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Tag: myself

Things I cannot accept anymore

Many game companies after the first interview send you an assessment to complete. You have usually between 4 hours and 10 days available to complete the assessment. Some company gives you free time, as long as you complete it.

There was that TV show on Netflix called Vikings. Among the many storylines, there is one about a person who has a serious handicap. He manages to use his disadvantage to become the king.

I have never passed a single test. Every time I get these assessments my mind goes automatically in “you are working for free” mode. I sent the result of my assessment and someone (I imagine her with a bored face and a cup of horrible machine-made tea) skimmed my assessment. And of course, it was a no. My bad will meets with the bad will of the reviewer, what do you expect? That is one handicap I have. And I made it a strength in recent years!

I have developed and hired outstanding designers for companies. True talents. Within 3 hours with a dashboard and a laptop with a game engine running and a spreadsheet, I can run a complete interview. The people I have hired are still there, crushing it.

When I am on the other side, nowadays I want the same. You send me an assessment, I say you “give it to me”. Then I read it carefully and write down exactly what I should do to complete the exercises and a time and cost estimation. I send everything via email, it’s better than simply rejecting the task. Writing all of this down often takes me 2-3 hours.

Again, nobody pays me for that. And of course, it doesn’t work. Don’t follow my suggestion if you really want that job. I am in a different position nowadays. I am not “open to work”. I work as a game designer every single day, I just don’t let anyone decide if I have a job or not. I want to work with you if you want to work with me, simple as that.

Assessments are free to work that no one pays. They are made to filter people out. They do not consider diversity and they are made to exclude. Companies love to claim “diversity and inclusion”. Well, this is part of it.

I am quite happy as a freelancer, a “warrior without a king”. Still, I don’t close myself up to any opportunity. But I need to feel that the company wants me, not the other way around!

Freelancing is not a therapy

When a client hires me usually is for a whole project preproduction. It can be the startup for a new game or the research stage for a new feature of a live game. I help them during the whole process of finding the right formula. I work per day, every day is one slot. Every client can get from 1 to 3 slots per week.

Happens that during my service I realize that my help is not needed. It may happen for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I see that the team is on the right track and I am slowing things down. Other times I see that the client that hired me didn’t want my help with game design, so that I am useless.

In any case, my business is not like a therapist. When I realize that I am not needed anymore, I let go the client. I speak with them and explain any reason. It was a pleasure to be there, please leave your testimonial. You will not lose your money, I will not lose my time. Everybody wins.

(and very few of them leave the actual testimonial)

Hard times in the industry

I must create a system,

or be enslaved by another man’s.

I will not reason and compare:

my business is to create

William Blake

Every week I am reading news about layoffs in games industry. Every week a friend tells me she has been fired for whatever reason. Happens especially at big companies.

A friend of mine, who yesterday wrote a testimonial on me that made me cry, confessed that was laid off. He was in a senior position in one of the biggest companies in the World. This system is clearly not working to me. You work for a company, spend many hours putting your energy in. The company is very profitable and when the year ends they fire you because their investors must have their share bonuses. Incredible.

And then many people goes back to the hamster wheel. Posting on LinkedIn that they are doing assessments and interviews. Saying they are unemployed since months.

Honestly, I am out of that. I don’t care if at some point I have to work elsewhere to pay my bills. But I have to try to build my own thing. The games industry is too unfair. We prepare a lot to be able to make games. We study many hours, we stay updated on the industry trends. And for what? To make other people make tons of cash while we have to find the next job after 5 years? I am out.

Is that enough reason to start my thing? Of course it isn’t. My life is not for everyone. But I am very happy of my little thing. Because nobody can remove that from me.

My testimonial book

Today in the morning I sent many emails to my clients to ask them to write a brief endorsement for me. Let’s hope to get enough answers!

The fact is that I lose many opportunities because new potential clients ask me for a portfolio… and I cannot show anything at all! In fact, for each project, I sign contracts that include an NDA. I cannot reveal anything about the project I am working on.

That’s why my idea is to have people speak about me. A testimonial book to show potential clients the moment I introduce myself. I prepared a document on Google Docs for each one with their face, name, title (at the moment we worked together), and the space to leave a few words.

I am excited and at the same time worried that not more than 30% will answer my request. That’s because writing an endorsement for someone is not a trivial task. Especially when the language is not your native one. I asked them to use the English language.

We’ll see, I suppose.

The pizzaiolis preproduction

(The post was inspired by the last podcast from Seth Godin and a bunch of other things)

I live in Barcelona, but I was born in Naples the city where the pizza was born. Every time I travel I see famous pizza chains spread all across the World. Probably everyone with my background finds that pizza awful.

How is it even possible that people eat something like that?

But that pizza sells, and volumes are probably higher than the pizza places I know. The ones that make me dream of coming back to my hometown. Professional “pizzaioli” from Naples make the better pizza, at least in my opinion. But they earn less than entrepreneurs who probably never put a foot in one of their franchises.

Is that even fair?

It is what it is. There is a convenient way of making a pizza, that is looking for big volumes to make a profit. But the final product is worse for the connoisseur.

Then there is the inconvenient way of doing pizza, the one that makes people dream. You cannot reach high volumes without ruining the experience. You need simple ingredients. People need to eat at the moment. You have to be patient. But your legacy will last.

The inconvenient way leads the way to the convenient one. Once you find the right formula, you can decide to go for more volume. The pizza entrepreneur, instead, will have a hard time figuring out how to start an inconvenient pizza place. When you start from convenience you miss important steps.

The best preproduction of new games is exactly like the inconvenient pizza place. You need to understand well the market by serving a small niche first. You need innovation coming out from a true personal thing. You need to lead with uncertainty. You have to be patient, using simple game design ingredients. And this is hard, especially for big companies. That’s where I help my clients find new ideas in a professional “pizzaiolo” way. 

The games I finished

Yesterday I went to the ending ceremony of a master on game development, here in Barcelona. One of the teacher told the students: you finished a game. And that is a lot. Lot of people that sell themselves as experts cannot say the same thing.

Well, that sentence struck my hearth. I immediately thought about the games I finished. All of them were games made by companies. Games that I liked to work on, but games that I don’t care about. Every single game was not successful.

First I finished Lucky Turkey, an arcade 2.5D shooter.

Then I moved to Barcelona and I worked for Zitro. I worked on a couple of games, the one I remember better was Taco Mania.

Then I was hired by Digital Chocolate where I worked on a GaaS called Blackjack Buzz up to the first playable (demo). I have to say that the final game was a polished version of that. And it didn’t worked on the market.

Another game I worked on and completed was Hovercabs, an endless runner. The company closed right after release, so I had no time to work on liveops for that.

After that I worked basically on a bunch of uncompleted projects. Also personal ones, I had no luck nor the strength to bring ideas until the end.

This has to change. Now or never.

The work I do

To me all the design disciplines (systems, gameplay, UX, level, narrative) have two facets. One is the vision and the other the content.

The vision is always what interests me the most. I believe that games are a synthesis of certain fantasies. They have their structure in terms of mechanics, gameplay, win/lose conditions, and so on. But this structure serves the purpose of delivering a vision.

The content is fun to produce. Creating levels or scripts puts me in a flow state, I can spend hours without even noticing it. Especially certain tools make everything so much fun. The content serves the vision above and should be always checked under that lens.

I think that the work I do is juggling with these concepts every day, every week, every month.

Generalists are the concierge of the industry

I hear this sentence from a content creator on TikTok. Somehow, it makes me sad. Part of that is true, though. The industry needs for specialized talents, normally.

But many of us are generalists, not specialists. I don’t know if I prefer systems, gameplay, level or narrative. I like game design in general and I believe I am pretty good at it. Am I useful for the core industry? Maybe that content creator is right, maybe I am not good to stay in a big company.

Or maybe is completely wrong. We can see that many experts consider the generalists like me a great asset in a team. Maybe we are not good to finish the definitive job, but we moves easily across departments.

In the end is a matter of ego. If you are a generalist and you want to make everything alone, I have bad news for you. You need to work on it or go solodev (which is something I always consider, not for this reason). If you are capable of working with others, you can make a great generalist!

Paternity Leave

I had a baby and I am very happy. I love her so much and met her just 11 days ago. I am on paternity leave.

Being a freelancer, this does not exist fully. I will still support my projects and make new contacts. My intention is to design a game dedicated to her. I am already on it.

With other projects I learned that is better to keep things for me until I have something that I can share and can be interesting for people. Otherwise, my energies may go in wrong directions and I can lose steam.

I am (not) a freakin TikToker

Living as an underdog has its challenges. I own my time, but that income is unstable. I have a pretty austere lifestyle and few expenses. And I live in a place with free healthcare and stuff like that.

Still, I need to get some extra income for bad times. That is why teaching is the first resource for me. I love to teach and I am good at it.

My target audience is students between 18 and 25 years old. And they are on TikTok. That is why I started a TikTok channel. I already hate myself, but the important thing is having fun and connecting with people here.

Wish me luck.