This is more of a reply on my earlier article of How I got into the Games Industry (which was originally written in 30 August 2007) as since then, I have left the industry and thought it be interesting to detail why for balance.
Ultimately, the main reason for leaving was for quality of life (QOL) which is a hotly discussed topic in industry circles. Each I was on crunched to some degree, some worse then others which began to take their toll on me.
When I was all new to the industry, it was all very exciting and the extra hours didn’t seem that bad but as I got older and more experienced, other things started to take priority and I didn’t want to spend all my time at work for long periods at a time.
The tipping point is when I foresaw that we were going to crunch (badly) due to a fundamental change in the project and there was very little we could to get round it. Higher ups/Middle management wanted it and we couldn’t say no to it. Then came a series of decisions that literally went against every software engineering book I have read and made matters worse in the most obvious ways. (Please note I am being purposely vague due to NDA agreements in place).
Enough was enough and I started looking for jobs soon after. It certainly didn’t help that I was underpaid due to a wage freeze and got passed on promotion twice. In short, I felt like I was working my ass off for little pay and getting nothing at the end of it which didn’t feel right especially when I knew I could be getting better.
I chose to look purely outside of the industry to see what else was out there for ex-game developers and also the pay was generally higher by a significant amount. After speaking with a few agencies and rejecting many games industry positions, I ended up with two interviews. One at Boeing Phantom Works who deal with future defence projects and technology and another at WMS Gaming who develop slot machine software and hardware for the Gambling sector.
Boeing were extremely interesting due to the technology that was at their disposal and it was basically Serious Games development. I could immediately see the direct application of my skillset and only lost out on an offer due to another application having more experience in the defense sector.
WMS Gaming intrigued me in different ways. Lots of the staff were ex-games industry, including the head of studio and there were more obvious signs that despite being part of a larger company, they were a small team that were not resistant to change and willing to make changes to improve areas that have caused problems in the past. It was also made clear that everyone’s opinion mattered.
WMS is where I am at now, my QOL is better, my salary is significantly higher and now I feel I can make a difference rather then be a cog in a process. It isn’t prefect here, but I feel more empowered to do my job and able to a difference to improve things.
I do miss some of the excitement of the games industry and even just working in games in general. However, the improved working hours allow me to concentrate on my own projects at home and fulfils my creative urges.
The real question that I keep asking myself is whether I could find all this from another games company and the answer is probably yes. Not sure which one as they seem to be the exception rather then the rule. Also, with the industry in the state its in currently in at the moment, job stability is another big ‘if’. Certainly not ruling out returning to mainstream games development but at the moment, going Indie is far more attractive and what I will be aiming for in the near future.