# Before you try to break into the industry...

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I would like people to hear what the industry life is really like before trying to break in.

Mike Capps, head of Epic, and a former member of the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association, during the IGDA Leadership Forum in late 08, spoke at a panel entitled Studio Heads on the Hot Seat, in which, among other things, he claimed that working 60+ hours was expected at Epic, that they purposefully hired people they anticipated would work those kinds of hours, that this had nothing to do with exploitation of talent by management but was instead a part of "corporate culture," and implied that the idea that people would work a mere 40 hours was kind of absurd.” – costik (playthisthing.com)
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“Being a newlywed myself at the time, I worked only briefly (2-3 years) on a large studio project before burning out after "crunching" (ha ha, 8 month crunch...) from March to October my last year there before being laid off when the project got sold to a different publisher. Through it all, I noticed that the majority of my co-workers seemed to thrive while I languished. There was the usual grumbling in the break room, or the death-march atmosphere when everyone slogged into a meeting, but like a fraternity hazing ritual the pain elicited competition rather than sympathy. It became a pissing contest, who could live the most abject life and still show up and get some work done. Hard to compete, then, against the miserable 42-year vets with terrible marriages or the perpetual man-children with no social or personal life.” – Cojack
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“… I'm one of the industry wash-outs. I lasted almost exactly five years to the day at what was then one of the last great independents, but the truth be told, I was done long before I quit.

Crunch-time goes far beyond developers dropping the ball on milestones and the occasional week of 10-12 hour days. In trying to keep things general enough to not point fingers anywhere, the project that destroyed me involved a 10 month death march working 60-90 hour work weeks (no overtime paid out, no banked time in lieu).

Admittedly some of this was due to having out-sized ambition for the project, some minor direction changes, and feature creep pushed from above, but ultimately it was the financial collapse and implosion of one publisher, and the need to meet the financial reporting quarter of the next that resulted in the soul-destroying crunch.

The personal cost to me:
* 60+ pound weight gain over 10 months (took 3 years to lose)
* serious chronic back pain that stuck around for 6 months after the project ended.
* loss of friendships and relationships because I essentially vanished for a year
* burning out on a career that I honestly loved

The cost to the company:
* They awarded me one week of paid vacation when the game shipped...“ – “Inspector Fuzz”
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“This is an issue our own Ben Kuchera has thought about at length. "I've been told that people who write about the business all want to be developers and make games," he told me. "It couldn't be any less true. We get to tour these studios and see how the people who make the games live. They seem to always be tired, the offices are dimly lit, and people are sleeping on cots." He points out that while many developers have benefits such as gyms and cafeterias onsite, that just drives home the idea that you're never supposed to leave.” – Andrew Groen
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“Average time in a job at a single company or average time in the industry before total burnout?

Since the industry is project based job length tends to be directly associated with product cycles.

The is often the result of the post ship layoff. Companies tend to dump staff once a project ships since they don't need a full production team for pre-production on the next project. Now the nicer companies tend to use temporary contract hires for short term production staffing needs. This lets the employee know that they likely don't have a paycheck when the project ends. However the big publishers regularly cut even full time staff once the xmas games are sent to manufacturing.

The other piece is that when finishing up a title employees are more likely to look around at other options. If you've just shipped your third football title and are burned out on the genre you tend to wait until the game is done and then find another job somewhere else.

While there are some devs that have spent an entire career at a single company, what is far more common is finishing 1-2 games at a developer and then moving off to another one.” – “wkerslake” (stackexchange)

“My experience, in numbers:

• 10.5 years (starting in summer 2000)
• 6 studios. 3 redundancies, a 4th looking likely.
• 4 moves, to jobs in new towns/cities
• 8 shipped titles (4 in the first 3 years)
• 3 cancelled console projects
• 8+ platforms (GBA,DS,PC,Xbox,PS2,Wii,360,PS3)
• Team sizes ranging from 6 to over 100
• 1 case of severe burnout/depression... This is maybe a little worse than average, but not entirely unusual... The industry has always been unstable, but in the last couple of years it's gone from bad to near-meltdown. Not sure if new hardware is going to save it this time, or just make things worse...” – “bluescrn” (stackexchange)
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In my personal experience (6 years, 4 companies, 2 redundancies, 2 city-moves, 1 shipped title, 5+ cancelled titles), I've almost always worked a 40 hour week. I've had crunch once, where I worked 50-60 hour weeks for 6 weeks, voluntarily, because I chose to be a lead on an understaffed project.

Thankfully, my current company has realised that constant crunch in no way helps development times, and actually makes games ship later rather than sooner! They only ask people to do overtime when it's really, really required by someone, e.g. if 6 other people are idle because they're waiting on your overdue task.

There's plenty of studies that show that someone in a technical field doing a 60 hour week is actually less productive than someone working a standard 38 hour week.
Honestly, if I was asked to do 60hr weeks, I'd quit. It's simply bad management.

Also, here in Australia, 38 hours is actually the legal maximum that you can ask a full-time employee to work. If you ask an employee to work more than 38 hours on average, without a reasonable excuse (e.g. it was a one-off thing and extra wages were paid for it), you're up for a $33,000 fine from the government. However, most video-game staff don't stick up for themselves (and there's no unions that I know of), so I've never seen anyone report their employer for this (e.g. I currently work a 40-hour week, and don't complain about the semi-legal extra 2 hours). #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I think my company knows that I'd just quit if they tried to require me to work overtime. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Also, here in Australia, 38 hours is actually the legal maximum that you can ask a full-time employee to work. If you ask an employee to work more than 38 hours on average, without a reasonable excuse (e.g. it was a one-off thing and extra wages were paid for it), you're up for a$33,000 fine from the government.
However, most video-game staff don't stick up for themselves (and there's no unions that I know of), so I've never seen anyone report their employer for this (e.g. I currently work a 40-hour week, and don't complain about the semi-legal extra 2 hours).

Dang. Remind me to find a game development job in Australia.

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My experience is similar to Hodgman's. I've got 6 years, 1 company, 5+1 shipped titles (the +1 was completed and delivered, but was not a release-to-the-public title) and 2 cancelled titles. I'm in the U.S.

I work a 40-hour week the vast majority of the time. I'd say my average crunch of 50-60 hour weeks lasts two weeks per crunch, and the average time-between-crunches is 8 months (some projects crunch twice - one for E3 demo and Christmas, some don't crunch at all). I'm pretty happy with that rate.

I'm not working on particularly glamorous projects (they're actually really pathetic projects considering what I'm used to playing as a hardcore PC gamer), but I don't really care about that. Having a stable programming job that doesn't burn me out is good enough for me.

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When looking for an industry job, the onus is on you to find an employer who is compatible with your needs. There are plenty of borderline-predatory companies out there, and plenty of really excellent places to work. Do your research, apply to the latter instead of the former, and you'll be fine.

I currently work 40 hours a week, am not required to do overtime or be on-call to any unreasonable extent, and generally really love my environment.

I've also been on the other side of that fence.

The best I can say is that if you wind up in a bad studio, you really have only yourself to blame. If your skills are up to par, you can just as easily get into a really good place instead.

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Yet another "mostly good" experiences report.

Almost a decade in the trenches, 7 shipped + 2 cancelled. There have been a few overtime requests. There are generally people hanging around late on deadlines and crunch time the last two or three weeks of a project, but not a nightmare; you will have that at any programming job right before deploying a major system. Only one nightmarish project was it voluntarily-required for an extended time; the studio management didn't realize what the team lead was doing and put a stop to it when they heard.

Overtime and crunch is ALMOST ENTIRELY a problem with bad management. It is a symptom of not hiring enough workers, or failing to scope the project, or over-commitment for the budget. It is very rarely but occasionally due to bad workers who spend their days warming a chair but not actually working. As long as workers are accountable for the time spent online (including sites like this one) then the work can generally get done.

This isn't to say I haven't put in hours with many weeks. There are many times I have worked a few extra hours because I am enthralled with the projects, or because I have "just one more" thing to get done. I am invested in my work and want it to be perfect; and I love what I do and can get lost in the time. But on the other hand, my office is flexible and if I need to work a few hours less to go to my kid's recital or take a 3-hour lunch to watch the school play, that is generally acceptable.

I have known people who have worked in bad studios, and they also site it as almost entirely mismanagement that caused the problems there. They certainly exist. Perhaps an easy way to figure out the quality of the place is to ask questions about their turnover and how long different people have been working there. If everyone is young, ask yourself why. If they have a high turnover rate (say 20% per year) consider abandoning the interview; if they have low turnover (maybe 5% per year) you probably have a gem. If they have an older workforce, or a bunch of gray-haired game developers, that is a very good sign since veterans generally won't stick around at a bad company.

Just keep your eyes open. This is true of all fields. My brother is a mechanic and he has had jobs that were nightmare scenarios as described above. A neighbor is stuck in a similar job where it is a nightmare but he is used to the lifestyle the overtime provides.

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My experience is not with the game industry but with low budget project to project webdevelopment aka "the hell".

I have seen both sides.
If you are lucky than someone asks a dev how long he thinks it will take and bases his talks with the customer on this number.
Mostly they just tell you: 'Oh, sorry, the contract is already signed. Just do this in a quater of the time.' This usually results in working 6 or 7 days a week and no holiday.

Now i am working as a dev for a company and we run our own webplattform, no projects, constant development on one big project (okay, with little side projects ). So everything i build, i see running and i can talk to the people in billing, shipping or customer service that use these tools that i build. It is really rewarding to have someone tell you: 'Wow, this works great. Thanks, it saves me hours every week". With 'shipped' projects you know it is somewhere out there but you forget it and burn yourself out with the next miscalculated project.

My point is, you find this 60+ hours weeks 'crunchtime' in every type of software development company. It is not limited to the games industry, but i agree, that it seems to be more common with them.
If you burn out or not, is in the end mostly your own decision.
I had to learn it the hard way. Nobody will thank you for 'giving your health/life' to the company.

Find a job where you can at least fool yourself into thinking, that it is rewarding. The fun of building this mega cool new technology wears of pretty fast if the atmosphere/company is crap.

--GWDev

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The industry is what you make it.

I have had so much fun I consider I have never worked a day in my life, until last month that is, when my company sent me to some non-game development job in a stereotypical Japanese working environment in which your devotion to the project is measured by how late you stay.

Everyone wearing suits, working until midnight, sleeping during lunch, not leisurely browsing the web at all.

#1: No dress code.
#2: Only 1 crunch time ever, for 1 day.
#3: 5-minute web surfing every hour to avoid going insane.
#4: Chatting with friends on MSN etc. is fine, as long as I meet the deadline.

So this corporate crap was not happening.
Luckily, there has never been a day in my life when I didn’t already know that life—and implicitly work—is what you make it. No more and no less.

Rather than to endure the tedium of the new office and working conditions, I simply left that company.

I now continue my blissful life of no dress codes, no pressure to stay past the required 7 hours (you couldn’t even get the managers to stay past this, and this is a major Japanese company!), free browsing, etc.

It is really that simple.
If the company is crap, don’t work there. If it becomes crap, leave.

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