tragedies #2: National Lampoon's Economic Downturn Vacation

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 10-01-2009 05:02 AM 1901 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: sealed with a trip Part 2 of tragedies series Part 3: Craftsman 13" planer woes »

I work in video games, and it’s seemed this year to be pretty immune to the recession. Kids always want their video games, and when you can’t do much else, like building that addition, or moving to a new place, picking up a game or two to play away the misery is a comforting alternative.

Or so we thought.

Looks like it’s finally trickled up, or down, or sideways, and as such, we had The Meeting today. While not officially laid off, I’m on ‘forced vacation’ starting tomorrow morning. The good news is that I don’t have to get up early! The bad news is that we’re waiting on a deal with another company before we can all come back. These kinds of things are notoriously painful and slow. There’s a lot of wishy-washy back-and-forth when trying to get a game started, or in this case, finished. We were told that they “don’t want to cancel it,” but there’s a lot of negotiating still going on. Meanwhile, the bosses – who are really great guys – have tried every avenue they could imagine – old contacts, cell phone games, 1-off stuff we could all do separately, like the script I alone wrote for another company earlier this year, and of course, subcontracted work for larger games being made elsewhere – a usual savior for us. Unfortunately, large companies are all saying the same thing – the recession has them fighting just to feed the mouths in their own companies.

There are 40 in our employ, and with one side job going still, only 5 will be coming in to work on that, and I’m not on that project. I do have 19 vacation days saved up, and will be paid for them as the days off add up, but after that I’m unpaid until we get work. The bosses gave the other company an ultimatum – we must know where we stand by the 15th of October. That’s sort of the cut-off date., but if we get the greenlight to continue tomorrow, we’ll be back to work on Friday. It’s all up in the air. It’s looking like at the very least, some layoffs will unfortunately be in order. The other company hasn’t even paid us for all the work we’ve done up until now, so we’re robbing our own coffers to pay ourselves for that for the time being. Fortunately, I’m one of about 9 leads, and the bosses privately told us that they will consider us last during layoffs. This isn’t really favoritism, though. Mostly it’s just seniority, and our knowing how the bulk of our programs and processes work. Small comfort, though. I’d hate to lose any of us. It’s a great group, and the end of the day was filled with hugs, well-wishes, and scribblings down of email addresses so we could all stay in touch in the interim, or in case that’s it for the company.

Meanwhile, I have some unexpected free time. Sleeping late, cleaning the workshop “for realz,” sawing up huge Eucalyptus logs, finally conquering The Ebay Pile (most of which isn’t even worth selling anymore – anyone need a 3” thick book on Visual Basic 6.0 from half a decade ago? How about two of ‘em? ;) – it’s all queued up, and for that much I am excited. I do wish I had no money worries so I could go buy all the lumber I need for the half dozen or so projects I really want to build – organizers, wood storage, cabinetry, shelving, etc. Plywood is pricey! I’ve had this happen once before in about 2003, free after we were all let go at the end of months of hard work at a company, trying to enjoy the time, worrying alongside that about finding new work. I’m fine, though. I have a good amount saved up in several different areas. However, with the incredibly high cost of living here in LA, it really isn’t as much as it seems. You can scale things for yourself by noting that a 1-story, 2-bedroom, 1-bath house of about 800-900 sq. ft. on a sub-1-acre lot, with a 1-car, detached garage, all built in and negligibly maintained since 1924 currently goes for – starting – about $650k, rents for about $2500/mo, no A/C. It’s crazy times.

Anyway, good luck to us all. Apparently none of us is safe from this economical beast.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

20 comments so far

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4749 days

#1 posted 10-01-2009 05:08 AM

I feel for you Gary, best of luck to you and your company on the upcoming job.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View Karson's profile


35295 posts in 5736 days

#2 posted 10-01-2009 05:11 AM

Sorry to hear about that Gary. I hope that your customer steps up and keeps the project going.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 4602 days

#3 posted 10-01-2009 05:38 AM

sorry to hear.

have you worked on any games i might have heard of?

View king's profile


71 posts in 5282 days

#4 posted 10-01-2009 05:41 AM

Gary, I enjoy your posts and I am sorry to hear about your job. hopefully it will be only a short amount of time off GOOD LUCK AL

-- [email protected]

View degoose's profile


7286 posts in 4690 days

#5 posted 10-01-2009 07:10 AM

Always look on the bright side of life..keep your chin up and your spirits high.

-- Be safe.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5157 days

#6 posted 10-01-2009 12:23 PM

Gary, this is a bummer. I hope that you get back to work soon. I know it is going to be a “vacation” for a few days sleeping in and working the shop but that does not pay the bills. Hopefully you will be back to work shortly.

I have always wished I could move my house to LA. We have over 4000 sq ft of living space and 3 garages on a half acre lot. Here in Kentucky it would bring around 300K, if we were patient and waited for the right buyer. My wife has suggested that she would like to build again but there is something about paying more money for less house that bothers me. Building costs here run $100 to $150 a sq ft.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5091 days

#7 posted 10-01-2009 02:30 PM


Wiith your positive attitude and talents, you will be fine. Shouldn’t be long before you will be back at the “grind”


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View PurpLev's profile


8653 posts in 4984 days

#8 posted 10-01-2009 03:59 PM

uughh.. sorry to hear that Gary. just before we moved out of LA we were looking to buy a property – a 2 bedroom APARTMENT in an OK place was running at $450K+... needless to say – we are still renting.

it is crazy times – in our case, we both are high tech people with good income, but still can’t afford to buy our own house in Boston metro (I guess we’re looking at the better places with better schools for our daughter so that makes things more difficult – but still…)

I heard a good tip 10 years ago which was – always keep looking for a different job position, even if you’re perfectly happy with your current one- just to keep your options available should something happen, and built your network. I hope nothing bad happens and you all get to go back to your same old jobs- but it’s a good idea to use this opportunity and sniff around some other places.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5582 days

#9 posted 10-01-2009 04:09 PM

Sorry to hear. I’ve closed 3 factories. It got so I was taking it personal. Thinking it was my fault. Just the darn steel at the time was all going overseas. I just went back to school and found a different vocation. When one door closes another opens they say, and I believe that. I’ll say a prayer for you.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View rustedknuckles's profile


160 posts in 5087 days

#10 posted 10-01-2009 04:36 PM

Hope things work out for you, I’m floored at your housing costs. Where I live I bougth a 2400 Sq.ft. 2 story, full basement home with 1 car garage and attached work shop on an average urban lot for 98 K. and that was 12 K below assessed value (buyers market). In you industry would telecommuting not be an option? If things get back to where they should be. Could be a good way to reduce your personal overhead. Mind you I would be hard pressed to leave California if I lived there.

Good luck and stay busy!

-- Dave- New Brunswick

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 5274 days

#11 posted 10-01-2009 04:43 PM

I’ve been fired before, but never “laid off”. It seems like there is hope for you to be “laid back on”, so I will keep my fingers crossed that things work for you.

In the meantime, start looking around for something else to do if “on” doesn’t happen, but also take the time off as time off. clean the shop, day trip, or whatever you can do to not think about the predicament. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

work is small stuff…

-- Steven

View alaskan79's profile


74 posts in 4688 days

#12 posted 10-01-2009 06:49 PM

I know how it feels to get layed off. I got layed off last mid-dec. and got called back in mid-may. You just need to keep your ears and eyes open because you never know when something might come your way. Right now even through I am working I do have a resume in at a different company that is a big increase in wages. Just by keeping my eyes and ears open I came across it.


-- alaskan79, Michigan

View RexMcKinnon's profile


2593 posts in 4530 days

#13 posted 10-01-2009 11:20 PM

That sucks Gary. Hopefully your company does get that other contract. If not I am sure there are better thing in store for your future. Maybe you need to free time to find them.

-- If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


23286 posts in 5011 days

#14 posted 10-02-2009 04:42 AM

Good luck Gary!! I’ve been through the ups and downs many times in the construction business in the last 40 yrs. At least you have a bit of vaction time coming and a deadline where yoiu sort of know what will happen.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MOJOE's profile


571 posts in 4604 days

#15 posted 10-02-2009 05:12 AM

Yes Sir, times are a bit crazy right now. With luck, everything will work out for the best. Best wishes my friend, I hope it all gets straightened out.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

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