February 20 – February 24

Watching Starbreeze layoff 25 workers last week as a thank you for their hard work on Syndicate, reminds me again just how naive my childhood dreams of being a game designer/developer/programmer really were. Not that anyone's banging down my door to hire me for a position -- I'm thinking Director of Snarky Comments -- but I'm pretty sure I'd accept a job managing a Gamestop again before I'd take a job with your average developer. Maybe it's amazing on the inside, but from out here it looks like a machine designed to grind creative, intelligent people into a disposable paste once every drop of effort is sucked unmercifully from their broken bodies.

Maybe Director of Melodrama is a better position for me.

I get it that it's just "how the industry works." I even get that Starbreeze probably has its hands tied from a budget perspective. When it comes right down to it, those 25 people probably lost their jobs so that 50 or 100 other people could keep theirs. There is no easy fix, because the problem is twisted, complicated and firmly entrenched. All that said, what I know is that if somehow Syndicate becomes a smash hit and sells millions of copies, there will be at least 25 people who have nothing more to show for it than a credit on their resume and an unemployment check.

Don't care how you spin it, that sucks

PC
- Syndicate
- Wargame: European Escalation
- Out There Somewhere (download)

Xbox 360
- Asura's Wrath
- Syndicate
- Alan Wake's American Nightmare (XBLA)

PS3
- Asura's Wrath
- Syndicate

Vita
- PlayStation Vita
- Army Corps of Hell
- Dynasty Warriors Next
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
- Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen
- Touch My Katamari
- Hustle Kings (PSN)
- Plants vs. Zombies (PSN)
- Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack (PSN)

3DS
- Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D
- Box Pusher ($5)

DS
- Box Pusher ($5)

Comments

I can't speak for the book, but I thought the whole point of Fight Club was that Tyler Durden wasn't right.

I am honestly trying to have a conversation about this, I should specify. Sorry for my initial arch comment, I should have phrased it more like:

Given the amount of time during a week the average person has to spend working in order to put food on the table/pay rent/pay mortage/buy blow-up dolls ... how can it not, in some way, define who you are?

Michael Zenke wrote:

I am honestly trying to have a conversation about this, I should specify. Sorry for my initial arch comment, I should have phrased it more like:

Given the amount of time during a week the average person has to spend working in order to put food on the table/pay rent/pay mortage/buy blow-up dolls ... how can it not, in some way, define who you are?

In my experience, people seem to fall into three major categories when it comes to jobs. The first category are those who work to pay the bills, but otherwise don't identify with what they do. The second are those who use their work to 'keep score' or otherwise validate their sense of self-worth. I'm thinking the high powered business types here. The final group are those who regard what they do as a calling, rather than a job. For these people, their work is as much its own reward as the paycheck. I suspect that this group is most likely to identify what they to with who they are as a person (many doctors, for example). For this group, of whom I consider myself a member, anything else feels as if it must be a bit empty.

Different strokes, I suppose.

Coldstream wrote:
Michael Zenke wrote:

I am honestly trying to have a conversation about this, I should specify. Sorry for my initial arch comment, I should have phrased it more like:

Given the amount of time during a week the average person has to spend working in order to put food on the table/pay rent/pay mortage/buy blow-up dolls ... how can it not, in some way, define who you are?

In my experience, people seem to fall into three major categories when it comes to jobs. The first category are those who work to pay the bills, but otherwise don't identify with what they do. The second are those who use their work to 'keep score' or otherwise validate their sense of self-worth. I'm thinking the high powered business types here. The final group are those who regard what they do as a calling, rather than a job. For these people, their work is as much its own reward as the paycheck. I suspect that this group is most likely to identify what they to with who they are as a person (many doctors, for example). For this group, of whom I consider myself a member, anything else feels as if it must be a bit empty.

Different strokes, I suppose.

Which one of those quits their job to work at Gamestop?

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I can't speak for the book, but I thought the whole point of Fight Club was that Tyler Durden wasn't right.

I'd say it's less about him being right or wrong about any of the particular socioeconomic issues he brings up, and more about how he

Spoiler:

and by extension, the narrator who is his other half

allows his sense of alienation with the modern world lead him down a nihilistic path that damages his ability to relate to other people on a human level, and that he's wrong in that.

Michael Zenke wrote:

I am honestly trying to have a conversation about this, I should specify. Sorry for my initial arch comment, I should have phrased it more like:

Given the amount of time during a week the average person has to spend working in order to put food on the table/pay rent/pay mortage/buy blow-up dolls ... how can it not, in some way, define who you are?

I think there's a bit of leeway in the bolded caveat there. I don't disagree with you in principle, I just think it can be dangerous when "in some way" becomes "in large part."

For example, I work two jobs: a sh*tty retail job, and a nice library job. In a typical week, I tend to work more hours at the sh*tty retail job, but I find more satisfaction and fulfillment in the library job.

More than either one, though, I find satisfaction and fulfillment in my relationship with my girlfriend, my friends, and my family, in my hobbies, and in trying to be a decent human being in general. Defining me as "that guy with a sh*tty retail job" is dismissive and reductionist. Your career may be A thing that defines you, but I think it would be a terrible mistake for anyone-- even someone who has a much better and more fulfilling career than mine-- to let it be THE thing that defines you.

You are more than the socioeconomic niche in which you find yourself.

wordsmythe wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

BLAH BLAH BLAH

Which one of those quits their job to work at Gamestop?

The high-powered business type. No-one burns out like the guy trying to outrun his own insecurities.

hbi2k wrote:

You are more than the socioeconomic niche in which you find yourself.

This, I agree with for the most part.

Apologies for my cynical and jaded nature, gents. I try to work on it.

Michael Zenke wrote:
hbi2k wrote:

You are more than the socioeconomic niche in which you find yourself.

This, I agree with for the most part.

Apologies for my cynical and jaded nature, gents. I try to work on it. ;)

Not at all. I mostly posted that picture as a goof (and 'cause I love that movie), not to make any deep and well-thought-out rhetorical point, but I don't mind discussing this stuff in a serious way either.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

You want a company to hire and retain more people? Make them successful. If they have money, they can spend it on things like wages and all the hidden costs of employing people like payroll taxes,
insurance, overhead, etc. etc. etc.

Can?!?

You're seriously suggesting that profit has a damned thing to do with employee retention in an industry obsessed with AAA releases, unconcerned by the Mythical Man Month, and that's already well-aware that every last employee can be made as inexpensive and disposable as possible by way of offering up the crap version of the contract as a default?

How does this happen, exactly? The goodness of their collective heart?

EDIT: Yes, I'm overdoing it here. But seeing this time and time again, it's pretty difficult not to see many of the larger companies in the games industry as mills where iffy management and executive decisions can and often do cloud (verb!) success that might otherwise result in establishing solid teams that produce longer-term success and profits.

Success!

ianunderhill wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

You want a company to hire and retain more people? Make them successful. If they have money, they can spend it on things like wages and all the hidden costs of employing people like payroll taxes,
insurance, overhead, etc. etc. etc.

Can?!?

You're seriously suggesting that profit has a damned thing to do with employee retention in an industry obsessed with AAA releases, unconcerned by the Mythical Man Month, and that's already well-aware that every last employee can be made as inexpensive and disposable as possible by way of offering up the crap version of the contract as a default?

A profitable company has the ability to invest that profit now in things that will make more profit later. Up to a point they will gain economies of scale by increasing staffing levels. If they have enough money to invest in many projects simultaneously, they can re-allocate staff to different projects rather than simply firing them once their role in their current project is complete.

If you aren't overstaffed, it's generally in a company's best interest to not lose a bunch of people and replace them even if they're replaceable. Terming and hiring is, after all, itself a costly proposition, as you need resources for training, HR overhead, and interview processes. It's smart to spend some resources on making employees satisfied in their work environment, and a profitable company will be better positioned to do this.

None of this guarantees that a highly profitable company will be a great place to work, but such a company does have some incentives to not actively make people miserable.

Coldstream wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

BLAH BLAH BLAH

Which one of those quits their job to work at Gamestop?

The high-powered business type. No-one burns out like the guy trying to outrun his own insecurities.

Isn't his company offering him securities options?

gore wrote:

A profitable company has the ability to invest that profit now in things that will make more profit later. Up to a point they will gain economies of scale by increasing staffing levels. If they have enough money to invest in many projects simultaneously, they can re-allocate staff to different projects rather than simply firing them once their role in their current project is complete.

If you aren't overstaffed, it's generally in a company's best interest to not lose a bunch of people and replace them even if they're replaceable. Terming and hiring is, after all, itself a costly proposition, as you need resources for training, HR overhead, and interview processes. It's smart to spend some resources on making employees satisfied in their work environment, and a profitable company will be better positioned to do this.

None of this guarantees that a highly profitable company will be a great place to work, but such a company does have some incentives to not actively make people miserable.

Quite right. The idea that all companies are Victorian workhouses squeezing the blood out of their workers then discarding them is very misguided.

A small company like Starbreeze that uses skilled workers gets more benefits from looking after those workers.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Quite right. The idea that all companies are Victorian workhouses squeezing the blood out of their workers then discarding them is very misguided.

Did I say all? Or for that matter, "Victorian workhouses"? What I was suggesting (albeit rather poorly) was that employee retention is frequently incidental to the bottom line. Isn't the sort of investment alluded to upthread generally more about those project managers and team leads than, say, texture artists or QA drones numbers 1, 2, and 3? I'd guess that social factors play a bigger part in retention for people in those sorts of roles, which might be viewed as less critical by management.

A small company like Starbreeze that uses skilled workers gets more benefits from looking after those workers.

And word is that Starbreeze failed to have enough in the pipes to keep a fair chunk of their employees, so they let them go. While that sucks, don't think for a minute that I'm suggesting, "Well they should've had work for them!" - I understand that the primary aim of the business is to make products that yield profit. At the same time, it's not like they're aiming to protect their investment in retained employees by, say acquiring properties or initiating projects to keep them around for the next really big, almost surely profitable thing to which they could make not only useful but significant contribution. How much money are they going to be stuck spending hiring on people to replace those they let go once something promising is lined up? If they're going to take significant loss on that, and this happens multiple time, is the better long-term solution to cut from the bottom, or pull out whoever's higher up making way more money and yet failing to bring in enough work and ultimately costing them money and (possibly worse) loss of investment?

Man, I hate those Victorians almost as much as I hate Modernists.

wordsmythe wrote:

Man, I hate those Victorians almost as much as I hate Modernists.

Ah, but to watch you read, sir - surely Tschichold never knew such epithets, even in his own day!

ianhunderhill wrote:

Did I say all? Or for that matter, "Victorian workhouses"? What I was suggesting (albeit rather poorly) was that employee retention is frequently incidental to the bottom line. Isn't the sort of investment alluded to upthread generally more about those project managers and team leads than, say, texture artists or QA drones numbers 1, 2, and 3? I'd guess that social factors play a bigger part in retention for people in those sorts of roles, which might be viewed as less critical by management.

Which is a point I made in my first posting: Companies exist to make money, not to employ people. Employment is a happy side effect of success, not a goal.

That's why any program aimed at "creating jobs" will fail. What we want to create is wealth, not jobs, because a poor man never signed a paycheck. At least not often enough to make it count. The mythical 1% pays the 99%'s bills in one way or another.

Companies with high turnover (that is that lose people and then replace them, for whatever reason) tend not to last very long. Layoffs tend not to be a first resort with successful companies, because a lot of money goes into bringing new people up to speed on how the internal mechanisms of the company work. If you're having massive layoffs whether you need them or not, you're doing something wrong.

Which is a point you made when describing Starbreeze-- they should have been pursuing more business. Not to keep the employees they laid off, but to bring in new revenues which, incidentally, would have allowed them to keep the employees they laid off.

I don't know what Starbreeze's business model is, or whether it's good or bad. Maybe they're cutting to grow, maybe they're just short sighted. Time will tell. That's no comfort to the people now on the unemployment line, but it is nonetheless true.

Michael Zenke wrote:

Blizzard lays off 600 people. /golfclap

I hear they're setting up a fairly sizable hiring booth at GDC.

wordsmythe wrote:
Michael Zenke wrote:

Blizzard lays off 600 people. /golfclap

I hear they're setting up a fairly sizable hiring booth at GDC.

Hopefully it's a piranha-laden dunk tank for the collective ego of the staff who hired 600 global non-development employees. (My guess is that the cost of exotic gamified execution in effigy < cost of proper fulfillment of compensation packages.)

Michael Zenke wrote:

Blizzard lays off 600 people. /golfclap

This means Diablo 3 is done, right?

Since this is my personal official thread to talk about game layoffs ...

Obsidian lays off something like 30 people. Including one guy that just started yesterday.

"Hey there Bob! How'd you like your first day? Yeah, the coffee here sucks. So, funny story ... you don't have to worry about that anymore. Y'see, you're fired. Yeah. Yeah, I know you just moved across the country to get here. Yeah. Yeah, I know you have a wife and a kid and a dog. Oh, you just closed on the house? Nice. Nice.

Ahh. Yeah. Look, there's plenty of other game design shops here in Irvine. I'm sure ... yeah, that is true, there are 29 other guys looking for work now. Yeah. Well, I tell you what Bob, this is getting uncomfortable for me. What with you crying and all. So, I'm going to call security. Okay. Yeah."

They should've fired whoever proposed firing the guy who started yesterday.

"But look on the bright side: you don't have to go through the sad rigamarole of cleaning out your desk! Since you never got one. But seriously, you have to leave now."

Layoffs are often about seniority.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Layoffs are often about seniority.

True, and understandable. But it's such a caricature of game industry rug-pulling ... meh. I dunno.

Michael Zenke wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

Layoffs are often about seniority.

True, and understandable. But it's such a caricature of game industry rug-pulling ... meh. I dunno.

If your company is in a position where it will need to lay people off, the last thing you want to do is hire people first.

I know that a lot of corporate cultures try very hard to keep up a facade that everything is flowers and sunshine even as the ship is sinking, but everywhere I've worked at least had the foresight to do a hiring freeze before they started actively cutting head count.