A family’s story of life in the video game industry

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

This is emotionally intense:

My husband has worked in the video game industry for just about 14 years. It was always his dream to make video games, and it was a goal he’s worked towards since he began learning to program at 12 years old. One day on a whim, he applied to a major console game developer, and three weeks later our family of five was moving to California.

The company my husband was working for was really great. The benefits were amazing, he was paid well, and we had a good life–but we would never be able to afford to buy a house in California. We loved it there, but owning our own home has always been a huge dream of ours, and there was no way we would be able to work out having both. We decided to keep an eye out for positions in other states and entertain the thought of moving somewhere else with a lower cost of living, hopefully enabling us to purchase our own home.

We found some possibilities and, after interviewing, he received a great offer from a wonderful and stable company, in a state where we already had friends and family. We purchased a home and relocated our (now) family of six, leaving California for good. This was a really exciting move for us. Each child had their own room (they had to share in California), and they could paint or decorate their rooms however they liked. Our in-laws were in a position to buy a second home in the area, so they could be closer to the grandchildren. It was a ranch, and the kids loved to explore it. Life was looking very good, and we were all very excited about the future.21

The following summer was when we experienced our first layoff. It was devastating and extremely scary. My income wasn’t enough to cover the mortgage, even with the unemployment. We received no severance, and our health benefits would run out at the end of the month.

After we were settled and a couple of years had passed, I received notice that my appeal for in-state tuition was being granted and that I was able to register for classes at the local college. My son had been very sick for the past few months, and our family pediatrician told us that he felt our next step was surgery. He said it was probably best to do it sooner rather than later. We got him scheduled and started preparing for it. My husband requested some time off so he could be there. It was approved and we were all set.

Two days later, my husband was laid off again. He called me and told me not to freak out, but that he would be home soon. He had been laid off, but we had a great severance package, and we would be able to figure things out. My heart broke, and after I hung up the phone, I cried. I cried until I heard him come home, and then I didn’t shed another tear. We would get through this, and we would be fine. I had to be strong for the kids, my husband, and myself.

The company he had been working for was wonderful about everything, and they did give us a great severance package. I think we received paychecks for 60 days, and our insurance was covered for 60 or 90 days, I don’t quite remember. At this point, I don’t think we would have been able to survive if they hadn’t. It took him approximately 40 days to find a position with another company—and we would have to relocate again.

This particular company would not pay for relocation or assist with temporary housing. We were not offered a trip out to find a home. All of those expenses had to come out of our own pocket. Our home still had not sold, and we started renting it out, but our tenants caught it on fire and then abandoned the home. Our property management company gave up trying to help us; we were drowning in debt and eventually headed into foreclosure. We didn’t have the finances, strength, or energy to keep going after the tenants ourselves, so we completed a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure instead (apparently, this is not any better than a foreclosure itself, but we did not understand it at the time).

My husband began work at the new studio, and within months was working 100+ hour weeks, often times not coming home at all. He did not have days off. Sometimes he would manage to come home for two hours, and the most he was ever home was five hours a day. If I wanted to see him, I had to watch him sleep.

After the game came out, he was given a week of compensation time for all of the hours he had been putting in. Even though he was on a break, he wanted to keep up on how the game was doing, so he attempted to check his email and see how everything was going on. His login failed. He tried again thinking he’d typed the password wrong. It failed again.

He called in to find out what was going on and after only having worked there for 10 months, he was told he had been laid off, yet again. There had been no phone call, no e-mail to his work or personal account. There was no notification. There would be no severance, and he would not be paid for his compensation time. Our insurance ended at midnight that evening–not the end of the month like most places.222324

When my husband was laid off, our oldest daughter was in ninth grade attending her ninth school, my fourth grader was attending her fourth school, and my second grader was attending his second. All of the children had just really begun making close friends and getting settled in. It seemed like with each move, it was taking long and longer for them to get settled. It was really sad to watch, but at the same time completely understandable. This time, they really loved their schools, the neighborhood, and the city we lived in. With each move, you hope it’ll be the last—that your luck will finally change, but that just never happens.