Friday, 1 July 2011

Being Strategic About Jobs: Location, Location, Location

In the games industry, it is not uncommon to see layoffs and unemployment after the successful
completion of a major game project. In addition, games are looking at adopting production practices of film, which echo the above (however unlike film, game folk cannot up simply up sticks and relocate - family, social issues and such).

//////// CUTBACKS & BEING STRATEGIC ////////

With the global recession and tightening of budgets, a future career in one studio is not gold plated and even if you survive the initial round of cutbacks, the studio may inevitably be one foot in the grave either from lack of cashflow, cancellation of remaining projects, cancellation by main parent group, failure to meet milestones and so forth.

So, the thing is not to get into a bunkered doom and gloom mentality. This is entirely natural and cyclical in every industry. Some years, a combination of global economic forces, local forces and untimely circumstances lead to these perfect storm of seemingly bad news or multiple studio closures.

Thus, one has to be strategic in location. Ideally in the extremely unfortunate event you are laid off or the company enters administration, you want to be able to walk into another job relatively nearby without having to uproot your entire family, and also ensure there is not so much competetion that there is NO jobs to be had.

//////// LOCATION IS GOLD ////////

Being in a relatively major city means, often enough there are a few game companies to shuttle between various projects eg. Austin, San Fran, LA, Paris, Montreal,  London
However, local forces such as tax breaks may cause some degree of talent poaching. As such, if you are in a region without a big studio set up, chances are there are no new jobs to be had.

Case in point. Montreal has major investment in Ubisoft, Eidos, Funcom, THQ and Warner Bros and  such is the battle for talent, that if you are a relative junior artist, you either get good fast, or go swim in a region where there is less AAA development and a modicum of job availability like Vancouver or Ontario.


Be aware that certain companies eg. Microsoft offer something called fixed term contracts. In initial instance, the pay may seem lucrative, but the contract will only be for the duration stipulated and its is not uncommon to be let go after the contract or gig is completed. This is the reality of the film production like approach these days.

BIG studio vs SMALL studios

For a starting budding artist, it is often a challenge to get a foot into the door vs being lured by the bright lights of a large corporate studios vs a smaller independent studio. Whilst we cannot advise on the work culture of a large game studio, what we can say is a independant studio will often allow you full capacity to grow and earn your wings, try all sorts of different media and responsibilities and to grow as they grow. As such, it is often better to learn and grow your craft at a independant studio.

In addition, Independent studios often have better budgetary control and care of its people, whereas being part of a large group can often involve unexpected layoffs on a massive spectacular spectacle, and sometimes with minimal just cause.

In summary, be smart, be consumerist and above all always evolve your portfolio. Everyday in everyway. Because, you just never know!

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