When I was just starting out as a QA tester in the video game industry I had the great fortune of working for 2K Games on several amazing projects. The beauty of 2K West, our office of 2K Games, was that our facility was strictly QA. Everybody from the entry level tester to the biggest wig around, was involved in QA. This in itself promoted an environment of mentorship and helped us all take a broad look at the industry.
Just as I was settling in for the first leg of my career we were given the news that our branch of 2K was being relocated from Northridge California (just north of Los Angeles) to Las Vegas Nevada. The news hit all of us like a ton of bricks, I don’t think anyone was prepared for such a big change. As the days passed the mentors I had looked up to, were visibly distraught, concerned about their future. They were faced with the tough decision of moving to stay with the company they loved, or staying in the area and the communities they had built lives with.
It can be hard for us to understand our place in this industry since it is still gaining its identity, and still figuring out how to handle the challenges of moving from a company of friends to a more powerful corporation. There are challenges and benefits to both models but we must understand that for progress to occur in the industry we as developers may sometimes be the casualties of that change, the collateral damaged needed for growth.
The bright side of things is that from the stories of my friends that moved, the office 2K Games was able to construct and the quality of life they were able to provide their workers at their Las Vegas studio, far exceeded what they were capable of doing in Northridge. For those willing to chase what meant something to them, for those who saw their future with a company they loved, Las Vegas was an exciting opportunity to thrive.
Here in lies the corporate conundrum we find ourselves in as an industry. I believe that while we like to think of the video game industry as something different, something special, at the end of the day game development is a business and as businesses grow, companies make decisions based on the future of the company. That doesn’t soften the blow of a cold and calculating move like taking a community of workers and telling them they need to move to stay together or stay and go their own separate ways. However, it has taught me that companies will always do what is best for the company and we must always do what is best for us.
I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.