Over the last couple of days, I’ve talked about how it was I came to be a contract worker at Wizards of the Coast ten years after I was laid off from my previous job there, and how their attempt to hire me full-time again ran into difficulties over the Creative Rights terms their package included.
It should be no surprise at all what happens at the end of the tale, but I’m going to tell it anyway, if for no other reason than it will allow me to thank people who have done me good turns, and show that I really bear no ill will over the matter (though I am somewhat vexed by it).
A TOUGH DECISION
The CEO had decided that the company was not willing to allow me any exemptions to the Creative Rights terms of their Non-Compete clause. Now I had to decide whether this was a point over which I was willing to reject their job offer. And, as easy as the principle of the matter was to decide, making a real-life decision based on that . . . turning down a regular paycheck and good benefits over a principle . . . that was a more complicated matter.
In the end, I decided it definitely WAS the right decision for me. I have too many projects, concepts, and stories I want to create, and they are there regardless of whether Wizards is paying me or not. And while they may amount to nothing more than the musings of a creative hack . . . they might be “the next big thing.” Either way, they’re MINE, not Hasbro’s.
So I exercised my rights, and turned down the job offer.
HARD FEELINGS? NONE!
I had individual meetings with both my managers and the V.P. of R&D, and explained to them what my thinking was as well as what my final decision was. They all were completely understanding and, if anything, supportive. To a one, they had endorsed me getting the exemptions I’d requested. We had good conversations, and expressed our mutual feelings that if the opportunity to work together again arose, we’d be happy to make that happen.
However, because of the previously mentioned “permatemp” laws, my contract was about to expire . . . and because of corporate policy, I was not allowed to do ANY work for the company of ANY kind for a term of 6 months.
I shared this information with the other members of the D&D Team and, on October 19, packed up what few personal items I had at my desk and ended my second term of employment in the Wizards of the Coast offices.
GOOD TIMES, GOOD FRIENDS, GOODBYE (FOR NOW)
I started the contract with some reservations—they say “you can’t go home again,” and I’d spent a good deal of the formative years of my career working for TSR and Wizards of the Coast. I knew a few of the key people on the D&D team, but not most of them—and they all seemed so young. Would they care what this “TSR dinosaur” (to steal Jeff Grubb’s phrase) had to say?
Well, here three four-month contracts later, I can see that my worries were for naught. I had a great time, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and got to spend a year working on D&D again. There isn’t anyone I worked with over the past twelve months that I don’t respect and that I wouldn’t work with again if the opportunity arrises. In fact, if after my 6-month hiatus is done, they were to offer me the chance to go back again . . . I absolutely would!
But only as a contractor. Unless the company itself learns to be more flexible when dealing with creative staff.
UP ON MY SOAPBOX
The current policy regarding outside creativity is not just bad for me—it’s bad for Hasbro. It represents old-school thinking, and it is at odds with what most of the very successful modern game companies (like Blizzard, Bioware, and other big digital game producers) are doing. Indeed, people FROM those teams often work as freelancers for Wizards (particularly doing art for Magic and D&D), and it in no way weakens the corporations themselves.
When you have creative people working for you, they will want to stretch their creative wings in ways that are not appropriate for the main company. If you do not allow them this freedom, they will either grow frustrated and leave, or they will grow stagnant and their work and attitudes will suffer. NONE of these things are in the interests of the company.
All the current policy really says is that “we place no value on nor have any need for experienced creative people with broad experience—we are only interested in raw, fresh creatives whose every thought we can control and own.”
I HOPE that Hasbro/Wizards changes that policy . . . not merely because I’d like to work there again. Mostly it’s for my friends (old and new) who continue to work there. THEY deserve the freedom to explore their own boundaries of creativity in their free time AND to retain the rights to whatever they discover out there on the edge. And the company would benefit GREATLY from giving them that freedom. I think it would be surprised at how much it would actually be reflected back into even BETTER work on the creators’ “day job.”
So, I guess I was VERY wrong about not having much to say on this subject. I bet I could rattle on even more . . . but not in an interesting way.
Besides, I’ve got this Kickstarter thing going on. Again, if you can help me spread the word, I’d be very thankful. In the meanwhile, I’ll try to come up with something maybe a little less controversial to talk about tomorrow.