Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


How Deep the Scars

Pramas knows and understands me better than anyone. Even so, I managed to surprise him last night by how deeply scarred I am after "the WotC experience." Years of distance from the corporate politics and territorial pissing matches haven't done much to lessen the complete distrust of humanity that I acquired thanks to WotC. It's like Post Traumatic Stress from the game industry. If there was one lesson I learned well from Wizards of the Coast it was that people will fuck you over and no one can be trusted when it comes down to it.

Your "friend" in a corporate environment is only your "friend" as long as it's politically expedient and things are going along swimmingly. If your "friend" decides they want to climb the corporate ladder, it doesn't matter how often they were stepped on, disappointed, kicked around or otherwise ill-treated themselves when they were in your position: they're moving up in the world and they will step on, disappoint, kick around and otherwise ill-treat anyone necessary to claw their way up. Next thing you know, your "friend" is a Brand Manager who is flying first class to Antwerp while you're flying in coach in the back and who refuses to sign off on the $20 art release you need to move your project forward. Or your "friend" plays politics to get himself positioned as your boss so he can shitcan the work you've been doing the last year (to protect his other friends and their projects, or just to force you to do it his way because he thinks his way is better even though he has little to no actual experience in the product category). Hey, this guy who has only ever sold medical supplies for a living is your new boss and welcome to your new life of being fucked over by him every single day and thwarted in all you do. Woohoo, thanks corporate overlords!

Surely not, you say? Surely there are good people doing good work in corporate environments who aren't out to corporate climb or backstab their coworkers to get their way? I fully admit that. Not everyone is a wonk, a corporate apologist, or an asshole... unfortunately, even if they're in a position of some power it's only good as long as no one above them demands something different. Once Hasbro demands layoffs, those good people are either laid off or laying you off. It all goes along well until it doesn't. Our corporate strategy is X, Stay the X Course, X All the Way, X or Bust. Until it's Z. Now it's Z, Z all the way, Ice Cream Party for Z after the All Hands Meeting. Z til we drop.

What if the company has employed someone you can trust and treated them well? "Hey, my friend J has worked at that company for four years and he seems pretty happy." First off, good for J. I hope it stays that way! I'm happy for him, really... I'm not trying to bring people down or saying that it's impossible for anyone to have a good experience. I just can't take a lot of comfort in it for myself (or apply J's experience to anyone who isn't J). It could be that J is the Golden Boy, the untouchable hero who is good no matter what he does. Those guys exist. Or it could be that he's earned mad respect for his hard work and repeated successes: his work is called out in New York Times articles for being so noteworthy, big deals revolve around things he's done. Once again, experience shows that it doesn't matter how many kudos, how much good press, how many awards and nominations the company has received because of contributions directly traceable back to you, if someone in the wrong position decides that he wants it to be some other way, you're done for. Next thing you know the fact that you won an award is an offense (because it wasn't sanctioned by the company: see Dragon Fist and Ryan Dancey's subsequent coup to "fix" GAMA so no company should ever again be tarnished by winning an award for a game they didn't sanction being up for said award ahead of time) or you're being told to re-record that video game dialog because the Asian actors in the Asian setting sound Asian and they're hiring a new guy to take over portions of your job. "I was treated well for [time period]" can turn into "And now he's being shuffled off to Siberia" if the wrong person takes and interest or an offense to your successes.

Ok, that kind of sucks, but maybe going off to work for a smaller company funded by millionaires who aren't beholden to anyone else would be ok? Thanks to WotC, I'm still suspicious. There are plenty of people who became millionaires thanks to Wizards of the Coast. Going to work on their next "best thing since Magic" could be a stable job in a fun environment of supportive people... or it could be that you're laid off right before Christmas with three days notice and no severance.

Yes, my faith in human decency in the workplace is that low. Sure, weeks or months of good treatment can go a long way to encouraging my trust and goodwill but the WotC Experience is never far from my mind and I can't help but be on the lookout for the signs that it's all going to come crashing down: weeks of no communication while the clock ticks on deadline-driven matters, being told "I can't even begin to think about that issue now" on something crucial to moving projects forward, seemingly small things stacking up (meetings canceled on short notice and not rescheduled, not getting research materials or product support in a timely manner, key team members being cut out of the loop... like discovering the secret meeting about miniatures being held in a back room without inviting key members of the miniatures team, or how that RPG department has met to specifically address how to put mass combat rules into D&D products without involving the miniatures department who are supposedly working on the official D&D mass combat rules already...) or hearing about issues that affect you and should be addressed to you through co-workers or subordinates because the people who should be talking to you are talking to them instead. These are not signs that everyone is acting in good faith. Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!

I hope never to have to go through another hell-trial like the WotC Experience ever again in my life. No one should. Unfortunately, a little like someone who has been beaten or robbed or run over by a speeding truck, under the right circumstances I'm nagged by the worry, the fear that I'll have to live it again.


for this post

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

I saw some advice in the Business section of the paper the other day that seemed very applicable (however sad) to my current situation with the psycho uber-boss.

Paraphrased: "If your boss is demeaning, conniving, back-stabbing, credit-taking, and abusive, don't think that reporting him to his superiors will change him. After all, that's how he got to his current position, so obviously that's the way his superiors like it."


Anonymous Anonymous Says:

This sure hits home for me. I was just cut out completely of an area at work where I had invested a lot of time, research, and bandwidth. Because I dared to disagree, so mildly, with the wrong person, all that hard work has been redefined as "interference," as in "you're out because we want to be able to do this without interference." It happened practically overnight, and I am still stunned.

As for working for private companies led by unbeholden millionaires, having worked now for a couple different ones and knowing people who work for other millionaires, I'm coming to believe that it's just as treacherous as working at other companies. Perhaps more so. People of means at the tops of org charts in my experience treat running a company like a game, an amusement. They feel much freer to make capricious decisions and take absurd risks. They can afford to do so, and I think they forget that the people who work for them can't.

Preferring to Remain Anonymous in Case My Boss Reads Your Blog...


Leave a Reply