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When is the right time to quit your job to pursue a career in game design?

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Zodiak Team
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Quick side note: I don't think enough people use the "Water Cooler" forum sections.

As many of you know I've been working on Zodiak Legends and the rest of the Zodiak Universe for some time now but it has had to take a back seat to my full time 9-5 job. When I started Zodiak I had recently lost my job and I wanted something to keep my mind off how depressing and stressful my situation was. I made so many advancements and even got to the final product in less then a year because I was completely focused on getting my game to the masses. Clearly Zodiak is not out yet and my work ethic has been seriously lacking.

I started working full time in July of 2012 and since then I only get a few hours every weekend to work on it (if my girlfriend isn't home, and I don't have chores, or I'm not podcasting for my gaming site, or I'm not traveling). I like being able to support myself and have nice things but I hate my job and I hate myself for not having more time to finish what I've started.

Yesterday I met a guy who worked right nextdoor as a financial attorney making about 6 figures a year and he gave it all up to follow his passion and open a smoked salmon business! I aked him why he would do that and he said "I didn't want to be a lawyer all my life so I left and I never looked back". That leap that he made is something I dan't know if I can follow. Sure I was unemployed before but that's because my boss let me go and he was actually a crazy person so I didn't have much of a choise. Now I find myself weighing my options and thinking about what's best. I live with my girlfriend and I have a cat, if I quit it woulnd't just effect me it would effect them as well and I don't think I could do that to them. We are currently behind on all our bills, both mine and my girl friend's student loans are breathing down our necks, we live a long way from our families, and we have zero savings so I really don't have many options but to keep looking down at my shoes and shuffle on even if it makes me miserable.

Weighing the pros and cons:

Cons: I won't be able to afford food, pay bills, I'll put unnessessary hardship on my family, and we'll eventually be thrown out onto the streets.

Pros: I'll be following my dreams and I'll be doing something for myself. I'll be poor and stressed out over finances but I think I'll have a healthier out look on life and maybe a happier soul.

I really don't know what the right thing to do is. I know I need to keep food on the table but it has become a struggle to come in every day. My boss and our higher ups and other people outside my office who work for the company are so miserable and spiteful it's painful. I actually had to have a meeting with our growth manager because I disagreed with another manager's opinion about something trivial like wether or not to have a pizza party (not joking).

Are there jobs out there that I can use my imagination and stretch the muscles of my mind? I want to work the table top game design or at least in a place that embraces creativity but does such a place exist for people who only have some college experience?

Also before anyone suggests it I can't go back to college because I have zero co-signers, I have $40,000 of student loan debt I'm trying to pay off and my credit score is 530.

So what do you guys think? Where are you all with this in your own lives?

Kroz1776
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Debt is Bad Business

My first word of advice, get out of debt ASAP. If you want to be able to quit your job and start your own board game company, I would highly suggest working your way out of those $40,000 worth of debt. When you have no debt, you have a financial freedom that you didn't have when strapped down with it.

Basically, get your finances in order before quitting your job. Sometimes we have to sacrifice things in our lives and putting these dreams on a temporary hold while you get caught up on bills and paying off some student loans is probably the best option. If you can get to a spot in life where you are up to date on your bills, and you have extra money each month, use it wisely and save up.

I'm almost graduated college myself and I'm still debt free thanks to some summer factory work. Financially right now my wife and I could live comfortably for 6 months being unemployed. Even if you do have debt, if you can get yourself to a financial situation where you can do that too, I'd say you're in good shape.

In the end though, the best option is to talk to a professional advisor!

Zodiak Team
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I wish I could easily be debt

I wish I could easily be debt fre but I pay as much as I can when I can. Truth is when you live on your it's much harder to pay anythign extra. Doing the math I'll be in debt for the next 12 years

anonymousmagic
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While it may seem different

While it may seem different to you, pursuing a career as a game designer is not a primary need to survive. You need food, water, clothes and a roof over your head. Once the basics are sorted out, you can look at luxuries.

I don't remember the specifics, but the author Holly Lisle offered some great advice a little while back as to when you are ready to quit your day job and write full time.

The answer: when you can cover at least a year worth of expenses with savings. (You can email her for more information if you're interested in the video I watched. It's free if memory serves me correctly.)

In that regard game design differs little from writing. Get out of debt and save up until you can live comfortably if the move doesn't work out. The truth is that many successful writers and game designers have a second job on the side to pay the bills. You may have to accept that game design will never pay the bills, because that's the truth for the majority of designers out there.

Zodiak Team
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I'm not saying I want to quit

I'm not saying I want to quit live off the land and glue things to paper. I stated above that I know quitting my job is not an option. What I'd like to know is are there jobs within game design or jobs that need my creativity and imagination that I can go into to help me make a living/career so I don't have to be a drone at the one I'm at.

Kroz1776
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And Now For Something Completely Different

Zodiak Team wrote:
I'm not saying I want to quit live off the land and glue things to paper. I stated above that I know quitting my job is not an option. What I'd like to know is are there jobs within game design or jobs that need my creativity and imagination that I can go into to help me make a living/career so I don't have to be a drone at the one I'm at.

AH!!!! Now that question is completely different than what I was getting from your original post.

There are companies out there, I just don't know of them. I am studying accounting. Lol.

Zodiak Team
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I'm a bank supervisor. I

I'm a bank supervisor. I thought it be perfect because of all the down time but now my small bank is trying to run with BoA and TD bank by means of daily cold calls and mailing thank you for your money cards. Its not as fun as it sounds.

anonymousmagic
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Like the previous poster, it

Like the previous poster, it wasn't really what I was getting from the initial post, so thanks for the clarification.

Zodiak Team wrote:
I'm not saying I want to quit live off the land and glue things to paper. I stated above that I know quitting my job is not an option. What I'd like to know is are there jobs within game design or jobs that need my creativity and imagination that I can go into to help me make a living/career so I don't have to be a drone at the one I'm at.
Jobs in game design and art typically require you to have a portfolio of your previous work to show off to potential employers. Do you have a portfolio? If not, you should start building one. Help fellow designers and build a reputation so when you sink your teeth into a job application you've increased your chances before even starting.

Also, I have no clue what sort of field you're currently in, but could looking at a move within your company net you a position that requires more creativity?

In most of my jobs I've been the lab guy in quality control. However, I feel my creativity would really be served if I somehow ended up in product development (in the food industry), so that's what I'm aiming for.

Kroz1776
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Cold Calls....*Spews Chunks*

Zodiak Team wrote:
I'm a bank supervisor. I thought it be perfect because of all the down time but now my small bank is trying to run with BoA and TD bank by means of daily cold calls and mailing thank you for your money cards. Its not as fun as it sounds.

Cold calls give me the shiver. Those are never pleasant and you have my condolences.

Zodiak Team
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Thanks, I know it's actually

Thanks, I know it's actually the worst thing ever! I just want to know what some of my options are. What is out there that might be a better job for me? I'm excellent at sales I'm always the top performer but I want to work in something that requires more of my mind and creativity. I want to work in a place where my desk is my desk and I can have an iron man helmet and maybe a fish bowl on it if I wanted. I want to work in a place that gets me and values me as a human and not just another body.

Kroz1776
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Advertising

Zodiak Team wrote:
Thanks, I know it's actually the worst thing ever! I just want to know what some of my options are. What is out there that might be a better job for me? I'm excellent at sales I'm always the top performer but I want to work in something that requires more of my mind and creativity. I want to work in a place where my desk is my desk and I can have an iron man helmet and maybe a fish bowl on it if I wanted. I want to work in a place that gets me and values me as a human and not just another body.

Advertising and agencies like that are generally very open to indiviuality and creativity. Their offices have some pretty wacky things in them. Google and tech companies often are like this as well.

Dralius
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The game industries unlike

The game industries unlike any other I have worked in. Its surprising how freindly it is. I work some of the big conventions and its not uncommon to loan equipment to other publishers, to cover thier booth in emergencies etc...

Your chances of landing a job will be greatly increased if you widen your net. For every game designer there must be people involved marketing, sales, shipping, etc… Those kinds of jobs although not dream jobs to most of us are more readily available. If what you’re looking for is to simply work in a place that appreciates you start by volunteering as a demo person for a game company. This way you will make connections and get a peek under the hood to see if they seem like the right place for you. Once you’re known to them and show that you are a hard worked you can start asking about openings.

questccg
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More competitive pricing!

Zodiak Team wrote:
I'm always the top performer but I want to work in something that requires more of my mind and creativity. I want to work in a place where my desk is my desk and I can have an iron man helmet and maybe a fish bowl on it if I wanted. I want to work in a place that gets me and values me as a human and not just another body.

Well the best time to look for a job is when you ALREADY have one! So just because you are working doesn't mean you should necessarily be 100% satisfied with what you are doing. The key is to move to a position that is more in-line with what you would want to do.

But like the guy who said, I quote: "I will work for free... just to have the chance to make my game." is NOT a oddball type of thought. I think MANY designers, if they COULD would want to work with a company like Wizards Of The Coast (WOTC) or Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), etc. Some would take salary cuts in truth. But those opportunity are rare even though the amount of designers willing to make sacrifices are NUMEROUS!

Being an entrepreneur, or indie game designer, is very demanding: not only do you need to understand games and mechanics, you need creativity, you need graphic design skills, you need vision of what your product will look like, you need to be able to properly document your game, you need to find playtester, etc.

And as was articulated by another designer on this site, Kickstarter's don't really amount to much. Yeah some go big, but I think on average you just get by with enough funds to make the game and attain a funding goal (like getting artwork done, designing a website, making a first run production, etc.)

I still think that PARTNERING with a publisher is the best long-term solution. And there are clauses you should remember to include like "You get all rights to the game if the publisher discontinues selling/marketing your game", etc. I would suspect this is part of having a portfolio of games...

I have calculated SEVERAL times:

  • If my Kickstarter makes $15k, I break EVEN
  • If my Kickstarter makes between $20-25k, I maybe make $1,000 - $2,000

Nothing to make a living with... But I will get my game self-published and this is still something. And what all those FIGURES are about is the COST to produce games! It's costly and even the deals made with US companies are not like the deals a publisher will get for a game. So you MAKE MORE, you need to SPEND MORE (because you need to produce the game...)

The other aspect is some manufacturers want 1,500 games made. Are they CRAZY? A Kickstarter on average earns 200-500 contributors. What the H*LL will you do with 1,000 additional copies?!?!

So I think we NEED MORE COMPETITIVE PRICING. But that's a rant for another post! :P

Zodiak Team
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Well I'll have to see how

Well I'll have to see how things play out. Zodiak will be on KS in January and Henchmen is getting printed now so maybe after those are made I'll revisit this. I just hate working where I am now but maybe I can hold on or maybe I'll get lucky and the Game Crafter will open a Boston location and I can work for them :)

questccg
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Move to Germany!

Zodiak Team wrote:
...I just hate working where I am now but maybe I can hold on or maybe I'll get lucky and the Game Crafter will open a Boston location and I can work for them :)

Or you could MOVE to Germany and tell JT you would be willing to work for them at their EUROPEAN location! Hehehe. One TGC for the US and Canada is enough. BUT not having such a company in Europe - well that's not a story, it's a clever expansion plan (in my honest opinion)!

See if you could convince JT to setup shop in Germany... A second location should be Europe to satisfy the European market.

Note: We still need more COMPETITIVE PRICING. Like I said I used TGC for my next prototype - but I haven't gotten great deals from US people dealing with China. Still costly to make games. You need to be a publisher who deals with a Chinese manufacturer to get GOOD pricing. Not an indie game designer...

lewpuls
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Few full-time jobs

The tabletop game industry supports very few full-time game designer jobs. And people who have them sometimes leave, so there must be frustrations (Kevin Wilson from FFG, Rob Daviau from Hasbro).

Few freelance designers can live on their incomes. Alan R. Moon said that if Ticket to Ride hadn't won the German Game of the Year, he'd have had to get a part-time job (e=despite having won Game of the Year once before). Bruno Faidutti teaches part time. Heck, many publishers do it part-time, and have full-time real-world jobs.

There just isn't THAT much money in it, most of the time. There are obviously exceptions, Knizia makes over a $1M a year, Teuber's a millionaire. But that's as likely as winning the lottery.

Zodiak Team
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that's true. What I need to

that's true. What I need to do is open up my own Table Top Game Cafe in Boston and my life would be awesome all the time!

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