Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Games Get The Sharp Blade Too

The cold reality of the short-term gig rears its head in the gaming side of the business.

Today is not a great day for many Zynga employees. The social gaming studio has confirmed to Gamasutra that its Austin, Texas-based studio may have closed, with more than 100 staffers losing their jobs in the process.

It is also believed that the company's Chicago and Cambridge branches may have been affected. ...

The announcement of the downsizing came during Apple's much-publicized press event, during which the technology giant announced the long-rumored iPad mini, among other things. ...

There's some question about how deep (and precisely when the cuts will be, but you understand this trend-line, don't you? Short term gigs are now the rule more often than not.

Walt Disney Animation Studios hires and lays off employees as needed. Wreck-it Ralph, ends, and out the door. "If we need you for Frozen we'll call you."

Rhythm and Hues, long a bastion of stability, lays off staff in L.A. and hires staff overseas. Sony Pictures Imageworks downsizes in Culver City and super sizes in Vancouver, B.C. ... until the tax rebates run out.

Last month an angry digital compositor came into my office. He had landed a job at the Louisiana outpost of a Los Angeles effects house, and a month after arriving they laid him off, despite the extra weeks indicated on his deal memo. (It was non-binding, of course.) The guy was out of money, mostly out of hope, and asked if there was a lawsuit he could file against the company. I checked with the union lawyer (we had no contract or jurisdiction, so I was just being a Dutch uncle offering advice) and told him that his prospects were bleak. He didn't have a long tenure on the line, and language in his company employment agreement wasn't strong, so the best he could probably do was file a complaint with the California labor commissioner -- who probably didn't have much pull with the company's Louisiana subsidiary in the first place.

This is the way business goes in the 21st century: lots of leverage on the corporate side, minimal leverage for the employee. If you're one of those lucky duckies who lands in the right corporate structure at the right time with the right skill sets, you're in like Flynn. But if you're some poor schlump who works hard but is always a half-hour late to the party, expect to get hired at crunch time and cut loose the minute the last shot get okayed by the producer and director.

That's the way the fates roll in the second decade of the new millennium. Either get used to it, or train yourself to push back.


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