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More from the 20 year saga

… and so I continue with the 20 year retrospective of my career……

About half way through production for Vampire Diaries, we realized things were really not going well for the company (American Laser Games.) They shut down their stand up arcade division and laid off most of the physical development folks (those people who built the cabinets for the arcade machines) as well as the props guys.

About this time Tim and I were engaged to be married and were planning our wedding to happen back in Texas. We decided we would take a two week vacation for the wedding and a honeymoon to Scotland.  Planning a long distance wedding wasn’t easy, but my mom and dad helped out. Plus we were having it in their home so that made things a bit easier.

The day before the wedding I got a phone call. It was the Dir. of PD. He informed me that times were very tough and that they had just laid off about 2/3 of the company INCLUDING about half my development staff on Vampire Diaries!

I was shocked! I had no idea they had been planning this AND he wouldn’t tell me who they laid off! So it was stressful enough we were getting married but on top of that they laid off half my team. Oh, and of course this did NOT change the shipdate on the products. Heck no!

I called Tim … this is the day before the wedding and we aren’t supposed to even really SEE each other… but I called him anyway and we actually talked about skipping the honeymoon and heading right back to Albuquerque.  FORTUNATELY good sense prevailed and we went on with our wedding and our honeymoon…

When I returned to Albuquerque,  I found we were down to about 20 people from about 100. Even worse was the way they laid the people off.

Apparently the execs arrived early and put empty cardboard boxes into the cubicles of the people who were going to be laid off. They then stood outside the door of the building and wouldn’t let anyone in until everyone in the department had arrived. They then told them to go in and if they had boxes in their cube, to please pack up their stuff.

No… I’m not joking.

Anyway, I’d been back about three weeks when we were told they were going to move Product Development into the same building with Administration. This meant we had to pack up  and move across the highway. When we got there, we found they had put us  all into the former warehouse and prop storage area. It was dark, dank and musty. The offices were all internal.. the only natural light was the little narrow window by the door.

The two titles we still had in production at that time were a Playstation fighting game called “Shining Sword” and PC game called “Vampire Diaries.” Because the staff had been cut back so far, the head of PD quickly realized that Shining Sword wasn’t going to make it out the door without more  programming help. So they hired a contractor from California whom I shall call Blue Hair – for obvious reasons.

Blue Hair was a hot-shot, hired gun used to coming in and saving the day. Well, there was to be no “saving the day” for this product. With all the personnel changes, office changes and the general demoralization the product was sinking fast. Blue Hair proved to be more of a disruption than a help. He railed about how awful the code was, said there was really nothing he could do but throw out EVERYTHING and start over from scratch.  More on him in a minute…..

So we’d been in the Admin building about three months when the CEO called me in to his office and asked me about the guy who was the Director of Product Development. … how much time he spent in the offices.. when he took lunch.. etc. I told him I didn’t know. He asked me to start keeping track.

WOW, did I feel like a tattletale, but as my office was directly next to the door in to the building, so it was easy for me to keep track of everyone. And because the CEO had asked me, I kinda felt compelled to do it. Within two weeks it became apparent that the Director was in the office about 3 hours a day. And for lunch he was frequenting the topless club and taking co-workers with him.

When I reported this, the CEO wasn’t happy with it and immediately gave him his walking papers. To this day that former Dir of PD hasn’t spoken to me, certain that I torpedo’d him. That actually kinda makes me sad, as I was put in the terrible position of being asked directly by the CEO to do something that didn’t feel good.

So when the former Dir of PD was released, the CEO called me in and offered me the position. I agreed and was immediately given a pay raise to what, at the time I thought was a nice sum. (However, I would later find out it was only half what the previous Dir of PD had been making )

Later that day, Blue Hair walked in to my office and shut the door. He sat down in the chair across from me and told me, quite bluntly, that he in no way would work for a female. That he didn’t feel I was his boss, he wouldn’t answer to me and he CERTAINLY would not work for me. That as far as he was concerned he worked for the CEO and I had better get that straight from the beginning.

I was shocked and, having just been put into the position just that day.

I told him that he certainly DID work for me, now that I was head of PD and that he better get used to it. When he refused again, I told him we would simply go talk to the CEO.  I expected the CEO would back me up on this, as he had just put me in the position. Instead he waffled and said that he *had* signed the contract so technically Blue Hair *did* work for him, but that maybe he (Blue Hair) could work in parallel with me on the project.

I believe it was that night I wound up in the emergency room with heart arrhythmia, to which the Doctor told me “You heart is an innocent bystander of your brain. You are in no danger at the moment, but you probably ought to think about changing careers.”

Heh… guess I never did listen to doctors.

Published in20 Years in Games - looking back