10 November 2009

Being Laid Off

In June of 2007, I was working as a materials buyer for an orthodontic manufacturer in Southern California. I was also writing freelance for tabletop RPGs, and I'd had some success in that arena. I'd always talked about moving over to computer games, MMOs, but I didn't really think it would ever happen.

Then, one day, I saw a job posting for the upcoming Warhammer MMO. Given that I'd contributed to a couple of Warhammer Fantasy RPG books, I thought that maybe there was a chance they'd be interested in me. I knew a couple of people who worked at Mythic (or who soon would be), so I sent my resume along to them and asked them to put in a kind word for me.

To my surprise, I had a phone interview, followed up by an on-site interview. After the interview, they made me an offer.

I saw this as my ticket out of my relatively low-paying white collar job and into the exciting world of computer game design. I snapped it up, put in my two weeks' notice, and then went about the process of moving my wife, my 2 year-old son, and 4 month-old daughter across the country.

In my time with Mythic, I saw Warhammer Online evolve into a game I was proud to be a part of. I witnessed the game's launch, and then sat in suspense as the numbers were tallied. I did my work, wrote some good material, and kept on keeping on. I worked alongside gifted and creative people, made friends with many of them, and I looked at the future with a mixture of hope and anticipation.

On November 9th, I, along with a number of my co-workers, was let go. I saw the signs of my impending unemployment long before it was actually confirmed to me. I was worried, frightened. Here I am, with my family, thousands of miles from home, and about to become one of the nation's many unemployed workers.

When the hammer finally struck, I'd gotten my sorrow out of the way. I knew what I had to do; failing that, I'd try to get back to California. I joke, "I'll get back if I have to sell a kidney to do it." I'm not sure that the market for kidneys is particularly good here in the States, but even if it is, I'd prefer to keep my internal organs all to myself.

It's day two since my official termination. I've sent out resumes, had friends send my resume to folks at other companies, and browsed job sites looking for positions that I might fit. Is it too early to expect anything back? Probably. The silence is deafening, though. I've just got to be patient, positive, and proactive. The three P's. I've got a little bit of time to find something new -- 2 months, on the outside -- and while that seems like a long time now, I know it's going to fly by.

As far as my experience at Mythic, I'm not bitter. Sad, maybe. I don't necessarily regret the opportunity I had to get a leg up in an industry that I love, but I do regret that things didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped they would. I don't imagine that the game was perfect, but it's a tough market. It's either sink or swim.

Two years, four months, almost to the day. I was proud to be where I was, to work for Mythic and Electronic Arts, along with so many bright and shining folks. I never gave up on Mythic, either; I always looked towards a better day, when things would turn around. If it ever comes to pass now, I won't be there to see it from the inside. No, I'll be somewhere else, focusing my skill, dedication, and optimism on something else.


Anonymous said...

A lot of that sounds very familiar to me, though my run at WotC was shorter - 14 months to the day. I did move home, and went with full-time freelance writing. But I really can't recommend that road.

But while I may, in fact, still hold some bitterness I have never regretted moving my family and taking the dream job working on games. I learned a lot, met a bunch of great people, and changed my perspective forever.

But getting laid off still sucks.

Bricriu Nemthenga said...

Damn, Gary.

I heard about the layoffs at EA on the news today shortly before I saw your post. Very sorry to read that they let you go.

On the other hand, I’ve little doubt that this setback will be a relatively short one for you — the crappy economy permitting — given your history of knowing what you want to do in life and finding a way to do it (the game articles, the rulebook writing, and now the video game thing).

If, for whatever reason, you do end up coming back to California, know that mi casa es su casa if you need somewhere to stay while you hunt for apartments, jobs, etc. (Granted, Palm Springs is not an ideal base of operations, but it’s there if you ever need it.)