Dream Job Ended: One Writer’s Time Working on The Old Republic


Game Front 1-on-1 is a continuing series featuring interviews with and personality profiles on a variety of people in the vast and diverse community of gaming, including creative fans, passionate players, amateur developers and everyone in between.


Note: This episode of Game Front 1-on-1 is the second of two parts about fans who have risen, and fallen, from their dream jobs in gaming. Read Part 1, about Unknown Worlds’ Community Manager Hugh Jeremy, here.


James B. Jones’ dream job in the games industry lasted 14 months.

That was the length of time he spent as a member of the Creative Services Team for BioWare Austin, working on writing web content and assisting with creating videos for Star Wars: The Old Republic. The job started in April 2011 — by June 2012, it was over. As waves of layoffs hit BioWare Austin, Jones’ contract was allowed to lapse, and he left the SWTOR team along with a number of other staffers who had worked on the game in various departments.

“When you see somebody who was on your team, who had been at the studio for a hell of a lot longer than you, make that walk down the hall towards the conference room, it still hits you like a truck,” Jones said in an interview with Game Front.

Jones’ experience at BioWare Austin seems to have run a gamut of emotional states, picking him up from a low point in his life with an incredible new opportunity, and racing through hard, intense and rewarding work to a heartbreaking conclusion. It started with the games journalist, freelance writer and former military policeman receiving an unexpected phone call.

‘The Strangest Thing Happened…’

New Year’s Eve, 2011. James B. Jones has just made a resolution for the coming year: to give up writing as a profession.

“Before I was hired at BioWare I was just not in a good place,” Jones said. “I had closed down my gaming blog, which I stll consider to be one of my great failings, and I was a freelance writer in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s. So not a whole lot of work was coming my way.”

As Jones writes in his blog, MaximusPaynicus.com, the stresses of his professional life were bleeding into the personal realm. A lack of work meant he was struggling to keep up with paying rent, living with a good friend and roommate in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. That stress cost him a relationship with his significant other. He had finally come to a point at which it seemed as though working as a writer was no longer viable.

Up to that point, Jones had been getting by both as a games journalist and as a freelance writer working for various “content farms” around the Internet. Such work pays notoriously little for writers as they produce articles as quickly and efficiently as possible. For Jones, these included how-to guides of various stripes, for example. But freelance work is hard to come by even in the best economy, and in a down one — and after a number of personal setbacks — he was thinking a career change was inevitable.

Then a call from BioWare, virtually out of the blue.

“I had applied for a Community Representative position at the company in December 2010, right after I closed down my gaming blog,” Jones explained. “I spoke with Ashley Pierce, their wonderful recruiter, and after a couple of phone interviews I was told that not only had I not gotten the job, they weren’t filling the position at all. So, that sucked.

“But she called back a couple of months later and asked me if I would be interested in a ‘Web Content Writer’ position that had just come open. She had noticed my writing experience on my resume, and when she asked I wasted no time in saying yes. Emphatically. Repeatedly. I’m pretty sure I was obnoxious as hell.”

A few interviews later, suddenly, Jones had the job: a paid writing gig with BioWare Austin, working on the monumental project of SWTOR. Not only was he working for a studio he adored, on a franchise he loved, but he was being paid to write. It was a full reversal.

“To go from being press to writing about Star Wars at one of the most established and, at the time at least, most well-respected game studios in the world was incredible,” Jones said. “It was also scary as hell. My first few months were a lot of ‘Well, if I screw up here I’ll never land another job in this business.’”

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

5 Comments on Dream Job Ended: One Writer’s Time Working on The Old Republic

Quinsec

On August 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I feel bad for this guy and the other employees at Bioware – they poured their hearts and souls into their work there. However, bad management from the top has caused the rapid decline of one of the great game developers. I don’t know if it was EA or if those running Bioware suddenly forgot how to make great games, but something is clearly wrong at Bioware.

Fundamentally, the choice to clone WOW with voice acted quest text was doomed from the start. Jones claims above that they launched with so many features – but ultimately not nearly as many as WOW already had – where was the incentive to switch or stay? SWTOR had to lure away WOW subscribers or pull those in who were either burned out on it or didn’t like it to begin with. You don’t do that by reskinning WOW, with the features it had 4 years ago. There was so much potential here, and obviously well-crafted stories, wasted on a money grab.

If Bioware would have sunk its resources into crafting a singe player RPG experience, which they do so well, this game would have made the company a lot more money. At the very least, they should have tried something new with the MMO formula (the gameplay is exactly the same, afterall.) The company needs to stop rushing releases and go back to basics if it ever wants to recover. Someone really dropped the ball here.

DrChannington

On August 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Former Military Policeman? That gives me hope. Great article, and I wish James all the best.

R.J.

On August 18, 2012 at 12:23 am

I was a little surprised that he mentioned that Bioware no longer commands the same respect that it once did.

Capios

On August 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The tag-line under the Bioware sign in that empty studio picture speaks volumes.

Red Menace

On August 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Although I want to blame EA for the world’s problems, sadly, this is how the video game industry, along with many other industries, works. You are hired on to a project, not a company, and once the project is finished, they trim the hedges. Sure, you may be moved to another project, but you are also likely to be let go. I have friends in the video game industry as well as many other light industrial fields, like the pharmaceutical industry, and it is just the name of the game for them.