Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Friday, February 1, 2008

You’re Fired! Losing your job in the game industry…
Part 5

At my first company, people were fired at a rate of about 1 a month. However, it was usually at the end of a big project that a group would be let go all at once. Working in the Quality Assurance department, those were always happy times because you’d free up a bunch of space and the few jerks who would touch your stuff would be gone.

One of my friends there had a bunch of Street Fighter action figures on his desk. He was out one day so the lesser testers (n00bs) were allowed to test using his computer. Sometime later, he discovered that one of his figures had been tampered with. He had bumped his desk and the arm on Ken just fell off. As though it had never been attached. He examined it and discovered that someone had snapped it off at the joint, and then attempted to SUPER GLUE it back together. Whoever had done it had been so nervous about their job that they had attempted to hide it rather than owning up to the incident. Even a scathing e-mail didn’t smoke out the assailant… We never did figure out who it was, but we’re pretty sure they got let go at the end of the project.

At my second company, other than the big layoffs at the end there were no firings. Go figure… It was a pretty happy environment and everyone gave their all to put out a great game. It just goes to show that happy employees make good games. A lesson that most companies never seem to learn.

The third company I worked at was pretty much a revolving door for its employees. Firings were actually rare, but people quit in droves. It was uncommon to have a week where someone didn’t quit. Salaries were pretty good there, so you have to wonder what they were doing wrong. Well, I don’t, I already know. They were completely incompetent with hiring their management team, and like some radioactive mutation of Reaganomics, that piss poor decision making trickled down onto the talent filled employees like acid rain.

Anyone who honestly cared enough to fight the good fight was consistently beat down by the leads and management. Anyone who was incompetent was consistently promoted or protected from those who pointed out their various faults. They also had a VERY dumb policy of NOT promoting people who were very good at pointing out flaws and would try to take charge. Ironic given they would then piss and moan about people taking more responsibility for making their work excellent. I told them this on numerous occasions (and was consequently ignored or punished on each occasion) that if they want people to take ownership in their areas of the game, they need to have the power to accomplish what they need to get done, which they can’t do when they have to fight with their lead or producers over every little thing. Either trust them to do it right and give them the tools to do it, or micromanage them and take the blame when it fails. Their policy was a mix of the two, they would attempt to micromanage them while also telling them to take charge and giving them no support. Not fun…

I remember being denied the ability to learn their scripting system by the producer and director of design because they felt I didn’t have enough time for it. They didn’t even trust me enough to learn their scripting system while managing my own schedule. Trust me, I could have done it, easily. It also would have improved their pipeline by about 100 fold because there was a big gap between two sides of their development team that was directly caused by one discipline being split into two. But that just goes to show you what kind of a place that was.

Sadly my own firing story was the most interesting one from that company. The rest were pretty boring or so late coming that no one really noticed. My alcoholic lead was fired almost a year after nearly completely destroying the development of the game I worked on there. Why so long? I don’t know. The second incompetent lead was demoted and perhaps they thought that the person would quit on their own, but instead they went on to screw up a lot of things in the latest project.

A friend of mine who had been laid off at one company was hired on at the sister company. However, they were making him do monkey work too. When he complained, the HR coordinator for both companies bullied the new company to give him proper work for his field (wish they would have done the same for me). Unfortunately, that meant the person who had been there before my friend now had to do the shitty monkey work they had been giving my friend. He bitched and moaned and got my friend fired. A real classy place…

Anyways, what I’ve learned from all this is the following.

1. Keep a flashdrive on your keychain so at anytime you can download important files from your computer. Only take personal files or e-mails you need to save (maybe the ones of your boss cussing you out?). Do not take work owned files unless you need them for your portfolio (this is legally questionable, but just don’t say anything to them about it and they’ll never know).

2. On the flashdrive, keep a text version of a general goodbye e-mail. You may never use it, but it could come in handy. You just need something that you can quickly paste and send with perhaps a few minor modifications so that there’s no assumptions about what happened to you. Stay classy cause you WILL come across your coworkers again. Your bosses however will likely stay at the company until it shuts down or will leave the industry forever once they’re fired, so a subtle pot shot at them can endear you to your coworkers while letting management know what you really think (subtlety is key).

3. Know your rights. You don’t have to sign anything and they MUST give you your final paycheck. Do not sign an NDA, do not sign a non-compete. If they have a seperate SEVERANCE check and attempt to make you sign papers to get that, check how much it is first and see if it’s even worth making a ruckus over. Then tell them you need to talk to your lawyer first. They cannot deny you your legal counsel. The sheet saying you’ve seen your rights to continued medical coverage is probably the only thing that’s okay to sign (COBRA).

4. Ask for a copy of your personnel file immediately. Do not leave without it. It could come in handy if there’s a lawsuit later, and it can also have interesting company info on it that might be useful for telling your friends who still work there.

5. Stay cool, stay calm, stay collected. It’s easy to blow your top or break down. Being fired or laid off is an emotional situation. Nothing disarms them more than a smile (trust me, it’ll put THEM on edge). Getting emotional will also make you forget the other things you need to do during the process.

6. Don’t keep a lot of stuff at work. Just the bare essentials. If you can’t fit it all into one bag or backpack (which you should keep there), do NOT bring it to work. There is nothing more mortifying than dragging boxes back and forth for an hour after being fired. It shows you weren’t prepared and is incredibly uncomfortable for everyone (especially you).

7. If you are unhappy at a place… Find a new job. Start your search yesterday and don’t stop until you find something that you think you’ll like. You got into game development because you love games, and you love working on games. If that’s not the case at the place you work, you pretty much know that the games you’re making are going to suck and that the company you’re working for won’t be doing business for much longer. Get out, get out immediately and don’t look back.

posted by CommanderHate at 5:10 pm  

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