Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Earlier today I received an interesting "comment" from Jonathon Holmes ( I like the guy, so this isn't a smashing)  and I think it's time yet again to explain what exactly I do online.

A few years ago the games industry was a rather lovely place. People would train, get their degrees, spend endless hours at a game studio learning all kinds of things that the traditional college environment can't teach while also deciding where exactly each grad would like to do after they finally clear up all the bugs in the latest game SquareUbiVision is deciding to limp to the barn with. However, what SquareUbiVision didn't realize is that their own rather bland ideas on "AAA" games were only going to produce great sales as long people were still buying games at a growing rate. The recession happened, Greece blew up, and the world at large began to panic about money. People began buying less while the game industry at large felt they were recession proof, slowly but surely they were proven wrong.

Right around that time their existed a very young wide eyed college senior that had just been laid off from Lockheed Martin. The college grad had spent a great deal of time working on Usability and Game Design for Lockheed in the hopes of making them a better running system. The Maryland area from which this grad had gone to school was facing the realization that every game except Skyrim was about to fail due to creating piss poor games and NO ONE in the area would even speak to college grads. A great many students and teachers had theories as to why this was a case. Some believed the close by military industry had somehow made developers antisocial to anyone that wasn't their own kind, others believed ( foolishly) the game developers were ignoring people in the hopes they would somehow grow as an individual, while the young grad saw the issues in a different light. He had tried contacting Joystiq, Gamasutra, Destructoid and a great deal of other sites along with about 70% of the game industry in the past with almost no responses. The Grad was asking things like " how did you guys start out? are you hiring? What are the entry level requirements? And do you guys ever meet up anywhere like at conventions and what not?" the only group to ever respond was Valve. " Hi Clay, I know it's hard out in the industry right now ( believe me I know) but it looks like you're on the other side of the U.S. ( bummer we can't meet up) I would advise to keep working on stuff and better yet try to find your own unique thing to help push you away from the other grads that WILL apply". A few weeks go by after this one fleeting email and I have to admit I was getting frustrated. 6 months until graduation, the development scene and IGDA for the area were all but destroyed ( I hear its coming back now somehow, unconfirmed), and utter silence was filling all attempts to garner any attention with outside studios. Twitter didn't work, Facebook didn't work, I hadn't proper work in months so going to conventions was highly unlikely all the while the devs are most certainly out talking to people and apparently helping their friends score their first jobs in the game industry if they had the right "credentials".

At around this time a teacher had told me about the Hulk accounts. How individuals from various industries had found a voice after the industries themselves for whatever reason had decided to shun them. I personally hated using the idea of an internet gag to prove my own professional worth, but film critic hulk was saying odd things at the time ( and even more odder things about the game industry later on) and actually had found some god damn results with it. Right around my birthday "@HULKGAMECRIT" was born and earnestly began smashing all the issues I mentioned earlier. Within the first god damn week I had Jane Mcgonigal, Ian Bogost, James ( give hulk a pax media pass) God damn Portnow,  and half of Double Fine answering some questions. Within 2 weeks I had reached 200 followers due to Cntrl Alt Delete and his wonderful website, and within a month I had found others that shared similar issues and wanted to work on some content. We planned , We schemed, We made terrible terrible jokes about dragon clowns / Persona characters, and we began writing articles and recording podcasts. People started to listen, some students received some much needed help( one was picked up by Bethesda), Gameranx and  VGrevolution were turning some of our "profane" ramblings into posts and *poof* we somehow had finally managed to find an audience. Soon however I realized that the issues that started the account were only about to get worse.

The average entry level game industry job requires at least one "AAA" title released, and interns are forced in almost all studios to work without pay with absolutely no guarantee of being hired after the fact. A far difference in ethics and behavior from a few short years ago. So every student and grad is now trapped in an inescapable hell hole that really is too high to escape. They have 6 months before they need to start paying loans, more than 50% of all college grads cannot find work, and the average salary needed to live in a city with a game studio without assistance is about 28,000$. You can't just work at Starbucks or McDonald's at 10$ an hour to make that kind of money while also working 40+ hours a week for a studio, and those industries rely on strong sales to keep the hours nice and healthy, they haven't been healthy in 3 years. Plus, these students and grads were / are studying QA, Usability, Programming, Design, and Art classes. These things only grow stronger with the amount of time your able to dedicate plus any designer can tell you there's a limit to how great a design will be if you are stressed, you're feeling nothing but stress all the bloody time to the point it could actually kill. Being forced to work for over 40 hours a week, trying to go to conventions without being fired, working at a studio for no pay at another 40 hours a week, while also trying to make games without higher level game developers helping to keep you on the right track is not going to lead anywhere pretty.

So what happens as a result of all this madness? Full Blown Depression.  The average student ( especially in the US) is in a lot of ways still a child, they don't have the sense of will or personal strength yet to overcome the fact that everything they studied will most likely never be used in the industry they wanted, and when they go to other industries ( like I did) they will likely find people scoffing them off because they already know the game industry and its college programs do not teach enough to survive anywhere else. Yes, you know how to find bugs and know what the waterfall design process is, but since you never worked at a studio or released a product your absolutely going to be skipped before the first wave of interviews. You might know someone that works at the studios who can possibly get you in ( just like the game industry practices) but what if fate decided to start you out poor? Alone? And your only outlet to stop yourself from going insane was games? ( like half of the people graduating) your basically screwed, and this is why I'm still using the hulk account.

The world is not a fair place, my life is a testament to this fact, but we need to be doing something to make the industry a more hospitable environment. We have Women in the industry everywhere being insulted for absolutely no reason, students being told they need 5 years experience with html 5 for the entry level QA position ( its existed for what 4 months?), and until just a little while ago we had no mentoring program of any kind what so ever.  People are leaving the industry at a ground breaking rate, we have devs that desperately want to finally retire ( but cant) and no one that can ever take their place. We need some changes, we need to find ways to keep people employed for more than 3 months, and we need to start giving everyone a fair chance when going through the hiring process. Until these concerns are met, myself and the account are not going anywhere.

I have applied to almost 900 jobs, interviewed at about 60, and hired twice in the last 2 years.  I'm able to somehow work for the military on things well over anyone's head effectively, and yet I'm not allowed to hunt for bugs or work design on a petty videogame.

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