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38 Studios Expat Talks About Moving On
by Darrin Drader on 06/13/12 03:54:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I worked at 38 Studios and there seems to be a decent amount of interest in what happened there and what's happening now with the people who used to work there, so I decided that it's time to tell my story.

I was hired on as a Narrative Designer for 38 Studios back in 2010, when we were in Maynard MA, and I have to say that for nearly two years, it was an awesome working atmosphere. We were treated like family by Curt and the rest of the executives, and I always had the feeling that they cared about us as people and not just employees. It was also my first job in the video game industry. Prior to joining the company, I worked as a writer in the tabletop RPG field, and have written or co-written over forty books and articles for a variety of publishers over the past decade, including the Book of Exalted Deeds and a couple of Forgotten Realms books for Wizards of the Coast, as well as other material for Paizo, Bastion Press, Mongoose, Gunmetal Games, and some others.

As a Narrative guy, there were a number of responsibilities that fell on my shoulders, such as ensuring that the team I worked with produced content that was consistent with the IP, as well as writing dialogue, producing backstory, and creating lore. I hope I don't sound overly dramatic when I say that I loved my job and I loved that I was able to play a role in making this amazing game we were working on.

When the studio closed, obviously I was devastated. My wife and I have four kids, and she actually quit a job working in a neuroscience lab at Washington State University in order for me to follow this. Now, to be realistic, that was the intelligent choicefor us to make, for a number of reasons. First, it paid considerably more than she was making. Second, they were moving the lab to another city seventy miles away and not offering to assist with relocation, and since then, the professor who ran the program has retired and the lab has been closed. Third, thanks to state budget cuts, WSU has undergone round after round of layoffs, one of which hit my wife a year prior to landing her job with that lab, resulting in a lengthy period of unemployment. I'm only going into all of this to make it clear that accepting the job with 38 Studios made sense, and in a very real sense, was economically necessary for our family.

I'm not going to go into what happened in the final days, because frankly, you've already read about it. There has been a lot of poor reporting on the studio closure, but there have also been a few articles that actually managed to get the story right. I think that the piece '38 Studios Spouse' speaks out" that you just ran absolutely reflects accurately on what happened.

In my case, frankly, finding work as a writer isn't easy. Yes, there's no shortage of freelance work to go around, but with freelance, you never know when (or sometimes if) you're going to get paid, and with the rates dipping all the way down to a penny a word, there's often not much to be made at it anyway. It's certainly less possible to support a family on that kind of work now in the tabletop game industry than it was a decade ago. Video game studios need writers, but when most companies have one, maybe two Narrative Designers, and our company just dumped six highly qualified ones onto the job market, finding that next position is one of the hardest things you can imagine. Don't worry, I've had one solid interview so far, and another one coming up, so I'm holding out hope that one of those will come through for me. Nevertheless, given the competition in the field, I could very well find myself unemployed for the long haul, and despite my love for games, I might be forced to take a job in another field if something doesn't pan out soon. 

I keep telling my kids that if we're lucky, we'll be moving to a different state soon. Of course they don't want to hear that because they love the neighborhood we live in and they don't want to leave, but they will because we have to go wherever the job is, and they're good kids. They've already accepted the reality of this and they're hoping, right along with me, that our next move takes us to California.

While I hope that things do eventually come together, I've started writing my own material and putting it up for sale. My goal is to release one story a week until I've found my next job. The first story, called The Vacant Forge, is 33 novel-length pages, and is set in a traditional fantasy setting called The Endlands, which was created as a shared world by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. It's available for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/Vacant-Forge-Heroes-Gracia-ebook/dp/B008A9RHTA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339546472&sr=8-1 and it will be followed up in an episodic fashion, eventually telling a larger story, one small piece at a time. The second story in the series will be called Thunder at Aridas, and the third has yet to be named. I talk more about this on my blog here: http://www.monumentalworksgroup.com/?page_id=21

Honestly, I'm not producing the fiction to make a bunch of money - not that my family doesn't need it. I have a novel coming out soon enough from Dark Quest Books called Echoes of Olympus, which was started a couple years ago, right before I took my job with 38, and was finished up last summer. My main motivation is to keep writing, to show that I'm continually producing quality work, and to maybe (if I'm lucky) acquire a few readers. Hopefully one day I'll be able to look back on this period as a positive transition, and a creative high point. 

In the mean time, I keep applying to the small number of openings that fit my qualifications and hope that I can soon get out my family of this state, which has absolutely no opportunity at all for me.


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Comments


Galaxy 613
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Haha yes! When bad stuff happens to you, CREATE ART! I wish you and everyone who got laid off from 38 the best.

Johnathon Swift
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Given most video game writing you'd think that studios would be scrambling for better writers :P

But I digress, best of luck to you and all your former co-workers!

Darrin Drader
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Galaxy, I agree, and that's always been my belief. I've been in this position before, and eventually something good inevitably comes along, but when it does and time gets tight again, there's always this sense that you were too stressed out to use that time for what it is: a gift. It may not be the kind of gift you particularly wanted at this stage in the game, but since time is the one thing you can never get back, it's best to make the most of all of it.

Johnathon Swift, I think that there's some fantastic writing out there in video games these days, especially when compared with, say, a decade ago. A number of the writers who proved themselves by working in Dungeons and Dragons, and have written novels for major publishers are the same people who are writing dialogue for games today. Is there room for improvement? Always! And that's true of everything in life.

Thanks for your well wishes. It's definitely appreciated.

Jason Carvalho
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As a Rhode Islander who had hoped to work at 38 at some point, I can only imagine the kind of heartbreak that you and everyone there must have experienced.

Wish you the best. I do want to absolutely point out too that Rhode Island offers very little at the moment, and I completely understand your desire to get out of this tiny place :). Hope you land somewhere great.

Alexander Brandon
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Best of luck to you and your family. I'm not sure how long you've been in the industry but I've been laid off twice and moved jobs 4 times total, also moving my family. We're done with that. How is that possible? Because we live in a place where if my wife and I get low paying jobs we can still pay the bills and our boys can grow up here (Georgetown, TX). In all seriousness I would rather work at Subway than move again.

We picked that life over California and fingers crossed we never get to that last resort but I hope the industry realizes you just can't get a job and keep it for an entire career. :(


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