The reduction of staff is considered a disaster in the gaming industry. 150 people lost their jobs, but it’s simply a number. So what does that really mean? For many programmers, it can mean losing your dream job, to the absence of close colleagues and friends. But for one person (who asked not to be named, I’ll call him Jason in the post) it’s just a $25 Amazon gift card.
“In 2013,” Jason began, “I got a PR job at one of the three biggest game publishers. It was my first real job in the game industry – a dream job for me. I immediately fell under the illusion of ‘honour’ to work for such a brand. I was so delusional that I didn’t realize its obvious problems. After only 5 months, I was exhausted. Time and work pressure are on me and management doesn’t know how to handle emotions at such a stress level. He scrutinized every mistake I made and everything was monitored bit by bit. There is no trust at all. If the game isn’t actively promoted, it’s my fault. As always.” The next spring, Jason was ushered into a room, and without warning, the company said “no time” for him. His contract was not renewed. Jason was given a $25 Amazon gift card and was evicted from the building within half an hour.
Unannounced dismissal is not uncommon. Larz Smith has survived numerous layoffs as a gameplay developer at Daybreak, and is well aware of the ambiguity of the cuts. “In many cases, I feel the studio is doing well!” says Smith. Specifically, after one cut, Smith had to schedule everyone to work until the next cut. Describing the process in detail, Smith said, “You’ll run into one of two situations: one is for the person being fired, and the other is for the person who will continue with the job. I have never had to attend an employee firing meeting, I only feel anger and fear coming from them. During the meeting for the retained, their emotions were only shock and sadness. The meeting was short enough to let everyone know that they still had a job, assuring them this was the ‘dark’ step necessary to ensure the sustainability of the company, as well as the remaining jobs. back in the company, while answering a few brief questions.”
Developer Dan Jordan went through a similar process after experiencing staff cuts at Firefall’s Red 5, as well as Game of Thrones: Ascent. Two different meetings, and you sense an eerie silence in both. “Both bring feelings of fatigue, dismay, and humiliation,” says Jordan. “From legitimate reasons such as not being able to guarantee the development of the company or ‘hard’ reasons such as not being able to carry the whole company by myself. Not to mention, finding work in other studios just makes things more confusing.”
“I still feel bitter and uncomfortable – with myself, the company, and the situation. Maybe programmers will go through enough to ‘ignore’ it or find more stable companies. I never had that opportunity.” Jordan is now working outside the gaming industry.
The guilt of the person who stayed
The results of job cuts in the gaming industry are also varied. “Once you regain your motivation, the effects of the layoff fade away,” says Larz Smith. “Have you ever fired someone in the middle of an important job? We still have their computer if they work on it, but what if those people don’t work on it? Or what if the code is still incomplete and everything doesn’t work yet? Or do they already have documentation of the process on their computer, but maybe it hasn’t been shared or uploaded yet?”
Gwen Frey, a former member of Irrational Games, said of surviving the cutback, “When I went to GDC (Game Developers Conference), I met up with former colleagues from Irrational, and they are doing great work and developing interesting stuff! This is a positive sign, but it is because people who are not in the game industry anymore after being fired will not attend GDC. I really don’t know how those people adapted. I don’t know how many talented people feel the industry is too unstable for them.”
We may already know 800 people who lost their jobs at Activision-Blizzard, but it is impossible to know exactly how many will stay in the game industry after that…
By PC Gamer
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