Tales from The Trenches Archive

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From Rags to Something Else.

My first industry job was as an $8/hour artist at a startup. The company was founded by two guys who just wanted to give the booming industry a shot. They didn’t even have an office when we started, just an apartment. We were about 6 people strong, including an art director who had no experience with art - he was just a friend of the boss.
Myself and one other guy were the primary artists, we concepted, textured, and made any graphic elements they needed. We were all learning as we went.

As time went along we figured out our strengths and weaknesses. The other 2D artist’s strength was in creating the same thing over and over again with varying degrees of purple and blue hue. I made everything else, environment art, tile sets, the other races even the company logo. It was not uncommon for them to ask me to help fix his art.

We spent every waking hour at that studio, sleeping under our desks for a few hours to wake and start working again. We would crunch for unlimited amounts of time, seven days a week never seeing a cycle of day and night in it’s original form. After months long crunches we would all get sick from the stress and die alone for a couple days.
The team grew over the next couple years, a few of my friends from college came on board. We were still all green, not a single one of us with any industry experience.  Our original art director left, eventually we got a new one that worked for a month then just disappeared. They kept him on the payroll the entire time.

Years later, after we’d finally gotten a publisher at the expense of our health, and sanity. My buddy and I are renting rooms in our boss’s house he bought to celebrate. We were all a tight crew by then. One day while on a walk my friend tells me something that the boss had told him. He said the other 2D artist demanded a raise or he’d walk, and they gave it to him. The prima donna who’s primary contribution was an entire in game race that looked eerily like him, skinny and bald, and a technology that looked like Syd Mead just stopped giving a sh*t. This guy who’s “art” I had to clean up and fix for years, this guy who thought he was the industry’s gift from on high. Best thing is they told my best friend not to tell me. So he did.

You can tell where this is going now:) I talk to my boss/landlord about this. His response, fire my best friend, kick him out of the house. Fire me and do the same.

I was unemployed for about six months after that, debating if I wanted to keep trying in the industry or head another direction. One day I get a call from my ex-boss saying they want me back. They’ll even give me a raise! Desperate, bored I signed up. 6 months later our publisher tells us we have to go to their HQ in another state to continue work, but only a few of us can go. Boss takes me aside, says I can’t come along because I’m too much of a risk.