The Game Industry Isn’t A Game

, , , | Related | April 3, 2017

(I work for a company that publishes video games, which is a job my husband’s family, mostly being non-gamers, don’t really seem to understand but are supportive of anyway. One of his cousins has a son in his late teens who is interested in games, and she has always been very determined to have him make a career out of it (since he is “so good at video games”). We don’t otherwise have much in common with them, and they live a ways away, so although we are all friendly and pleasant, we don’t really talk or see each other much. My husband and I are out for dinner with her one day when she’s in town.)

Cousin: “Did you know [Son] is in school for games?”

Me: “Oh? You mean like… a programming course or something?” *sincerely hoping it is this, since a lot of schools alleging to help people learn to make games tend to be scams*

Cousin: “Something like that! He made a game that everyone there says is really good, and they tried to submit it to [Well-Known Gaming Conference] but they said he was too young. And that’s the only reason! It’s REALLY good. So I told him I’d talk to you about it. You can show it to your company and they can pay him for it and sell it.”

Me: “Oh. Uh. Well. We have a lot of projects in the works right now, and there’s a pitching process we ask everyone to go through that—”

Cousin: *defensively* “He’s your family! All you have to do is get them to look at it and they’ll see how great it is. This is an amazing opportunity for him.”

(Even though I can see my husband start to get annoyed at how manipulative she’s being, I reluctantly, and against my better judgement, agree to at least show her son’s game to my colleagues. I reason that it might actually be very good, and everyone has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, when I receive the game a few days later, it’s NOT very good. In fact, it’s made up of stolen artwork and sprites from other games, is very simple, and very, very buggy. In short, it’s exactly what you’d expect someone’s first ever game as a student to look like. And that’s okay because everyone starts somewhere, and in nearly ten years in the industry I have never met a developer who’s very first efforts were anything but rudimentary. Because we want to be encouraging, however, my coworkers and I take the time to provide some constructive, positive feedback, including a list of free online resources for things like learning to code and helpful tools. However…)

Cousin: “I can’t believe you turned him down! How could you?! He’s absolutely crushed!”

Me: “I’m sorry he’s upset, but we are not going to be offering him anything based on what he’s shown us. He shouldn’t take it personally… We’re a business, and we turn down a lot of proposals every week. That doesn’t mean we don’t want him to keep working and learning, and then he can show—”

Cousin: “Oh, because you’re SO PERFECT and he has to work SO HARD just to be on your level for you to even consider!”

(She hung up on me before I could say anything else and refused to speak to either me or my husband for months. When she saw us at a family gathering, both she and her son acted as if nothing had happened. It was a bizarre incident that really solidified to me never to mix family with business again, no matter what that business happens to be, or if you think you’re doing someone a favour.)

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