'Don't freak out!' and other tips for surviving layoffs as a video game developer

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Ben Gilbert
October 24th, 2014
'Don't freak out!' and other tips for surviving layoffs as a video game developer

The game industry is capable of building incredible worlds, engrossing us with believable characters, and empowering us to destroy (or create!) both. The unfortunate side of all that enchantment is the shaky business models that much of the industry are built on, which leads to cyclical, annualized layoffs that affect even the most successful franchises. Just look at the recent history of Joystiq's layoffs tag: it's ridiculous. Why is this the case? Kotaku's Jason Schreier did an excellent job reporting that last year, right here, so we're not going to duplicate efforts. This piece is about what you can do, should you find yourself being put through the wringer this holiday.

Oh, and yes, the annualized layoffs tend to happen around the holidays (which coincides with many companies' financial quarters ending). Sucks, right?

Seattle-based animator Floyd Bishop took to his website, GameDevTalk, and laid out a list of best practices should you encounter the ever-swinging scythe of layoffs. First and foremost? Make sure you actually listen when human resources is walking you through the proceedings.

"There will be lots of information, and you're still reeling from the initial shock. Try to write things down, if you can. If you didn't hear something, or have a question, ask it now. They may also have some hand outs ready for you that tell you what happens next. Be nice! This is not a fun day to work in human resources."

Okay, okay -- that's pretty general "I got laid off" advice. Fair enough. If you're of the game developer variety, though, Bishop's got targeted advice too. For instance, get your work online immediately, and sign up for job newsletters from the biggies. "Sites like Gamasutra, Creative Heads, and even Indeed have both job listings and job alert email lists," Bishop points out.

Despite video games going mainstream, the industry that creates those games remains surprisingly small. As such, Bishop recommends, "Do not instantly talk trash about the studio you were just let go from." Is it tempting? Sure is! These are the bastards who just fired you, right? Yes, they are, and they may also be the people who hire you for a new project in five years.

Bishop of course has far more detail than we've put in here, so we suggest heading over and reading the full piece if you're in the regrettable position of being laid off as a game dev this holiday.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]

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