Having spent 12 years of my career at Eurocom as Cinematics Director/Lead Cinematics Animator/Lead Animator, I’d worked on 18 gaming titles, liked and respected my colleagues and enjoyed daily access to cutting-edge motion capture technology. Life was pretty good.
23rd November 2012 began like any other day at work with coffee and general chit-chat about the approaching weekend. Things changed when we were unceremoniously summoned mid-morning to a meeting only to be informed that Eurocom had run out of money and was going into administration. The shock was immense; was the company that I had, for over a decade, worked round the clock for and for whom I had sacrificed weekends, holidays and other special occasions really going under? We knew, following an earlier wave of redundancies, that there were problems, but I truly thought – or at least hoped – that we’d weather the storm. I suspect that with so many studios closing their doors that many of us were wary of fleeing somewhere precarious only to end up in an even worse situation. We’d stayed put only to have the world come crashing down around our ears.
Knowing that the jobs market had changed over the past few years, we stumbled, blinking, into this brave new world where short term contracts had become commonplace and openness to compromise and relocation were absolute musts. Many of us were exhausted, jaded and wanted to get out of games for good. Then something amazing happened: the industry rallied round and supported us – studios got in touch telling us about their vacancies and so many people wished us well. The games industry is global, however, we are a small, tight-knit community who are genuinely saddened to hear of lay-offs and studio closures; it is very touching to witness this first hand. Enthusiasm restored, spirits lifted, the hunt for new jobs was on.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been offered work very quickly and am back doing what I love. Weirdly, although I had prepared myself to move wherever was necessary, Rare (Microsoft Game Studios) is actually closer to my home that Eurocom was so my commute is now shorter and more pleasant than before. Although I am not averse to relocation – far from it, I’d love to see more of the world – I do feel for my former colleagues who are currently living hundreds of miles away from their families. It must be dreadful to only see your wife and children at the weekend; even when working crazy hours there’s still the chance to give your family a hug and a kiss before work and after. Fortunately, we are in a position where we can move as a family and commit to a new life in a new location if need be.
So, six months on, we have come through a very dark time and survived. Financially it was tough for most: no wages paid for November and even those fortunate enough to gain employment straight away generally had to wait until after Christmas to start their new jobs and then to the end of January to be paid. Effectively no wages from the end of October 2012 to the end of January 2013 – and we were the lucky ones. We seem to be hearing about more and more closures and lay-offs, sometimes on a daily basis, with no respite. Hundreds of people being plunged into dire financial situations and without savings or very generous friends and family it can be utterly terrifying. It is very much sink or swim and that’s a hideously stressful situation to suddenly find yourself in. Nonetheless, it can happen to anyone, the days of a job for life are well and truly over and nobody’s role, no matter what company you’re employed by, how experienced you are or what position you hold, is totally secure these days.
What does the future hold for the games industry? I wish I knew for certain, but I fervently hope that things pick up once the new consoles are released and that the tax incentives are implemented and make a real difference. I just hope that it isn’t too little, too late…