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.

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

New Resume & Portfolio

I created a new website featuring myself!

Seg's Resume Website

I needed a home to showcase myself professionally, so I started working on this site. While this blog fits to my occasional musing of writing, this is a more professional site highlighting my career of the past few years.

It gave me a chance to play around with Twitter Bootstrap and Font Awesome, which are now my new BFFs. Not only do they make development easier, it also scales very well for smaller screen devices like mobile phones. It’s also hosted on GitHub Pages. I wanted to stick to basic HTML this time around since it’s been such a long time. I also used LESS for CSS. While I’ve used SASS before for, Bootstrap uses LESS which made the workflow smoother. Finally, I used CodeKit to compile LESS and minify JavaScripts. Such a wonderful tool that I even paid money for it!

This isn’t the only website I released over the weekend, but it’s certainly the most important! A special thanks goes out to the number of people who’ve gave a lot of feedback during my process. Thank you all so much!

Now Accepting: Opportunities

Moving on from Telltale after five years, I’ve been taking a few days to figure out my next move. I absolutely want to continue working in the games industry. I may have more shipped titles than most (60+), but there’s a lot more I have to offer to this art form. I’ve checked off enough boxes of titles I grew up on (Sam & Max, Monkey Island) and even started some new works (Puzzle Agent). I want to continue making new works.

My strengths are creating strong narrative environments. This can happen at large institutions, but I also have a wide enough T stance to be great at either small teams or start-ups. I’ve worked and submitted games on every console/PC retailer and make games on most consoles.

Now leaves the question: What opportunity awaits me?

For anyone inquiring, here’s my resumé to start the journey.

The ending is not yet been written…

As of last Wenendsay, I am no longer with Telltale Games. After over five years with the studio, I am now looking for other opportunities and projects to work on.

This is the e-mail I sent to the studio and is what I also want to share with all of you.

There are a lot of words that come out of me right now. Many stories of great people and the great work produced together in the over five years. Too many to detail for any one e-mail, but it speaks to the many accomplishments that this studio has afforded all of us. I developed as an artist and storyteller though this place. I developed as a producer and a programmer though this place. Now I am off to find my own voice as an artist. To find new ways to engage an audience in this art form we all love.

Telltale is a success story in developing rich narrative environments. It is that belief that kept me working hard all of these years and though all the titles I’ve had. And even as I depart, it is a belief I still carry with me.

So to all of you, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this work. It is truly an honor to work with you and being apart of greatness.

I close with one line from a video game that’s always been very dear to me and is perfectly fitting:

“… and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.”

Origin Story – Part 1

The following is a multi-part series about how I got into the game industry.

On the Something Awful forums, Nickoten asked me the process I took to get into the games industry. I’ve told people in person, but I realized I never wrote that whole story down. To fix this, I’m going to start writing about my journey to working in interactive media. I should preface this by saying that I don’t think anyone else can take this kind of path anymore as the landscape has changed significantly. What I do hope is the overall themes of my story can help others in their own paths.

The Beginnings

Continue reading Origin Story – Part 1

Appearance on Boing Boing Video

I will be on Boing Boing Video’s Live coverage of the Game Developer’s Conference tomorrow (Wens March 25) at 1:00pm PDT (-7 GMT). It’s a live stream and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a clip of it for later. You’ll be able to view everything at the BoingBoing site:

Boing Boing Video + Offworld @ GDC
Direct UStream Link

I should also note that I will be at GDC as well, sans the time when I appear on Boing Boing.

Where have I Gone?

So.. it’s been a while since a real post. Quite a few reasons for that which I will quickly outline in order to pad this post.

1) I moved!

I went from living in the North Bay where I was close to work but very far away from civilization, to living in the East Bay. Here the commute to work is longer by 10 minutes, but it’s a trafic-less ride. My place is also much bigger and accommodating to guests, not to mention actually on public transportation.

2) Vacation!

Finally took a vacation after 15 months working. Traveled back to Boston and NYC to hang out with friends in both areas. While my lappy broke on vacation, I was still able to hit the reset button for myself and come back fresh.

3) My Lappy Broke

My PowerBook G4 Laptop bit the dust and is out of warranty. While I still have my two desktops, I’m not able to remotely write on the thing. For the interested, I’m getting the ‘bad RAM’ post error where the laptop beeps three short beeps when attempting to turn on.

I have been in the market for a new laptop as I need to get on the x86 Mac bandwagon, but was waiting for the next revisions of laptops to come out. Luckily the rumor mills seem to point to a laptop update in 3-5 weeks from now. When they do come out, I’ll be deciding between the newest hottness or a refurbished which will be much cheaper.

4) Releases!

On Monday, we will be releasing the first episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People for both Windows and WiiWare. It’s totally awesome and will be a great relief to finally start the season.

Still getting a bit settled in the new place. Once I do I’ll be posting much more. Got a few topics I’ve been simmering about for a while and want to share sometime soon.