I had something of a sobering moment the other day. I was wandering my old (and new) hometown during Shiny Rattata Day, and eventually I found myself at my old high school. I’d graduated 11 years ago, and most of my old teachers were either retired or transferred to different schools, but I did get to meet my old Drama teacher, which is awesome because she’s the one I wanted to see the most. I’d been the Improv manager and a regular in the school plays, so I’d spent many nights after school working on producing all sorts of theatrical events with her, and she asked me how I’d been doing since graduating. I explained to her that I’d moved to SF to get a game design degree and had been working in video games, and only recently moved back home for money reasons after getting written out of a startup I’d helped found. She asked how the family was doing and I talked about how my brother recently got promoted to head of HR at a startup. She talked to me a bit about the plays they’d put on and how the school was doing, but she had to excuse herself shortly to manage the rehearsal that was about to start.
At the time, I thought we’d had a pleasant conversation, but later that night when I’d gone home I realized just how much of a corporate tool I must have sounded like. I had nothing to talk to her about except work and jobs, I bet she was disappointed in what I’d turned out to be. I never really expected to be so focused on employment, but it’s kinda been the driving force of my life since I left Ohio to break into games. I’ve been telling myself “once I pull it off, once I’m in the industry, I’ll start having a social life and hobbies again” but I’m starting to realize this ride never really stops. The increasingly-pessimistic tone of these blog updates are an indication that I need to restructure my priorities a little bit and keep the big picture in mind.
I started exercycling back up last night, and I just reinstalled Unity. An old SPUF friend added me on discord recently and when we learned we both wanted to know Unity, agreed to take a tutorial together. We’ll be starting with Pro builder next week.
There are some other cool things happening, and I’ll get into them in a future blog post, but for now I just want to apologize for the depressing tone I’d taken in my last few posts. Leaving San Francisco was a huge blow to my pride, but in all other metrics it’s done wonders for my mental health. I hope to have some more updates on gaming-oriented creative projects–like this blog was founded to talk about–real soon.
Well, it finally happened. I ran out of money and am moving away, back in with my parents. I guess that’s the risk I took when I pooled my money and moved to San Francisco. Nothing in life is certain, and game jobs are a famously risky industry.
I’ve never been one to attribute failure with bad luck, and indeed I can look at many, many things I could have done better in my two years in SF. While in college, I spent the lion’s share of my time on my schoolwork and almost no time trying to get hired. Once out of college, I routinely chickened out on aggressively seeking out employment with whatever contacts I managed to secure. I felt crippled by how staggeringly high the rent was, and how quickly my money was running out. I had to borrow from a close friend to make my last rent, and I’ll be retaking my old job at the Tutoring Club to rebuild my finances after paying him back.
I have some ideas for where I’ll go next, but none of them are very concrete. I was looking favorably at Irvine, but then Activision/Blizzard fired 800 people and flooded the market, so going there now would be a terrible idea. I’ve applied to several jobs in the local area, but I’d rather not live at my parent’s fulltime for the foreseeable future, since they have their own lives and I’d like to have one of my own. But for now, in all honesty, I need to count my blessings they were here to escape my SF situation, because I’d be homeless by March if they weren’t here to save me. I shouldn’t have cut it so close financially, but I was holding out hope that one of the dozens of companies I’d applied for would finally contact me.
There might be a brief lull in creative projects while I settle into my new place. Which is my old high school room, so honestly it shouldn’t take very long.
I guess there are a few things that have changed since I last gave something of a progress update on various goals, so I’ll just list them all here for completionist’s sake.
- As mentioned before, we’ve hit some exciting milestones in several long-running series. As mentioned in “The 2s Have It”, we’ve got a bunch of big viewcounts on different websites, but the only number that really matters is 388; the current subscriber count for The SPUF of Legend. Subs are how you get anywhere on YouTube, especially considering most of my views come from me hyperlinking to the videos on reddit in related conversations. I haven’t had any real luck in translating our increasing viewcounts to a sustained community, though I know why it’s not currently working; I don’t really have a united theme in my videos to motivate anyone to come back. You need to pick one game and stick with it in this industry; the Daily SPUF‘s viewership ratings were huge until we started covering games other than TF2, and the Spuf of Legend had a small dedicated community of viewers but they justifiably left when I stopped making Payday 2 videos. At the moment, my plan is to survive the next few weeks (more below) and wait for a really good, trendy, modern game to come out that I can leap on and corner the market with the same gusto I covered Payday 2.
- MasterClass has finished, and it was a great experience all around. Ended up recording footage from almost two dozen games, and the class turned out great. It was awesome watching the episode and seeing my recordings throughout, especially since many of them had my username aabicus in the HUD when the game needed it. Sadly it doesn’t appear to have translated into a full job with MasterClass, I would have loved to work with them as a fulltime employee. But there’s always the future!
- I went through the Darwin’s Soldiers wiki one day and added categories for gender. I mostly wanted to see the breakdown myself, turns out there are 280 males, 73 females, and 19 unknown/genderless characters in the Darwin’s Soldiers franchise. Guess that makes sense considering the combat/military focus, but I’m hoping we do a better job with the Into the Black franchise.
- Speaking of Into the Black, I finally finished an old story I’d started months earlier but abandoned when StarfallRaptor left the forum, since it was being written at his behest. But I hate leaving things unfinished, though I’d have made an exception if I’d known it would become the longest story in the canon. “Weekend at Jessica’s” is a Starfall story, so expect a lot of sex/adult themes, and I’m working on another Emilena story for people who prefer the ‘action noir’ style-storylines. It takes place back when Emilena was a cop, and covers her going undercover as a waitress to discover which employees at a fancy restaurant are using their job to peddle drugs.
- GDC is coming up, and I might or might not be going. I have an opportunity for a free press pass, in exchange for reporting for someone else’s YouTube channel, and I am absolutely taking that opportunity if it happens for the sheer networking potential alone.
- Apex Legends surprised everyone by launching onto the public stage and genuinely being a blast to play. I find myself coming back to it even when I normally don’t like Battle Royales, and to my surprise I actually want to make videos on it. Let’s see if I can get a foothold in this brand new community.
(I’m not sure where I’m going with this post, but I’m trying to get back to writing for myself. darwinssoldiers.com has been bottom of my focus pile for a while)
I’ve pretty much lived my life taking opportunities whenever possible. I used to work in a nursing home, and I got to talk to a lot of people at the end of their lives. Almost all of them regretted things they didn’t do.
To try and avoid that, I’ve always pushed forward. I’ve lived in two countries and three different states, I’ve chased my dream job of game development for over seven years, and I’ve learned every piece of creative software I could get my hands on. As a high-schooler discovering the internet, I dreamed I would one day be able to Photoshop images or turn snippets of my gameplay into GIFs, and it’s great that I can now effortlessly do such things.
But that doesn’t make these 3 memories any easier:
- As an undergraduate, a film studio decided to use the college I was attending as the primary set for a horror film they were creating. For most of my sophomore year I’d be walking around and occasionally see them recording or prepping at random locations throughout the campus and surrounding city. I appeared in a very, very minor role as an extra but otherwise did absolutely nothing to make friends or connections with the studio staff. Even worse, the screenwriter and one of the producers were close family friends! I could have done anything I wanted if I’d just asked them. But unfortunately, I didn’t want anything at the time. I never even considered Hollywood a possible job direction, so the movie eventually wrapped up and, and was only ever a passing curiosity in my college years. I can only imagine where I might be right now if I’d taken advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even a little bit.Kinda connected to that one, I didn’t make good use at all of my undergraduate professors. Everyone warned me before I went to college that it was extremely important to befriend them because they would be a huge resource in the future when looking for jobs and opportunities. I got to know the Film Studies teached well enough, and co-authored a compilation with one of the English professors, but other than that I pretty much graduated and left when my 4 years were up. I didn’t go to office hours nearly enough, and to no surprise wound up alone and struggling to find a job out of college. I feel less bad about this one because I did a much better job with forming collegiate connections in my Master’s program.
- On my first day in San Francisco after graduating college (six years ago), I had secured an apartment with my boyfriend and we’d been lucky enough to gain a video game connection with a man my mom knew from work. He offered, and we readily agreed, to meet up for coffee and he’d talk to us about the job market, our resumes, and what we needed to know to ingratiate ourselves in the city. After coffee, he drove us around San Franscisco and pointed out various game studios he knew and how likely we were to be hired by them.And then he parked in front of a drab-looking building and pointed saying “That’s Double Fine.” Double Fine was one of the world’s most famous game writing companies, and I loved their games. He encouraged me to walk right in there, without a plan, and ask them for a job right now. I remember my boyfriend sitting next to me, also encouraging me to do so. It felt like the sort of choice you’d encounter in one of Double Fine’s game, to be honest, but I ended up making the wrong choice. I was too scared to walk in there; I hadn’t scheduled an appointment or anything, I hadn’t researched the company or learned their company values and all I had was an unspecialized resume I hadn’t hand-crafted to give to them. Also, I couldn’t fathom they’d be interested in a junior writer whose largest published game at the time was Legends of Equestria. A couple seconds passed, and when they realized I wasn’t getting out of the car, we drove away.
Would that moment have led to a job at Double Fine? Probably not. But I’ll never know.
- And lastly, I regret the last six months. I graduated in September 2018 having not done nearly enough to secure a job out of college. I did great in the actual program but I only applied for a few positions while I was still enrolled. Upon leaving, I continued to apply for jobs but with something of a slow-burning longterm anxiety attack giving me sleepless nights. I am well aware that you can only call yourself a “recent graduate” for the first six months after you obtain your diploma, and now here we are and I’m no closer to being employed than when I started. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs, but I should have applied for hundreds. I should have bugged people and made more phone calls and networked and done everything in my power to secure a position before it was too late.
Hi! It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. A lot has changed, not all of it for the better.
Apologies for the radio silence, nonexistent readers, and I don’t really have a very good excuse. I’ve fallen into something of a slump these past few months. While I’ve kept my online obligations running (new SPUF of Legend videos, new Daily eSports articles), I’ve let a lot of my creative projects fall to the wayside. I’m not sure if it counts as ‘depression’ per se, but I’m really starting to feel the stress of my inability to land a job.
Feels like I’ve sent thousands of applications, and I hear literally nothing back. I’ve made it through two rounds of interviews at one place, but I haven’t heard anything in over two weeks. I had to borrow money from my parents to pay rent 5 days ago. It really feels like I’m running on a hamster wheel, the same wheel I’ve been on since leaving Ohio to chase a gamedev jobs in Austin 4 years ago.
I have to admit I’ve never felt more worried this was all for naught. Everyone I know from my graduating class has landed gaming jobs except me. It feels like I’ve blown thousands of dollars moving to SF and trying to break into a thriving industry that has room for everyone else. I feel like I bring a lot of skills to the table, but apparently they’re not the right ones for anyone to take notice.
My cumulative internet traffic is the only silver lining to my situation. I’ve broken 2 thousand views on itch.io, 2 hundred thousand views on YouTube, and 2 million views on Gfycat. Too bad I’ve had almost no luck translating those numbers into user activity, or a real community.
So…happy 2019 everybody. It’s weird to think I now have 7 years experience as a game developer, and yet I’ve never felt like less of one.