“You don’t realize until it has happened that you’re doing all this damage to your personal life by staying at work all the time.”
Tim Schafer was 22 when he joined George Lucas’s thriving video games division. He was so happy — being paid for making games at the heart of Star Wars universe. The team had creative freedom and lots of cash to invest, but something was wrong.
The developer’s first major success was co-writing the 1990 pirate adventure game “The Secret of Monkey Island.” Then, there were “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge,” “Full Throttle” and “Grim Fandango.” The development process has its challenges, but at least there was no internet to distract the team.
There was no internet, just what you saw in front of you,” says Schafer, “so you weren’t conscious every day of what people thought of you.” Plus there was also real camaraderie among his small team: The friendships he made with fellow LucasArts workers Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Steve Purcell have proven lifelong.
The team had to keep going and going until the project was done. At LucasArts, developers would regularly work until late into the night.
We were happy, and the work was so rewarding, it never occurred to us that we were being exploited. Ron came into the office at one point and said ‘We’re going to have to start working evenings and weekends!’ and we just said ‘OK!’ But at one point we did calculate how much we were being paid per hour and it came out at $3.50, and we were a little more depressed after that.
You don’t realize until it has happened that you’re doing all this damage to your personal life by staying at work all the time,” he says. “You can mentally put the rest of the world on hold, but the rest of the world can’t necessarily be put on hold by you. I was so gung-ho about it. If you think someone will wait for you and tolerate you not being around… people move on.
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