I’ve been off work this week as I am moving to a new team on Wednesday. As some of you know, I have been on the FIFA team since December of 2019, working on FIFA 21. I was originally told that I was on loan to the FIFA team until the game shipped, but a month into my loan, I was informed the loan was in fact a permanent transfer.
There were a few reasons for this permanent transfer but the main one was there wasn’t really anything for me to come back to. My old team wasn’t going to get another chance to work a continuation of our last game. I wasn’t alone in my situation as many of my co-workers were also moved over to FIFA. In hindsight, I was lucky to have somewhere to go because in leaner years, I might have been laid off. Instead, my employer was, and remains in good financial standing, so it was easy for them to move so many people over.
While it was fortuitous that I didn’t lose my job, it can sometimes be a challenge when you don’t control your own destiny. We all have different requirements when it comes to what satisfies you in your career. As a game developer, I like working on projects that offer unique game designs, fun gameplay, and a strong narrative. It’s a difficult for a sports game to fulfill all these requirements, just by the nature of a sport having set rules for what you can and cannot do. I also came to discover that on this new project, there were some decisions made on technology that I believed was unfortunate. For example, I didn’t like that we were still using a piece of software that was twenty-years old, had stopped being supported for almost a decade, and that the rest of the industry had abandoned a long, long time ago.
I did my best to keep an open mind about my new posting. Maybe I’d get to work on some interesting tasks or learn something new in the process. After my first six weeks on my new team, it was clear that I wouldn’t work on anything that was interesting or fun to me. The work was very dry and it felt I was working on banking software rather than a video game. It was a bit depressing to be honest.
One of the few positives about being on this new project was that I had regular one-on-one meetings with my new manager and the lead engineer in my area. I faced a dilemma about if and when I should let these people know about my unhappiness. On one hand, I thought that I could say nothing, do my work, and just work on getting out of my predicament on my own. Fortunately, both my new manager and lead engineer encouraged me and everyone else on my team to be honest about their feedback and feelings. It still was a bit of a risk but about a month into my new posting, I told both of them that I wasn’t too pleased about the work I’d be doing for the next nine to ten months. I made sure I stated it in a polite and professional manner but I did get my point across.
To their credit both my manager and lead engineer both were very understanding of my situation. I think they understood that not being able to choose where you in your career can be tough and working on tasks you have no interest in doesn’t make for a satisfying job. It took a few more weeks of meetings but we came to an agreement. They couldn’t practically find me a new position right away, so I was stuck where I was for the whole of the production cycle of this game. They would try, however, in the fall of 2020 to get me somewhere else within the company where I would enjoy my work better. In the meantime, I’d have to do my work as best as I could. I also think my lead engineer also tried to shield me from any of the critical tasks that my particular team were responsible for. I received less risky tasks and smaller in scope. I really appreciated that because I think he was trying to mitigate the risk to the project. It doesn’t make sense to assign the critical parts to someone who isn’t particularly motivated to be there.
I also made it clear to management that while I was clearly unhappy with my situation, I wouldn’t be a distraction to the rest of the team. My particular area of the game had six or seven other software engineers all working together. These were my immediate co-workers and I understood it would be awful if I, as the new guy, came in and just starting complaining about how being on this team sucked. It would have been especially awful since my co-workers really went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming to me.
I knew I had to separate my job/tasks/situation from my fellow software engineers because they weren’t responsible for my situation or happiness. I tried really hard to return their friendliness and kindness. At worst, I had to be polite and I didn’t want bitch or complain to any of them. I have to say these were and continue to be decent and good people. I like to believe if the situation was different, I would have quite enjoyed their hospitality.
Unfortunately, there were many days where I had no motivation to be at work nor the motivation to complete the boring tasks I had. I do my best work when I have passion for the things I need to, and I certainly did not have that. As much as I didn’t want it to happen, that kind of lack of motivation spilled over to the amount of effort I put into getting to know my co-workers. When you’re bummed out about your job, you sometimes want to block all parts of it out of your life, which in my case also included my co-workers (even if they didn’t deserve that).
Now that the game is out and my responsibilities complete for it, I can say I’m not very proud of the work I did on it. I didn’t accomplish much. My contributions were small and insignificant. I was going through the motions most of the time. I think some of this was some shrewd planning from my lead engineer. He knew if I wasn’t happy with my situation, it’d be a huge liability to give me massive amounts of work. So, in that respect, I’m not complaining that I had little to do but that doesn’t mean I’m proud of that.
If I may continue with the honesty, I have never done so little on a game that I was there for basically start to finish. Nevertheless, my name is in the credits, they also sent me a fancy plaque with my name on it, and also delivered an expensive custom-made jacket to me. Everyone on the dev team all got the same thing but there were people who completed 1000x more things than I did. It’s laughable that I’m in the credits and there’s this fancy plaque with my name on it. I don’t deserve any of these things.
I think things got better and I made my peace with the situation once everyone started working from home in mid-March. Working from home allows you to have a sense of detachment from your job and your co-workers. You can choose to be more or less connected with things, it’s up to you. It was just easier to be less connected. I only spoke, emailed, or Slacked as much as was required for my tasks and that was it. On most days, I would give a 15 second summary on Zoom of what I was doing for the day and I wouldn’t have to communicate with anyone else on my team for the rest of the day. That really helped me get through the spring, summer, and now fall.
I acknowledge I wasn’t a great teammate nor co-worker. I understand if most of them don’t think highly of me as either a software engineer or person. I didn’t really give them reasons to think otherwise. At best, they probably believe I’m just a quiet, reserved person, who likes to keep to themselves.
Alas, all of this is behind me now. As I mentioned, I join a new team on Wednesday. I sought out a new team and position that should align with my interests much better. I should mention I didn’t have to leave the company for this happen. While I found the position myself, I have to thank my manager and lead engineer for helping facilitate the transfer internally. They smoothed out the bureaucracy and red tape that often accompanies such things.
Normally, you like to give your immediate co-workers a week or so of notice that you’re leaving. I told the rest of my team last Thursday I was going to leave and then worked my last day on the team on the following day, the Friday. To my surprise, I actually received some very kind and warm messages from my co-workers after I sent out that e-mail. Some of them said it was pleasant working with me, while one guy wrote that he’d miss working with me. I like to think he was being honest but I gave him no reason to miss working with me. I was polite to him but other than that, I sucked.
Now that all of this was done, I can say there were a few positive things I got out of this. I really enjoyed my working relationship with my new manager. He was probably the best manager I’ve had in years. He was thoughtful, caring, understanding, and he worked hard to keep up the lines of communication. I also enjoyed working with the lead engineer in my area. He is very good at his job and like all brilliant lead engineers, has both technical and people skills. Undoubtedly, my unhappiness was a complication and a risk to the project but he handled it well and respectfully.
I have tried to end this on a positive note and I am now looking forward to the future. There will be new tasks, new challenges, and new co-workers. You might be wondering where I am going but the superstitious part of me requires we wait for another post to address that.