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.’”