I work in video games, and it’s seemed this year to be pretty immune to the recession. Kids always want their video games, and when you can’t do much else, like building that addition, or moving to a new place, picking up a game or two to play away the misery is a comforting alternative.
Or so we thought.
Looks like it’s finally trickled up, or down, or sideways, and as such, we had The Meeting today. While not officially laid off, I’m on ‘forced vacation’ starting tomorrow morning. The good news is that I don’t have to get up early! The bad news is that we’re waiting on a deal with another company before we can all come back. These kinds of things are notoriously painful and slow. There’s a lot of wishy-washy back-and-forth when trying to get a game started, or in this case, finished. We were told that they “don’t want to cancel it,” but there’s a lot of negotiating still going on. Meanwhile, the bosses – who are really great guys – have tried every avenue they could imagine – old contacts, cell phone games, 1-off stuff we could all do separately, like the script I alone wrote for another company earlier this year, and of course, subcontracted work for larger games being made elsewhere – a usual savior for us. Unfortunately, large companies are all saying the same thing – the recession has them fighting just to feed the mouths in their own companies.
There are 40 in our employ, and with one side job going still, only 5 will be coming in to work on that, and I’m not on that project. I do have 19 vacation days saved up, and will be paid for them as the days off add up, but after that I’m unpaid until we get work. The bosses gave the other company an ultimatum – we must know where we stand by the 15th of October. That’s sort of the cut-off date., but if we get the greenlight to continue tomorrow, we’ll be back to work on Friday. It’s all up in the air. It’s looking like at the very least, some layoffs will unfortunately be in order. The other company hasn’t even paid us for all the work we’ve done up until now, so we’re robbing our own coffers to pay ourselves for that for the time being. Fortunately, I’m one of about 9 leads, and the bosses privately told us that they will consider us last during layoffs. This isn’t really favoritism, though. Mostly it’s just seniority, and our knowing how the bulk of our programs and processes work. Small comfort, though. I’d hate to lose any of us. It’s a great group, and the end of the day was filled with hugs, well-wishes, and scribblings down of email addresses so we could all stay in touch in the interim, or in case that’s it for the company.
Meanwhile, I have some unexpected free time. Sleeping late, cleaning the workshop “for realz,” sawing up huge Eucalyptus logs, finally conquering The Ebay Pile (most of which isn’t even worth selling anymore – anyone need a 3” thick book on Visual Basic 6.0 from half a decade ago? How about two of ‘em? ;) – it’s all queued up, and for that much I am excited. I do wish I had no money worries so I could go buy all the lumber I need for the half dozen or so projects I really want to build – organizers, wood storage, cabinetry, shelving, etc. Plywood is pricey! I’ve had this happen once before in about 2003, free after we were all let go at the end of months of hard work at a company, trying to enjoy the time, worrying alongside that about finding new work. I’m fine, though. I have a good amount saved up in several different areas. However, with the incredibly high cost of living here in LA, it really isn’t as much as it seems. You can scale things for yourself by noting that a 1-story, 2-bedroom, 1-bath house of about 800-900 sq. ft. on a sub-1-acre lot, with a 1-car, detached garage, all built in and negligibly maintained since 1924 currently goes for – starting – about $650k, rents for about $2500/mo, no A/C. It’s crazy times.
Anyway, good luck to us all. Apparently none of us is safe from this economical beast.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator