The Top 7... Worst jobs in the games industry

Fun and games don't always go together

1. Faceless, Overworked, Underpaid Programmer/Artist/etc.

A self-described “video game industry widow” on Gamewatch.org, which we referenced earlier,describes her husband’s deteriorating healthas he is forced to ignore sleep and his family to keep up with the unruly demands of game development:

Being the whiney-ass jerks we are, we love to complain about our jobs. %26ldquo;Xpublisher is being a dick! Every game I play sucks! I hate doing a job that thousands of people would kill baby seals to do!%26rdquo; In our defense, it isn%26rsquo;t easy sorting this hurricane of press releases, PR bullshit, speculation, trailers, screens, and boob jokes into something intelligible and interesting.Nevertheless, we are far from the most crapped on people in this industry. Apologies if we offend anyone who does these jobs %26ndash; remember, we%26rsquo;re not hating, we%26rsquo;re just saying. 7. Game Tester Sounds brilliant, doesn%26rsquo;t it? Get paid to play games all day %26ndash; oh, and it%26rsquo;s totally a stepping stone into the games industry. At least, that%26rsquo;s what they tellyou -our quality assurance veteran thinks differently. Here's the gist of her experience: You aren%26rsquo;t paid to play games, you are paid to break them. Even that sounds abit fun, but it%26rsquo;s different when you need to document and prove how you broke the game, work overtime all the time, live on coffee and Red Bull, and can expect to be fired at a moment%26rsquo;s notice %26ndash; not fired because you did a bad job, fired because that%26rsquo;s just how the job works. You work long hours shoulder to greasy face with a bunch of unhygienic recent high school grads, get yelled at by incompetent managers, accused of lying when bugs are difficult to reproduce, spit on by arrogant developers when you point out gaping flaws in their code, and are then fired simply because they%26rsquo;re done with you. You weren%26rsquo;t making much money to begin with, either. Sound fun now? In defense of QA, not all testers hate it. Ananonymous poster at Gamewatch.orgdescribeshis experience at EA: %26ldquo;Quality of life here, as best as I can tell, is great. I absolutely love the work environment, I love the team I'm on and all of my immediate supervisors are amazing. We're constantly rewarded and thanked for doing our jobs well, although the opposite is also true: When we're not performing up to our potential, we do get the lectures. Standards for improvement when we're not doing our best are very fair and reasonable, and any improvement at all is definitely recognized positively, even if we're still not up to where we should be ideally. Overall, positive reinforcement outweighs the negative.%26rdquo; You seem to be the exception, Lemon Drop Disaster, and props to EA if this account is accurate. As you'll see later in this article, not everyone is as satisfied with the quality of life at the publishing giant. 6. The person who has to wade through Xbox Live abuse reports Yeah, this one is a bit specific, but we%26rsquo;re really referring to all of the brain-meltingly dull and repetitive jobs in the games industry. Our own CheatPlanet editor is an expert in tedium - his soul turned hard and crusty by the constant influx of ridiculous and mostly indecipherable user submissions (don%26rsquo;t worry, welet him ventnow and again). Above: Hopefully CheatPlanet overlord Paul Ryan never reads this far into this article If you%26rsquo;ve ever administrated forums, you understand how much fun dealing with whiney kids and their whiney parents and all of their whiney shit all day is. To whomever has to deal with XBL or PSN%26rsquo;sshenanigans, or manage any community of irate gamers - we understand. ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 0 ---*---*---*---5. PR for Crappy Licensed Games We can%26rsquo;t imagine that any public relations job is particularly fun, though some seem to enjoy the challenge of convincing us that we should give a rat%26rsquo;s ass about their game and then taking the fall when we call it a complete failure and Photoshop piles of dung over all of the meticulously selected screens they sent us. What%26rsquo;s even worse is when you have to hawk a game you have absolutely no interest in %26ndash; and we see it all the time. We even coined the word %26ldquo;unthusiasm%26rdquo; to describe it. Above: WEE! Imagine having to spend all day acting like you actually think the shittiest, ugliest games on the planet are the greatest things ever created. Everyone knows they%26rsquo;re just meaningless cash-ins, but you have to pretend you%26rsquo;ve got no idea. That%26rsquo;s "unthusiasm," and it sounds soul crushing. 4. Retail Employee To be fair, all retail kind of sucks. Most of us have experience behind the register, and few of us speak highly of it. Who likes standing around dealing with idiots all day? We can%26rsquo;t say for sure that videogame retail is worse than any other type of retail, but certainly have no evidence to indicate that it is better. In 2007 we attempted to uncover the source of the problem byinterviewing a group of game store clerks.Here%26rsquo;s a tiny cut of the beef: %26ldquo;Game store employees are completely expendable. The company knows that there are at least a dozen kids dreaming about working there for every current employee. They don't make the effort to know you, or even back you on anything. They always assume the worst, whether it comes from another employee, or an outside source. I was fired, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me while I was working there. The store burns you out. You become bitter towards everything; your days off are generally spent in solitude because you can no longer stand people; and you have no energy to look for another job, even though you're miserable where you're at.%26rdquo; ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 1 ---*---*---*---3. Mascot You don%26rsquo;t see them very often, but grown adults are in fact paid to walk around in giant game character costumes (though we still aren%26rsquo;t sure if they%26rsquo;re hired contractors, interns or PR specialists being punished). We%26rsquo;ve seen them at a few industry events, at tournaments, and even occasionally in our own office. Above: Nintendo editor Brett Elston poses with Aiai and Sonic in front of GamesRadar%26rsquo;s giant cookie wall %26ndash; we don%26rsquo;t know why we have a giant cookie wall either Looks fun, standing in a costume, hot as hell, pretending to be happy for the enjoyment of a bunch of hyperventilating geeks. We certainly appreciate their dedication to making us squeal with glee, but we wouldn%26rsquo;t want to do it. 2.Executive of a Console Manufacturer or Major Publisher Make loads of cash, jet around the world and have a major impact on the futureof the games industry - what the hell is better than that? Er, what the hell is worse? Sure, times can be good, like for Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo. But would you really want to be in the shoes of Sony's Kazuo %26ldquo;Riiiiidge Racer%26rdquo; Hirai or Jack "I'll give you $1200 for a PS3" Tretton right now? With stockholders breathing downtheir necks and constant public scrutiny, everythingthese industryleaderssay and do will be scrutinized, misinterpreted, and lampooned. It's a hard job, and we don%26rsquo;t envy them. Though we do like to quote them when they say stupid things. ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 2 ---*---*---*---1. Faceless, Overworked, Underpaid Programmer/Artist/etc. A self-described %26ldquo;video game industry widow%26rdquo; on Gamewatch.org, which we referenced earlier,describes her husband%26rsquo;s deteriorating healthas he is forced to ignore sleep and his family to keep up with the unruly demands of game development: %26ldquo;When he interviewed he was told that OT was rarely required. Well, we are now in 6 months of 6 day work weeks with mandatory 12 hour days (actually 14 hour days these past few weeks). No comp time, no overtime pay, no bonuses, nada. Apparently if you make more than $455 per week (23k a year) you are "exempt" in TX.%26rdquo; Burn. There%26rsquo;s a shit-ton of pressure on the men and women who build the games that we sit on our couches and enjoy (or critically bash from our desks). Some companies are great, and it isn%26rsquo;t uncommon to hear heartfelt praise from employees, but we%26rsquo;ve also heard a great number of horror stories like the onefrom our poor %26ldquo;widow.%26rdquo; Above: According to an anonymous commenter, developing year after year of sports title updates is not fun. How unexpected. The following is an excerpt from apost about EA Tiburon on Coderific, a site which allows programmers to rate their employers. Bearing in mind that everything on the Internet should be taken with a dump truck of salt, this can at least be taken as an example of the kind of tension which exists between employees and employers in the games industry: %26ldquo;Their recruiters promise you the sun and moon and a fat benefit package, but you'll want to take your own life within six months. They talk abour work/life balance. Just try to have a life. They won't tell you to work 16 hour days and every weekend. It just sort of works out that way. Derivative titles based on last year's version, and next year you'll be working long, soul destroying hours to increment a '2007' to '2008' on some over-hyped sports title that frankly gets worse every year. Don't like the game teams? Work on a 'central technology' team and be permanently in 'crunch mode' (everybody's deadline is your deadline) pointlessly reinventing wheels forever. Miss a deadline, it's your job. No job security at all. Move to Orlando and discover there's no other employment of this type within 100 miles, so you'll have to MOVE AGAIN when they get tired of you.%26rdquo; We can't definitively say that the negative criticism outweighs the praise of game industry employers, but it does seem like we hear more bitching than we do joyous recommendations. Perhaps that%26rsquo;s just because there%26rsquo;s more motivation to bitch than there is to praise, or perhaps it%26rsquo;s evidence of widespread anger and disillusionment within the games industry. Did we miss something? Have we misrepresented your awesome job? Or maybe we weren%26rsquo;t hard enough on it. Maybe you just think we%26rsquo;re a bunch of assholes and would like to tell us so. Good,tell us all about it in our forums. Either that, or distract yourself withmore Top 7 lists of things we've noticed about things. Jun 23, 2008

“When he interviewed he was told that OT was rarely required. Well, we are now in 6 months of 6 day work weeks with mandatory 12 hour days (actually 14 hour days these past few weeks). No comp time, no overtime pay, no bonuses, nada. Apparently if you make more than $455 per week (23k a year) you are "exempt" in TX.”

Burn.

There’s a shit-ton of pressure on the men and women who build the games that we sit on our couches and enjoy (or critically bash from our desks). Some companies are great, and it isn’t uncommon to hear heartfelt praise from employees, but we’ve also heard a great number of horror stories like the onefrom our poor “widow.”


Above: According to an anonymous commenter, developing year after year of sports title updates is not fun. How unexpected.

The following is an excerpt from apost about EA Tiburon on Coderific, a site which allows programmers to rate their employers. Bearing in mind that everything on the Internet should be taken with a dump truck of salt, this can at least be taken as an example of the kind of tension which exists between employees and employers in the games industry:

Being the whiney-ass jerks we are, we love to complain about our jobs. %26ldquo;Xpublisher is being a dick! Every game I play sucks! I hate doing a job that thousands of people would kill baby seals to do!%26rdquo; In our defense, it isn%26rsquo;t easy sorting this hurricane of press releases, PR bullshit, speculation, trailers, screens, and boob jokes into something intelligible and interesting.Nevertheless, we are far from the most crapped on people in this industry. Apologies if we offend anyone who does these jobs %26ndash; remember, we%26rsquo;re not hating, we%26rsquo;re just saying. 7. Game Tester Sounds brilliant, doesn%26rsquo;t it? Get paid to play games all day %26ndash; oh, and it%26rsquo;s totally a stepping stone into the games industry. At least, that%26rsquo;s what they tellyou -our quality assurance veteran thinks differently. Here's the gist of her experience: You aren%26rsquo;t paid to play games, you are paid to break them. Even that sounds abit fun, but it%26rsquo;s different when you need to document and prove how you broke the game, work overtime all the time, live on coffee and Red Bull, and can expect to be fired at a moment%26rsquo;s notice %26ndash; not fired because you did a bad job, fired because that%26rsquo;s just how the job works. You work long hours shoulder to greasy face with a bunch of unhygienic recent high school grads, get yelled at by incompetent managers, accused of lying when bugs are difficult to reproduce, spit on by arrogant developers when you point out gaping flaws in their code, and are then fired simply because they%26rsquo;re done with you. You weren%26rsquo;t making much money to begin with, either. Sound fun now? In defense of QA, not all testers hate it. Ananonymous poster at Gamewatch.orgdescribeshis experience at EA: %26ldquo;Quality of life here, as best as I can tell, is great. I absolutely love the work environment, I love the team I'm on and all of my immediate supervisors are amazing. We're constantly rewarded and thanked for doing our jobs well, although the opposite is also true: When we're not performing up to our potential, we do get the lectures. Standards for improvement when we're not doing our best are very fair and reasonable, and any improvement at all is definitely recognized positively, even if we're still not up to where we should be ideally. Overall, positive reinforcement outweighs the negative.%26rdquo; You seem to be the exception, Lemon Drop Disaster, and props to EA if this account is accurate. As you'll see later in this article, not everyone is as satisfied with the quality of life at the publishing giant. 6. The person who has to wade through Xbox Live abuse reports Yeah, this one is a bit specific, but we%26rsquo;re really referring to all of the brain-meltingly dull and repetitive jobs in the games industry. Our own CheatPlanet editor is an expert in tedium - his soul turned hard and crusty by the constant influx of ridiculous and mostly indecipherable user submissions (don%26rsquo;t worry, welet him ventnow and again). Above: Hopefully CheatPlanet overlord Paul Ryan never reads this far into this article If you%26rsquo;ve ever administrated forums, you understand how much fun dealing with whiney kids and their whiney parents and all of their whiney shit all day is. To whomever has to deal with XBL or PSN%26rsquo;sshenanigans, or manage any community of irate gamers - we understand. ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 0 ---*---*---*---5. PR for Crappy Licensed Games We can%26rsquo;t imagine that any public relations job is particularly fun, though some seem to enjoy the challenge of convincing us that we should give a rat%26rsquo;s ass about their game and then taking the fall when we call it a complete failure and Photoshop piles of dung over all of the meticulously selected screens they sent us. What%26rsquo;s even worse is when you have to hawk a game you have absolutely no interest in %26ndash; and we see it all the time. We even coined the word %26ldquo;unthusiasm%26rdquo; to describe it. Above: WEE! Imagine having to spend all day acting like you actually think the shittiest, ugliest games on the planet are the greatest things ever created. Everyone knows they%26rsquo;re just meaningless cash-ins, but you have to pretend you%26rsquo;ve got no idea. That%26rsquo;s "unthusiasm," and it sounds soul crushing. 4. Retail Employee To be fair, all retail kind of sucks. Most of us have experience behind the register, and few of us speak highly of it. Who likes standing around dealing with idiots all day? We can%26rsquo;t say for sure that videogame retail is worse than any other type of retail, but certainly have no evidence to indicate that it is better. In 2007 we attempted to uncover the source of the problem byinterviewing a group of game store clerks.Here%26rsquo;s a tiny cut of the beef: %26ldquo;Game store employees are completely expendable. The company knows that there are at least a dozen kids dreaming about working there for every current employee. They don't make the effort to know you, or even back you on anything. They always assume the worst, whether it comes from another employee, or an outside source. I was fired, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me while I was working there. The store burns you out. You become bitter towards everything; your days off are generally spent in solitude because you can no longer stand people; and you have no energy to look for another job, even though you're miserable where you're at.%26rdquo; ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 1 ---*---*---*---3. Mascot You don%26rsquo;t see them very often, but grown adults are in fact paid to walk around in giant game character costumes (though we still aren%26rsquo;t sure if they%26rsquo;re hired contractors, interns or PR specialists being punished). We%26rsquo;ve seen them at a few industry events, at tournaments, and even occasionally in our own office. Above: Nintendo editor Brett Elston poses with Aiai and Sonic in front of GamesRadar%26rsquo;s giant cookie wall %26ndash; we don%26rsquo;t know why we have a giant cookie wall either Looks fun, standing in a costume, hot as hell, pretending to be happy for the enjoyment of a bunch of hyperventilating geeks. We certainly appreciate their dedication to making us squeal with glee, but we wouldn%26rsquo;t want to do it. 2.Executive of a Console Manufacturer or Major Publisher Make loads of cash, jet around the world and have a major impact on the futureof the games industry - what the hell is better than that? Er, what the hell is worse? Sure, times can be good, like for Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo. But would you really want to be in the shoes of Sony's Kazuo %26ldquo;Riiiiidge Racer%26rdquo; Hirai or Jack "I'll give you $1200 for a PS3" Tretton right now? With stockholders breathing downtheir necks and constant public scrutiny, everythingthese industryleaderssay and do will be scrutinized, misinterpreted, and lampooned. It's a hard job, and we don%26rsquo;t envy them. Though we do like to quote them when they say stupid things. ---*---*---*--- Page Break : page break 2 ---*---*---*---1. Faceless, Overworked, Underpaid Programmer/Artist/etc. A self-described %26ldquo;video game industry widow%26rdquo; on Gamewatch.org, which we referenced earlier,describes her husband%26rsquo;s deteriorating healthas he is forced to ignore sleep and his family to keep up with the unruly demands of game development: %26ldquo;When he interviewed he was told that OT was rarely required. Well, we are now in 6 months of 6 day work weeks with mandatory 12 hour days (actually 14 hour days these past few weeks). No comp time, no overtime pay, no bonuses, nada. Apparently if you make more than $455 per week (23k a year) you are "exempt" in TX.%26rdquo; Burn. There%26rsquo;s a shit-ton of pressure on the men and women who build the games that we sit on our couches and enjoy (or critically bash from our desks). Some companies are great, and it isn%26rsquo;t uncommon to hear heartfelt praise from employees, but we%26rsquo;ve also heard a great number of horror stories like the onefrom our poor %26ldquo;widow.%26rdquo; Above: According to an anonymous commenter, developing year after year of sports title updates is not fun. How unexpected. The following is an excerpt from apost about EA Tiburon on Coderific, a site which allows programmers to rate their employers. Bearing in mind that everything on the Internet should be taken with a dump truck of salt, this can at least be taken as an example of the kind of tension which exists between employees and employers in the games industry: %26ldquo;Their recruiters promise you the sun and moon and a fat benefit package, but you'll want to take your own life within six months. They talk abour work/life balance. Just try to have a life. They won't tell you to work 16 hour days and every weekend. It just sort of works out that way. Derivative titles based on last year's version, and next year you'll be working long, soul destroying hours to increment a '2007' to '2008' on some over-hyped sports title that frankly gets worse every year. Don't like the game teams? Work on a 'central technology' team and be permanently in 'crunch mode' (everybody's deadline is your deadline) pointlessly reinventing wheels forever. Miss a deadline, it's your job. No job security at all. Move to Orlando and discover there's no other employment of this type within 100 miles, so you'll have to MOVE AGAIN when they get tired of you.%26rdquo; We can't definitively say that the negative criticism outweighs the praise of game industry employers, but it does seem like we hear more bitching than we do joyous recommendations. Perhaps that%26rsquo;s just because there%26rsquo;s more motivation to bitch than there is to praise, or perhaps it%26rsquo;s evidence of widespread anger and disillusionment within the games industry. Did we miss something? Have we misrepresented your awesome job? Or maybe we weren%26rsquo;t hard enough on it. Maybe you just think we%26rsquo;re a bunch of assholes and would like to tell us so. Good,tell us all about it in our forums. Either that, or distract yourself withmore Top 7 lists of things we've noticed about things. Jun 23, 2008

“Their recruiters promise you the sun and moon and a fat benefit package, but you'll want to take your own life within six months. They talk abour work/life balance. Just try to have a life. They won't tell you to work 16 hour days and every weekend. It just sort of works out that way. Derivative titles based on last year's version, and next year you'll be working long, soul destroying hours to increment a '2007' to '2008' on some over-hyped sports title that frankly gets worse every year. Don't like the game teams? Work on a 'central technology' team and be permanently in 'crunch mode' (everybody's deadline is your deadline) pointlessly reinventing wheels forever. Miss a deadline, it's your job. No job security at all. Move to Orlando and discover there's no other employment of this type within 100 miles, so you'll have to MOVE AGAIN when they get tired of you.”

We can't definitively say that the negative criticism outweighs the praise of game industry employers, but it does seem like we hear more bitching than we do joyous recommendations. Perhaps that’s just because there’s more motivation to bitch than there is to praise, or perhaps it’s evidence of widespread anger and disillusionment within the games industry.

Did we miss something? Have we misrepresented your awesome job? Or maybe we weren’t hard enough on it. Maybe you just think we’re a bunch of assholes and would like to tell us so. Good,tell us all about it in our forums. Either that, or distract yourself withmore Top 7 lists of things we've noticed about things.

Jun 23, 2008

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer

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