, not send in mail.   That was right about the time I got the offer to work at Hubble.  And you know, that was pretty cool also, so I took it 🙂

I long let that dream die, and embraced the area that naturally fell into my lap.  Until recently.

As part of doing some soul-searching upon the loss of my most recent position: My wife was asking me what I really wanted to do in my heart.  To think outside the box of the positions that I’d been holding.  To expand the search parameters of companies that I’d been looking at.   Immediately that long hidden thought in the back of my head spoke to me and made me scream: “GAMES!  I WANNA MAKE GAMES!”.   I scared my wife.

So I explored that option.  You see, this is the perfect time for it.  Facebook has almost single handedly make the world of Games & Web collide.  Now everyone is playing games online, and Web Professionals are needed to make that happen.

But, you know what, after exploring this option I came to one conclusion:

DO NOT WANT!

Really.  I talked with a number of gaming companies that wanted Web professionals.  Two in particular I talked to in depth.  One of them is a HUGE name in online games, another was a brand new startup in the field, just about to release their first game.

Both of them had the exact same problem, which led me to walk away:  Ridiculous assumptions/requirements upon the employees.  I’d long heard the horror stories of videogame companies, long hours, low pay, weekend work.  You play video games and read the end credits and the quotes are a litany of “Thanks to my wife & kids who I didn’t see for 2 years”

But I assumed, incorrectly it seems, that the ‘Web Games’ companies would more closely track ‘Web Application’ companies in concept.  (Not that some Web companies don’t have the same problems.)

I was sadly mistaken.  All companies I talked to outright expected employees to put in amazingly long hours, work weekends, etc.  I was told ‘joking’ stories by management about employees complaining that their wives were going to leave them.  I was asked to work for a company for zero pay.  And not even a ‘until we get funding’ type situation.  But even after funding, because marketing dollars were going to be more important than paying salaries.

In the end, I had to take the bitter pill, and walk away again.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t love some day to somehow get involved in the gaming industry.  I still love video games and play them nigh every day.

But I’m not going to walk into those situations.  It would take a company that breaks from that mold, and is a family-friendly company that respects it’s employees work/life balance.

The older I get, the more I value stability and just wanting to work for a company that is doing something ‘awesome and cool’, whatever that is.  While at the same time, respecting families, and completely understanding that work isn’t “life”.

I guess your values change when you get old 😉  Too much gray hair on this head.

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5 Responses to Gaming Industry – Do not want

  1. chimerafun says:

    Hey Eli, I’m sure you don’t remember me but I met you at ZendCon 4 to 5 years ago.

    Anyway, you always seemed like a sharp cookie, is there any reason you wouldn’t start your own business? You could certainly capitalize on your games passion then. The facebook gaming world seems young still with alot of room for innovation, plus there are all kinds of opportunities elsewhere. I personally have moved on into iPhone/iPad games (which quite honestly isn’t for everybody). In working for myself in the gaming industry, I’ve found that you don’t have to carry the long nights, especially when the only people you answer to are yourself and your artist.

    Anyway, just a thought.

  2. incady says:

    Agree with chimerafun – you can even do your own Facebook game. The barrier of entry is low.. you don’t need a couple of $20k Playstation dev kits to get started. You can make your own Flash, iOS, Android game, or even XNA game.

  3. Eli says:

    Hello again Chimerafun. You bring up an interesting point. The catch that has been holding me back from starting my own company for a while, is simply that of ‘steady income’. I’m currently the sole breadwinner for a family of three, and needing to remain the sole income for a while (due to family situations)

    Therefore, the idea of not having standard insurance, and not having solid income, is rather a scary proposition. Not something I’m going to go into lightly.

    Plus, rarely have I heard of Facebook game devs making tons of money, except in rare cases.

  4. chimerafun says:

    I can definitely respect that Eli, I have four kids and a wife and was the sole provider for quite awhile, though now my wife and I work together for ourselves (which has its ups and downs as well).

    As far as revenue that has been something that I have never had a problem finding for a product so should you want to discuss how to monetize any idea you might have let me know.

  5. terebentina says:

    1. be prepared. Register as a self-employed company even if you are still looking for jobs.

    2. build something for your own fun. A game, a product, a service, anything you want just for the fun of it.

    3. I do hire experts from time to time to solve this and that problem. Not a permanent employment but per task/module/whatever. Could take a day or a month. There are a lot of other companies doing the same. You will find out soon enough that these small tasks will take your whole day / week / month / year.

    The jump from employed to self-employed doesn’t have to be a jump. It can be a series of small steps which is actually not that scary.

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