Stay at Home Dev & Family Management with Randy Forsyth- Episode 45
Randy Forsyth gives us his true family and parenting stories as a stay at home professional full time game developer. The Dev Dad himself lays out what you'll expect and need to do in order to function both as an employee and a parent simultaneously from the comfort of your own home.
Randy has since become a Senior Character Artist at Epic Games after the interview was conducted. Before Epic Games, Randy was living in Texas with his family working remotely as the Lead Character Artist for Iron Galaxy Studios working on Killer Instinct: Season 3. He occasionally takes on freelance and you can see his work in Lawbreakers as well. His past work also includes Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Planetside 2, TNMT Out of the Shadows, Duke Nukem Forever, and Neverwinter Nights 2.
Living in Texas
Randy has spent his career split between living in California and Texas. His family is based in California and the majority of his wife’s family lives in Texas. Moving to Texas has become a common trend among game developers who are attracted to affordable housing and overall quality of life. It’s no secret that California game developers face high mortgage and rent and often struggle with living paycheck to paycheck since most of their income goes into everything else besides savings. Randy shares that “there's a lot of a lot of cool shit to do out [in Texas] man. It's nothing like this crazy foreign land. I mean growing up in California, [Texas] sound like this big crazy faraway place. It's not. It's pretty awesome. So yeah, it’s a lot more open. It is definitely different. It's a cool place live, man. I mean this is my second time coming back I had been out here for some years ago and then went back to California when I was working with you guys and then back out the second time.”
The first time Randy lived in Texas was when he was working on a little infamous game that is ironically titled “Duke Nukem Forever.” For awhile, Duke Nukem was plagued with development horror stories of how it took a very long time to ship and was handed off to multiple studios to attempt at finishing the game. Randy was working at one of those studios. “My first jump out to Texas is actually to work in 3D Realms. I worked there in this studio in Dallas to work on the infamous Duke Nukem Forever at the tail end [of it]. Did that for three plus years.”
The game industry is a volatile place and on top of trying to stay secure, it really puts any relationship on trial especially when a relationship is starting to bloom. Luckily, Randy was able to test his relationship early on in his career when him and his wife started dating. “I met her in Dallas. I was working at the time in 3D Realms. We actually met playing on an adult kickball league up there. It was like six months after 3D Realms shut down so we were pretty early on. She got quite the taste of some gamedev shenanigans, like how balled out this industry can be.”
To add on to that trauma Randy shares that surviving shutdowns together was a theme early on in his relationship with his wife. “In our first three, four years of our relationship, I went through two studio shutting down and two times of [major crunch. So I mean she was definitely in it for the longer haul.”
Despite going through some life-altering career changes, he still is very optimistic and doesn't see himself ever doing anything else, especially now. The places Randy have worked at use to make decisions for him, but they were hard lessons that he learned from to stay a step ahead by rolling with the punches. ”I love this job. There's always a fear of ”Oh shit! How long is this gonna last?’ Kind of thing and trying to [think] what's the best path to take, longevity-wise. Where is it gonna go? That's a testament, hopefully, [how my wife] trusted me. I'm getting us in the right direction. The same reason why we moved back here was so she could get into [nurse] school and give our family a little bit of more stability with dual income. I think they'll help us out in the long haul. But it’s kind of crazy for her to go through these things and stick with it. I think I think she has seen the nature of the beast. I really love what I'm doing and she's not gonna she'd never say ‘You know... maybe you should change careers.’ I don't think she'd be telling me to do that. Maybe she might be thinking it but uh she wouldn't say that. I think it would be understandable. Sometimes I think about like ‘Fuck! What have I got myself into?’ Like after the second studio shut down... I came out stressful but unfortunately it's fucking fun to do and yeah, I love doing it.”
Working from Home and Family Life
Randy has seen his fair share of successes and pitfalls working in the industry and his career has taken him across multiple states. So it was a relief to learn that Randy has found a home in Texas and works remotely from his home office after years of commuting and being away from his family and newborn. “It has worked out pretty great! Now I'm working at a studio called Iron Galaxy. They're based in Chicago but I'm working from home. In my office right now so it's pretty great! Eventually we're gonna be moving down to Austin when she finishes up school.”
Larry adds that “it is really interesting to see a lot more companies kind of embracing the idea of hiring on the artist who's working from their home. They have a lot more faith I guess in the insourcing, I call it. Because it's not like it is outsourcing but it's still domestic. So it's just a little moniker.” Randy responds saying “Oh, more people are into this and it's fucking it's pretty great! Especially with a kid like get to see him come home every day. He goes to daycare right now but it's pretty awesome. I would love to see more studios doing this kind of stuff.”
The ability from home is a luxury that most developers would love to do. However, there is still very low amount of blueprints to actually get to that point. Randy luckily, shares his experience for the transition and how it sort of fell on his lap. “[Iron Galaxy Studios] had people doing it remotely. They have students in Chicago and Orlando and the big draw is getting back to Texas. It is still kind of crazy having people spread out but it was the main deal maker. [Texas] being affordable. We were able to come back here and buy a house that wouldn't have been an option and if we went to the other places we don't have any family. I think it was more a huge selling point coming back here and [Randy’s wife] being close to family, get into [nursing] school right away and be affordable and working from home. Yeah, I got a perfect deal. It's pretty great so far.”
Although, working from home is obviously a step up, there are some office perks that Randy misses. “I do miss all the you know office shenanigans and stuff going on.The lunchtime- going to do stuff like playing football right after the team meetings or whatever. Throw my arm out every day. Basketball and stuff, you know, boxing and stuff is always fun. But hey, I wouldn't trade this. This, is pretty pretty pretty good. What I'll say is, as much as I love and respect my coworkers I would be down on myself if I miss my child throwing a football. Or to teach them and be a parent.”
When asked about what a typical day working from home looks like Randy answers, “ I come in around 9:00 and a lot of times that's pretty early. I stopped by the bathroom, once in a while. I gotta get my son ready and I get him ready for daycare. I'll take him to school which is like my only chance to get outside the house for a little bit. Get him ready. Get him off. Come back. Lot of work, we're skyping, we’re having a lots of meetings. Where I mean. all our meetings kind of look just like this, you know, as a lot of people kind of going over tasks and art direction and stuff like that.”
There are challenges getting use to working from home and Randy wasn’t shy about sharing that experience. We asked about productivity and efficiency and he says “I definitely feel super productive because there's really no distractions. I’m in a bit of a vacuum. I think it took me a little bit of time to kind of get into the swing of things from working at home. Like how's the overtime [work]? It's actually great. It's better food. No long lunches. There's not like a bunch of guys going out like having some extra-long lunches with a bunch of coworkers.”
Overall, raising a family in Texas has been very fruitful and affordable. “It's nice having like a little bit of a room to breathe. We wouldn't have a second kid in California. We couldn't afford a minimum three bedroom house in the Bay Area. [In Texas] I have a office. The kids have their own rooms. Day care out here is crazy cheap compared to the Bay Area. I was looking into like how much full-time day care is. It's like a quarter of the price it would have been [in the Bay Area] and it’s nice ass daycare. They give him two meals. He got a breakfast and lunch there. If he wants swim lessons and all this stuff… That would be like some high-end like daycare place and it's a quarter of the price of anything we were looking at the Bay Area.”
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