Had a dream last night about game development.
First, I must explain. I occasionally have very vivid, lifelike dreams that tend to hold together even after I wake up. It’s almost like watching a movie while I sleep. I’ve gotten some very good ideas this way, which feels like cheating.
This was one of those dreams. I was interviewing in person at a big game development studio that was part of Microsoft’s gaming studios. They wanted me to work there very badly (for some reason) and they were pulling out all the stops. I toured the main building of their “campus”, which was opulently appointed. They fed me well. I shared an elevator ride with Bill Gates. (Neither of us said anything.)
Then the studio heads sat me down and inundated me with their “vision”. They’d shipped one game that had been a huge hit and their stock with Microsoft was rising. They told me not to think of them as a “development studio” because that label was too limiting.
See, there was this band, said one guy. (He named a band that sounded pretty famous, but I wasn’t a fan of them and now that I’m awake I don’t even remember what band it was.) Anyway, this band stopped calling itself a “band” and started calling itself a “group”. This way, when they performed they were free to do whatever they wanted – recite poetry, give an ontology lecture, or even play a little music – and their fans could presumably listen to what they wanted and not listen to what they didn’t. It was all about freedom, baby!
So this guy tells me not to think of them as a “development studio” but as a “group”. He pointed to various small projects employees of the company had done – things like card and board games, and smaller indie-style computer games – as indicative of how this company didn’t crush their employee’s freedom, maaaaaan.
Then I was invited to a general employee assembly. I managed to get away from my handlers and sat down next to a young female programmer. We started talking about realistic foliage placement on heightfield terrain and she invited me back to her office to see some of the stuff she was doing. I accepted her invitation gladly.
We left the main building and started walking through what I’d thought was a vacant lot next door. It was full of standing but gutted and useless buildings and trash. A warehouse at the back was where the employees actually worked (the main building was solely for the owners and directors and to impress investors). As we walked we were joined by other employees on their way back to their cubes after the company meeting. As we talked it became clear that these people were frustrated by the complete lack of direction of the company, and were doing these little projects just so they could be doing something and keeping their skills from deteriorating. What they wanted was a single big, company-wide, challenging project like their first game was and that was exactly what the directors of the company refused to give them. They did this in the name of “freedom”, but it felt more like they were doing it in the name of “avoiding responsibility”.
That’s pretty much the point at which I woke up, having already decided that I wasn’t going to take the job.
What’s my point? I guess I don’t really have one that wasn’t already made by my subconscious. That dream was just too good to forget.
(DISCLAIMER: This really was a dream. It has nothing to do with my current employment. Aspyr is, if anything, the exact opposite of the company in my dream. I love it here. It’s stupid that I even have to say this, but it’s true.)