Working long times never was a real problem for me. I've been programming since ~19 years and have spent more time thinking about algorithms and program code than I have spent on thinking about my life itself. That's perhaps where my problem resides : I've never thought about what might come after game development. What would I do when I have 30,40 or 50 years.
When I started to work in game development, I new my wife for about 3-4 years. I've lost my job as an electrician because the company went bad and sought after a job that would really fit my interests and by capabilities. Since after work I immediately switched on my computer and started programming games and because that was what I wanted to do most, I talked to my wife and together we decided to take a shot and try to get me into game development.
She was really great! I've programmed the tools and the demo game and she did the graphics and the levels. Everything put together I send it to Blue Byte and after a month of negotiation I was hired. That was great !
I spent a lot of time in the company, making over time hours, sometimes staying a whole week away from home sleeping in the old offices that had been arranged to do so. I wasn't living with my wife then, so all that was no problem.
The problem came up when I moved with my wife. We had a small appartement in belgium. Moving to germany was a no-no because my wife doesn't speak a word german and she already had moved 160km to the belgian-german frontier so that I could work in germany. But the problem was that at that time I had a double employment in the company. At one hand I had become the lead developer for the in-house animation system and at the other hand I had become the project manager for a game that had to be published soon. The first weeks were quite cool because I could return back home every day. But once crunch time arrived, I could go back home in the evening. Additionally, the company had some problems and laid some people to free money for development. We were afraid for my perspectives. My wife had to sleep alone at home and she was afraid someone would introduce into the appartement so she slept with a knife under her pillow. This went on for 4 month.
In those 4 month I found a lead programmer job at a company formed by former Blue Byte people. The project seemed easy and I returned home every day. But soon the project made a 180? turn because no one had foreseen how much difficulties would arise from the changing rulesets within the game (which was a table top conversion). So I had to stay at the office. I liked the project, so it was not really a problem for me... But it became a problem, when my wife started to complain (and she was right) that sometimes I wouldn't even return on week-ends. I spent 5 month sleeping beside my computer and my relationship with my wife almost broke.
The project shipped one month late and I left the company to start working as a freelance programmer. That was the best time I ever had. I was able to work from home and the best was : My wife got pregnant.
But towards the end of the project, it all started again : Working overtime, keeping me away from home. I missed 5 month of my wife's pregnancy and she really got bored with my job.
The project finished, I worked for another company and another. The last one was relax but got bancrupt after a year.
My wife started talking into me to change my job and search something different. I totally understood her... but game programming was/is my life... that's what I can do best. I have no degree whatsoever. I didn't finish my high school. Who would take someone who had worked in game development (which is not considered as a "regular" job in europe) ? Who would take someone who didn't study ?
I tried the indie developer way because a former friend of mine and me got offered to develop 6 casual games. We did 2 games and a screensaver companion but as soon as I wanted to talk about money, the publisher dropped us. My wife was angy at me because I just had wasted 9 months of my life and a lot of money. We managed to publish one game at another publisher but we were told it didn't sell so I didn't seen any money for it.
My wife pushed me into accepting a work financed by the local employment center. It was a small R&D company with only 2 people. With me it had been 3. Unfortunately, the personality of my boss and myself wouldn't fit together. Because I didn't want to disappoint my wife again, I played the game. But the longer I worked for that company the more I got depressed and aggressive. I asked myself : "But, what are you doing here?!? This is not your place!". By all means I tried to keep me attached to game development. After 6 months I made a business plan, discussed it with my wife and she finally agreed to give me another chance.
I retired the indie way but my wife, alerted by the first time, was on my back and constantly asked me when the first money would come in. Any investment for sound and graphics had been blocked because we didn't have much saved money and she didn't want to take any risks anymore. She was pregnant a second time.
The 6 month plan has been skipped after 2 months of fighting and hard discussion. A friend of mine told me that his company searched for a good programmer and although they never engaged anyone who didn't study, they decided to test me.
That's where I am now. The job is ok, pays the bills, isn't too stressing and has a surprise every day. 2-3 times per week I phone my wife to tell her that I'll be late by one hour but it seems to be ok for her... I bring in the money...
The first months I thought I could develop games in the evening to satisfy my needs for game development. I wrote a game that has been published and even been nominated for the german game developer award.
I've talked a lot with former colleagues and employers to determine the current situation on the market and their estimation for the future. Everyone seems to be afraid about what might come. And that's not a perspective that I could impose to my wife and my 2 children. My first concern is now my family. I've almost lost them 3 times... I don't want that to happen.
Ok... I think that will be all negativ rant for now... I'll put together a list of what developers can do to make their life more happy... That will come next week...