My Telltale Layoff: A Follow Up

Since 2012, I’ve struggled on how, if, and when I should publish what I’m about to say. For this first fully public disclosure, I’ll stick to the main points.

I loved working at Telltale Games. I worked with a number of people whose work I grew up on. Worked with franchises I loved and lead me to working in video games. This is what happened to me for that dedication.

  • April 30th, 2007:
    • Started at Telltale Games.
  • April 2007 – July 2012:
  • July 18, 2012:
  • July 28, 2013:
    • Informed by lead management of Telltale Games of the list of companies where I “need not apply” to.
    • Later, some of these studios confirmed this status in various ways.
  • November 27, 2013:
    • Found employment as a contractor in front-end web development at an ad agency.
    • 507 days since the Telltale layoff.
  • July 18, 2014:
    • Gag order from layoff expired.
  • July 18, 2017:
    • Non Disclosure Agreement, which technically covered gag order, expires.
  • Late September 2018:

This does not begin to describe what I endured by these events. It doesn’t cover the isolation, the paranoia, and assortment of other forms of trauma and recovery from the last seven years. This doesn’t include the people who did make positive work to assist me though this time. If there’s interest in the deeper story, I’m willing to give further details and the few receipts I have. Though I confess that most of my information came from individuals who spoke to me and no recordings exist.

To be clear: I don’t believe that every studio had me on a list. I had a narrow set of skills that only a few places would find relevant. These places were actively closed to me. In other cases, recruiters of certain studios had blanket policies against Telltale content programmers as the skill set was seen as incompatible. That too was told to me in-person at a recruiting event. I was a narrative designer in a world where that wasn’t a title one could have.

At this point, it’s hard for me to see a path to work in video games again. Too much time has passed for my experience to be relevant in the eyes of the current state of the industry. The management of Telltale succeeded in their goals, for whatever their reasons, to remove me from the industry. Even with the closure of the studio, they won and I lost.

For today, it’s a big step for me to come forward. With the support of friends and years of therapy, I’m finally able to share this testimony with you. It’s not a complete, but it’s enough.

Video games. They’ll break your heart.

Interactive Fiction & Netflix

This article won’t contain spoilers. I haven’t experienced Bandersnatch yet.

As 2018 came to a close, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film exclusive to the platform. Black Mirror is our current time’s Twilight Zone where the genre allows for a deep dive into a single idea of fiction and allowing us to reexamine choices in our present time. And it’s time that the Interactive Fiction world to get their butts together and make pitches to Netflix.

In 2015, The Atlantic wrote about the process Netflix undergoes to improve the dataset for their recommendation engine. The company spent the resources to define every piece of media it could define, including media it hasn’t (or ever) released on the platform. Using this dataset, Netflix is able to obtain the value of the property by how many users the company believes will enjoy that content.

With that dataset and recommendation engine dialed in, Netflix knows the value of a piece of content. This dataset is absolutely instrumental to the development of self-published content. The pitch process for motion pictures is along the lines of tastemakers dictating if a project was financially viable. This was based more on subjective opinions of executives, mostly of white men.

What happens when you take a pitch, do the tagging work as if the piece existed, and see what potential viewership numbers come out? Now you have a more calculated guess to the financial viability of a project. This is how we got Orange is the New Black after their endless search and turndown across other media buyers.

I turn to the Interactive Fiction (IF) community and ask: Which of your works can be adapted to film and Netflix’s interactivity capabilities?

And if you have any recommendations for any IF I should read, reply to me on Twitter @TheSeg!

Telltale Games: 2004 – 2018

There’s… there’s a lot for me to say. I still find myself deciding on what is appropriate.

I’m trying to find the line between the sudden freedom I have in speaking about my time during and especially after my layoff in 2012, but not drowning the voices and needs of the 250+ souls who not only lost their jobs, but have no financial support. #TelltaleJobs is an important hashtag. It comforts me that the class of 2018 is able to say they were laid off without being questioned by it.

In the next few weeks and months, I’ll start opening up more. Till then, I sum up my time at Telltale with a few small bits:

And it’s really great to hear from the other artists I worked with.

The Wii tools where complex, and I had to make sure the Chapman Bros could play the development builds from Atlanta. I made a bunch of scripts, tools, and documentation for them to play their game on-hardware. 
I love all my children, but Puzzle Agent will always be my favorite.

Eventbrite’s Lack of Account Management

It amazes me how Eventbrite’s event management user system is so convoluted.

Say a producer is having an event with Venue A. The venue maintains the Eventbrite account for the event. The producer needs to have access to administer an event. Great!

Venue A put in their email address producer@example.com as a sub account. Eventbrite errors: That email already exists in Eventbrite’s system. Producer bought tickets to some other event already, but now that e-mail address can’t administer an event that wasn’t explicitly created by that account.

Producer creates a new e-mail address, then asks the venue to use a different email address, user-eventbrite@example.com. Great! All good.

A few months later, the same producer is doing a different event at a different venue who has a different Eventbrite account. Venue B tries to add user@example.com, but it fails. User gives their Eventbrite email user-eventbrite@example.com… and it fails. The producer can close the account, but would lose access to that venue and their event happening next month. The producer needs to make an additional email address to get access to the Eventbrite. user-eventbrite-2@example.com

That’s making a big leap that the producer can manage this on a technical side. Or the foresight to realize they can make irreversible decisions.


It’s 2017, and Eventbrite explicitly states you need to create a new email address for every venue account. That help page is a real gem of a document too. Besides instructing people to close accounts willy-nilly, they also advise users to exploit Gmail aliases as a fix:

PRO TIP: What happens when Google removes this “feature”?

How can software built in such a way where a user permission system is impossible? I really want to know what the irreversible decisions were made that support telling people to delete accounts and exploit email systems is the better option.

Now I have to mention that there are other ticketing vendors that have similar situations (looking at you, Brown Paper Tickets). So it’s not just Eventbrite, but it also doesn’t make it correct.

Besides a new ticketing system entering the space with proper user management built in, we’re going to be stuck with this forever. Should Eventbrite or BrownPaperTickets have in interest in making a system that works for event and venue professionals, I’m available for consultation.

Watch Dogs 2 & Gender Pay Gap

I’m playing Watch Dogs 2 on my Xbox One (aka: my Rock Band machine) and discovered something that fascinates me. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

The game is set in San Francisco — or an interpretation of San Francisco since depicting buildings may result to getting sued. One building that is safe for Ubisoft to depict is their own headquarters in San Francisco.

UbiSoft San Francisco
Ubisoft San Francisco
Continue reading Watch Dogs 2 & Gender Pay Gap

The Speakeasy and Audience Consent

On Friday September 30th 2016, I attended a preview performance of The Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, an immersive theatre performance at the production scale rivaling that of Sleep No More in New York City.

Marketing photo from Boxcar Productions.

There are a number of aspects of this show that were going right. The cast are all extremely talented delights who really show the depth of their abilities as performers. The content itself has very challenging questions posed both in content and to the art form. Sadly, the piece obfuscates all of that with significant consent issues.

I have serious issues with the safety and comfort of the audience of this show. As a professional house manager and immersive experience artist, there are conditions and policies that concern me. Conditions which, at best, prevent audiences from enjoying the piece. At worst, can cause emotional, if not physical harm. It comes down to providing constant and continuous consent throughout the performance. An audience that is well informed of what’s expected and how to opt-out of the space temporarily, if needed.

My concerns can be solved by the following:

  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performing ushers in every room;
  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performance audience lobby;
  • An organized front-of-house experience.

I’m deeply concerned this production will leave a horrible experience to people who haven’t experienced immersive theatre. After my experience, I wouldn’t blame someone to cast off the art form completely. I’d rather not make a habit of saying other productions could improve respecting an audience. I want Boxcar Theatre to respect their audiences now.

Continue reading The Speakeasy and Audience Consent

My Friend Jory & Dreamfall Chapters

This Friday June 17th, the final episode of Dreamfall Chapters will close a story told over 17 years. Starting with The Longest Journey in 1999, the storyline has been with me for my post high school professional career.

This will be one of the last titles with the work of my friend, Jory Prum.

Jory, Max, and Sam
Jory, Max, and Sam

I first met Jory early on during my time at Telltale Games. The Nordic sound guy with his own studios, Jory was one of the most friendly people I have ever met in not only video games, but in all of the entertainment business. That’s the thing about talented sound engineers. They always take the time to listen.

The last time I saw him was January. I got him a bottle of Prager Port Wine as a small thank you gift and met for dinner with Scott Looney. The gift was for two reasons: Years ago, Jory hired my friend Amanda Rose Smith purely by my direct insistance. The other: Jory was one of the few people I worked with that reminded me of the work at Telltale was valued. During the darker periods after the layoff from Telltale, it was a beacon of light and hope. I was able to tell him why he was so importantly helpful to me. There’s a small comfort knowing he knew exactly how and why I valued him as a friend.

There’s a few times that video games deeply affected me emotionally. Even with the rise and fall of my career in video games, Ragnar Tørnquist‘s story remained to be the art I strove for. I’m even humbled that Dreamfall borrowed from my contributions to analytics in narrative based gameplay. It brought me further joy to see two of my friends working on game, Jory and Amanda Rose. I’m going to be in a very private space when I get to play the episode. There will be moments of sadness for all the endings it presents and joy that this work is celebrated.

As artists, the truest celebration of our lives is to experience the art we create. While we are deprived of what could have been, we have what is already out there. We are able to treasure every moment this beautiful person created.

Jory Prum
Jory Prum

Two Houses [Alike in Dignity]

On March 24th and 25th 2016, we did an abridged version of Romeo & Juliet we called: “Two Houses: Alike in Dignity.” An immersive theatre production where the audience is moving and interacting around in spaces, and not a traditional stage & theatre seats, told between two physical houses on a street in Oakland. The production is framed as all the scenes with Romeo up till and including the balcony scene.

Like most good art, this started as a Twitter joke between Bunny (the director), Aaron Muszalski, and Jonathan Pirro (Mercutio) of doing the balcony scene in the middle of Oakland, ambient noise and all. One and a half months later, we did the show.

Note: All of the photos are by Joe Carrow, our official photographer of the production.

Continue reading Two Houses [Alike in Dignity]

Rich Media Content on Social Media

This is a comprehensive guide for making links from your website look good when shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

All of these features are free to implement. You’ll need to either register for an account on each platform and in some cases create a “Page” for the entity (organization, brand, etc) for the website you’re developing. Most of the platforms share the same if not similar settings. We’ll walk through all of the options in a combined view and how you can optionally customize to a particular platform.

Continue reading Rich Media Content on Social Media

This Photo

This photo.

Amanda Rose Smith is one of my good friends. Someone I trust and care about more than most, and do a lot for. Amanda is a part of wonderful memories from my time in New England and though the years continues to be a trusted friend. I joke sometimes that I’m her agent as I’ve got her a few gigs though the years. Which is to say, I make sure the right people know about her. What Amanda is doesn’t need interpretation.

In Jan 2015, Amanda posted photos from wedding dress shopping and did not have a happy face. Just as I was about to message her, Amanda messaged me saying she was considering a corset for her dress. I booked the appointment with Dark Garden Unique Corsetry for the day after GDC.

Autumn (owner of Dark Garden) came into the shop early for the appointment. I know it’s her job, but I thanked her anyway for doing a wonderful job. She make sure Amanda was going to get the outfit she wanted. As her agent, I requested that I lace her on her wedding day. As many of you know, I am trained in these sorts of things and I sure as hell wanted it done right.

On the day of the wedding, I came early to help prepare. I’m important enough to care and not important enough to be in the ‘official’ wedding photos. I helped prepare the space, but I had one job: Lacing Amanda. Beforehand, I got dressed with the rest of the groomsmen when I realized something. I walked over to her husband Patrick and said “This is a bit strange, but trust me”. I unbuttoned one shirt button, then buttoned it back on. “There, now say I dressed both the bride and groom” and walked out.

I waited next to the brides’ room for when Amanda was ready to get laced. Needless to say, Amanda was starting to get into panic mode as they were behind schedule. Switching to my customer service voice, I gathered the dress and asked for some help from the bridesmaids. With two bridesmaids at each side holding a ribbon, I went to work in getting my friend ready for her wedding day. Making sure there was enough give for the rest of the afternoon and evening, but will still stay on. When I was done tightening, I dismissed the bridesmaids and finished the knot.

When it’s done right, wearing a corset is having a hug travel with you. Sometimes I’ll signal I’m done lacing by giving a hug. This time that hug meant more. I was preparing my dear friend for a wonderful day, proud of everything that this woman is. Imprinting that hug with the friendship of all these years we’ve been in our lives.

This photo means everything to me.

This photo.

Seg finshing Amanda Rose's lacing.

Photo by Lesley Arak Photography.