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August 08, 2013

So, I'm Moving On

This week I gave my notice at Bethesda Game Studios. I've been a lead programmer there for five years. In my time at BGS I helped ship Fallout 3 and led the systems programmers for Skyrim. I'd be enormously pleased to have either of those on my résumé; having both is humbling, and I'm very grateful to fans and friends for their support. I will continue to play the games Bethesda carefully crafts, and I kind of look forward to being able to spend hundreds of hours in those worlds when the products are finished instead of when they're still being built. It is certainly bittersweet to leave. It's a great team. I've made many friends there. My last day will be on August 30, which will leave me unemployed just in time for Labor Day.

My departure isn't about them; it's about me. I've largely been doing the same job for most of the last dozen years or so of my life, and so I think when I saw this SMBC comic the kernel of the idea of doing something at least a bit different was lodged. I didn't think about it too hard at the time. There is a bit of truth in that series of panels. It nagged at me.

There have been other signs. I was asked on a podcast whether I'd ever considered going indie and I had to take a long pause before giving an answer that was kind of rote. I went to GDC this year and didn't return as recharged and energized as I always have in the past. I kept at the job, giving it my best, being a professional. I was content. All my basic needs were well accounted for. But I've had an itch.

As I've told a few people this week, I'm young enough that I'm not done with seeking new challenges. I'm also old enough that I know my ability to meet those challenges won't be there forever. Huge thanks go out to friends with whom I've discussed this change; lending me your ears and listening to me cavil and kvetch has been enormously productive for me in my thinking. Your support has been hugely beneficial to me.

Some of the challenges I'm really curious about are in videogames¹. I've been really impressed with the work in the indie space in the last year and some of my favorites come from small groups or solo creators. Some have shipped, and some have yet to ship. When I started programming games as a kid, I did it all myself and that holds some appeal to try now with years of experience. There's still that little kid in me. Having been an IGF judge and jury member for a couple of years has exposed me to so many more possibilities. It's a heady time for videogames. Explosive growth. Explosions of meaning and markets and membership in the creative club. Terrific stuff.

In the short term a certain amount of idleness and reflection is called for, just to catch up on some chores that need doing, finish up some games that need playing, and enjoy some extra time with my sons. One of the challenges I have in mind will call to me.

In the meantime, if there are any indie friends out there who need a little technical advice or feedback on your upcoming games, I'd love to help out. Hit me up on Twitter and we'll figure it out.

PS. If you are a colleague at BGS and learning about this here, I'm very sorry. I figured the news would have gotten around via sneaker-net by now, and time was somewhat short before I got out of town for a few days.

¹I also may like to write. I've had some novels and stories in mind for a while, jot down notes from time to time. So that's something I may need to do for myself at some point, too.

Posted by Brett Douville at August 8, 2013 11:38 AM


Good for you, Brett!

Posted by: Emily Carr at August 8, 2013 07:37 PM

Bold move, sir! Godspeed. The future is an exciting place - meet you there.

Posted by: Dale at August 8, 2013 07:40 PM

Live your passion! I'm eager to see what develops. I love the idea of writing. Perhaps a writing group?

Posted by: Jennifer Kirmse at August 9, 2013 09:27 AM

Thank you all. There are definitely rewards for me in writing, so that's a thing I may pursue. And there are attractions to going and building some of these "one person and maybe a little art and audio contracting" games too. So, we'll see. Just need to get my head all the way clear first.

Posted by: Brett Douville at August 9, 2013 09:31 AM

Wishing you the best my son and the best is what you deserve!

Posted by: Uncle Snodnet at August 9, 2013 02:26 PM

Wishing you the best my son and the best is what you deserve!

Posted by: Uncle Snodnet at August 9, 2013 02:26 PM

Set sail for new lands to explore, challenges to meet, and wonders to behold! Maybe take in a few ballgames too. :-)

All the best to you, Brett. Thanks for sharing with us. Now go make something with you in it.

Posted by: Michael Abbott at August 10, 2013 12:59 PM

Thanks Uncle Don, should keep me on my toes.

Thanks Michael; discussions with you were invaluable in clarifying my thinking. Thanks for your support.

Posted by: Brett Douville at August 12, 2013 11:37 AM