Corporations Suck (Even in the Game Industry)

I was chatting with a buddy of mine recently about Destiny. I don’t actually play it – he does – and every so often he informs me of the shitshow going on at Destiny HQ. As an example, recently developer Bungie put out a special weapon for players that preordered the next seasonal expansion. The update that included this bonus item, also caused all assault rifle class weapons in the game to start dealing 3 times their expected damage. How on earth does something like that even happen? Well I have a story, which will seem unrelated, but might help to explain things.

As some of you may know, I moved to a new area within within my place of employment earlier this year. However, it became apparent that my laptop wasn’t going to cut it anymore after the transfer. For the last few years I haven’t been able to run much of the code that I’ve written locally because my laptop couldn’t handle it. This made development, and testing fairly difficult. It wasn’t a massive problem though because I’d just hijack one of the numerous development environments we had, and I could do my testing there. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked which is all management cared about.

That’s weird though right? Why not replace the laptop if its the problem? Well I requested a replacement, but was denied. Other folks on the team had even older laptops than I, so when I complained they ALSO complained. When there’s only enough money to replace a few machines, obviously the people with even older models got the replacements while the rest of us were told to make due. Thus, I made due with what tools I had available.

Unfortunately, when I moved teams I ran into laptop issues again. I did at least try running everything locally, but my shit ass junker wasn’t having it. You start up the local server, and it would start to howl like a jet engine before a million errors ripped across your screen for otherwise functional code. However, my new team doesn’t have spare dev environments. We have 1. Not 3 like my old team. If you use dev for anything there is a chance that you’ll get in the way of another team’s development work. That leads to a lot of office drama, so using dev was very quickly removed from the list of viable workarounds.

It was at this time that it dawned on me that I might finally be able to request new equipment. It’d been 4 years since the last time I asked for a new laptop, so maybe the billion dollar corporation could finally find room in the budget for it? I let the team know about my predicament, and they told me to hit up my manager for some new tech. When I explained the situation to him, he seemed fairly reception and noted that getting me a new laptop would be a top priority. Finally! After 4 long years of suffering I might have the tools I need to do my job properly.

After a few weeks went by, I decided to follow up with my manager. I hadn’t heard anything the new laptop, so I wasn’t sure if he’d even ordered it. Turns out he hadn’t. I’m not one of the gifted few people who can code flawlessly without feedback, so I desperately needed this new laptop to deliver on my workload. I made as much clear, and my manager told me that getting new equipment wasn’t a priority. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but that’s what it translated to. I was pretty frustrated by his reply, and so I asked my team lead to follow up to see if he could figure it out. I’m not the best at navigating office politics, doubly so when I feel I’ve been shortchanged.

More time had passed, and apparently now my manager was onboard with the idea of getting me new equipment. But it came at the same time as a company wide reorganization. This is when new management roles are introduced, while people like me get shuffled around. Unfortunately, HR erroneously listed several of us directly under our AVP. Guess who was part of that special group of incorrectly listed employees? 10 points if you guessed me. And Mr. AVP sure as shit wasn’t going to approve my request for a new laptop because he had bigger fish to fry like snorting cocaine off a hooker’s ass.

A solid month went by before HR finally got their ducks in a row, and corrected where I fell within the organization. No sooner did they do this, then my manager took 2 weeks off. I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: he didn’t approve the laptop request before leaving. Thankfully, he provided delegate approval to another manager within our area, and after presenting my case for a new laptop while being backed by the team lead, I was finally able to get the request approved. It only took 4 months of not being able to do my job, but I’d finally have a new laptop.

We’re now up to present day. I’m writing this the night before I plan to head into the office to pick up the new laptop. Our floor’s admin assistant informed me that a package arrived, and asked me to come in to pick it up. I assume it’s the laptop. Lord help me if it’s not. I think I’ll lose my mind if it’s not.

Editor notes: It was indeed the new laptop. It has 4 times the RAM, a CPU that runs 3 times faster, a SSD, and a 4K screen. It is immaculate.

After 4 months, my quest to obtain a new working laptop has finally come to a close. There’s a lot of fingers you could point throughout this whole escapade. I forgot to follow up with my manager after our original conversation, he wouldn’t approve the request, I was erroneously listed under the wrong manager by HR, and I had to go to a completely different manager to finally get the request approved. Keep in mind, the whole time this was happening I could barely get any work done, so for a solid 4 months I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing. That alone should have been reason enough to get me the tools I needed to do my job.

Now comes the fun part: what does any of this crusade of stupidity have to do with Bungie, or game development? Well, the story I just shared isn’t unique. I mean, some of the beats in it were unique to me, but I bet there is no short supply of people with similar stories from their work. Stories about how they couldn’t do work because another person, or team became a blockade. The larger a company is, the more room there is for human error. What’s especially painful is that most of these million dollar operations have so much coupling that a failing in one area can cascade to several other areas. Then everyone’s work is a mess even if they didn’t do anything wrong.

That cascading failure is the point of my story. I shouldn’t have been without the one tool I need to do my job for 4 months, but I was. Bungie shouldn’t have accidentally made all the assault rifles in the game do triple damage, but they did. When there are hundreds, or thousands of people working for you it becomes very easy to lose track of things. Problems that shouldn’t exist start to exist because it’s hard to keep track of everything. All it takes is a little miscommunication, and suddenly you’ve bungled the entire operation for 2 weeks.

I know we tend to look upon game development as being very enigmatic, but truth is many of the largest developers aren’t any different then the rest of corporate America. They are riddled with human error, and filled to the brim with the kind of inefficiency that manifests whenever too many people are involved in a task. And there’s no way around it. I know it’d be easy for me to say that reducing the number of cooks in the kitchen would help, but several of them are doing things so that other folks don’t have to.

So the next time you think to yourself, “how is Company X so incompetent” remember my story. Or, hell, maybe you have your own corporate bullshit story. I bet you do. Recall that video game companies aren’t all too different. They’re subject to the same stupid as the rest of us.

11 thoughts on “Corporations Suck (Even in the Game Industry)

  1. I thought you may have been spying on me at work and my current quest to get a new laptop for the first half. Unfortuantly every major corporation worldwide is like this. There is always to many cooks in the kitchen. Automate processes/remove some of the cooks.

    ……but grats on the laptop. I hope I get a taste of that sweet upgraded goodness soon too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The shitty thing is we can’t even remove some of the cooks. You can automate parts of the process, but there is still a massive amount of throughput that is expected from most corps, so they still need bodies. As much as I’d like to do solo development, I can’t realistically deliver everything that is asked of our dev team alone without working like 80 hour weeks. And 80 hour work weeks can get the fuck on out of here. It’s a balance I think – one that corporations will never be able to achieve because of how horribly bloated they are.

      Best of luck in your own quest to get new work equipment. Hopefully you break the bastards down like I managed to.

      Like

    1. BYOD would have made this so much easier, but where I work requires…uh…an extra layer of security and assurance. As such, we’re not allowed to provide our own hardware outside of peripherals (mice, keyboard, screens). Like – we can’t even use USB storage devices on these things. That’s how locked down they want to keep things.

      Can’t get into more specifics cause I just spent the better part of 1400 words slagging the company off, and I don’t want to give enough details to where they could be identified for reasons that I don’t feel need to be elaborated on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is some great perspective to have when looking at the game industry, yeah. Especially when you’re dealing with the big AAA realm, but even smaller developers have to deal with publisher and distributor issues, and then you have licensing requirements, and I imagine every part of the process relies on at least a few people coordinating effectively.

    I haven’t been in the corporate world all that long, but working at a company on the larger side has also helped change the way I think about these matters. When you’re actually a gear in that machine you can understand those problems so much more easily, along with just how miserable it can make things for so many involved (most of all for us on the lower rungs of course.) It’s a cliche, but effective communication really is one of the most important aspects of making shit work. Now if I could get at least several million dollars all at once I’d love to quit this corporate misery that forces me to interact with other people none of whom actually want to be doing what we’re doing, but in the meantime, I have to take it.

    And congratulations on getting that laptop!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Almost 10 years of being beaten down by the system has made me increasingly sympathetic toward game development. There’s absolutely no way that there aren’t thousands of other people dealing with the same shit I deal with on a daily basis. Hell – the whole laptop fiasco delayed some of my work, so I’m probably the fucking bad guy in someone else’s story. It just kind of is what it is, and with how the system is setup there is no incentive to try and correct it. Kind of like trying to bring about mass social reform as a grassroots movement when all sorts of systems exist to prevent change. Not to discourage the nobility of such pursuits, but when your only motivation is “make work 20% more tolerable” there isn’t much reason to budge haha.

      Thank you thank you. Now that I’ve had it for a week I’m quite happy with the bugger.

      Liked by 1 person

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