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curiouscat

transition from company to indie despite inventions clause

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What is the legitimacy of a typical game company inventions clause (claiming ownership over employee inventions produced in the employee's spare time) in California? I've heard that non-competes do not hold up in court in California for example (correct me if I'm wrong), but can companies really own things you do _at home_ _in your own time_ _with your own materials_ or sue you if you make a game in your own time after signing a contract saying that you won't? Can they take your profits? Would it hold up in court? What if you are only part owner of the project, and the other owners don't work for the company you signed an inventions clause with? Can you own what you do at home if it's not for profit but still intended for a broad audience (free game)? I'm sure companies can fire you for such a thing (since it is generally 'at will' employment in Cali, they can fire you for almost anything), but is termination the worst that can happen? Just to clarify, I am not asking about making games with company equipment on company hours or using company IP, as these acts are clear-cut no-nos. If companies really do have this much power and such inventions clauses are as standard as I keep hearing, then how do indie developers 'break free', like with 2D Boy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2D_Boy), who left EA to start their company? Do you just need to save and save money and not start working on a project until you quit your job and hope you've saved enough to ride out the dev time? If a company was going to have layoffs in a few months you couldn't start working on your own project to soften the blow of getting laid off...???

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Original post by curiouscat
how do indie developers 'break free'...
to start their company? Do you just need to save and save money and not start working on a project until you quit your job and hope you've saved enough to ride out the dev time?

That's one way. Another is to form alliances/partnerships with others desirous of going independent, and seek investment capital. There are numerous threads here about starting one's own company.

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Dodgey advice be here:
You can just do lots of work in your spare time, then quit with a small amount of savings, and then pretend that all that work was done after quitting. Flush your SVN server, kill all the timestamps, etc... If they sue you then it'll be an interesting battle proving that you worked on it during your employment with them.

I also wonder what this would do to their reputation anyway. After all, who wants an "Evil corporate developer eats innovative indie games for breakfast, shits out shovelware"-headline with their name in it?

Sensible advice: Ask your employer for permission to work on a private at-home project. Get it in writing that they won't claim ownership.

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Companies have as much power as you give them (within the limits of the law). The key is not to sign a bad contract in the first place. As Hodgman points out you should ask permission before doing side projects - better yet negotiate out bad clauses before signing a contract in the first place.

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If a company really wants you they will have no problem adding in a clause stating you are free to do whatever on your own time as long as its not in direct competition with what you do for work. Any decent company is already going to have that in the contract. And if a company is unwilling to bend on that they probably aren't worth working for. Even though I do very little indie programming its a personal requirement that it be in a contract before I work for somebody. They already own you 40+ hours a week, they don't own your free time as well.

Though not entirely legal, what Hodgman said would probably work. If there is no 'proof' you worked on the game while employed at a company there is probably not much they can do.

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Look at it another way. Reading between the words of the subject line of this thread. The OP is saying he wants to be paid by his employer while he creates his own game on the side, then stay with the employer as long as it takes to get that game ready for the market. That way, when he gives notice to the employer, he's already got a product to sell.
(Ignoring for a moment the issue of whether one game is enough of a jumpstart for a business.)
There's an old saying - it costs money to make money.

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Original post by Tom Sloper
Look at it another way. Reading between the words of the subject line of this thread. The OP is saying he wants to be paid by his employer while he creates his own game on the side, then stay with the employer as long as it takes to get that game ready for the market. That way, when he gives notice to the employer, he's already got a product to sell.
(Ignoring for a moment the issue of whether one game is enough of a jumpstart for a business.)
There's an old saying - it costs money to make money.


If this is the case and you come out with a complete game within a couple of months of quitting a job then burning your SVN servers and whatever else is probably not going to be enough. It will be obvious that all the files had the same checkin date. And the company wouldn't have to have hard evidence to bring you to court over a breach of contract. If this is the OP's plan then best wait until you exit time clause is up before trying the release anything.

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In California, inventions created by employees in their off time on their own equipment is governed by Cal Labor Code 2870: http://www.unixguru.com/california_law.html

If the invention is related to business of your employer, then the contract between you and your employer assigning them all rights to the invention will not be invalid under CA law. If your current job requires you to work on games and you decide to create another game at home, then they have a strong argument that they own your game. This is the same argument Mattel made against MGA in the Bratz litigation.

If you really want to reduce the risk of losing ownership in the side project, then you should disclose it to your manager and ask for a formal waiver of the company's ownership rights.

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My advice would be to not mention it to your employer under any circumstances.

Speaking as a (very small time) employer who has also spent 20 years as someone elses employee:

If you came to me asking about dabbling with say some DS homebrew stuff to learn the system, I'd applaud and help you. Wanna play around using PhysX to do a billiards game for fun? Sure, use our library to help. Need a hand?

However...

If you come to me with something along the lines of "do you mind if I continue taking your pay checks for another six months whilst I think about my exciting new home job all day, which btw is developing an indie title for my new career? I promise to f**k off when I have no further use of you, doubtless during alpha?"...

I promise I'll stamp your ticket right there. If you intend to phrase it more delicately than that, please give the employers credit for their reading-between-the-lines powers.

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Thank you all for the replies, I really appreciate them.

I am a little confused by people making statements along the lines of 'taking a paycheck', as if I wouldn't be putting in 40 hours of work a week (well more, since this is a crunch-happy industry). For example, Tom says "he wants to be paid by his employer while he creates his own game on the side, then stay with the employer as long as it takes to get that game ready for the market." What if I feel this is inaccurate, and that a more accurate statement would be "he wants to be paid by his employer for the time he spends at work, while having the freedom to mitigate the risk of his financial future with his own product in his own time, just like said employer is hedging its future with other products from other studios that it deals with, and if the studio keeps him happy (as any good studio should) then he will never _want_ to leave."

I'm not sure why the game industry, including its workers, seems to think that risk is a one way street that should only favor companies. I have read about, seen, and experienced first hand countless situations where the low-level workers that put in most of the crunch get laid off first when things don't go well while management keeps their cushy high-paying job, even when some of the things that hurt the quality and sales of the game were pointed out by said workers and ignored by management.

Please accept this as a topic that I take very seriously and not something I am trying to start flame wars with. Also in my original post I was asking about not-for-profit games - for example, what if I feel that my job is keeping me happy but I have a really cool idea (that's not a first person shooter or action game, so I know the company won't actually want to do it) that I want to release for free, just to bring a fun experience to the world. Can the company still claim ownership over that, even if it's not intended for profit?

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Original post by curiouscat
I am a little confused by people making statements along the lines of...
It's just cynicism, which is normal in business. I think Rubicon summed this up well by pointing out that a boss might see outside work as a distraction. I certainly know that when I'm working on an interesting hobby project it does consume some of my at-work brain cycles ;)

That said, lots of people in my company have asked for permission to make iPhone games (for profit) in their spare time, and all these requests have been approved by management.
Quote:
I'm not sure why the game industry, including its workers, seems to think that risk is a one way street that should only favor companies.
I don't think it's just the games industry. Every capitalist industry will screw it's workers over for all they're worth if allowed to do so, hence regulations and unions exist.
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Can the company still claim ownership over that, even if it's not intended for profit?
Yeah it doesn't change anything. Technically they can still claim it. So the best thing to do would be to simply make them aware of your project.
If they know about it prior to release, and don't stop you from releasing it, then they're not likely to try and pull the plug after it's freely available on the web.

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Original post by curiouscat
Tom says "he wants to be paid by his employer while he creates his own game on the side, then stay with the employer as long as it takes to get that game ready for the market." What if I feel this is inaccurate, and that a more accurate statement would be

Not talking about a black-and-white "this is the way everybody should interpret this" - I'm showing you the way somebody else could view your scenario. You need to be able to see it from numerous POVs.

As for studio keeping you happy so you don't want to leave, that's a two-way street too. The studio's job isn't to make employees happy -- but if they do, they'll be more successful at their job -- which is whatever the owners say the job is. Most likely, they want to make enough money so they can keep on making games, but they might have some other goal in mind.

I veered off there. What I'm saying is the employees have to contribute to the overall morale, too.

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Original post by curiouscat
Thank you all for the replies, I really appreciate them.
... a more accurate statement would be "he wants to be paid by his employer for the time he spends at work, while having the freedom to mitigate the risk of his financial future with his own product in his own time
What gets forgotten is that this is meant to be a professional career and that comes with certain expectations of the staff, at least the senior ones.

Most employers, me included, expect complete dedication to the cause to the extent that writing something on the side for pin money wouldn't even come up in the first place. This shouldn't mean "always in the office crunching", but it also shouldn't mean that the guy in question has an eye permanently fixed on the clock/exit sign either, waiting for 5.00pm to come around so he can work on something "more worthwhile".

If you want a 40 hours served then go home union job, go drive a truck. We're looking for people who will eat, sleep and breathe the company, or at least the current project, and in return for that you get an open promotion path and a fat salary. Seems like a fair exchange to me tbh and I've been on both sides of the fence.

If this isn't for you, and it's not for a lot of people, then fine - go make some indie games. I'm not preaching here, just explaining how the employer sees this. I mean, it's not like games dev isn't relatively easy, fun and highly paid.

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Original post by curiouscat
I'm not sure why the game industry, including its workers, seems to think that risk is a one way street that should only favor companies.
It's NOT just the games industry. It's probably every industry, it's just that you don't keep an eye on the steel workers or the lawyers, etc.

Keeping a company profitable whilst paying out these large sums each and every month is a knife edge and the full attention of the employees is required to keep it going.

When you go indie, you'll see for yourself why the employers expect you to bust your balls off for them in return for 5-10K a month. My guess is you'll be then working around the clock for (according to probability) maybe a tenth of that if you're lucky, remembering how easy you had it before for so much more cash.

I guess I just really don't get where this attitude comes from that the hard work expected isn't massively well rewarded. Try a month of working in a laundry to put the "oppression of the game dev workers" into perspective.

(I know this might not be your outlook, I'm speaking generally to the crowd of workshy youngsters who tend to have this idea they're being "exploited" and who I'm surprised haven't jacked into this thread already tbh)

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Original post by Rubicon
Most employers, me included, expect complete dedication to the cause to the extent that writing something on the side for pin money wouldn't even come up in the first place. This shouldn't mean "always in the office crunching", but it also shouldn't mean that the guy in question has an eye permanently fixed on the clock/exit sign either, waiting for 5.00pm to come around so he can work on something "more worthwhile".


Very few non-indies get to work on a game that they actually care about. Most of the time they're working on a sequel or a port of an existing game. Even porting projects usually last for most of a year, and after that there's ANOTHER port project already lined up to keep everyone employed. The chances you'll work on something you TRULY care about is slim.

How can you expect an employee to be completely dedicated to the job if they aren't always enthusiastic about what they're working on?


On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the indie developers who can work on whatever they feel like, but aren't consistently making money.


As far as I've seen, there's no middle ground. Publishers view new IP as exceedingly risky, and contract studios don't have the correct employee skills, management, or team composition to succeed at developing a brand new game.

This is why employees often come up with the "...but if I work on my own project in my free time..." thoughts.

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While I see in principal what you're saying Rubicon, there's at least a couple non-starters in your argument with respect to the wider industry.

Firstly, while everyone wants passionate employees (regardless of industry), it is just a job at the end of the day, and whatever an employee chooses his or her life outside of work to be, they shouldn't be viewed negatively about wanting to get back to it -- lets face it, unless you're actually invested in the future of the company with more weight than hope of promotion and a raise (say, partial ownership, meaningful profit sharing or stock options), no one should be expected to be a "company man" at the cost of their *actual* life. I've been there (in a non-gaming company) working extra hours unpaid to make sure things are on schedule or pick up new, proprietary knowledge while collecting a salary that was smaller than it should have been, being dangled the prospect of a 5K/year raise after 6 months to a year after a performance review, and a salary ladder that topped out at around 80k in its upper eschelons -- While 80k isn't a bad salary in general, its not anywhere near good for a dev with 5+ years of deep experience (the timescale I was quoted to move up to those ranks) in a very narrow area. Its easy to justify such a truncated pay ladder when the boss says his salary isn't any larger than that either -- but its not the whole story when the boss sold his previous company to Microsoft for 10s of millions, has tons of equity in the current company, and makes his salary twice over from commissioned sales of the product the company supported.

Secondly, you only need take a look at common game-industry practices to realize where, in a shitty situation, people would want to leave and go indie. I don't know how "fat" salaries are under your wing, but the games industry is one which, at least here in the states, is, on average, woefully underpaid compared to other software developer or creative arts gigs of similar skill requirements and scope. Add to that fact that "crunch time" is accepted as a given, and that it often can drag on to the point where it has become "business as usual".

I don't know how things are at your company and I hope you're one of the guys that does right by his employees, and recognizes that they are a precious, rather than a throw-away, resource. But most of the industry is not like that, and certainly not to the young and impressionable junior employees who will come to expect these shitty practices to be the price of admission, even as they become more experienced -- that is, if they don't burn out first.

If the industry is concerned with retaining valuable employees, then it should give them a better quality of life, rather than trying to discourage outside interests for fear of them loosing their blind devotion. This means competetive salaries, profit sharing, good health plans, and sane working hours so that they can enjoy their free time -- whether that means spending time with the wife and kids, playing softball, or working on a project that their passionate about.

I'm not unreasonable -- I realize that companies want to protect their investments on all fronts: IP, technology, proprietary knowledge and the people they have spent time, effort and money training up and even putting through additional schooling. Its reasonable to expect a certain amount of loyalty in return. I get that. I'm OK with a company saying "Don't use our technology, resources or the time we're paying you for." I'm OK with a company saying "Don't do anything that directly competes with what we're doing here, and please show us what you're doing so we can avoid any issues." What I do have a problem with is "We own you and everything you do 24/7, regardless of the facts that we ostensibly hired you under the guise of 8 hours a day / 5 days a week, pay you a rate closer to what should get us 6/5 of your time, and yet somehow expect you to work 10/6." Further, I would love to see a company say "Show us what you're doing, and if we dig it we'll pay your for the time you spend on it, maybe give you some help or resources, and let you retain the IP rights. In return, publish it under our umbrella -- we'll handle the business and marketing, give you access to our channels, and we'll split the profits." It would be so refreshing to see a company whose guiding rule was helping employees be happy and successful by allowing them to shape their own destiny, rather than dictating to them what their fate awill be, ever fearful of loosing control over them.

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Original post by Rubicon
My advice would be to not mention it to your employer under any circumstances.

Speaking as a (very small time) employer who has also spent 20 years as someone elses employee:

If you came to me asking about dabbling with say some DS homebrew stuff to learn the system, I'd applaud and help you. Wanna play around using PhysX to do a billiards game for fun? Sure, use our library to help. Need a hand?

However...

If you come to me with something along the lines of "do you mind if I continue taking your pay checks for another six months whilst I think about my exciting new home job all day, which btw is developing an indie title for my new career? I promise to f**k off when I have no further use of you, doubtless during alpha?"...

I promise I'll stamp your ticket right there. If you intend to phrase it more delicately than that, please give the employers credit for their reading-between-the-lines powers.


I would recommend the opposite, be honest with your employer, if you plan on changing job you should let your employer know well before you leave, if you intend to start your own business let them know so that they can start looking for a replacement for their next project, try to finnish up the projects you're working on before leaving or help your employer train your replacement.

Its far better to leave your employer on friendly terms, if your indie project fails your old employer is your ticket back into the industry. (Over here its fairly common for recruiters to contact your previous employers before hireing you), being on bad terms with your previous employer can make it harder to get a new job, even in a completely unrelated industry.

However, don't even think about bringning up the idea of working on a competing product in your spare time. Just because you work at a game company doesn't mean you can't make games in your spare time though, GameA doesn't necessarily compete with GameB, just clear it with your boss first.

[Edited by - SimonForsman on May 5, 2010 4:54:25 AM]

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@Simon. You're right that leaving under good terms and giving plenty of notice will almost always be a win, he's not talking about leaving. He's talking about burning the candle at both ends which is a different thing entirely.

@Ravyne. I do like to think I'm pretty employee friendly, but I guess only they can truly answer that. Most of your arguments sound reasonably enough and ftr pay in the UK is far worse than that of the US, in games especially. However, it all sounds a bit utopian and one sided also. It seems you expect (or would aim for) quite a bit of remuneration, but to get all that we can't have talk about "doing our own thing".

It's true that you get paid far more for database/server work and you can certainly do that for 8 hours and go home too. But do you really want to do that? Games takes more out of you and pays less, but it's supposed to be fun and you still get paid a bucketload of money compared to a lot of other skilled jobs. I just can't see this environment as being someway harmful and exploitative.

Of course, your point about the bigger companies probably holds. Don't work for them! I never have/will and at the smaller end of the market you'll find things are a whole lot better, even if the wages are a bit smaller.

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It is a bit of a "perfect world" scenario, admittedly -- perhaps we'll never live there, but it is something to hold in high regard and strive for, regardless.

What I'm really getting at is retaining employees by rewarding them, rather than cracking down on them for wanting better for themselves. I'm not saying that an employer should be beholden to employee demands, but I am equally saying that an employee, likewise, should not have to be beholden to the whims and demands of their employer in such time that their employer is not compensating them for. If the company wants every waking thought I happen to have, then I am happy to negotiate a fair price for that, but its not fair for a company to assume ownership of 24 hours of the day when they only compensate their employees for a third of that.

There are a lot of people out there that are passionate about games, and many of those are passionate about it so much that they decide to make it, or at least try to make it, their career. So many, in fact, that supply of passionate and skilled individuals far outstrips demand. The passion in these potential employees is something any industry would kill to have in such high numbers. The shear amount of passion is something which should drive many of these folks to long and illustrious careers, yet we know that most entrants into the game industry get burned out and leave for greener fields within 3 years. Why is that?

Unfortunately, some less than respectable companies see this oversupply of fresh recruits as a competitive advantage, rather than the blessing that it should be seen as -- a way to keep costs (through wages and benefits) low and output high, both artificially so. What incentive is there to reward junior developers with better wages or benefits when there's another enthusiastic, warm body that could fill his seat just as cheaply, or possibly cheaper, who's willing to give up more of their life for the company. Conversely, what incentive does the employee have to stay when they are underpaid and asking for a raise is likely to get you replaced as soon as you are no longer part of the critical path on the current project. Even entire teams of people who bring great financial success to the company have no job security -- for example, most or all of the development staff for Portal, aside from the designer, are no longer with Valve, despite its critical acclaim and the fact that it was probably a bigger selling point to The Orange Box than even the Episode 2 expansion itself. For a more recent example, you need not look any further than the Infinity Ward scandal to see that not even the top tier is safe when millions of dollars are involved.

But its not only the fault of the companies -- as an entity whose sole purpose is to seek profit, they should not be expected to display any loyalty or morals -- not that it should preclude or excuse them from the act either. As long as there are teeming masses anxious to get their foot into the door of a 'cool job' and as long as those already in the seat are willing to sacrifice beyond reason to maintain their toehold, the situation will be rife with, and I daresay begs to be, those who would take advantage of them. As a result, the industry as a whole chews up junior developers and spits them out, and many of them loose all passion for what they once had.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone -- The individual, the company, and the industry as a whole -- to foster this passion rather than preying upon it? Wouldn't it be better for everyone if the situation was tolerable enough that people stayed around longer than a few short years? Wouldn't the games we see be more amazing with more old-hands around to steer the ship and mentor fresh recruits? Couldn't we solve some of the process and mismanagement problems the industry faces if we had more people whose well of experience was deeper than 2-3 years? Wouldn't developers be more efficient and effective employees if they worked normal hours and had sufficient free time to spend with their families or doing whatever it is that makes them happy outside of work.

There is something to be said about having a job that you really enjoy -- I understand that having been in one or two that I didn't enjoy at all. But its a mistake to believe that an enjoyable job is something to be exchanged for an enjoyable life -- that the two should be mutually exclusive. What is the message that's sent when a CS graduate, having taken a job in the games industry, meets his friend, who took a more standard job, for a pint and realizes that he's working 50% harder for 2/3rds the pay? What's the message when his friend is about to be married but his own girlfriend just left him because she was just too fucking lonely to suffer through yet another two months of pre-holidays crunch time? What's the message when he didn't even get overtime, or even any additional pay at all, for the time that ended his relationship?

It is a bit Utopian, but I believe that a job should support a happy and healthy life outside of business hours, rather than stealing it away from you. I have no argument with small shops that do the right thing and treat their employees well, even if they are not paid as well as they might expect to get elsewhere -- only with the big players that don't and with the smallish shops that see emulating the practices of the big boys as the only way to success -- these things are something which, unfortunately, are not likely to ever be changed from inside the machine, and so it is up to the disenchanted optimists who strike out on their own and the up-and-comers to set a new standard for quality of life within the industry.

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Original post by Ravyne
...


This is why I've never worked for a AAA company and probably never will. For the most part you are just meat sack and will be tossed out at the companies earliest convenience. I've found that smaller companies have much better schedules, get paid pretty much the same, and aren't interested in having 100% control of what you do in your free time as well.

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I think the OP's original question has been answered. Yes, the company can claim ownership in your self-developed game (even non-profit) if it is related to the company's line of business. That is just the legal aspect of it, the moral and ethical issues are a whole other can of worms.

I think this is a rather touchy issue because each side has a valid point of view. On the one hand, employers should have some comfort that they are not funding a competitor. This may appear one-sided, but if you accept a salary then you do owe some loyalty to your employer. On the other hand, employees grinding away on a sequel in a big developer may feel like they are creatively stifled and there is a risk of burn out.

The reality in the current industry is that most "indies" don't make a living from their games and must find paying work that funds their passion. If you accept a job at game developer, then you may need to forego the side project unless your employer consents. As Rubicon pointed out, each employer is entitled to act differently with respect to such requests. However if you disclose a game idea and your employer passes, then I don't think it would burden them to allow you to work on it so long as performance on the main project does not suffer. But obviously, this is a case by case decision.

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"I think the OP's original question has been answered."

This has become a very enlightening thread. If it is seen as becoming off topic, then I ask that a mod let me know a more appropriate forum that I may make a new thread to continue the discussion, because I (and hopefully others) am learning a lot more than I expected.

I find Rubicon's views particularly educational, as he seems to be in a good middle ground (having experience as a worker on a game, and now running his own company).

"Try a month of working in a laundry to put the "oppression of the game dev workers" into perspective."

I have done 60 hours of factory work for less than half of my game industry pay and no benefits, and I felt far, far, far less oppressed doing that than I do in the game industry, even with flex hours in the game industry. This is because when working at the factory, I could at least do what I wanted when I got home. I have spent many nights in this industry getting home, wanting to work on something, not wanting it to be taken from me and exploited, and going to sleep depressed. This is hard to explain if you just view making games as a fun option for making a living, but I (and others) view it as so much more. It is a part of my identity, probably the largest part, and a game that I develop is a form of self-expression if done right. If I won the lottery and could retire, I would still make games until the day I die. I'm not sure I can make you understand how much it means to me, but if you have kids, imagine if a company said that you could not see your kids while working there, or your wife, or that it would own any future kids you had while employed there (and up to six months after). Now imagine if every company in the field you went to college for (and took out loans to do so) made such claims. Now imagine if you tell yourself you just won't have kids even though you want to, and you'll just save up to put yourself in a well leveraged position, but you keep getting laid off as a part of company downsizing due to forces beyond your control, and every time you do it eats away at what little you could save up because you had to move to a high cost-of-living area to use your degree.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to blame the employee - he should have studied the industry more, he should negotiate contracts better and risk not getting as many job offers, he should have moved to a lower-cost of living area even if it meant not accepting the first offer (and accepting the first offer is advice I constantly hear given to people trying to break into the industry), etc. I say these are easier to see in hindsight than in foresight, but not completely without merit. One future-oriented solution is to leave the industry, and this is a legitimate solution to propose. But please keep in mind that there is still a lot of unemployment right now, and if finding a job in your current specialization is hard then it can only be harder finding a job outside of it. At any rate, it feels like the industry has a lot of barriers that turn off passionate people, as evidenced by the fast turnover Ravyne mentioned. Making employees work on uninspired sequels and movie tie-ins lead by jaded leads who just want the product to finish somewhat profitably, then telling them they can't even take the risks that the company is unwilling to take in their own spare time is one of the worst barriers in my opinion. I think a fairer law would be one that prevents the employee from profiting (or forces them to pay the employer some percentage), but it is absolutely baffling that it is legal for a company to claim _full ownership_ over something it has put no effort into. I guess the Activisions and EAs need _some_ protection other than their piles of money and lawyers from the might of the little guys though, eh? ;]

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Original post by curiouscat
This has become a very enlightening thread. If it is seen as becoming off topic, then I ask that a mod let me know a more appropriate forum that I may make a new thread to continue the discussion, because I (and hopefully others) am learning a lot more than I expected.

Well, it has veered somewhat from employer ownership of employee side projects, to QoL (Quality of Life).
QoL is tangentially a business topic, but arguably more a Lounge topic (unless someone creates a QoL forum).

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Original post by curiouscat
I have done 60 hours of factory work for less than half of my game industry pay and no benefits, and I felt far, far, far less oppressed doing that than I do in the game industry, even with flex hours in the game industry. This is because when working at the factory, I could at least do what I wanted when I got home. I have spent many nights in this industry getting home, wanting to work on something, not wanting it to be taken from me and exploited, and going to sleep depressed.


You sound so like me it's uncanny. Here are your options (I'm projecting my own feelings here, but I think they hold):

1) You'll never be happy working for an employer as it sounds to me like you need total creative freedom. Even working on original titles (rare today) at larger firms, you'll still have to answer to designers and producers etc.

2) You just won't make money as an indie. It's so statistically impossible that it's just not worth the risk unless your're loaded or young enough to not need large amounts of money each month for mortgages etc.

Only option left, start your own company. Get some contract work in (you can charge a lot more than just your wages) and suck it down for a year or two. When you've saved enough, make your magnum opus, sell it on platforms that actually make money (ie anything but pc download) and hope for the best.

This was me above, and my company is still kinda partway between contracting original projects and writing our own. We got a couple of things out, but nothing that set us up for the future yet. But it's still better than the previous two options imo.

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Original post by Obscure
Companies have as much power as you give them (within the limits of the law). The key is not to sign a bad contract in the first place. As Hodgman points out you should ask permission before doing side projects - better yet negotiate out bad clauses before signing a contract in the first place.


I've been out for a while. Sorry.

Just one quick addition to the advice that's been provided; if you do your own side project in a similar or related field to your employer (e.g., if you're creating a competing project or project sold in the same marketplace) and you ask permission, make sure you get a documented response. Get it in e-mail and print a hard copy, get a signed letter, get some kind of physical proof that they provided you with a waiver and any assignment of inventions or works does not apply to the specific project you want to create.

It would be wonderful if all employees could negotiate out of terms like this; it's more common in a corporate setting for there to be some kind of company guideline or policy as to how such independent projects are treated. If your company doesn't have a standing policy on that matter, it's best to know now to avoid potential clearance issues in the future (at no point do you ever want to tell an investor or underwriter that there's a competing claim to your rights).

Best,

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