Hi. I've been reading through this little writing of mine and came to think that due to it's flow it doesn't accenuate enough some points I'm trying to make. But because I'm too lazy I'll just add a short summary in the begging.=) The original paper left untouched should explain and expand on these points.
- Some places junior artists are considered expendable and cheap. They are worked till they are burned out and then replaced. In order for things to change the artist themselves need to accept the fact that they are doing their overtimes willingly, making it a common practice. Working more is not professional. If they want to keep videogames as their profession they all need to realize that the priority is to work less and do as much. Then replacing a person who works 8 hours for a less skilled person who works 12 hours and gives the same output is economically disadvantageous.
- Even if you managed to keep you job for long enough, don't loose your grip and keep being proactive and problem solving. That's your best defense against unemployment.
- If you pick something up not be your best at it, then you'll ultimately fail. Because there would always be people who treat their profession more seriously.
- “If you can't change the circumstances – change your attitude to them.”
All right, so let's face it, videogame industry job market seems like a pretty big mess after a quick glance. Big layoffs at big companies routinely make the news, so there's enough experienced artists out there on a job hunt. There is an army of inexperienced game artists banging at the doors of every game studio with their degrees they spent tens of thousands of dollars on and now need to pay them back. A few employee mistreating scandals took place quite recently and giant industry web portals post papers about the industry being a pretty grim place. A pretty bad place where employees are treated as expendable workforce, made to work compulsory unpaid overtimes and threatened to be replaced with the graduates camping outside their offices in case they refuse. There's constant talk of a union between artists to stand up for each other and help defend from abusive management strategies.But are thing really that bad?
I believe that all the good outweighs all the bad and the horrors people tend to talk about aren't so widely spread, even though we can't pretend they don't exist. They are just too frightening to be taken lightly, that's why people dwell on them so much.
Before we go any further I want to say, that the following text is a mixture of my personal experience and my deductions about how things logically should be. I mean no offense to anyone and please don't shoot me if the paper contradicts your life story. I sincerely heart everyone unemployed, I know what it's like and I wish you(and me) all the best. I am not going to be pointing fingers and blaming “evil corporations”, but rather concentrate on what might get you through this. All that I can hope for is that this paper will help you adjust your mindset to the most productive and beneficial way for you and help your troubles go away. If you're ready, let's go!
I say all the sad and disappointing stuff we hear nowadays, especially in the industrial media is actually a message. Maybe even subconsciously, the industry desperately tries to defend itself by scaring away newcomers, because for those in the industry already, they are the reason of most trouble. Why?
Let's take US and A as an example. Lots of immigrants who consider it the land of opportunity arrive there every year. Those immigrants are so happy to be able to finally live it up far away from their stinky Eastern Europe that they are happy to be worked more for less money in conditions unacceptable by “native” Americans, depriving them of a fair share of the job market.
Videogame production is a dream land for those who seek to work there. It's too hard to get in, for people to end up in a game studio accidentally. People dream of it. There are not so many industries where love and passion for your work is almost a constant amongst all workers. And as much as it is a gift it is a curse. People are happy to do what they love and most of them probably would do it for free if they had other means of comfortable existence. I know I would. And the market doesn't hesitate to use your love for its own purposes.
It's a fact – junior workers get overworked and abused not because there are many others just like them, but because every single one them is willing to be abused and overworked.
The case is - we are so grateful to finally be given a chance to do our dream jobs, that we will get out of our skins to try to earn respect and show the employer how motivated and hardworking we are. But most of us forget that while we think we earn respect the company earns money.
That bothered me when I was starting out. Back then I was doing 13 hours a day and then took my work home to work on it some more. I was afraid that the employer might get used to it and one day, when I'll want my life back they might not be too pleased with it. Now I'm not.
First of all, I think it's normal for beginners to do overtimes. Even huge ones. Because it's quite obvious that their output could not compare to that of more experienced artists in the same amount of time.
But there's one thing you need to remember: Working hours are nothing. They are just a very rough approximation of the amount of work that is supposedly to be done. And the amount of work done is the really important thing. Production wise the amount of time spent means much-much less then the quality of the time spent. Anyone catch my drift yet?
You do overtimes in the beginning because you don't have enough skill to work fast enough. You replace the lacking skill with time.
But that should as temporarily as possible.
In an ideal world your purpose would be to always replace time with skill, because time is the one thing that is always lacking. That's the way you should think if you want to survive in an industry as competitive as this. Use every second of your time to get better, smarter and faster. In the beginning you've got a whole lot to learn, so you shouldn't just work. You should get faster, you should challenge everything, looking for ways to optimize your workflow, you should eagerly subside knowledge from people around you. Do it, think about it and before you know it you'll spend as much time at tasks as the others do.
And I'm not talking about how you become senior over time. I'm talking about diving head first into trying to get on par with seniors as soon as you are on the boat, if you want to stay there.
But in now way do I mean that you have to get competitive with them. You all are a part of one team – keep it in mind. The only person that is ever worth competing with is you. The others are a helpful guideline in measuring your progress.
As soon as you're starting to work smarter you're proving yourself as a way-way better employee then the one who can invest more butt hours. You prove to be a real professional rather then a paid enthusiast. And that is the way you earn your respect and most importantly your security.
Work faster, work smarter and make sure your management knows it. Even if you unfortunately ended up in the situation, where you find your management abusive, those people are still extremely rational. That means, that if they understand that your output has significantly increased since you were hired, then there's actually not much incentive to replace you with the other inexperienced guy and waste time and money waiting for him to educate himself to the point where you are at. If he ever gets to that point.
The better you get – the more freedom you gain. The better artist can choose where to work, thus is much more unlikely to be mistreated. So it is in your best interest to become The better artist.
I realize that the economy is not good and losing a job could be a tragedy, especially when you have mouths to feed. You just might not have a possibility to sit down and learn to become the better artist again.
That's why my only advice would be to be the better artist all the time.
There's no way you can support it with mere longer working hours - you'll get burned out pretty bad pretty fast. Be the smarter artist, rebuild your mind, if necessary, so that it becomes natural for you to question everything and look for the most elegant solutions. This way you are less likely to ever get fired in the first place, but even if you do you'll have an advantage.
If you have ever been related to HR people in some way, then you should probably know that it is much harder to find thinking people, rather then skilled people. Creative, proactive, problem solving people are always in more demand, then just skilled people.
I believe that you can teach everyone, probably even a monkey to replicate objects in 3d, for example. It's pure skill, a set of technicalities. But monkeys can't teach themselves to work smarter – you can.
Economy is competitive. It is its most basic principle, borrowed from mother natures' natural selection. We can't change the economy. We can't make everyone care for the other person. But there's one thing we can do though. We can become professional enough to be worthy of our own self respect. We can become worthy of a better attitude towards ourselves. And if we do, mistreating us will be economically disadvantageous.
I would understand if someone says that it's an unfair industry, where you have to work more just to be treated right. I'd say that it could be in some places. And it is sad. But,
If you pick up something, or even more – start doing it professionally, then your ultimate objective should be becoming the best professional possible, one of the best there is in your respective field. And all the things mentioned above should be at the heart of the force driving you anyway.
If you pick something up not be your best at it, then you'll ultimately fail. Because there would always be people who treat their profession more seriously.
So don't be afraid to shoot for the moon, be smarter, persistent and keep you dreams alive. And in case you're stuck, my Mum always used to tell me:
“If you can't change the circumstances – change your attitude to them.”