Glassdoor Confessions on Telltale Games- Episode 158
Glassdoor Confessions is a segment where we look at reviews of a company like, Telltale Games, and read the pro and con of anonymous employees on Glassdoor. We also draw from our own second-hand accounts to try to breakdown and get closer to the reality of what life is like working at the company. This episode, is departing from reading off of Glassdoor as recent employees have started sharing about what it was really like working at Telltale Games on twitter and other forms of social media.
Overworked and underpaid, we routinely push ourselves on a passion project while functioning on top of a thin sheet of instability and broken promises. How many more times do we have to put up with this? How many more times do we have to uproot our family and relocate just to wait for the same thing to happen again?
Larry and Brandon have heard this story many times before and it has gotten to a point that one can’t be called a veteran in this industry without having, at least one layoff story. This past week “every employee is kind of revealing the skeleton of Telltale. We're talking about 60 to 80 hour week- overtime and all this different stuff” Brandon recounts. “Management is in damage control. So, of course, the big f*ck you is that management has their politically correct statement of ‘oh, all our brothers and sisters, this is unfortunate. If you want a recommendation, I will personally give you a Linkedin recommendation’ with seven days of health care coverage left which is another kicker.” Brandon continues mockingly. Within thirty minutes of Telltale employees being told the studio is shutting down, everybody would have to exit the premises immediately. “If any of the game developers are out there,” Brandon shares “who's been through a layoff or at least know someone who's been through a layoff, sadly within thirty minutes of that Friday announcement you know computers were locked where we're told they only have half an hour to gather their stuff and get out. Basically treated like criminals which is very disheartening.” Larry adds “that part like when anybody gets laid off. Like ‘hey don't even say goodbye to all these people that you've been friends with for the last three years. Don't even do a lap. Don't even look them directly in the eye. Just take your cardboard box walk with the producer and he's gonna let you out. By the way, your keys and badges. No! Don't grab a free banana and soda.’ Like that's, that's bullsh*t man! I've always hated that they always flip the script.”
As the week went on, more details begin to spill on what exactly caused the abrupt layoff of 275 developers. Brandon comments “The reason why of the sudden closure and the sudden announcement was that people were saying ‘oh we saw people from Lionsgate that day leaving the office.’ And then analysis is made shortly after, indicating or at least insinuating that that deal broke that day. But in actuality, [Lionsgate] was a potential backer. It was never a done deal.” The bottom line is Telltale management had many opportunities to warn and do this right, even if there were no options on keeping the studio open, there are ways to ease the suffering. Instead, management chose the most awful way to repay their hardworking employees and gave them no way to fend for themselves in the most expensive city in the world.
“Yeah, I feel like like a lot of game developers go on a certain path. Because, you know, I think initially a lot of game developers come in traditionally wanting to work on bigger games. I mean, that was the path I took and I achieved. Only after I gotten on top of that hill, I realized how dangerous it was, actually, just staying up there” Brandon says. “A lot of our veterans are having a mass exodus,” he continues “[leaving] the industry because of these type of working conditions, instability. I mean our friends alone. I would say two or three of our friends directly had to uproot their family recently because of layoffs and go all the way to Texas or somewhere to then start a new life. Because most of the jobs are in very concentrated areas and if you don't have a job you go to those other concentrated areas. I mean that's just the way it works. Besides this reporting, what should be known by now by all the listeners out there- prepare yourself if you already have a job that is stable.” Brandon advises “Your job isn't gonna carry you ever until your retirement age. If we're relying on the CEO, like Telltale, to figure things out to help you retire at that same company [then] you're already in a losing position. It's never gonna happen.Like the game union and all this push behind that to help regulate just basic human rights for game developers is happening at the very early stages. I think for now I feel like a good majority of game developers have gone through a layoff to either light that fire to finally do something about it or not forget about it ever again. Take note..I would ask them to go to Game Workers Unite and and try to push that agenda. Push that agenda be a part of it somehow and to prevent this type of thing from happening again.”
The third quarter of every year is the scariest time to be a game developer as everyone is looking onwards hoping to survive Winter. This past month 558 game developers were laid off and are looking for jobs right now. A combination of Capcom Vancouver laying off their staff, Telltale, and a few others contributed to a problem that us game developers cannot ignore anymore. Game developers aren’t protected and the fact that 275 people can be laid off with no severance and forewarning is criminal.
Brandon’s advice to people affected is “to feel everything that you're feeling. To remember this. Because the next time, as soon as you land on your feet, start thinking survivor mode before it's forced upon you.” The podcast is built around helping developers become successful. We encourage everyone to build their own fortress, and utilize their valuable skills beyond their primary jobs. It is a growing industry, with more outlets for consumers to enjoy our craft more than ever. So it has always been Game Dev Unchained’s purpose, to build a guide to navigate through all these different options and help encourage everyone to try. Please reach out if you are affected by any of the layoffs the past month, and let us share your story. Every game developer should move towards change because we can’t keep going like this.
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