Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

My Former Boss to Wear an Orange Jumpsuit?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 15, 2010

My former boss, from back when I was working on the Tale of Despereaux game:

This Game Developer’s Next Project is 18 Months in Prison

I could come up with all kinds of snark on this.  But I’m not sure I feel like it. While long-time readers may have grasped that I wasn’t too happy while I was working there,  I don’t feel personally wronged by the guy. Not like most of my coworkers, who ended up being defacto creditors to the company after being promised repeatedly of alight at the end of the tunnel. I left the company when things were clear (to me) that the company was going to crash and burn and take its employees with it.  Apparently, I cut it a lot closer than I thought.

The thing is – while this is a more egregious example of What Can Go Wrong in a game studio, several studios here in the local area have crashed just as badly, if not quite as spectacularly. It can be a brutal, unforgiving business.

I guess another point to bear in mind is that owing money to over a hundred employees is met with stern warnings and easily postponed hearings that never seem to go anywhere. But owing money to the government will land you in prison.

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Dwight said,

    It’s not about “owing money to the government”.

    The IRS just wants money, no one goes to prison for that. Any one who claims that is either ignorant or is trying to distract people from the facts of their crimes.

    What you do go to prison for is fraud, which has two components: the act itself (misappropriation or misrepresentation) and intent (scienter).

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Alright, alright, go ahead an wreck my *one* attempt at snark with The Facts. 😉

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    Still, as a business owner you have to make sure you cover your government obligations. As an attorney once said in a session about starting up your own game development company at a conference: “I can protect you from any threat, except from the tax service. Get a good accountant.”

    But, yeah, fraud is a step beyond even that.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I really find it amazing that employees continued to work after multiple late and missed paychecks. I guess this is due to many people considering game development a “dream job” and being unwilling to abandon a company that gives them the opportunity to work in that field if other opportunities for game development employment are difficult to come by in the area (which I understand they were in Utah).

    I’ve worked at two jobs where they missed a paycheck. (Not in the games industry.) I quit immediately in both cases. In both cases the company went out of business within six months. I think people are lying to themselves if they believe a supposedly professional company is going to remain solvent after those kinds of warning signs.

    It’s as bad as those indies that promise a cut of the profits when their game is finished instead of paying for art commissions.

    If the company can’t survive its next release being a flop, and your paycheck keeps coming up missing or late, jump ship. When I hear of Sensor Sweep employees working overtime! with missing paychecks it just makes me depressed. Game companies that pay their employees without fail still take advantage of making employees work more overtime than they should, but for a company to do so without paying employees anything at all . . . .

    I often wonder if maybe the future of the game industry is the model that Hollywood uses. In the first 30-40 years of the movie industry, actors and directors, cameramen, etc. all worked for a specific studio, and appeared in or worked on each release by that studio. Working for another studio was out of the question unless your studio set it up and collected a hefty profit from the studio it was “loaning” you to.

    Now the movie industry operates by project. Actors and directors have agents, they shop themselves around. Each project or movie gets its own funding, and everyone involved is paid for just that project. You are only tied down to one movie at a time, and even then you can still shop yourself around and do work on other movies at the same time so long as you meet your obligations on each one.

    This way of doing things has improved the output of Hollywood substantially. We get sought after directors, movie stars, and the movies are better overall. The B-Movies ended at about the same time as the former studio model. B-Movies often only existed in the first place because studios and actors had contracts with movie theaters and others to produce a certain number of movies a year. Sound familiar? Publishers hiring game studios for 5-game deals, etc?

    Sure, it would be a little troublesome for game developers to KNOW they had to look for a new job every 2 years, but we might come out better for it. And game designers and developers competing with ever other designer and developer for EVERY game project would almost certainly raise the bar for games in general.

    And of course, the current Hollywood model still leaves room for indie films, just as that niche would still exist in a games industry following the same model.

  • Silemess said,

    Hope and desperation can turn even common sense. The idea that “Just a little bit more and it’ll all get paid off” or the idea “I can’t afford to look for a job, but if this project wraps up and they can pay us…” can keep people paralyzed at a job that any of us with objectivity can see isn’t going anywhere.

    But when you’re in it and involved, you don’t see things the same way. Those who could afford to take that step back and reassess, got out rightly right then. The problem comes from those occasional “miracle” stories where everyone pulls together and pitches in and they’re all saved, huzzah. Except it happens more often in movies than in real life and once they’ve made their choice to stick, it’s hard to go back to it even while things get worse.

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