Everyone who is a member of GamingMercenaries.com is a freelance game creator, and this is a rare thing, relatively speaking. My highly unscientific estimate would be that something well north of 90% of people working in games creation work as full-time employees, or at least would like to.I’ve worked as some kind of mercenary or another for most of my 10+ year career in games. Some of that period I was actually working for a large company (Universal Studios), some of it I was working in a partnership (Cerny Games), and for the past year and a half or so, on my own (as Method Games). With the single exception of when I founded and ran a development studio in 2003/2004, I have never been employed by the company actually making the games I’ve designed.
Many times over I’ve been offered permanent positions at these and other companies, and sometimes the offers have been very appealing. These companies have been run and populated by great people who produce great games. Yet, I have always said, politely as I can, “no.”
When I first got into the games business, like many people my dream was to someday found a game development company, and to build a sort of family around the shared goal of making games. I think this is a common dream of small businesspeople everywhere, and it is a noble one. Many of the small development companies I have encountered have indeed been wonderful places.
But along the way, I discovered that I really, really like making games, and this has become my paramount motivation. I find that working independently (or semi-independently in various forms) has afforded me the best opportunity to focus on exactly that.
My experience founding and running a development studio reinforced this feeling. I found the business portion to be tedious, stressful, and distracting from the actual process of making games. (I suppose that had my project not gone down in flames I might be expressing a different opinion… but I’ll never know.)
It’s more than that though. As a gaming mercenary, I have many other advantages:
- I pick my projects. Though the pickings may be slim for contract designers at the present time, nonetheless, the opportunity to say that “yes” or “no” as an individual is a privilege that is far too rare in a creative industry like game development.
- I get to see a broad cross-section of the industry. I’ve seen the good, the bad and a fair amount of ugly in my travels. But nothing has inclined me to believe that I have found anything other a fantastic profession.
- I can do things that flat out can’t be done any other way. If a company wants to hire me for business consulting or quick game analysis, the only way I can do that is as a contractor.
- I can speak for myself. Whether it be to a class of elementary school students or a Hollywood producer, I can speak without anyone looking over my shoulder or fearing conflict of interest with my employer.
- I get to make more of a difference. Working as a contractor means by definition bringing a fresh perspective to a team or company. Chances are, some of that perspective will even be helpful. I like that.
So, that’s why I’m a mercenary. What about you?