Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

My level design teacher once lamented of the video games industry that his major problem was that companies, while impressed by his vast and varied body of work, just didn't know where to put him. He is a man who has worked as an illustrator for comic books, concept artist for film and games, level designer, 3D modeler, programmer, cook (maybe), and just about any role that could be filled. He is also a military veteran (invaluable consultation knowledge for games - think about it!) and, quite obviously, a teacher. That old saying comes to mind, "a jack of all trades, master of nothing". The thing about my teacher is that he is a master of all trades it seems, and permanent employment has been a struggle for him. I should note that while he has found an excellent and lucrative contract now that classes are finished, it is not in the games industry. I'm not sure if this is the effect of what the old folks like to call a recession, or if it is simply that I have chosen a young, belligerent and exceptionally competitive field. My recent job applications - to every single possible game job in Toronto - have led me to meet some pretty spectacular people and network with some incredible companies, but no fruit has been reachable from the tree. I am only 5'8", but come on! Whining aside, I do wonder how my $30,000+ debt while attending a top Ontario college has prepared me for the games industry other than equipping me with cynicism about not only my own abilities, but the state of the industry and furthermore the economy as a whole.

I never had to fight a war, but those long days and nights in busy kitchens hardened me and trained me to deal with immediate adversity (and assholes - lots of them). It also taught me that if you're charming enough, you can grab a job that you otherwise had zero experience in before. Not a "fake it 'til you make it" approach, but instead, a sincere approach and a do-or-die attitude that lets the prospective employer know that if they take a chance on you, their time will not have been wasted. It is, of course, a hell of a lot easier to say "Okay, kid. We'll give you a chance" at $10/hour rather than $40-$50k a year. Maybe I got those jobs because I'm a hard worker and a fast learner, or maybe I got those jobs because I happened to walk in and ask to speak to the chef right after someone was fired. Or maybe it was a friend who referred me. Any way about it, I've woven quite the web in terms of networking, but my patience is wearing thinner than my silken strands.

I really do wonder where this world is going; this world my post-boomer brethren and I have inherited. Will we be engulfed by the sun before I sire children, or will the law-makers blow us all up? Should I learn Mandarin before China takes over? Will 2012 be the next Great Depression, or are we already there? Are any of these inquiries even valid, or am I just whining about my uphill battle? My family and friends and the odd stranger all seem to support that "the economy is fucked" but that just seems like a cop-out in hard times. I've had tougher times than this, but it's easier to crawl out of a hole at 20 than it is at 30. Come what may, I've got to pull up my bootstraps and kick some ass before I get mine kicked. Or I just need to get a job. Any job.

Thanks for listening.