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Why to not work at a video game company:

0) Abuse.

1) Executives cut projects: a lot. The budgets are so insane for games executives need to constantly trim budgets and shift things around. It is common to walk over to an artists desk and inform them the art they have worked on for 2 years wont be used. I am convinced telling a wife her husband has passed is the same feeling.

2) The budgets have exploded. My last project for an iPhone game was well over 4million dollars.

3) Complexity is compounding. My last team (for a prototype) consisted of: AI guy, graphics/C++ guy(s), gameplay guy, Art TEAM (vector and raster) and project managers. The art pipelines alone will suck the budget dry.

4) Pay is low. Since you are starting fresh each project (see 5), your working knowledge of the system is similar to someone new. Promotions, salary increases, etc don't make any financial sense (see 1) unless you are a rockstar. The new kids walking in usually burn out and quit because they don't understand the massive shit show the industry is. EA's managers just grind people until they can't walk. Disney is a sweatshop.

5) NOTHING is reused. After your second project, you quickly realize the AI you created for fish has nothing todo with with your AI for a 3d shooter. The asset pipeline you created for a soccer game doesn't translate over to a racing game. Game companies are full of dead code repros. People try to create/use repeatable platforms, but then the game designer guy will walk by and say "Hey is that the newest unreal engine?". In games: Anything reused is quickly spotted as reused. This is why games that have a good series going do really well financially. GTA what like 15?

6) Success is low. After a few years into a project, someone will say: "But its not... fun". Welp, good luck fixing that. Or plan on having it rot in some terrible online store.

7) Rockstars. Executive: "OMG you wrote the AI for GTA2 in 1998??". Welp, this guy is now your boss. AND, because games are almost always a luck play - this "Rockstar" will teach you absolutely nothing.

My takeaway:

I have talked with guys in the game industry that have been in it 20+ years and asked WTF. Basically, lifers are like high school teachers. They are abused and underpaid: but they love what they do.

I've heard all of the horror stories about EA, but the author seems to have enjoyed the premise of the experience at Ubisoft, e.g., good camaraderie, a non-abusive environment. Sure, projects got canceled, but that happens in every industry, especially creative.

Which one is the outlier, Ubisoft or EA? Is the whole games industry a mess, or is EA just exceptionally bad?

Having worked under EA, Capcom and THQ I can confirm that the whole industry is nuts.

If you like 40% less pay for 50%+ more hours be my guest but 5 years in the industry was enough for me(and considering the average career is ~3 years, for most people as well).

Fun problems and interesting products but not a sane career.

Having worked at both a small-time and significant studio, I too can confirm the whole industry is nuts, as the sibling comment says.

vvanders' comment is such a perfect illustration of the situation that you should read and re-read it and then force yourself to believe it. I didn't.

None of this will really change the minds of a determined 19 year old to become a gamedev, though. That's why gamedev is able to treat employees as if they worked at a startup while giving none of the benefits. If one leaves, there are ten young people who want to take their place, and are massively excited to do so. For a few years.

Yep, I've lost count of the people that I was unable to convince not to join the industry that came back a few years later(hell I was one of them).

Sometimes you can only learn a fire is hot by getting your hand burned in the flame.

I suspect Ubisoft has vastly different attitudes for different teams. You have the guys making the extremely fun, innovative, Rayman platformers, designing levels like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m5YQrucis8

Then down the hall you have the guys chugging out Assassin's Creed 57: Nothing At All New.

That said, I'm an outsider, I don't know, but I'm wagering those vastly different games have vastly different types of teams behind them.

CD Projekt was accused of abusive work conditions for Witcher 3, and stories about Rockstar's death marches surface after almost everything they release. I think good conditions at AAA studios are outliers. Game development is my dream job but I'm glad I didn't go down that path.

>CD Projekt was accused of abusive work conditions for Witcher 3

Yeah, I though about that when I played it: "Is CDP really this much bigger than Bethesda? Probably not..."

I'm still disappointed about having my suspicion confirmed.

But to add to the discussion: Funcom (of Norway) was often in trouble with the labor regulator for "mattress-in-office" working conditions, even though they had massive goodwill due to being the only big Norwegian studio at the time. I suspect the only reason I haven't heard something bad about Red Thread Games is because they're too small to be noticed.

Most of them are pretty bad. I had some roommates who were crunching for over 9 months on a title. They'd head to the studio around 8-9am and head home around 3-4am. Some days they slept at the office.

After the project, the company decided to take away a bunch of their leave days that were accumulated with the OT, because it was inconvenient for them. These are people who were there for 5-7 years.

I've freelanced all my life so I don't know how these things usually go, but it sounds pretty damn awful.

Sounds about right, when I left my last games gig I had to toss ~3mo of PTO because the company refused to pay it out(yay WA employment law) despite it being a specific benefit.

I never had a chance to use it since we were crunching so much that it just accrued until I left.

I was hesitant to join a game company for pretty much all these reasons, but there are some exceptions out there. I'm working on some interesting reusable platform-level technology that wouldn't be out of place at somewhere like Google (in fact one of the projects I work on is very similar to something Google has since open-sourced). The pay is Silicon Valley level, and the company is financially stable so the risk of "Urgent company all-hands: you're all laid off" is very low. The scale we operate at is challenging and the culture is strongly geared towards empowering us to grow rather than burn out or become cogs in a machine. It's not perfect, but it's not EA either. :)

I’ve been working in the games industry for almost 8 years now and I can’t stand it anymore. Low pay, no benefits, poor work-life balance and no career progression.

Making games is fun and rewarding, but as a hobby, not a full-time job. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to leave that industry, at least for me... :/

>5) NOTHING is reused.

You haven't played Ubisoft games.

or any major sports titles.

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