It was five months ago that THQ Studio Australia shut its doors and I've been keeping my eye on the usual social internet hotspots to see where people have gone. The first lot I noticed were those with the motivation and ability to go where ever the games work was, mostly Canada, one to Singapore (maybe more?) some back to their countries of origin (UK, US), some to other cities around Australia.
Then there are the ones that stuck around Brisbane, mostly locals with families or partners with solid careers, or they simply don't want to uproot their lives and move to the other side of world to chase work. In these cases the options are very slim for games jobs. Maybe you'll get lucky and find work at one of the very few studios left locally, or maybe you'll try your hand at creating something small on your own risking your mortgage to do it, or maybe you'll just go back to whatever occupation you did before games (if the industry still exists). A few of my ex-THQ co-workers that stuck around seemed to be scoring jobs slightly outside of game development but still using their 'game' skill sets.
Serious games is the term people seem to use, but I'm not sure it's the right word for it. These other industries like education, arts, health and resources are using the same tool sets as game developers to create software with more practical research, training, educational or artistic outcomes. I believe most of the money for such projects comes from R&D budgets or grants to improve or progress their industry in some way.
Well I must have been super lucky as within a month a job had come up that was almost a 100% fit for my skill set. It was in the resource industry developing simulation software that provides safety training.
It was a bit of a culture shock at first, the most notable change first up was simply that I couldn't wear the jeans and t-shirt combination that I was used to wearing for pretty much my whole working life. This was strictly office attire which I personally find uncomfortable and I don't believe makes a lick of difference to the work I do, but culture is culture and a job is a job.
The second thing I noticed was the 'normal' working hours, none of this blood from a stone, you're not pulling your weight unless you do overtime type culture that seems to exist in the games industry. It was refreshing and uplifting to walk out of the office feeling not only that you contributed fully in the 8 hours you did but that everyone appreciated it and has a great understanding of work/life balance. It makes you want to contribute more (if you have the time outside family life) which is a much better place to be than feeling that what you do is never enough.
Of course not everything is perfect. It seems to be contract to contract work so it's hard to know if you’re still going to have a job a few months down the line to pay your mortgage, but this may be the future for just about every industry.
I get a feeling that these outside games industries are taking cautious steps as they enter this new frontier. Gathering a thorough understanding of the dynamics of making this kind of product. How long does it take? What is the right pipeline and process? How many people are needed and what is the right balance of skill sets? What do we pay people that do this type of work?
Its early days but I see the value in what's being created and hope there is a bright future so more game professionals can add their valuable skills to boost the quality of these products and find work as the gaming industry rebuilds itself.
Maybe you won’t want to go back. ;)
Disclaimer - This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.