Lowtotem.com>> The Siren Call of the Game Industry

September 6, 2008
(Cross post from Lowtotem.com Please check out the new site!)

Even though I’m happy with my current job (for now), I check game industry job sites everyday. I’m also never far from my contacts still working on mainstream titles.

In spite of the fact that where I’m at now, career wise, everything is awesome, a part of me feels like going back. Going back to the long nights, the stress, the tension, and also the fun.

Its no secret that the game industry has some deep rooted quality of life issues. Making games is very demanding of you life. But I think about the good times I’ve had, and its almost worth it. If someone was to offer me an AP position at a mainstream game studio, I’d be a tough decision.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m a glutton for suffering, but when I think back to the days and nights I’ve spent working on games, those were probably some of the best times in my life. I think of the people I’ve met, suffered with, and bonded with during those hours, and I know I’ve made friends for life. And even when morale was at its lowest, someone would always be there to lighten the mood.

Mostly though, I just miss working on games—the kind of games I play. There is just something about knowing I’m working on a title that guys like me are gonna play . . . it makes me proud to have contributed (even if it was just a little bit) to the project.

The current casual game project I’m working on—its an interesting concept. But so far, in execution, it has a lot to be desired. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but every project I’ve worked on in the game industry has been driven by a desire to produce something awesome. Sure, in every project you have to make sacrifices, but at the end of the day, everyone just wants to make something that is cool.

We make games to draw people to our site to make money. Everyone wants to make money. I want to make money. But, if you’ve ever been in the game industry, at the core of making money is a passion to make fun games.

I miss that.


Lowtotem.com >> Risk vs. Reward and the Game Industry

August 30, 2008

(This is a pretty serious post from me, and since LowTotem.com isn’t being indexed yet, I’m cross-posting it here as well.)

I’ve got a couple of posts planned for the future, but I’ve all of a sudden gotten real busy at work.  For the first time, I really feel like I’m doing what I want to be doing, and that’s a good feeling.

Some pretty big changes have gone down the last few days at work.  Its unavoidable, I guess, especially in the world of startup companies.  That’s the real trade-off.  Risk vs. reward and all that.  I spent 2 and a half years working for 3 of the biggest names in the game industry.  Things were stable (in theory, when you are a temp, you never have job security).  But I knew my chances at moving up were limited.

I took a real risk when I left my last company to move into production for an unknown, untested, casual game startup.  As someone who’s taken a non-traditional career path, I knew the only way I was going to advance is by taking a huge risk.  I jumped right into it.

It seems crass to say this when people you’ve known and worked with have just been let go, but frankly, I’m not worried.  I don’t want to lose my job.  But if I do, I’m in a lot better place to deal with the situation than I was 2 and a half years ago.  Everything I do, I’m learning.  Every new day, I’m learning.  Success or failure, I’m learning.

Our CEO said something today that affected me deeply.  He said, “Be your own CEO.”  Think like a CEO.  Solve problems like a CEO.  And that’s exactly what I intend to do.  I’m not worried about failure, or making a bad decision.  Its all about risk vs. reward.  As a young person, you have to be willing to take risks, even at the expense of losing everything.

And that’s the advice I give to my friends still toiling away in the QA dungeons of the Game Industry.  You have to be willing to give it up at a moments notice.  Take risks.  Think like a CEO.

I know too many bright, intelligent people who are wasting away in QA.  They grow bitter, wondering why they can’t advance in an industry they love.  They grow complacent, willing to accept mediocrity because they aren’t willing to take a chance.  At some point, you have to be willing to risk it all.

So, I’m sitting here, still trying to process today’s events.  I wish everyone good luck and hope they quickly land on their feet.  But its time for me to start taking advantage of the opportunities each new day brings.


A Good Weekend (Crunch Time and Flying Mounts)

August 18, 2008

It’s currently crunch time at the office, which means sacrificing your weekend to GSD (Get Shit Done). For once, this did not include me. In my current role as a producer, I oversee one aspect of the project we are working on, mostly working with an external developer who makes the majority of our art. The real bottleneck of my workload is waiting for this external developer to send me art files. They are currently about a month behind. This means I have very little work to do right now. So, there was no reason for me to come this weekend.

This is both good and bad. It is good because I had a relaxing weekend. I’m pretty motivated right now to GSD, and as such I’ve been blowing through the few lingering tasks still on my plate. This is bad however, because I am now an “outsider.” Every job I’ve worked in the game industry, crunch time is when a team really comes together. This is because everyone shares a common experience of suffering through long hours, exhausting, and fits of insanity. My favorite memories of past jobs are the result of crazy things we’ve done during crunch time. You don’t know true suffering until its 5am and you realize you’ve been quoting Street Fighter: The Movie for the past 6 hours.

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Blizzcon, Community and In Game Goals

August 13, 2008

Yesterday, I said I felt bad for people who couldn’t get tickets to Blizzcon. But, they really know how take things to a ‘HO NUTHA LEVEL.

It’s reached a point where people are overreacting about this whole situation. There are multiple “F**K U BLIZZ” threads. There are multiple, “Let’s take legal action against BLIZZARD!” threads. Everyone is posting their sob story about how Blizzard ruined their Christmas because all they wanted in the world was a little peace, hope, and Blizzcon “goodies.”

Reading the forums, most threads come across as some dude who just found out his girlfriend was cheating on him. Nearly every thread I saw last night was titled something like “Blizzard, we need to talk,” or “Blizzard, I’m so hurt and disappointed.”

And of course, this means everyone who did get a ticket has to act like the dick new boyfriend. “Tough luck, should have tried harder.” “Better luck next year, CHUMP” “Don’t worry, I’m gonna take REAL good care of Blizzard at the con this year. Maybe I’ll send you a postcard.”

And of course, the reason most people are disappointed is they aren’t getting free crap. “Blizzard, I’m a cancer survivor, and the only thing that kept me going was the hope that I would see my next Blizzcon and get a goody bag. But now . . . I don’t have anything left in me.” No joke.
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Blizzcon, Walmart and McDonalds

August 12, 2008

Who’s going to BLIZZCON?

Not many people apparently. At least, that’s what Blizzard must have assumed.

I’m pretty sure that by now, most people are familiar with the legendary FAIL that has become the Blizzcon ticket ordering system. In an apparent lack of foresight, the servers hosting the Blizzard online store were crushed under the might of thousands of rabid fans. The store was taken down and subsequently reopened about 3 or 4 times yesterday, each time prompting a flood of angry posts to the official website forums.

I was one of the lucky ones.

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Forest for the Trees

July 13, 2008

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. In recent weeks, this old saying has been stuck in my head. I find myself repeating it daily, scribbling it down in my notebook when I’m trying to concentrate.

It’s important to be able to see the big picture. Often, we get so caught up in the small details, we lose focus on our overall goal. I’ve done this. For example, I was recently tasked with coordinating the delivery of assets for our project at work. Doing this task required input from artists. I thought I did a good job. I made sure to get the input I needed from the art team, setup a delivery schedule, and established a review process. At certain points, I had to hold people’s hands and make sure they got me the things I needed. I completed my task well ahead of schedule.

But then I realized, looking at the big picture, my task wasn’t a priority. It needed to get done, but not at the expense of other aspects of the project. Getting input from artists on my task took time away from these other tasks—tasks that were of much higher priority. In the end, the artists were pro and were able to get everything done. But because I had failed to see the big picture, I risked putting the entire project in jeopardy.

Many times in the game industry we fail to see the big picture. This is especially true when it comes to issues regarding quality of life. I don’t pretend to be an expert on management (not currently at least), but even as a low level employee, me and my peers could recognize when management failed to be effective.

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What’s this all about?

May 9, 2008

I like video games. But I also like other things.

I’ve been playing video games since I was six years old. That was nearly 20 years ago.

Over the years, my interest in games grew from just playing them to wanting to create them. I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to achieve my goal of working in the game industry. This past year, I’ve been closer than ever to achieving that goal, but I kept help but wonder if this is really what I want.

Working in the industry has really changed the way I look at games. Hopefully I can share that perspective and give some insight as to how the industry looks from the bottom up.