Monday, May 21, 2012

Bye, O Ware. Yay?

This is the update I've been wanting to post, but kind of didn't. As I mentioned in my last update, this isn't going to be a tell-all about how bad my work was, or how things have gotten too corporate for me to stay, or anything except the opinion of a blatantly nice guy and an optimist.

A little over a month ago, I left EA BioWare, my office away from home for just over 11 years. I began work at BioWare Corp. on April 2, 2001, and I worked on games that some gamers consider some of the best in the world, possibly the best ever! I had the privilege of working with some truly amazing and talented game developers--writers, artists, programmers, producers, QA,  loc--and I tried to be friendly and respectful and unobtrusive to those on the paperwork side of things (ie. admin, finance, payroll, exec, etc). I helped to manage the company's online community through thick and thin and very thin and ultra-thin and microscopically-thin, and holy cats, did I have more than my fair share of funsies during my tenure.

The last couple of years were difficult for me, though, as a creature of habit, I tried to hide it and cover it up, because hey, awesome job that pays okay and allows me to maintain a pretty good lifestyle. That should be enough for anyone, right? Well, not me. I've always said that if you're not happy where you work, you should probably find something you'd prefer doing. If there's a salary disparity, the change in money should be more than offset by your happiness and personal fulfilment. This, of course, works only if the salary disparity is minimal. I'm also notorious for never being able to take my own damn advice.

So I slogged through the same position and job that I'd done for 11 years, and management noticed I didn't seem motivated anymore and wasn't working to the best of my ability. After a whole bunch of discussion, I kind of had to agree with them. They worked up a solution that was best for all involved--me, the department, and the company--and I was able to leave on good terms. Everyone's happy.

Oh, I didn't feel that way when I got called into the first of several very important meetings. I was devastated. I thought I'd be there forever. I didn't know what I'd be doing as an old man at BioWare, but it probably wasn't going to be QA, and that was kinda part of the problem. If I wasn't happy, I should have talked to my department head, HR, whoever, to make a plan to move to a different department or do some different work. But I was in denial for at least two years, and it would have taken a lot more than "hey, how's it going?" to get stubborn ol' me to admit that things weren't going great.

I talked to some really close friends at the office about it, and they gave me some really good advice. Asking for advice is something I should really try more often, because wow, it gives one a whole new perspective on things. Thanks to this advice, from coworkers and other close friends, I was able to make what I believe to be the correct choice. Now, before some people start emulating me (because I know y'all want to), let me clarify that this was the right choice for me at that time, based on my circumstances. It's not a decision everyone should make. But it was one that, unfortunately, I had to be pressured into making. So I left, and hopefully someone more enthusiastic and less old and curmudgeonly and stuck in his QA ways now has my job and a bright company future ahead of him or her.

In the month that I've been gone from the job, it's been difficult for me to let it all go. When talking about BioWare, I still tend to use "we," "us," and "our" when discussing BioWare games. I tend to refer to the people I worked with as "coworkers" as opposed to "former coworkers." And goddamn it, but I miss working with those people. If there was one thing that would have affected my decision to stay or go, it would be those former coworkers I mentioned. I made some really good friends there. Some of them are people I've worked with for 11 whole years, and some I've only worked with for a few, but they are dedicated game developers all. They are enthusiastic professionals who do the job because they love what they do.
The second question people ask me is what I'm going to do now. Well, I still haven't made that decision yet. I spent a month doing nothing, work-wise, and it's only been the last week that I've started thinking about my future. I can say that I've begun spending money that I should have spent years ago on getting my shit together and having the tools I need to make it in most any career. I've started updating the ol' blog again and writing prose in general, getting the creative juices flowing at will because I'm considering something creative as the next job for this scrappy little ninja. And now that I'm no longer employed by EA, I can explore these creative ideas more freely!

The next step is to get a vehicle, start and complete some projects that have been swimming around in my brain, and put to paper a lot of ideas that need to be fleshed out. Oh yeah, and get my finances in order, write a couple of resumes, do a whole mess of research, and get head shots in case I need to audition for something. I'll likely be returning to the BioWare online community as a Moderator some time soon. The Community team has kept my position as a volunteer Moderator open, and it was something I did enjoy doing, so that'll give me my daily recommended dose of Vitamin RI (righteous indignation). Then it's new shoes so I can pound the pavement better.

I may have a long road ahead of me, but I'm glad to be walking it in the summer. Can you imagine if I'd left the job in the winter, or just as winter was starting? I would have just hibernated and not come out until spring, and by then I would have wasted over 6 months of time. This way, I'm only wasting 3, maybe 4, depending on how things go in the next 60-90 days.

This isn't the last awesome thing that the Worst Ninja Ever will do.