There was recently an article published on Kotaku.com, a video game website, written by Nathan Peters. It was a description of his experience as a contract employee in the video game industry; specifically in the QA department of Certain Affinity, a studio that worked on multiplayer aspects of Halo 4. The summary of the article is that if you’re looking to be involved in the video game industry you should never be a contract employee. In fact, it goes so far as state that “It’s time for gaming’s contractors to strike.” Never mind that this statement is immediately preceded by a sentence that starts with “I freelanced…” Yeah. In any case, you can read the entire article here.
So here’s another viewpoint.
I’ve been a freelancer in the video game industry for over ten years, primarily in special events and experience marketing. In that time, I have worked alongside some of the most talented and influential people in the industry, helped produce some of the most amazing shows the industry has ever seen, and launched some of the products and brands that have reshaped the modern video game experience. I don’t think I need to go into crazy detail here. (You can jump over to the Work section of this site and take a look if you’re interested.) In nearly all of these instances I was the same kind of contract worker described by Nathan. I have experienced a lot of the same frustrations that he describes, a lot of the same situations, the difficulties, the contributions, the promises, and so on. I believe there are a few fundamental differences in our attitudes towards those experiences, but these are attitudes that only develop over time.
So, I’m part of a group on LinkedIn called “AAA”, it’s for people who work in the video game industry. Someone posted recently asking about events, their discovery, producing, advice, and so on. I’ve decided to share some of my replies here…
So, I’m part of a group on LinkedIn called “AAA”, it’s for people who work in the video game industry. Someone posted recently asking about events, their discovery, producing, advice, and so on. I’ve decided to share some of my replies here so I can spruce them up with links, examples, etc.
Game Developers Conference.
Penny Arcade Expo.
These events are staples within the ever changing games industry. They provide a gathering place for industry folk and numerous enthusiasts to collaborate and celebrate our universal passion for games.
In addition to major industry events, more focused events are popping up everywhere such as:
My questions to you all are:
1) What is your role in the industry (or role you would like to play if you are starting out)?
2) What was the last event you attended (or would like to attend) and why?
3) How did you find out about that event?
4) Are there any tips/ sources/ tools you use to discover events?
There is certainly no shortage of industry events these days and although it’s nice to see them making a come back, the industry seems divided as ever. I often talk to folks about how the “middle class” of games are vanishing. The big studios/publishers are consolidating more and more while the indie developers are turning more and more to things like Kickstarter and mobile only and this is reflected and easily visible in the way the industry events are going.
So, where were we? I’m more of a “spur of the moment” or “stream of consciousness” writer, so there’s a lot to keep track of in recap style posts. When I first started writing this (Pt. 1), I was on my way to Syracuse, NY from Santa Cruz, CA to visit a dear friend. It was going to be some quiet time to get some work done, relax, and get organized a bit. I’m picking this post back up at Pt. 2, sitting 17 stories above Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY, after a snowstorm caused power outages that are preventing me from heading to Boston, MA sitting in a Starbucks in Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been talking to people about heading to LA. Work may be taking me back to Seattle. I have some plans for this upcoming New Year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Monument Valley, Utah
This was an unexpected side strip. It was 10:30AM, I had just finished breakfast, and I was getting ready to settle in and knock out some writing and photography work. I had a lot to get done, a lot in my notorious backlog, and was looking forward to a down day after the drive from Yermo, CA to Holbrook, AZ. I had just opened my laptop when I got a cuff on the arm followed by “Grab your gear, you’re already holding us up.” I had no idea what was going on and that frustrated me a bit. I don’t hold people up, I don’t waste time. Anyway. I wasn’t even in clean clothes, but I figured we couldn’t be going too far. I grabbed my basic photo gear; my 10-22mm, 28mm, 50mm, 70-200mm (I knew Barry would have his 24-70mm and 14mm fisheye, among others), tripod, remote trigger, etc. I suppose at any point I could have asked where we were going, but by this point frustration had begun to creep in and I started not to really care.
If you’ve never driven to Monument Valley, UT from Holbrook, AZ, it’s about a three and half hour drive across the desert and wastelands. Now, that’s totally fine under normal circumstances, but these weren’t quite. As far as I knew, we had no supplies (I’ve been stuck in the desert before with no water. It is not fun.) and no plans to get any. That is an easily fixable situation though, so long as there are places to stop along the way (there were). What was not fixable, was being in the confines of a pickup truck cab (the truck is actually really comfortable) with no escape from the endless onslaught of cigarette smoke. If you’ve read the first part of this story, you know my stance on the whole thing. No need to rehash it here. I probably breathed in more carbon monoxide than oxygen on that ride. I didn’t do much to alleviate my mood. Luckily though, I was about to get a chance to purge that with more fresh air than any person could ever breathe.
Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not really a landscape guy. I can appreciate the majesty of nature, beautiful sweeping vistas, the glory of nature, etc. but there have been very few times in my life when I’ve been truly awestruck by the beauty of nature. One was the first time I drove clear across the state of Texas. I didn’t understand the meaning of “Big Sky Country” until that moment. Another was much more recent, but it’s the fishtail end of this story, so remember these few sentences, I’m going to reference them later. Anyway, we got to Monument Valley and were immediately met with a view of “The Mittens”. If you’ve ever seen the classic John Wayne western, Stagecoach, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, and were born around the same time I was, then you’d probably recognize the view from Airwolf (although in the show it was called “Valley of the Gods”), since that’s where Hawke and Dom’s secret base was.
Random Aside: Airwolf.
Anyway. The view didn’t really blow me away but then again, I’m not big on the average views of things. I don’t like taking photos of things anyone else can take a photograph of (this is why I like photographing people), static things. I prefer to find a different view, a different perspective, if possible. Fortunately this is exactly what Barry had in mind. Twenty minutes later I would find myself in the back of an off-road rigged Jeep Wrangler, firm grip in the “oh shit” handles, bouncing across the valley floor.
This is where it all started to become worth the trip out there. The views from the valley floor, the far outlaying corners, the vast open expanses of nothingness; this was truly breathtaking. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love the desert. It’s clean to me. It’s dry and barren and simple. It burns away everything except the core of a being and even then, if you can’t adapt, it will burn that away too. I jumped out of the Jeep deep into the valley and just walked alone for a while. I explored by myself, able to see the valley how I wanted, able to experience the vast nothingness alone, and able to photograph what I wanted to. There is beauty, to me, in that kind of desolation. Being able to see into infinity in every direction and not see another living soul. I’m sure there is a metaphor in here for how I was feeling at the time (and, to a point, still do), but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t really want to leave. I could have wandered into that desolation without any care for being found. Then I remembered that I’m still planning to visit Mt. Everest, so no disappearing into the wilds until that is off my list.
ANYWAY. It was a pretty amazing experience. I took a lot of deep breathes, did my best to purge my poor lungs, knowing that there was still the ride home ahead of me. That went about as well as the trip there, though I was in a slightly better mood. Back in Holbrook meant dinner and attempted sleep before pushing through to Albuquerque, NM the next morning.
And that concludes the side trips. Remember, I’m still on the road at this point. Living out of the same suitcase that carried me through Paris.
Albuquerque, NM. I’d been here plenty of times in the past, on tour, but nothing particularly memorable stuck out. We arrived on Thursday; Stephen would be arriving from Santa Cruz and meeting up with us on Friday. We took a look at the convention space, got parking settled for the RV, and finally got checked into a hotel, which was a simple luxury at this point (the last hotel I’d stayed in was all the way back in Seattle, the night before I left for Olympia, and it was terrible). I was able to unpack a little, air out my clothes, take a hot shower, and get caught up a little on photos, which by this point had been stacking up considerably. Apparently the place to eat in ABQ is Rudy’s BBQ, so that was the next stop (we would visit more than once on this trip, thus would begin the Banana Pudding Saga).
This would also begin my early morning Friday quest to get my new business cards from the USPS, who are probably the most infuriatingly inept organization run by actual nice people. The short story is that they decided to not deliver my cards to the hotel because… I dunno. It’s a hotel? That doesn’t make sense to me. All I know was that I was tracking the delivery status like Prince Humperdinck following a falcon on a cloudy day and one minute it was “Out for delivery” and the next it was “Undeliverable: Return to sender”. Not even an option to redeliver, I mean, seriously? I was 25 yards from the hotel front desk. By that time it was close to 5:00PM, which means I was SoL. I called, got run around, and decided that the best way to get my cards (which I needed for the show the next day) was to go to the post office first thing in the morning and try and intercept them before they got shipped back. This would lead to a 6 mile walk across Albuquerque, 2 different post offices, some incredibly helpful USPS personnel, and eventually getting my cards. They were printed by MOO.com and they are beautiful. Not how I was hoping to spend what would have otherwise my first morning to sleep late in weeks, but it had to be done. Mission: Complete.
Rock The Ink 2011
My next goal for that Friday was to build as much of the Anatometal booth as possible before Stephen arrived. This was old hat for me and building a single booth was pretty low key compared to some of the elaborate events I’ve produced in the past. I had a basic grasp of the booth from the tear-down in Vegas, so I managed to get about 75% of the structures up before Stephen waltzed in (Hi Steve!).
The show itself was… a show. This was much more of an “everybody knows each other” style show than Las Vegas, more of a family and/or community feel. I was introduced to lots of great folks, all very “friends of the family” style. I became a sort of unofficial official photographer (something to note for later) which was interesting to me because I was still a sort of “outsider” in this whole thing. It was also interesting to observe because even though this event has happened for a few years now, it did not seem particularly well organized.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just an observation from someone (hint: me) who has professionally produced special events for a long time.
The people I talked to did mention some issues that had arisen just before the event started, like a major venue change, but there were some location independent aspects, like social media and photography coordination, that could have been handled better than they were. It’s not the fault of any single person, but general production planning and event execution. On the upside of that is it’s easy for me to see where those gaps are and with a little planning assistance, the next show can be off the charts. So yeah, shot a lot of photos, met a lot of amazing people. I certainly look forward to being involved with Rock The Ink in the future. I suppose we’ll see.
The Road Back
So, with RtI 2011 behind us, it was back to Santa Cruz. The ride back was pretty much the ride there in reverse, with less side trips. We were on a schedule, so there wasn’t a lot of dilly-dallying to be had.
All The Damn Vampires
During my time in ABQ I’d made plans to head to Syracuse, NY via Boston, MA depending on how travel back to SC panned out. I ended up driving back to SC with Barry in the RV, which was a similar enough to the trip down that it doesn’t require great explanation, so I’d be flying straight to Syracuse through NYC. Before that though, I was going to have another one of those breathtaking landscape moments.
I really only had a handful of hours in Santa Cruz before heading to San Jose Airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, via NYC. Luckily we arrived just before Golden Hour so, aside from a few errands, I was able to head directly to the coast to shoot the sunset. Barry knew a couple of spots that were just spectacular.
I watched a beautiful sunset on the coast, then to dinner with the Santa Cruz folks. It was a beautiful way to wrap up my time on the west coast. After dinner I was off to San Jose airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, NY after a layover in New York City. I’ve been hesitant to return to the east coast given the time of year. The weather in the north east has a way of trapping people here and that was the last thing I wanted. I boarded my flight and tried to get some sleep.
And I feel that time’s a wasted go
So where ya going to tomorrow?
And I see that these are lies to come
Would you even care?
I need to preface this with a quick note. While I do sincerely respect and understand “The 99%”, I am at odds with some of their messaging. On one hand, many of the truths they stand for are supposed to be the unalienable rights granted to citizens of this great nation. Equally, the many of the crimes perpetrated against the citizens of this nation by major financial institutions and corporations are tantamount to crimes against humanity. All this under the watch of a government who’s responsibility is to protect and defend its people. On the other hand, I do not feel connected to The 99% in a truly meaningful way. This is especially true after perusing the Occupy Movement Tumblr page and reading some of the signs/notes contained on those pages. “The 1%”, “Wall St.”, “The Fed”, whatever, has seemingly become an excuse for people’s own bad decision making. Wall St. didn’t make you have a 3rd kid when you can’t even afford to support one (If you are aware of my stance on overpopulation then you know why this is especially infuriating to me. Story for another time). This dichotomy, this split between progressives looking for meaningful change and bottom feeders looking to not take responsibility for their own lives, is what I fear will kill the OWS movement faster than anything else. It will never be taken seriously from the outside until it is made up solely of people who take it seriously from the inside.
So yesterday I went down to Zuccotti Park, here in New York City (I’ve been here for a week now, thanks to the weather/power situation in Boston) to photograph the Occupy Wall St. movement. I returned to the states right as the movement started and I’ve been travelling all over the country recently, so the Occupy presence has been pretty constant. There was no way I could be in the origination city (and a city I’m so familiar with) and not go down to see what was going on.
What I discovered though, after being there for about an hour, was that it just wasn’t all that interesting. It’s certainly smaller than I expected. The people are, of course, great, the level of self sustainability is impressive, and the general peacefulness of the whole thing is pretty amazing… but it’s nothing we all haven’t seen before (through “non-traditional” media, of course). It became quickly obvious to me that the story isn’t in the park. I’m not sure it ever even was. I made the decision that for the day, I’d stay within the barriers that surround the park and instead photograph the people walking past on the outside, specifically the people who stopped to take photos of the “inside”. It was kind of amazing how immediately self-conscious everyday people got when they found themselves on the other end of a camera lens. I wasn’t hiding either, I made it very obvious that I was photographing them (not that it’s really easy to hide with my DSLR, a 24-70mm lens, and my event backpack), that they were equally as on display.
Side Note: It’s interesting, as a photographer, to be aware of things like light. The park literally sits in the shadow of the MRF Securities building. It’s pretty ominous.
It didn’t take long before people inside the park noticed what I was doing. Nearly everyone who spoke to me about it thought it was hilarious. I would just remark that I was photographing the 99%, and I started saying that “Unlike Wall St., photography is a two way street.” This made me pretty popular, especially on the west side of the park. Typically I would just smile after taking a photo. Most people just smiled back and nodded. There were, of course, people who shot me dirty looks, yelled at/asked me to stop, quickly darted off, etc. Just to be clear, I didn’t raise my camera until someone else had raised theirs. My goal was to photograph people photographing. A lot of people noticed me through their own viewfinders, which was pretty entertaining. I wonder how many photos of me photographing are out there.
Then I started talking with the people I was actually photographing. It was interesting, the vast majority of people I talked to, probably about 500 or so over the course of the day, supported the OWS movement, but would never consider actually becoming a standing part of it. Many people identified themselves as part of The 99%, or agreed with the messages of OWS, wanted things to change, etc, but would never consider stepping across that barrier and join the folks in the park. There were reasons and excuses across the board, and that’s fine. People have lives, it’s completely understandable. I am, for the most part, one of those people myself. I was not there to judge anyone, just take pictures and maybe listen to some stories. One thing I did end up doing though, the message I ended up delivering, was asking people that if they really, sincerely, did support the OWS movement, to not treat it like a tourist attraction. To use their cameras to show what is going on with respect to what OWS is standing for. To bring those photos and videos and messages back with them to wherever they lived and share them. That they could support OWS and the fights against injustice without having to be in the park just by sharing what they had seen. What they believed.
When people on the “outside” asked me why I was photographing them photographing the occupiers, I would either reply “I’m just photographing the 99%.” (if they were nice about it) or “Because your camera is facing the wrong direction, the real spectacle is not in here, it’s all around us, out there.” (if they weren’t particularly nice about it).
It’s was an interesting experience. I would most definitely recommend everyone take at least a day to go and hang out with their local Occupy movement, if they have one. There is a lot more going on that just people sitting in drum circles and waving signs in the air. If you really believe in any of the messages The 99% stand for, even if you don’t immediately identify with it on a personal level, it will be worth your while. It’s a different perspective from the inside looking out, everyone should see it from that angle at least once. I’ll be headed back today or tomorrow to put in another round at the generator charging station. I’m a pretty decent endurance rider and I know the importance of a good outlet.
Below you’ll find my two Flickr galleries for this story. The first is shots of the Occupiers and the park. The second is all the aforementioned shots of people photographing from the outside in. There are lots more coming. In the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, I am licensing them for use via Creative Commons, so feel free to share (per the rules of the license!)
Travel: New York City – Occupy Wall St.
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157628042039388″]
Project: Occupy Wall St. – The Looking Glass
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627920831663″]