I’m Not Working That Job!Anonymous
When I graduated high school all I wanted to do was work in the gaming industry. This was a time when EA was a company people were proud to work for and WoW had no connection with Activision. All-in-all this was the last time I would ever think about wanting to work for a big company.
I wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to be the guy who shaped the look of the game before the game was a game. So I did what any young artist would do: I applied to a prestigious school with no money, got in, was told I had too much money, and opted for a two year art degree at a local college while I saved up to go to the nice art college.
While there one of my teachers asked an old student of his to come and give a lecture on his post-graduation activities. He had graduated with his generic art degree and, like I had planned on, moved on to a prestigious art school and then worked his way into the industry.
He told us the generics: working through his two year school, working full time to pay for the next school, and what it was like to graduate with a degree in sequential art, graphic design, and a minor in something-or-another.
After the generics he told us the first thing he did was apply for a job in the industry and that turned out to be a QA or game tester. This was in 2006 before that shitty gameshow that glorified game testing like it was a guaranteed door into making the games themselves.
He said right from the get-go he worked from early in the morning to midnight. This didn’t sound so bad to me, playing games for 14-16 hours straight? I did that anyway on the weekends. He did it every day. He didn’t get days off.
Eventually they had him on a schedule where it would be less restful to go home to sleep and come back than it would be just to bunk at his desk. So he did. With everyone else.
This was his home for months. He would eat there, drink there, bathe there, he rarely went home. He said the smell from everyone around him was nauseating. People would bring in hot plates and cook different foods or order out from ethnic delivery places. The smell, he told us, was enough to make you vomit.
He did this for a couple of years while shopping his portfolio around to different dev studios before finally landing a job as a character designer for one of them. The stress didn’t end there though.
Apparently he was expected to compete with his fellow artists for the position he was hired for. If you ask any artist of any medium what is the best way to stay sharp and keep getting better and they will tell you to just keep drawing/playing/recording etc and that’s just what he did. He would go to work and draw and draw and draw, come home late, set up in his tiny kitchen and draw and draw and draw, then come in to work with little or no sleep and keep doing the same thing all the while being told that everyone else was up for his job so he better not screw up or stop outshining everyone on his team.
I’ve never worked at a dev studio but I did work QA for Nameless Cell Phone Company and the bosses constantly told us if we didn’t keep our stats just right, if they fell by one number, we would be fired and replaced in as much time as it took to walk us out the door. That was stressful but all I had to do was talk to people on the phone and make sure their over-privileged twelve-year-olds could text their friends. He had to meet the demands of everyone in the studio working on the title he was on while basically racing with his design teammates.
One day he had a stroke due to his lifestyle of 100% stress, little to no sleep, and unhealthy eating.
All of that work, all of that stress, just to end up in the hospital and the one thing he worried about was losing his job titles to someone else because he was missing work and therefore out of the competition.
All of the crap he went through just to end up in the hospital had me off of the path to working in a studio. I know full well his experience was probably not common. If it was the mortality rate for artists in the industry would be enough that a simple Google search of “game designers dead from stress” would turn up a list of names that grew every few months.
I do know that he left the industry and does screen-printing now. He might not be super successful but he’s alive and happy. I’ll take that over having my name attached to a AAA title of critically acclaimed game any day.