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Johnlarry

Is game dev really that bad? (the career)

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Hi, guys.
So, I study Computer Science since 2013 and I was thinking about what made me choose CS. And I clearly remember that in 2013 I quit Engineering and started CS because I wanted to make games. I went through a lot of discussions with my parents because they didn't want me to quit and all of that, but anyways, my point is: games made me choose CS.

It's been two years, and every now and then I stop and think about life and what career will I choose, because I don't really know if I want to make games anymore. And that's because in 2 years, I only heard bad things about the industry (not the quality of games itself, but working there).
Since the start, everyone said it's the worst career in CS I could choose, because the pay is the lowest and the the work-life balance is horrible too.

I wanted to know from you guys if that's really true, maybe people just repeat what they heard and don't actually know what it's really like.

If you're indie, then maybe you need to give all of your time to work because you're basically the whole company. But is it really like that?
And even in AAA companies?

Hugs! :)

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Are you rock star gifted in this? If so, there will be no stopping you. Are you average like most of us? Then maybe think twice, establish a income making position with your talents and keep your passion simmering gently on the back burner growing it in your spare time. My story is I'm a hobbyist funded by a self owned / established company in an unrelated field.  

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The big issue, to my opinion, is that the game industry profits from the fact that people have passion. And more, it attracts young people. There is everything to profit: young and passionated people.

I know a french company who makes games seldom, and who did just sold a new game recently. Few months ago this company was in the front page of newspapers because its workers were blaming her to abuse them (too much work, no consideration, very low pay).

But there's not only the game industry which is like this. Big companies which are well known, do like this too. They attract graduated people in beautiful places with salaries looking better than what their father could earn in their village.

The world is like this. If you like what you do, and you're a salary, it will be hard to have more.

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My theory is that you should do something you love.  I fell into programming after taking one class just for the hell of it.  After that I was always programming.  My homework was just a small fraction of my projects. I was doing stuff just for fun.  I bought bookshelves of CS books. When I got a job, sometimes I came into work early and left late, not because I had to, because I was working on something interesting. Of course not everything I did was fun but enough of it was that I felt lucky to have my job.

In the last few years I've gotten into game programming more specifically, and it's still interesting for me. I guess in short my feeling is if you really like doing something you'll be successful at it it.  If not maybe you should try something else.  So my question would be, do you really enjoy it, or do you just like games and like the idea of being involved in them?  If you like doing it, I would just ignore the naysayers and push ahead.

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On 4/6/2019 at 5:33 AM, Johnlarry said:

Since the start, everyone said it's the worst career in CS I could choose, because the pay is the lowest and the the work-life balance is horrible too.

There are some true horror stories.

First, the supply side. 

At the junior level there are TONS of people who play games and think they want to make games. Some go to overpriced private schools to get a trade degree that focuses specifically on games, rather than a broad education and a traditional degree.  There are typically a flood of applications when junior positions are available, and many of them could not do the job. 

Many others can do the job, but are so enamored with the thought of working on games that they'll take any job and any wage just so they can be in the field.  Rather than knowing the appropriate wage for the field and negotiating wages, they'll accept the first lowball offer from any company that makes a job offer.

Then the demand side. 

There are studios out there who prey on people who are desperate to work on games.  They love both of those groups because they can abuse them easily.  They higher large numbers of eager developers, many with insufficient skill, and pay them low rates. They'll work those individuals with absurd (and sometimes illegal) work schedules and extensive hours.

There are also studios who have a more balanced approach to hiring workers.  These tend to have slow growth, careful hiring practices to ensure only highly skilled workers are hired. They also have good pay and benefits, far above national averages and also above game industry averages.

Because so many people get scooped up in the first group, and then get churned and burned, they rightly develop a reputation for terrible work life balance and low pay as you describe.

As Hodgman wrote, crunch time is typically a management failure. Normally you can screen for that at interviews, ask about how their management deals with feature creep, how they deal with deadlines, and understand their financial situation. Sometimes it is a management failure by not firing people who are slowing the team down. Sometimes it is a management failure by picking up a project larger than they would be able to create, or not matching the scope of the project with the calendar and budget.  Usually it is something you can see approaching from a distance, and it's a good reason to update your resume if you find a project heading that route.  Bad management rarely improves, companies that crunch will continue to do it as long as people are willing to tolerate it, so don't tolerate it.

Usually as you gain experience you can be more picky about where you work, and you'll be less willing to put up with all the garbage in the workforce. You've also got to do your part. Bosses know when someone is actually working all the time when they walk through the office and see people actually working, and people streaming videos or looking at web sites. When someone is in the office every morning, they're working all day, and they leave the office promptly at the end of the work day, it is difficult for bosses to object when the worker refuses to work extra hours during an end-of-project crunch. That person has clearly shown they are doing the job reliably.  However, a worker who is surfing the net all day easily convinced to work 10 or 12 hour work days at the end of the project with the simple prompt, "All those hours you spent watching videos have caught up to you, you still haven't done your assigned work."

For wages and individual roles, programmers make far more money than average workers, but less money than industries like investment banking.  Artists make fair wages and also above national average wages, they could be earning more in some industrial graphic designs and high-power marketing firms, less money working in marketing and advertising at smaller companies, but about what is common in most media companies.  Animators tend to have fewer industries demanding their services, mostly marketing companies, the pay is also relatively good.

So yes, there are situations that are bad.  Most of them can be avoided assuming you're willing to do your part during interviews, and are willing to be a little picky about where you work.

There are also many employers that are great. They have low turnover and slow growth meaning the job openings are less common, but they exist and are wonderful, well paying jobs.  Not "investment banking" or "Internet Startup" paying, but still well paying.

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OP: Why not try it? If it is your dream, see if you can get a job, work at it for 2 or 3 years. If you like it, carry on, if not get another type of job. Most programmers do games for a bit, then get a job in another industry.

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Take part in a few collaborative projects.

In some projects you'll discover that you are struggling to keep up with your team mates, while on others you may find that you are the only one doing any work.  You may even say sod this for a game of soldiers or really enjoy the experience where you only give a monkeys so long as you can put food on the table...

It will at least give you some experience to go by.

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It might be helpful for you the OP to mention what horror stories you'e heard about, as along with what position your aiming for. 

For example, this EX QA EA guy  once told me a horror story about QA being done in the basement, and there being black mold.

And how one guy went to the hospital with in his lungs.

Another guy told me that HR violations are very different in the industry.   where there arn't fights or rules over no discussion of religion or politics but rules on which marval super hero would win, also batmen vs. superman things like that. 

 

 

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