Blimey, I’ve gone a bit slack on the blogging front – I last posted on my birthday.
Well, if it’s any consolation, I’ve done a lot of riding this year – more than ever before! Aaah, the benefits of a good summer – it was fantastic when it finally made an appearance! I’ve been going out on rides in the evening on the local bridleways and quiet country roads, and also joining in with the Thursday night XC rides run by RLSCC. This has made the weekends a lot more productive too – I can now do two laps of the Dog fairly comfortably, and have even done two laps of the Dog and the blue. Admittedly I end up walking a bit like a cowboy after a hefty ride over the Chase, but it’s nothing that a bag of frozen peas and 400mg of ibuprofen can’t cure.
Sadly my racing has been limited this year – I didn’t fancy Mountain Mayhem, Sleepless was cancelled, Bonty 24/12 was the same weekend as my sister-in-law’s wedding (which was ace) and Torq in Your Sleep was the day before Mr Toast started his new job at Sega. But things calmed down. Benny finally passed his bronze Good Citizenship test! All was well. We started to ponder From Dusk Til Dawn.
Then I was made redundant.
To describe Thursday morning as ‘very surreal’ doesn’t really do it justice. We were working away as usual. I went to the toilet, and, as I sat in the cubicle, I heard the door open and a male voice say, “Is anybody in here?”
I initially thought it was going to be a maintenance guy, but when I answered and had the response, “It’s Tom, you need to come to the second floor for a company meeting” – that was when I knew that something was seriously amiss. If the male company lawyer is coming into the ladies’ toilets and saying that everybody needs to go to an unscheduled company meeting, it’s not going to be for happy fun times. If you think differently, you’re either a deranged optimist or a pervert. Possibly both.
We shuffled to the second floor, a sea of concerned faces and nervous laughter. I cracked a joke about The Hunger Games – truth be told, I was expected mass redundancies. Blitz had tried so hard to buck the trend of hire and fire that’s prevalent in the industry that it was surely about time to slim down? May the odds be ever in your favour.
What I wasn’t expecting was the entire company to have ceased trading, with the loss of over 170 jobs.
It was at the same time both kind of expected and a complete and an utter surprise. Blitz had sailed close to the line over the past few years, trying to adapt from console development to a broader range of projects. With the demise of THQ, the bottom falling out of anything other than AAA console development and the emergence of mobile and tablet gaming, it was a struggle. But I think people always expected them to last – ten years is a long, long time in the games industry, and for an independent developer, over twenty years is almost unheard of.
It’s strange, because although Blitz never made a AAA hit, or anything that your stereotypical hardcore gamer would embrace, it’s a genuine loss to the industry. Indie Celebrity(TM), former colleague and all-round good egg Mike Bithell wrote a lovely eulogy on Eurogamer. So many of my former colleagues are at studios around the world – in Amsterdam, working on Killzone. In Canada, working on Mass Effect. Closer to home, in Twycross, working on super-secret Rare things. I can’t help but imagine that when the news hit the gaming industry grapevine, that it was like Alderaan being blown up by the Death Star – millions of voices suddenly crying out.
Because although Blitz wasn’t without its flaws (what company isn’t?), it contributed so much. Blitz was willing to take on placement students, and graduates, or even with people without degrees, as long as they had the talent. They allowed me to go out an champion accessibility in games development. They championed improved links between the industry and academia, helping students come out of university with relevant skills. And the Olivers are incredibly, incredibly nice, talking with relentless enthusiasm. Hopefully something good will spring from the ashes.
So, what now? Well, fortunately Al started at Sega a few weeks ago, so at least one of us is in a job. He at one point called me ‘a lady of leisure’. I threatened to punch him. But I’ve got a few interviews coming up this week – all great companies, but I’m aware that I also have a lot of great competition now.