Literally they JUST announced it and closed. Effective immediately.
I mean like legitimately they held a meeting and just made everybody leave within 30 minutes, according to Kotaku.
No severance pay or anything. Employees literally got back to their desks and their e-mail accounts were already disabled.
They were told their health insurance benefits would stop by the end of the month and given no severance pay.
Oh and the icing on the cake: “at least one employee had joined Telltale only one week before the closure and had relocated across the country to do so. Another was a foreign national in the country on a work visa who must now leave “within a few days.” ‘, Kotaku reports.
They were literally pushing for hard work and sacrifice until the very last minute.
That’s f*cked up.
It’s not like you suddenly out of no where realize you have to close your company. Oh whoops. Made a boo boo there.
C’mon. They saw this coming.
Rush out the building. Good bye. We’re done. See ya!
Rushing, rushing, rushing.
That was really the mantra of the company over the course of a decade.
They pushed a “work hard” environment and “get it done NOW” schedule.
How does this happen? I mean that’s what leads to success right? Hard work? Dead lines? How does a company that pushes those things collapse?
It makes no sense. I mean we’re told time and time again that if you work hard, you’ll earn success. That if you push beyond your limits, you’ll land among the stars
Well what in the actual the f*ck? What happened? How does the storytelling game company that pushed all these hard work messages and values on their employees crash into failure? Where did they go wrong?
I mean there seems to be a bit of an inconsistency here. They were literally following the recipe for success to a T.
There’s NO WAY a hardworking, crunch-time pushing, results-driven company like Telltale slammed down onto the concrete from the skies above. There’s NO WAY they could have failed.
They were hard workers.
Well, that’s because as I’ve said time and time again: hard work does NOT lead to success, contrary to popular belief.
Laziness is the secret ingredient to success that they never tell you to add.
Why would they? It creates competition. It’s like if Coca-Cola were to release their recipe.
Successful people and companies don’t share the recipes to their tasty success. You have to kind of use your taste buds and identify it yourself.
Luckily for you, I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to the ways of the sloth and I definitely taste some laziness in that good ole recipe for success.
Anyway, let’s break down what ultimately led to Telltale’s demise and how it is similar to what we are doing in society.
Don’t worry though. Good vibes. We’re going to also sprinkle in ways it could have been avoided -- ways the Lazy Mindset could have prevented a catastrophe.
While they did offer unlimited paid vacation time, taking time off was frowned down upon and discouraged. Plus, it would put the heavy weight of hard work onto the shoulders of other people.
It’s like those “pay what you want” gimmicks, where technically you don’t HAVE TO pay, but if you don’t then you just look like an asshole.
But hell, if I worked there, I’d totally procrastinate and show up late, take time off. I’m not bound to the work hard mantra of anyone. I’m your employee. Not your slave. I’d encourage my co-workers to do the same.
Also, it was never actually required, under the company’s official policy and job description, to work over time, skip lunches, but the environment created within the company made it feel like you had to anyway, according to several employees from reports in The Verge.
Should’ve brought up and pointed to the books, man. This just goes to show you that even if laziness and leisure is written into rule, people don’t follow it if they feel social pressure not to. We have to create a social environment that encourages leisure and appreciates it, eradicating one that has disdain for laziness.
Break from the herd and be the sheep that lies down, instead of working hard on breaking the fence for the wolf.
People were pushed to achieve, meet deadlines, and hit a certain minimal objectives, and they all burned out. Month after month, they received e-mails from the higher-ups, motivating them to succeed through difficult times.
There was never time to appreciate or celebrate or relax or cherish their accomplishments. One thing done. Good. Boom. Move to the next one. Not even a "thank you" or a "good job".
No absorbing the victory or relishing in it. No appreciating the fact that you just won or did something amazing, as if they were some kind of mindless machine, , that is specifically designed to complete tasks, and not like, an actual human being
Had they been more lazy in their working culture, they probably would still be making awesome stories.
This is beyond disappointing.
It reminds me of the time NBC’s Heroes came to an end with a huge cliffhanger. Goddamnit, just wrap it up and give me some sort of conclusion (And no, by the way, the relaunch of “Heroes Reborn did not cut it)
Telltale Games developed point and click narrative storytelling games from the very beginning in 2004, making titles such as Sam& Max and Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park was bad, and a lot of critics agree. “Your game developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
It wasn’t until the release of The Walking Dead in 2012 that they gained the reputation as “the story guys", after winning several Game of the Year awards and having their highest launch in sales.
They really began to focus, not on the game-play elements or puzzles. But on the characters.
They created these character you actually, well, give a shit about. You care about them.
They’re not just some half-ass written characters with no-depth. No they are fully developed, fully real, fully human and relatable characters you feel you get to actually know as a person.
It’s the combination of these deeply written characters along with the gripping plot and heavy hard hitting morale choices that make Telltale Games titles so enticing and truly a masterpiece.
I mean damnit, Telltale, making me choose the life and death between two equally likeable characters is just-- it's one of the hardest things!
(this is one of the first major choices by the way, so not really a spoiler, and I mean, it’s an apocalyptic story so obviously there’s going to be some death involved; it’s not exactly Care Bears here)
People say Dark Souls is one of the hardest games, but obviously, these players that say that never did a playthrough of Telltale’s Walking Dead.
Sure, getting your ass handed to you by the same giant dragon multiple times is hard and frustrating, but try deciding what to tell a little girl, who’s been surviving up in a tree house alone when the zombie infection outbreaks, and is left with a babysitter away from her parents.
As a (lazy) gamer myself, it’s kind of sad seeing one of my favorite studios close. I really enjoyed their stories. I mean I enjoyed the Choose Your Own Scare Goosebumps and other Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and Teltalle brought back the spirit of those books and put it on modern technology. It was nostalgic, powerful, and entertaining all at once.
And I’m not going to lie, sometimes those invisible ninjas cutting onions would definitely be running around my living room while playing the Walking Dead series during some moments. Especially the end of the first one. That’s all I’ll say.
If you haven’t had a chance to play Telltale Games, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Really you are.
All of them are good (well, okay a lot of them): Borderlands, Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, but the Walking Dead, especially the first season, is in my opinion, is by far the top of their work. A must play for sure. Kind of like there are “must watch” movies. We have “must play” games now.
It’s literally on every device now, including both iOS and Android, so there’s really no excuse at this point to NOT play it. You pretty much have to try harder not to play then just kick back, relax, and watch the equivalent of a cinematic Choose Your Own Adventure.
You can download the first episode for free, and buy the rest at a a premium. Totally worth it.
Anyway, so everything’s Pure Conquest on the user-end, but behind the scenes, not so much. They were working 100 hour weeks.
One employee told The Verge said “The demands on production only became more intense with each successful release, and at some point, you just don’t have anything left to give.”
Another described it as being “on fire”, yeah hot and heavy, hectic and relentless. And as I mentioned earlier, they did TECHNICALLY receive leisure benefits like vacations and breaks, but they never actually “got” to take it. The work was demanding and nonstop.
They didn’t even have time to record their progress, update each other with information in e-mails or private company wikis. They drove for results and those record keeping tasks did not lead to numbers and results. It was a waste of time.
This” waste of time” could have boosted their morale. Keeping track of progress and perhaps offering incentive for reaching certain milestones along that progress goes a long way in inspiring both creativity and productivity.
Gamification, a sense of progress and leveling up along with gaining rewards for good behavior, is so vital
But it makes sense that they didn’t take into account gamification (yet alone a simple raw sense of progress), since they were focused on hard work for the sake of getting things done..
The only e-mail employees would receive, as I mentioned earlier, was encouragement to suck it up and just push through the difficulty.
I mean you know it’s bad when Lead Developers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin decide to up and leave right after the release of The Walking Dead (chapter one). This was the company’s biggest success -- the largest sales, the highest ratings; it won dozens upon dozens of rewards for Game of the Year.
Like, c’mon, wouldn’t these guys want to continue flying on their success plane? They worked hard and earned it. Now they gotta keep going! Drive it up! Go for something bigger! Fly higher! Be bigger! Be bolder!
See? This is what happens when you “keep on driving” to the next goal. You burn out.
You need a break. You need a celebration on your goals and accomplishments. You need to take it slow n’ steady. You don’t stop completely and settle, but you do take time to wipe the sweat off your forehead and maybe pour yourself a glass of rum n’ coke, sit back, relax.
Oh, I should mention, Telltale DID actually offer employees food and drinks to try and boost morale, but just providing these things is not enough. You have to give the time for them to appreciate it, and allow them to take the time away from work, not think about it, not discuss it.
While I couldn’t find any evidence of this directly, I imagine they were probably forced (or at least heavily “encouraged”) to work at their desk with their food and drink. That doesn't boost morale. If you have someone live in a porto potty and offer them food & drink, it doesn't matter, they're still living in a porto potty.
Telltale was adding new employees to their staff, and pushing out new story games for that matter, faster than the Dugger family was pushing out babies. But seriously, they went from a small indie company of less than 100 employees to a large scale business of over 300 in a few short months. They TRIPLED their employee size. Then they started to shove about 3 games a year out on the shelves.
That's crazy. It normally takes YEARS to develop just a SINGLE game by an even larger team of developers than Telltale had. They were moving and growing at an godlike fast speed and expecting an inhuman rate of productivity.
The growth was like cancer, too quick, a mutation.
Slow growth is natural and healthy. Do less, grow slower, with a more direct and focused path.
They rushed to grow things and win the (corporate) race. Then, like the speedy hare that sprinted as fast as he could, ultimately lost the race.
They didn't take their time to cultivate their success and move slowly, evolving one step at a time from a small indie company into a big developer.
Instead, they blitzed right through each small achievement, every minuscule obstacle, and winded up falling flat on their face from burn out and fatigue. They grew too fast for their own good.
They could have examined each obstacle and analyzed each goal with a bit of the old Procrastination lens, but chose to bolt forward without hesitation.
They tripped themselves up due to their lack of focus and ran out of energy and motivation due to their unruly relentless behavior and hard-working mindset.
Rather than taking the time to write their own music and understand how all the notes flowed together, they slapped down a proven formula on their note sheet and played the concert.
They lost the passion for creating stories and instead used the pen to write a best selling novel, rather than a deeply passionate work of literary (or gaming) art.
They burdened their creativity and possibility by following a systematic approach, as opposed to one that lazily allowed ideas to come to fruition, slowly over time, letting the mind procrastinate, get distracted and explore something new.
They constructed stories like a blueprint building. They did not write or grow them.
They worked as engineers, not artists (or developers for that matter).
Yeah, it worked and Telltale continued to tell great stories, but the audience could tell it was missing...something. It was missing passion and artistic expression.
You look at a company like Pixar, which to this day has not had a single flop at the cinema. Every movie they make from Toy Story to Cars absolutely nails it both in the box office and the emotional appeal. They encourage procrastination distractions, allowing the brains of their employees to discover things outside of the box, the formulated system that "works".
Telltale was so gun-ho about WHAT works that they never took the time to examine WHY it works. They became a game factory, not a studio.
They heavily pushed for results and sales rather than encourage actual art in it's purest form. They looked at the science without the philosophy, and one without the other is boring, mundane, and pointless.
Art without science doesn't make sense. Science without art doesn't make fulfillment.
True art takes time and is NOT rushed on to the shelves as soon as possible. It has to marinate and yes, sometimes even do things outside the "proven" formula.
The entire point of art is to break away from the proof, evidence, and hard facts. It is the beauty and expression of emotional exploration.
The fact is, Telltale stopped allowing humans to create art and instead forced carbon machines to run a calculated mathematical equation.
Our brains, as human beings, are not designed to be completely 100% logical and problem solving. That's certainly part of the makeup both psychologically and biologically, and what sets us apart from other living inhabitants on this planet, but part of that makeup, too, is emotional expression.
While it is important to control emotions and keep them check, not just burst out with them in an intense uncontrolled tantrum, it is also important not to ignore their existence and to allow them to "come out" in a positive way.
One of the positive ways of letting out all that emotion: the sadness, the happiness, the pain, the joy, the anger, the satisfaction, is through art.
If art is set to be some sort of calculated formula, as Telltale clearly made so for their employees, then those real emotions we feel, those employees felt, are suppressed and they eat us up inside.
They need to be released in a calm and satisfying way and nothing is as calm and as satisfying as art.
Telltale had their employees hold in all that emotion and created a hectic stressful environment to further accelerate the growth of that negative emotional cloud.
They created all this stress, all this pressure, all this negative emotion, without providing the means or facility for recreation to balance the work and pressure with leisure, or art to express and release those feelings.
Thus lead to the burn out.
They even went as far as burning out the youthful energy of recent college grads.
From the reports on The Verge:
“You’d get a lot of people coming right out of school, going, ‘Oh I really want to prove myself, and I really want to make sure that they see that I’m contributing,’” says a source familiar with the company. “The thing that broke my heart the most was seeing new team members that were just so gung-ho and optimistic and excited to be at Telltale get overused and abused because they did not feel comfortable drawing the line in the sand to say, ‘This is my limit.’ They either worked themselves out and would get sick or would become bitter.”
This is a pattern, we as society do for our youth. Take their ambition, enthusiasm, and youthful energy, then run it dry, instead of cultivating it and helping it grow and flourish. We teach them to be hardworking corporate slaves, rather than strong individuals and confident (lazy) leaders who can take a stand for themselves and others.
If you don't put the right fuel in a car, it won't run. Likewise, if you don't give the proper physical, mental, and emotional nourishment, fuel, to a person (or a group of people, a company like Teltale) s/he won't be able to run either.
Everyone at Telltale was just depleted and were not given the proper fuel to continue heading down the path of success. They were completely on "E" and could move no further.
You don't necessarily need a full tank of gas to run a car, but you do need at least some amount of fuel to go anywhere. You have to go at a steady pace and not accelerate, otherwise you'll burn fuel quicker. And you need to take pit stops once in a while to relax and refuel. Procrastinate with Purpose.
Now let's look at the leadership of Telltale's toxic "work hard, drive and go get 'em" nonstop culture.
Kevin Brunner and Dan Connors, the founders, were known for their micromanagement boss style.
These weren't real leaders. A real leader is laid back and confident in others. Micromanaging is tedious work and a real leader is too lazy for that.
After the wonderful success of Telltale's Walking Dead, Bruner pushed his ideas and demanded credit. While some of ideas were spot on, like the decision to add text in the dialogue that a certain character you're talking to "will remember that", a impactful little notorious feature in the series, he also stifled the creative growth and insisted that his own ideas be the final say. He even had the nickname of “Sauron” around the work place because his fiery evil gaze was always watching.
A lazy leader, a strong leader instead starts the brainstorm and allows others to make it rain and thunderclap, and doesn't try to steer the clouds in a certain direction.
Later in September 2017, Pete Hawley former SVP and GM of Zynga took over Telltale Games. Within a month, he laid off 25% of the staff.
Quite a remarkable achievement within 30 days. Reminds me of our president.
Anyway, employees said Hawley had a more laid back leader style and the work became less pressured and hectic, which is surprising because Zynga notoriously pushes IAP (In-App Purchases) in their games.
Zynga are the guys that made Farmville, if that says anything. That's where the original "buy more energy now or bug the shit out of your friends to get more" business model was created. They were drug dealers luring in addicts. Buy more energy to get your fix or tell your friends so you all can get high. From a business perspective, it was genius, but from a gaming perspective, and perhaps even an ethical one, it was utter trash. Maybe they weren't the first to do it, to create this casual game you could pay or invite friends to keep playing, but certainly the largest and most popular at the time.
Zynga changed the gaming industry forever, for the worse, and ultimately encouraged, not only their own, but in general, developers to build cash cows rather than actual games.
But I digress.
By the time Hawley took over and started to calm things down a bit, though, many of the key talents behind the works of Telltale's had left, under their own decision.
Remember if you don't like the work you're doing, be a procrastinator and leave. Find something better.
It was too little too late and Telltale was finished. Like cancer, their expedient growth was a death sentence.
Now as of writing they still have 25 employees (down from 400, after layoffs), and promise to wrap up some of the projects, which hopefully means we’ll see a conclusion to the Walking Dead series. Future projects such as the Wolf Among Us Season 2 and Stranger things though are unlikely to release though, and essentially canceled.
Nothing is officially confirmed yet, and it’s all speculation, but it’s very clear, that when Telltale knocks out over 90% of their staff, they are on their way out.
There are probably about a thousand and one tales similar to that of Telltale's demise.
So many company's and start ups follow the false notion that "hard work" is the key to success only to fall in their tracks.
What they fail to realize is that hard work is not the key itself to success, but rather just one tooth on the key. There are other teeth on this key, including, dare I say, laziness. Seems contradictory, I know. But the key to success is one of balance.
("Research" is a time to reflect on experience and data and discover new opportunities, instead of "just do it". It is Procrastinating with Purpose, for example)
Certainly you can force work and picklock your way through doors of opportunity, but eventually the picklock will break. It's better to take the time to forge a key that'll open these doors with very little effort. They will open naturally, without any force or wiggling around, if you actually have the key to success.
And you may say well what about Amazon, for example, and their unfair hardworking, stress-driven environment. Well, I believe it's not a matter of if the employees of IF large successful companies will burn out but WHEN. But alas, that's a whole other topic..
In society as a whole, we’re heading down the same path as Telltale and it may be our Final Chapter.
To quote an employee from the Verge report:“They were just trying to get their job done right now, but nobody was looking long-term and being like, ‘This is unsustainable.’”
It is unsustainable, the way we’re pushing for results and success NOW, on the large scale, not just this particular business that failed, but in the long game, the future we’re headed towards, if we don’t slow it all down, will lead to destruction.
We’re destroying mental health, environmental health, physical health all in the name of “NOW!”
Society is just like Veruca Salt form Willy Wonka, wanting it all NOW.
Slow down. Procrastinate. Take it easy.
Working hard has no pay off in the long run.
Telltale employees, reflect on this fact and how they should have been more lazy during their time working there, in some Tweets gathered by the Verge:
“None of my sleepless nights or long hours on weekends trying to ship a game on time got me severance today,” tweeted now-former Telltale character artist Brandon Cebenka in the hours following the meeting. “Don’t work overtime unless you’re paid for it, y’all. Protect your health. Companies don’t care about you.” Another ex-employee said that they’d wished they taken more vacation time while they still had a job. “All I want right now is to REST for a couple of days,” they tweeted. “But since we got no severance and our insurance expires at the end of the month, I don’t have that luxury.”
If we make the right decisions, embrace the L.A.Z.Y. Mindset, eliminate the “work hard" mantra", slow down our pace, take time to relax and appreciate leisure, we can make it a happy ending.