It started as a joke. “in 40 years, a Mad Men-like prestige drama about a 2010s game studio falling apart” – a funny idea. Take the show Mad Men and make a version of it that deals with game studios dying.
Someone else tried to spin it into a “woman power story” which I could approve of, except for the fact that *I* work in this industry and I immediately laughed at the implausibility. “Underdog female protag starts in QA, becomes the studio’s lead designer in 7 seasons. I’m in.”
I am a woman, designing levels and games, I have a Master’s Degree. I have 8 years of experience. I have shipped 6 titles. Three of my titles have sold over 15 million copies and earned over 3 Billion dollars in 4 years. If a season == a year – this idea for a story line was completely implausible. So we started piling on more “joke” ideas. Only they weren’t jokes. They were things. That have happened to us. The laughter stopped and all that was left was several people staring at Twitter slightly disappointed and dismayed. That was when I realized, it really was a good Mad Men like story. It left us just as depressed and demoralized as if we had been watching Mad Men.
The season arcs do write themselves.
Season 1 – our studio is starting work on a huge game. Staffing up, hiring friends. Getting into the flow of making the game. 3 episodes in, a publishing head hancho comes in and makes some outrageous and insane demand. Adding some super complex feature without adding more money. 6 episodes in, the game is announced. The high is being ridden. Everyone parties, then buckles down to work. 9 episodes in, crunch begins. Episode 12, after 6 months of crunching, the team finally ships the game. Season finale.
Season 2 – The team celebrates launch. Halfway through the first episode half the team gets canned. Those who remain get doctor’s appointments and lawyer appointments to deal with the fallout from 6 months of crunch. The season continues with the team getting to work on a sequel to the game they just launched. The game has gotten a 7.5 metacritic. It sells well enough to get a sequel, but not well enough for anyone other than leads to get bonuses. Over this season, good talent starts leaving and the only ones who get promoted are the idiots to get them out of the way. The season ends with being halfway through the 1 year turn around sequel when a competing company announces a game that is the same game, but with better art, better licenses, and a dynamic lead designer.
Season 3 – The deathmarch of crunch is worse, more talent is bleeding away to other studios. The team is completely demoralized working on a project that no one wants because of the other better game. The season continues showing the life costs of working on this game. Divorces, affairs, lost connections. They finally ship the sequel game, to lower review scores, lower sales, and the internet is calling for those “hacks” to be fired. The finale is the employees showing up to work one day and they are locked out. The studio has been closed.
Season 4 – Starts with a few of our favored protagonists starting an indie studio. They are living on savings, borrowing money, etc etc. They try to get publishing deals for their “genius” idea game. It never works out. The whole time one of the no talent hacks from the former studio goes off, manages to luck out and get a job as a lead designer on an amazing game. The indie guys keep working, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and finally at the end of the season ship their indie game.
Season 5 – Indie game is DOA. They try to monetize it differently. It’s critically acclaimed but no one buys it. They struggle on, as the team loses people 1 by 1 as they all go back to crap jobs at big studios just to pay bills. Maybe even losing one or two to death – especially due to heavy alcohol drinking (which has gotten progressively worse over the series). Season and series ends with only character left getting a super high paying job as a programmer in banking doing mindless menial tasks 8-5, and coming home and playing video games. Not doing his dream job, but happier for it.
There. There’s the outline for the Game Developer Mad Men. I am going to go get a drink now.