Some Stats from the Wired Article

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I looked up some numbers to see how things compared and the article said they offered pay of about $35k/year within the past 3 years. Three years ago, Seattle had a minimum wage of about $11.50/hour, or about $23k/year if getting paid for 40 hours/week. This year it has risen to about $14.50/hour, or about $29k/year. That $35k does not look so great when any unskilled job almost starts at that amount. They are actually in neighboring Redmond, so I am not sure if they have the same pay rate as Seattle, or if they use the slightly lower Washington Stage minimum wage. But either way, that region is very expensive.
 

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Or negotiate for better pay and conditions.

What an odd thing to say. Like the world is binary and nothing can ever be changed. Which is patently and obviously not true.
Yes, but you cannot appreciate the impact that billions upon billions of $ of right-wing propaganda has had in poisoning people's minds against Unions in the US...

Truthfully though, in the late 1970's I was hanging out in a large gaming club most of the time. There were a number of industry regulars that used to drift through from time-to-time. I recall running into Lou Zocchi once, very nice guy. He sold me a copy of his Star Trek space combat game, that went with the miniatures he was selling back then. There were all the Martian Metals guys, they'd show up and let us tell them what sort of miniatures were hot for, and then go make them! They would sell them to us and then buy them back at some rate for recycled tin, lol. Some of the guys that worked with Steve Jackson and the Metagaming people would show up and we'd playtest their stuff too. What I learned was that there was NO money AT ALL in the industry. EGG and a few lucky guys more than made a living (Steve Jackson eventually did pretty well I guess, but he was broke like the rest back then). Everyone else was destined to be broke until they would give up and 'get a real job'.

I live down the road from WotC, almost literally, now. The actual game people are not super highly paid, aside from a very few core people, managers, etc. I don't think they pay badly, the couple times I've investigated IT jobs with them, they were pretty competitive, but its still not where you are going to make more than just adequate money. Paizo from all accounts is pure hell, 80 hour weeks and pay rates too low to even live hand to mouth on. I doubt they CAN pay more though. The industry is just too small and not lucrative. Its a hobby, not a career, unless you are one of a very few guys with their name on a D&D book, forget it.

I don't think Paizo people unionizing will actually help, though I think unions are a pretty good idea overall. It isn't a matter of anyone holding out, the boss ain't getting rich! The company will just end up folding if they push hard.
 

Cadence

Legend
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I went to the bar tonight. The waitress told me she just quit her full time job at a law office. She was a clerk (not an attorney) and made $16/hr. She made more waiting tables part time.

I looked up some numbers to see how things compared and the article said they offered pay of about $35k/year within the past 3 years. Three years ago, Seattle had a minimum wage of about $11.50/hour, or about $23k/year if getting paid for 40 hours/week. This year it has risen to about $14.50/hour, or about $29k/year. That $35k does not look so great when any unskilled job almost starts at that amount. They are actually in neighboring Redmond, so I am not sure if they have the same pay rate as Seattle, or if they use the slightly lower Washington Stage minimum wage. But either way, that region is very expensive.

It feels like for many jobs (whether law clerk vs. waitress or game company worker vs. starting somewhere unskilled) a big question beyond hourly pay are things like health care, 401k, sick leave, vacation, and regularity of the hours? Any word on how Paizo was with them?
 

"negotiate better pay"....as if the company doesn't have standard pay rates that can barely vary due to legal, HR, and regulatory reasons.....I'm not sure some people posting here have worked for big companies, or tried to negotiate salary.....
Not sure what country you live in, but in the US wages are PRETTY MUCH up to the company. There are minimum wage laws for hourly rate workers, but in most places those rates are FAR below survival rates! In a few specific areas there may be other rules, like livery companies or whatnot. Otherwise, as a business owner, I simply pay what the market demands and my business can support. If I can't pay enough to attract any employees, then I am just SOL. Its pure capitalism with very few limitations, unlike Europe or some other places where there are many labor laws.

I ran FOUR companies in the US, I can tell you, the government has really rather little to say about your business. Paizo, for example, is almost surely unconstrained in what they pay. If people come in to work and do the work at the rate they pay, that's all there is to it. People CAN ask for more money, but they can also be let go. Whatever 'legal, HR, and regulatory reasons' you are trying to invoke, they are largely a figment of the imagination, lol. Large companies of course have policies, but a small company? nope. It is whatever boss man says.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Not sure what country you live in, but in the US wages are PRETTY MUCH up to the company. There are minimum wage laws for hourly rate workers, but in most places those rates are FAR below survival rates! In a few specific areas there may be other rules, like livery companies or whatnot. Otherwise, as a business owner, I simply pay what the market demands and my business can support. If I can't pay enough to attract any employees, then I am just SOL. Its pure capitalism with very few limitations, unlike Europe or some other places where there are many labor laws.

I ran FOUR companies in the US, I can tell you, the government has really rather little to say about your business. Paizo, for example, is almost surely unconstrained in what they pay. If people come in to work and do the work at the rate they pay, that's all there is to it. People CAN ask for more money, but they can also be let go. Whatever 'legal, HR, and regulatory reasons' you are trying to invoke, they are largely a figment of the imagination, lol. Large companies of course have policies, but a small company? nope. It is whatever boss man says.
Please review my previous warning in this thread.
 

I looked up some numbers to see how things compared and the article said they offered pay of about $35k/year within the past 3 years. Three years ago, Seattle had a minimum wage of about $11.50/hour, or about $23k/year if getting paid for 40 hours/week. This year it has risen to about $14.50/hour, or about $29k/year. That $35k does not look so great when any unskilled job almost starts at that amount. They are actually in neighboring Redmond, so I am not sure if they have the same pay rate as Seattle, or if they use the slightly lower Washington Stage minimum wage. But either way, that region is very expensive.
Redmond is FILLED with all the millionaires that were made from practically every 90's era Microsoft employee. Down where I am, about 35-40 minutes south of there you can rent for about what is stated in the article, and older less desirable houses might be had in the $500k range, if you shop around for a while and drive a good bargain, but many go here for $800k or more (one sold down the street from me for a cool million last week). In Redmond itself, I HIGHLY doubt you will live anywhere near that cheap. I'm sure all these folks are doing some commuting. This is a pretty expensive area to live in, overall, though better than Silicon Valley and such. My assumption would be that most of these people have spouses or something that pull in good money, so making $35k is FEASIBLE, but it is still really rotten.
 

Please review my previous warning in this thread.
Sorry, I thought the article was quite interesting, especially the part about WotC. They're a pretty successful bunch overall there, but it would be REALLY interesting to know how much of that 986 million is actually D&D (I'm guessing its about 80% M:tG, but who knows. They say D&D is doing well... They are also branching out really strongly into video games and online projects now. Chatted with a couple of their guys a while back, they're maybe finally bringing their IT capability up to par with the 21st Century, which didn't seem to be really the case back in the 4e days...
 

aramis erak

Legend
Not sure what country you live in, but in the US wages are PRETTY MUCH up to the company. There are minimum wage laws for hourly rate workers, but in most places those rates are FAR below survival rates! In a few specific areas there may be other rules, like livery companies or whatnot. Otherwise, as a business owner, I simply pay what the market demands and my business can support. If I can't pay enough to attract any employees, then I am just SOL. Its pure capitalism with very few limitations, unlike Europe or some other places where there are many labor laws.

Redmond has $15.00 hour min wage. At 50×40, that's $30K/year...
Housing, in the form of a 2 BR apt, runs about $24k; 1 BR, $20,800... per year.
So... not a living wage at minimum... but it leaves enough to eat, especially if one has a roommate at minimum+; as then it's only 2/5 of income on housing. which leaves a reasonable food, clothing, and utilities budget. TIght, but doable.
 

Redmond has $15.00 hour min wage. At 50×40, that's $30K/year...
Housing, in the form of a 2 BR apt, runs about $24k; 1 BR, $20,800... per year.
So... not a living wage at minimum... but it leaves enough to eat, especially if one has a roommate at minimum+; as then it's only 2/5 of income on housing. which leaves a reasonable food, clothing, and utilities budget. TIght, but doable.
Sounds about right. I mean, certainly a household with 2 people in it earning $15/hr can (barely) survive there, but imagine being someone talented enough, and simply EMPLOYABLE ENOUGH (IE able to report every day for work, accomplish the tasks set out reliably, etc.) and with good enough writing skills to write quality stuff. Now imagine your future is 80 hr/wk of this work for just exactly barely enough to eek out a living until the say some idiot without insurance smacks into your car and sends you to the ER and totals it, or whatever other bolt from Zeus happens to fall on your life. I lived it! Not in the gaming field, but believe me, I lived it, for years. Its not something I recommend by comparison with taking a nice, boring office job, and gaming on the side, lol. :)

I mean, I envy people that can make a decent living working in gaming, wow, that's awesome. I am pretty definitely sure that would not be my fate! I can see how smaller shops, even the mid-sized ones like Paizo, are struggling to survive. They always do, and its not like they CAN pay more. It was simply ever so, even back in the heyday of TSR.
 

Sounds about right. I mean, certainly a household with 2 people in it earning $15/hr can (barely) survive there, but imagine being someone talented enough, and simply EMPLOYABLE ENOUGH (IE able to report every day for work, accomplish the tasks set out reliably, etc.) and with good enough writing skills to write quality stuff. Now imagine your future is 80 hr/wk of this work for just exactly barely enough to eek out a living until the say some idiot without insurance smacks into your car and sends you to the ER and totals it, or whatever other bolt from Zeus happens to fall on your life. I lived it! Not in the gaming field, but believe me, I lived it, for years. Its not something I recommend by comparison with taking a nice, boring office job, and gaming on the side, lol. :)

I mean, I envy people that can make a decent living working in gaming, wow, that's awesome. I am pretty definitely sure that would not be my fate! I can see how smaller shops, even the mid-sized ones like Paizo, are struggling to survive. They always do, and its not like they CAN pay more. It was simply ever so, even back in the heyday of TSR.

While there are definitely parts of this country where $35k/year is almost nothing for living expenses, there are also large parts of the country where you could live comfortably, and in this day of remote work, any job that does not require the employee to live where Paizo or WotC are located, is a good job at that pay rate. So the real problem is Paizo saying "here is $35k, but you have to live here for these specific jobs."
 

While there are definitely parts of this country where $35k/year is almost nothing for living expenses, there are also large parts of the country where you could live comfortably, and in this day of remote work, any job that does not require the employee to live where Paizo or WotC are located, is a good job at that pay rate. So the real problem is Paizo saying "here is $35k, but you have to live here for these specific jobs."
Well, lets not drag this thread further into this one weird little corner, but I've lived in a few different places, including some pretty cheap ones. There's no place where it makes sense to earn that kind of money if you have a choice! No place where you will ever save enough for retirement, etc. by having that sort of career. You can live, yes, you can even rent a small, somewhat run-down house in some places on that kind of salary. You might even afford an old beater car too! (mine was a 14 yr old Focus with a gimpy tranny). It is no way to live, not even in one of the cheapest places in the US. The fact that almost half of Americans are now living under those sorts of conditions... Yeah, that's not something we are going to talk about on EnWorld!

And, honestly, yeah, you could work remotely on game stuff, perhaps, but I'm sure there's a reason Paizo, being the one that was discussed here, chooses to have a physical office and locate its FTEs there. If they just want someone to phone in some work, that's what contractors/freelancers are for! You still need some core people that can sit down and review stuff and meet face-to-face. Its really VERY hard to run a team 100% remote, the inefficiencies are large. So, some poor person is going to be working in Redmond. I mean, I guess they could relocate their offices to Waco Texas! ;) Its dirt cheap! I hear Brownsville is even cheaper, but never been.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Sounds about right. I mean, certainly a household with 2 people in it earning $15/hr can (barely) survive there, but imagine being someone talented enough, and simply EMPLOYABLE ENOUGH (IE able to report every day for work, accomplish the tasks set out reliably, etc.) and with good enough writing skills to write quality stuff. Now imagine your future is 80 hr/wk of this work for just exactly barely enough to eek out a living until the say some idiot without insurance smacks into your car and sends you to the ER and totals it, or whatever other bolt from Zeus happens to fall on your life. I lived it! Not in the gaming field, but believe me, I lived it, for years. Its not something I recommend by comparison with taking a nice, boring office job, and gaming on the side, lol. :)

I mean, I envy people that can make a decent living working in gaming, wow, that's awesome. I am pretty definitely sure that would not be my fate! I can see how smaller shops, even the mid-sized ones like Paizo, are struggling to survive. They always do, and its not like they CAN pay more. It was simply ever so, even back in the heyday of TSR.
I've three acquaintances who do significant writing for income, and one who used to... None of them come even close to a living wage by it. One of them is, in fact, a game designer, living in Anchorage, with cost of living directly comparable to redmond. Said game designer is the only one whose primary income is writing. The other three? One's a substitute teacher; the second is married to a junior executive of an oil company, the third was writing soft-porn for several mens' magazines, and has since changed profession. Those middle two make about 1/3 of a living wage by writing. (Ironically, the cartoonists I've known? Both of them made a living wage once they got syndicated... but that was in the 90's, when being syndicated for the papers was a viable job. It's not anymore, or so I've been told). Writing porn? In the early 1990's, it was adequate for UAA In-state tuition, books, and housing. By the mid-1990's, it wasn't.

Essentially, if one plans on making a living wage by writing, one's delusional. That's the reality. The exceptions are few.
 

Essentially, if one plans on making a living wage by writing, one's delusional. That's the reality. The exceptions are few.

But what really is a living wage? That amount can vary wildly from state to state in the US and from country to country around the world. $35k to work and live near Paizo is poor. That same $35k from another company, like Steve Jackson Games in Texas, might be a much better deal. Austin is probably not nearly as bad as Seattle.
 

But what really is a living wage? That amount can vary wildly from state to state in the US and from country to country around the world. $35k to work and live near Paizo is poor. That same $35k from another company, like Steve Jackson Games in Texas, might be a much better deal. Austin is probably not nearly as bad as Seattle.
CoL Calculator if you are curious. Apparently you're correct, making $35k in Austin might be more like $45-50k in Seattle (which is itself not a completely homogeneous market). Still, $35k anywhere is going to be marginal. I lived in Waco for a couple years, and it is a CHEAP town, still hard to make ends meet on $35k, though if you are living alone and don't spend a lot its probably not terrible.

The real danger, and what makes the career choice of game designer (at least in the US) hard to justify is the fact that you live hand to mouth. You won't have health insurance at $35k a year (it would cost you at least $900 a month for ACA in McClennan County, though I guess the subsidy would help a bunch). I mean between, say $400 for health insurance, $600 for rent, and then you've got another $600 at least for basic necessities, once you pay your taxes you will have, maybe, a couple 100 bucks left over. Could be worse, but you're not going to accumulate the savings needed to survive long-term that way, and if your chosen career path of Game Designer TOPS OUT at $40k? This is why people either stick to amateur/part-time status, or just move on to other industries after a few years.

As for writing... You can make good money in advertising, screen writing, etc. but like many softer talents, there's a lot of people out there competing for the work, only a few top talents can really command big money. Still, I suspect that if you are willing to just write ANYTHING, you can find things that pay a lot better than Game Designer...
 

aramis erak

Legend
But what really is a living wage? That amount can vary wildly from state to state in the US and from country to country around the world. $35k to work and live near Paizo is poor. That same $35k from another company, like Steve Jackson Games in Texas, might be a much better deal. Austin is probably not nearly as bad as Seattle.
Locally, in the greater Corvallis (Oregon) landlords consider it a salary or wage >=4× rent, or rent+$500 for single bed in shared room. (College town, there are several places that rent 2BR to 4 unrelated individuals...) Note that those single bed rents also are about $500-$800 per month, but include cable, internet, heat, water, trash, and limited electric. (Excess electric is split across the whole unit.)

The SNAP program generally is based upon maximum monthly income... about $50+(200×qualifying persons in family). 20% of income is deducted from the base benefit. A single person is assumed to need $175 in SNAP if unemployed. Some state boost this federal number. In Corvallis, this is a workable food budget... avoid the fancy stuff, and it goes all month just fine. Note that the additional person is about $140 per person... If you want the exact numbers, see A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

I know that good internet can exceed $150/month. I've got 30m to the fiber 6 miles from a small town. Ain't cheap, but it almost never throttles. I got 55 Mb/s download, 46 Mbps upload, while streaming 720p, with at least 3 other screens probably pulling at least 720p or equivalent, and doing the speed test on my laptop, with my wife also on her laptop playing online games and at least one of the kids also... Odds are excellent my mother's also on the web while watching VoD. In town is same price and speed...

Electric is running $200/month in the rural area in winter, for a 2000sf house and a 40' RV, both electric heated, both used as residences. Summer, due to AC, $100/month.

That gives you some midddle-mountain-Oregon prices to compare.
 

But what really is a living wage? That amount can vary wildly from state to state in the US and from country to country around the world. $35k to work and live near Paizo is poor. That same $35k from another company, like Steve Jackson Games in Texas, might be a much better deal. Austin is probably not nearly as bad as Seattle.
Not so much. While $35k a year goes a long way in Texas generally, especially away from the IH35 corridor, it is small potatoes in Austin. My baby brother still lives there (I left long ago), and his city taxes are larger than his house payment. Housing is brutal. He paid three times the price of my house for a modest tract home.

But then, he's a techie, and has no financial pain.
 

That gives you some midddle-mountain-Oregon prices to compare.

Damn. That is high. I pay $50 a month for epic Net service. Based on a year, I would say my electric bill is roughly the same, but my wife keeps is so cold in summer that I wear full sweats around the house when it is 105 outside, so under more usual conditions we would pay a lot less. Rent is much, much less. I know people who scrape by on $7.50 an hour.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Damn. That is high. I pay $50 a month for epic Net service. Based on a year, I would say my electric bill is roughly the same, but my wife keeps is so cold in summer that I wear full sweats around the house when it is 105 outside, so under more usual conditions we would pay a lot less. Rent is much, much less. I know people who scrape by on $7.50 an hour.
Local here is $12-somthing an hour. Taco Bell advertises for $13 & up...McD's beats min by $1 or more...
Portland is more expensive in all but data services; I forgot to mention that the $150/month includes local phone service; if you're paying separately, direct comparison is problematic. OTOH, I can hit the farmer's market and get fresher produce at half the cost or less...
 

Local here is $12-somthing an hour. Taco Bell advertises for $13 & up...McD's beats min by $1 or more...
Portland is more expensive in all but data services; I forgot to mention that the $150/month includes local phone service; if you're paying separately, direct comparison is problematic. OTOH, I can hit the farmer's market and get fresher produce at half the cost or less...
What is this 'local phone service' thing of which you speak? lol. In my area (Renton, so down the street from WotC) you can't really touch decent Internet for less than $100. I'm sure I could probably get local phone, or some sort of 'phone' service, thrown into that. I do get wifi hotspot data use free (Xfiniti Wifi, definitely handy). Some things are actually cheap here, electricity is a pretty good deal for instance.

As for 'scraping by' on $7.50/hr, you cannot even do that in Waco, lol. I mean, sure you can, if you are sharing rent with a few other people. Those jobs are ghastly, they're all under 35 hours a week (to make sure you aren't eligible for ANY benefits) and all random hours shifts where you only get your hours assigned a week ahead. Brutal. My wife got bored and took one of those jobs. She's a hard worker, she lasted 2 weeks and said (to paraphrase) "frag this." Just getting her back and forth to work made it barely a money-making proposition. Min wage in US is worse than slavery.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
OK, so all this thread is now is people reenacting the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, but with their local US districts instead. Which really isn't as funny. Closing it down. But enjoy the sketch!

 

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