Does a life balance exist in games career?

IgnitionChemistry
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IgnitionChemistry polycounter lvl 3
Hi.
I've been self-teaching myself a lot of game art, mostly concept art, I've done well enough to have a few freelance work, but the more I know about this industry, the more I start to think a career in games is a bad idea?
Before this I was a graphic designer and even though I had some very busy days with a lot of work, it was nothing compared to games.

From podcasts around the web, I've seen some people actually like not having time for anything else, they like game art work so much to that point.
However, I really really like drawing and painting, but I don't think I'd replace that with girlfriend, good times camping with friends, and spending time with my family.
I'm aware I get what I put into it, and the more I practice the better I get, I'm not even trying to bail on hard work, but I don't want my life to be just waking up>drawing>go to sleep>repeat. I just want to ask to other people that have more experience, if the games industry is really this bad?

A few other bad examples:
I've had freelance clients who hired me to do work just to say they went with another freelancer, after I delivered work, so they aren't paying me anymore.
I've had offers to move overseas and work full time on game companies (some that are well known) just to a couple days later, and after follow up, they tell me they are not interested anymore and went with someone else. After they asked me to move.
Requests of photo-real, well researched gameplay solutions within 1-3 hours or within the same day.

I'm seriously thinking of going back to graphic design just so I can actually live a life after my work day, and maybe even draw for myself instead.
Anyway, thanks for reading, if you can voice your opinion, I'll be happy to hear it

Replies

  • ArasTM
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi interpolator
    I doubt it.

    What are "they" balancing against work exactly?
  • aryarie
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    aryarie triangle
    I believe it really depends on the studio you work for and their culture.

    I've worked at a studio (not as an artist, but as a designer/scripter) where I never had to crunch at all, and I worked 7am - 4pm every day. It was plenty of time to get all my work done and on the odd occasion where things went wrong I maybe stayed a couple of hours extra at most. As far as I know the artists that I worked with also worked normal hours. Obviously if there's a deadline coming up, people might need to do some extra work.

    I've seen jobs advertised by some studios where they explicitly say that they are anti-crunch so you could look out for that when job hunting.
  • Haytch
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    Haytch polycounter lvl 3
    I've been trying for about 4 years to balance my life as an artist, you have to remember being in the game industry doesn't mean you're a rock star, think of it more as a Picasso, you're an artist trying to get by in life, freelance is very beneficial and the money is fantastic, but the cons are indie studios loose funding, they can get rid of you quickly (a few friends of mine at a previous indie studio I was at were made redundant because we didn't get paid for three months and they refused to 'crunch' through the pay cut' when we finally got paid, they  got screwed over... so that's a big con in the freelance, studio... they expect you to worship them (most not all) so if they say jump, you better jump without asking how high or you're gone, then there's the travel factor, I was offered a job at my dream studio and a dream job, but the cons where it was in Sweden, my wife (who i just married) was/is still (about to drop) pregnant, and she wouldn't move, so if you have a family it's harder to get a job because if they're not willing to move you're screwed, plus you also have to think of the fact, most artists stay at a studio for 1 production now, then move to a new studio and switch it up, these are the young ones with no families holding them back (our competition) i'm only 26 myself but i have lot's of responsibilities so I'm in the same boat as a few older artists, then the last thing you need to think about is commute, i live in the south of England (right by Dover) and I work at a studio in oxford ( middle of the south ) so I commute 130 miles there, 130 back every day, it costs about £30 a day, £600 a month, I can't afford to move here yet as it's a new job, after a permanent offer is made (if i get one) i'd consider moving, so it's definitely hard to balance, but you can make compromises where possible.
  • Kevin Albers
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    Kevin Albers polycounter lvl 12
    Overall it's somewhat lame in terms of life/work balance, unless you get lucky and get a job at a top studio, and never get laid off, and don't have to crunch much. Good luck with that. Some people have achieved that, but it's increasingly not a likely scenario. There is now a huge oversupply of people trying to work on games, and quite likely that will not change for decades. This causes lots of problems for most people in the industry. Bummer.

    If you don't need much money at all, and only do contract work, then you can set up your life so work/life balance is whatever you want. I worked as an Outsource Manager for years, and I never tried to get individual contractors to somehow 'work too much'.
  • pableaux
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    pableaux polycounter lvl 3
    Haytch said:

    i live in the south of England (right by Dover) and I work at a studio in oxford ( middle of the south ) so I commute 130 miles there, 130 back every day
    I just mapped this on Google Maps. You spend 5 hours a day commuting? W in TF?
  • Joopson
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    Joopson Polycount Sponsor
    I've worked two industry jobs, at small-ish companies, and had to do very little, if any, overtime for each. Maybe I've been lucky. I've also been laid off from both, so that's not great, haha.

    Jobs with a good work/life balance absolutely exist, if you value that, and you're in an area with more than a couple of studios. Don't give in to the idea that crunch is inevitable. That's part of why that nonsense is perpetuated.
  • samnwck
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    samnwck polycounter lvl 3
    I did some crunch in QA over a few dev cycles, usually no more than 2-3 months (6 days at 10 hours at most). But then again I was hourly, and I'm not one to really ever go out. The money was good and you didn't have too much time to really spend it, which was actually nice to have a bit of money saved to go on a vacation or something as projects winded down. However, I gotta say crunch would be much less appealing if I didn't get overtime, which as I understand it, most devs are Salary...

    I guess work-life balance is more or less how you perceive it. Even in those 2-3 months of crunch I missed my free time a bit but not as much as you might think (I liked my coworkers, so it never felt too shitty). I still felt my life was balanced to some degree. But like I said, if I was salary, I'd definitely not feel the same way. Do any devs out there in major studios get overtime? I'd be curious to know that. 


  • fearian
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    fearian Polycount Sponsor
    Everyone has to hustle to get their career going. 

    Some people keep hustling, they never stop.
    Some people end up in studios that have a crunch culture, and you have to love it to fit well.
    Some people get a job and ease off. 
    Some people hustle until they want something else out of life.

    I don't think any of them are wrong or right. But I do think that there is no rule that games art is always a crunch. But it does require more hustle than most industries. And if you want to find the balance your looking for, you have to go to the job that offers it because it isn't coming to you. 
  • Chimp
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    Chimp greentooth
    Well there's at least two sides to this to consider:

    First, working conditions at studios. So long as you're not aiming to work for some massive corp that treat you as a factory floor assembler and don't give a shit about you as a person, don't worry too hard about being officially worked into the ground on the clock. A regular studio will treat you reasonably well if you work normal hours but fill those hours with endless productivity instead of relaxing in the sofa room all day.

    But the second thing to consider is your skills. If you don't yet have a job, or do but want to move up, and are preparing your skills, in order to be great you're going to have to put great hours in. There's no way around the amount of hours you need to spend creating, learning and iterating to be a great artist. 

    If you go indie, you'll need to obliterate your social life to get a studio of your own off the ground. You'll be doing 5 peoples jobs full time lol, this inevitably means learning on the job and that means you'll be slow which means you'll be doing over time for yourself.
  • Ryusaki
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    Ryusaki triangle
    This industry needs an union pretty bad.
    My tip would be if you are a freelancer try also to get jobs which are closely related, but not part of the gaming industry. There is a lot of demand for 3D and real-time 3D in other industries, which do pay good but they are not remotely as glamours as VFX or Gaming.

  • samnwck
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    samnwck polycounter lvl 3
    Ryusaki said:
    This industry needs an union pretty bad.
    While I recognize that there are some companies that put people in shitty positions. I think another part is the people that go into games as well. So many times did I see people (generally contract workers and interns) working 9 or 10 hour days and only marking 8 because that's all you were supposed to be working. They think it'll look better to the higher ups, that they're a go-getter and go above and beyond. But in reality they're just making things worse by essentially working at a discounted price for longer hours. 

    The industry draws in incredibly talented people that are very passionate and works them like crazy because they feel lucky enough to have a seat at the table to this cool thing. But the worst part is, they just let it happen. It'd be something else if a lead or manager approached you and said "you need to do an extra 2 hours today, but don't report it". Generally though, I saw people that wanted to show their dedication by working 10 hour days (and billing for 8 hours) when the rest of the team was doing just 8, and I think that hurts everyone. 

    I mean it's one thing to stay late because you messed something up and you want to be caught up. But that should be the exception not the rule. Thankfully, most of the times when my leads saw that behavior, they made them stop. Much of the time though it goes overlooked or unnoticed.

    I'll say this, at all of my other jobs, working at a factory overhauling jet engines, stocking shelves at a grocery store, working in an office, nobody ever kept working longer if they weren't getting paid extra for it, I don't know why I see people in this industry doing it so frequently.

  • Haytch
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    Haytch polycounter lvl 3
    pableaux said:
    Haytch said:

    i live in the south of England (right by Dover) and I work at a studio in oxford ( middle of the south ) so I commute 130 miles there, 130 back every day
    I just mapped this on Google Maps. You spend 5 hours a day commuting? W in TF?
    Yeah man, I'm self taught environment artist no qualifications or industry experience, i'm here as a senior, i worked for a year previously at an indie studio, so to get my foot in the door in the position i'm in is like finding a Leprechaun in space with a full pot of gold lol! 

    So yeah I do a 5/6 hour drive a day for work lol :( 
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    pableaux said:
    Haytch said:

    i live in the south of England (right by Dover) and I work at a studio in oxford ( middle of the south ) so I commute 130 miles there, 130 back every day
    I just mapped this on Google Maps. You spend 5 hours a day commuting? W in TF?
    In the Vancouver area, most of the homeowners I've worked with are doing at least two, and up to four hours a day commuting to downtown.  If there's an accident on a major route, they could easily spend five or more hours that day in their car.
  • heartlessph1l
    Thank god I only have to commute 30 mins per day. 5 hours is insane!
  • Joopson
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    Joopson Polycount Sponsor
    5 hours a day for commute means at least 13 hours a day dedicated to work... That's pretty unreasonable.  :/
    I wouldn't be able to handle that, myself.
  • marks
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    marks polycounter lvl 9
    I walk 15mins from my apartment to the studio at the moment ...

    So anyway, yeah there totally are work-life balances. Like fearian said, you gotta hustle to get in - and that is going to mean working your hands to the bone. Once you get in it is a lot, lot easier. The vast majority of artists I know in the games industry do little to no substantial work at home / outside of work hours. Long hours *are* common, but usually only for short amounts of time and apart from those times, working late is very unusual. In my experience at least.
  • Spoon
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    Spoon polycounter lvl 5
    You might have a few rough months or years, but it settles. I have 40 hours a week, never overtime, and a great work atmosphere.
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