Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lum gets mad

Scott Jennings perfected the art of rant blogging at a point in time where the word "blog" wasn't even invented yet. And while I don't always agree with his opinions, I certainly respect the man, and in expressing my disagreement try to remain as factual as possible, and not attack him personally. Greedy Goblin Gevlon obviously had no idea who Scott is, and anyway isn't the type of person who'd express himself carefully to not be insulting. So he basically called Scott a crybaby, and of course Scott replied in his usual masterful style. The discussion is already at the Godwin stage, and makes for an interesting read.

I'll try to stay neutral, because both sides have their good points. Gevlon calling any form of social mechanism an "ape sub-routine" doesn't especially come over as a nice person. But then Gevlon is looking at the issue from a cold capitalist point of view, which doesn't justify, but explain, how layoffs happen. Scott is talking about business ethics and how things *should* be, and the problems of regular people caught up in that cold capitalist system. No wonder the two don't find much common ground.

In a way, both of them are right. Recessions have a way to bring out the nastier sides of the capitalist system. I know the inside of game companies only from various videos, but it always struck me how young the people working there are on average. Ever see any people over 50 in these places? You can't expect lifelong employment in a company that obviously has no use for older people. On the other hand few people really consider their long-term future when applying for a job somewhere, especially if its the first job. A game company certainly sounds like a cool place to work at, and if the salary is right and the atmosphere is great, I can understand that people want to work there. Whoever you talk to at such a company probably tells you how great their prospects are, and one would have to be exceptionally cool-headed to realize that many game studios depend on the success of one or two games. The developers at Vanguard who are said to have been fired collectively on the companies parking lot lost their job two years ago, without any recession or financial crisis involved. Getting fired is nearly always a personal tragedy, however much those layoffs appear inevitable in hindsight. And even if a wiser person might have chosen to work for something offering safer employment, lets say an investment bank for example, he could still end up in the same unemployment line. Economic theory is macroscopic, it might be able to explain the percentage of unemployment, but is completely unable to deal with individual suffering from the consequences. So while Gevlon's explanation of the capitalist system aren't wrong, Scott certainly is right in saying that these explanations aren't helpful. At least not to the people involved and their friends.

I'd also like to offer my apologies to anyone who felt offended by my earlier post on how layoffs aren't a betrayal. I tried to keep it respectful, but of course the same logic applies: Even if an explanation is correct, it isn't necessarily a good justification, and often doesn't help at all.

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