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Keeping Back the Wolf

In a post over at Gameplaywright.net, my friend Jeff Tidball celebrates his first year as a full-time freelancer. In his post, he quotes something I said to him a while back:

Day jobs seem permanent, but it’s an illusion. Matt said he preferred knowing right where the wolf was all the time, right outside his door. He’d rather dispense with the illusion of permanence and deal with the reality that there are no guarantees.

I still feel that way, and I’ve been at this for over 20 years now, with a couple breaks. The first was to co-found the game publisher Pinnacle Entertainment Group, which lasted four years (for me, PEG’s still at it). During the second, I launched and headed up the adventure game division of Human Head Studios, which I left after just shy of two years.

I took that job because my wife had just had quadruplets, and we needed health insurance, something the freelance life doesn’t supply. With luck, that will change with the advent of the new health reform law. If that had been in place back in 2002, I never would have taken a job with anyone, much as I still love my friends at Human Head. I suspect we’ll see a lot more freelance and small business operations get their start with the backing of the new health insurance programs.

The one thing freelancing doesn’t give you that a so-called steady job does is security. At the moment, I’m feeling that. We’ve had a string of illnesses running through my house, including a burst eardrum in my left ear that still has me hearing funny over two weeks later. This all culminated in my son Ken winding up in the hospital for five days last week as the doctors pumped him full of IV antibiotics to beat back an infection in his mastoid bone, the part of the skull behind the ear.

I’ve lost weeks worth of work to these problems, and there’s no employer to keep the paychecks flowing on the days I don’t come into the office. On the one hand, I’d love to have that, but then that same employer would likely have made it clear that I’d hit the limit as far as how much time I could spend taking care of my kids. That’s not a compromise I care to make.

Anyhow, that’s all by way of explaining why I’ve been so quiet over the past few weeks. I’m back at the door now, listening to the wolves baying in the dark, getting closer every day. Time to bust down the barricades and go give the bastards both barrels.

Comments 8

  1. I was just thinking the other day how our family has been (knock on wood) pretty healthy for the past couple of months. Apart from a nasty cold that we passed around, nobody's been “out sick” for a while. Here's hoping that the New Forbeck Healthfulness persists!

  2. It depends on the company. Here at Disney it seems they work with you when you have extended family illnesses and so forth. (This tribal protectionism might depend on which area you work in. In my division it's pretty strong.) Anyway, I've done both and there's always a trade-off, for sure.

  3. I don't deny that, Maria, and I know that many companies are family friendly these days. For me, the trade-offs put me squarely in the freelancers' camp, but I recognize that what's right for me isn't right for everyone. I'm glad to hear that Disney treats people well.

  4. Awesome post Matt. I think you have to be going through all the slings and arrows that life fires at you to be able to put that stuff into perspective. You made the right call all those years ago, and are still making it- trust your gut. GenCon- you know the bar…I'll give you the view from the other side. 🙂

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