1/07/2013

Working in gamedev: atmosphere

The post title was supposed to be "Why working in gamedev beats the shit out of any other job" but then I remembered there are such jobs as being rich daddy's daughter or owning Playboy Mansion. Also, while writing I realized that only one aspect of the topic takes up so much space that nobody will go through this wall of text anyway, so I am breaking it up into a few posts.

Love your job, it could be worse!
Let's start with the atmosphere, the working climate, the element of working environment that truly shines in gamedev. During my years working for multinational companies, I never saw people really caring about what they are doing. I never met a project manager believing that this new cookie flavor will be what people will love him for. I never met a logistics specialist really believing that reducing supply delays will make a difference for the customers. I never met an IT specialist wanting to develop an application to help people in any way. It took only a few days in gamedev however, to see employees that really believe people will love the game they are making. Not single people - whole teams truly believing that what they are doing will make the difference. I saw people in telecommunications loving their jobs - loving them for the social status, for the money, for the benefits and insurance. I repeatedly heard "I am doing this to have means to do something I love". In gamedev - people are actually doing what they love! This is the basic difference between a job in gamedev and pretty much any corporate job you can think of. Every other difference comes out of the fact that gamedev is one of a very few industries where people like and believe in what they are doing!

Common grounds
This makes integration much easier. The fact that all the people here have at least one thing in common is a great asset to the general feeling in the company. It is uncanny, really. In any corporate job, the only thing everyone has in common is that they want to get paid. Some teams just plainly hate each other but try to be civil, so they go to lunch together every day and the only topics they have are food they are eating and internal gossip. Of course, other teams manage to find some common grounds by bowling or drinking together on a regular basis. Still, these are mutualities they had to search for and they either happened or they didn't.

Some jobs really require lots of work to make them fun.
In gamedev, whether you like someone or not, you can always talk about games. All kinds of games. And since it is a topic as much related to hobby as it is to work, it easily leads to a wide variety of other topics and before you realize, you get to know who trains martial arts, who fences, who plays drums and who writes poetry. What I also love is the concentration of people having creativity-related hobbies. Leaving aside obvious facts like "concept artists like drawing" - at least 10% of people in my company are or were in a band. Others either play instruments or sing or draw or write... I am absolutely sure that if my company did a talent show, more than a half of people would be able to participate right away. The others would probably have to think for a moment, what to present, and they would participate too.

Company of nerds
You could imagine that everyone in the industry is a typical nerd. Yes, due to the analytical nature of most tasks, average IQ seems to be considerably higher than in any other industry I know. Of course, everyone here speaks nerd. Of course, if you show this to guys in your room:

Picture by onnanoko - check out her deviantart for more ponies!
everybody will laugh till they cry. But if you think that when comming to gamedev studio you will be greeted  only by mouse clicking sounds and a row of heads with eyes locked on displays, you are terribly wrong. People here are very outgoing, socially open, active and creative. I don't know how it looked 10 or 20 years ago, but right now - these aren't the guys that have "chick repellent" written all over their faces. They do have lives, wives, children... Watching Dark Souls streaming on New Year's Eve isn't what everyone in the industry does, really.

Casual alldays
There's this urban legend joke about the employee of a big company that came to work without his tie two days in a row. When someone reprimended him, he replied "fuck off, I'm on vacation". I never really understood why desk jobs require suits. Your laptop couldn't care less what you are wearing. People in gamedev likewise. Shorts? Sandals? Sexist T-shirts? Mohawks? If you wanted to, you could come to work with your arm cut off as long as you are doing your job and aren't bleeding on the floor too much.

Artists
Of course, there are some downsides of this all-creative environment. It doesn't happen often, but once in a while, an "artist" joins the team. The problem with artists is that they rarely care about bigger picture and this often creates misunderstandings. These type of personalities rarely stay long in gamedev companies. They get easily frustrated when their ideas get rejected and eventually either adjust or quit. Another double-edged blade characteristics of gamedev is the average age of the employees. There is a lot of very young people. Which is really nice most of the time, really. Sometimes, though, it means no real previous job experience, high expectations and little touch with reality. If it mixes with the artistic mindset, you are in for a treat :)





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