The serious business of making games

Are there any malls that aren’t dead or dying, even pre-COVID? When I noticed that here in the Denver area one mall would get more and more empty and run-down while they built a brand new one across town, I realized that the whole concept of shopping malls was an engine of civic decay.

It’s nice that they’ve figured out what to do with one of them. Shame about the other thousand.

EDIT: Make that two of them, I guess.

So the mall was already playing host to a doomed WeWork-style office space, so some portion of it is already setup as fancy high tech office space.

Luckily the area around it isn’t in terrible shape, financially. Cary is basically one of the nice, albeit fairly sleepy/boring, suburbs around Raleigh where a good chunk of the early wave of tech company employees moved to. “Central Area for Relocated Yankees,” it’s often called. The mall itself was basically a wasteland, but surrounding business parks and the like were in great shape.

One of my two favorite tabletop gaming shops is all of about 2 minutes down the road, and I think this will see a big surge in business for them going forward, which is great. We’ve already lost one of our three big tabletop gaming stores to the pandemic, and the others are hurting :(

Interestingly, a mall in North Raleigh, Triangle Town Center, was bought out by new management a few years ago and completely revitalized; it was thriving before the pandemic. People were actually feeling hopeful because Cary Towne Center had been bought, or was gonna be bought, by those same people, but I’m guessing they realized it was just too far gone and sold it out to Epic, instead, who’ve needed better office space for aaaaages.

I’m probably too cynical, but give that revitalized mall eight or ten years and it’ll be back to a blight, I bet.

Yes. I believe there were a number of malls that were doing quite well before the outbreak, some of the experience malls, think the ones with like theme parks in them, some of the ones focused on outlet stores and lifestyle offerings… I mean they were even labeled as thriving, before COVID. I am not sure how any of them can do well during it though.

I don’t think the thriving malls were actually outnumber the dying ones though. I’d rather have a dying mall though that the giant graveyard that is left behind when a box store dies though… one say like, Sears.

Yeah big box stores are similar, but I feel like I see them get refilled a little more often, even if it’s with a dollar store or a seasonal Halloween shop. A dead mall is like a crater in the middle of your suburb.

Anyway, speaking of establishments that are hard hit by COVID, here’s the best re-use of a big box store I’ve ever experienced! (I’m referring to the one in Santa Fe. They were supposed to open one here in Denver in 2020, but… welp.)

Now that looks cool. When I think of some sort of theme’d experience, I usually think about the scams that pop up around the world that look like this:

Or that ridiculously expensive Jurassic Quest that makes a killing out of charging adults more than they do the kids who actually want to experience it.

Hey maybe next year for Denver!

Well it sold for just $31m a year ago, so it’s probably considerably higher than a mall would go for without planning permission for rezoning, though to be fair that would have been during the worst of the pandemic financial crisis so probably a forced sale. It sounds like they’re just going to knock it down and rebuild it entirely. That’s what the previous owners were planning and got permission for.

Man they could make it into a games park! Ontop of the boring office stuff ofcourse.

Rackspace did the same back in 2012

The building itself is in pretty good shape. Whether they tear it down remains to be seen. From a real estate investment perspective, it’s an amazing piece of land in a very desirable part of the area. I suspect it will increase in value after Covid is no longer dominating. There are a ton of excellent Indian restaurants nearby. :)

Sure, they might not, though the quotes in the article do not sound like they’re leaving it standing. But even if they are, it takes a lot of work to refit a shopping centre as offices — the floorplates are all wrong, ventilation and cabling would need to be completely redone, a lot of the fixtures and fittings are unsuitable, etc, so you’d basically have to gut the interior. On the plus side, using it for their own headquarters means they don’t have to worry about making it suitable for other tenants.

The serious business of making Lego games in 1997:

Mindscape, developer of the iconic 1997 Lego game Lego Island, laid off the project’s team to avoid paying them various bonuses.

The small team which built Lego Island had worked on the game for two years and had already begun work on an underwater-set follow-up. But when it became clear how successful Lego Island would be, Mindscape bosses took action to avoid paying them their contracted royalties.

Documentary maker Ethan Vincent and games journalist Brian Crecente talk to various people employed within the Lego Group at the time, as well as those who worked on Lego Island itself.

“When the game came out, we knew that it was going to be big,” Lego Island senior producer Scott Anderson said. “We have a terrific program in place for bonuses, for the team. And when the game came out, rather than pay off the, uh, the people who work on it, I mean, they sold like a lot of copies in the first day. And so they owed us royalties, they owed us a lot of bonuses and they decided that they would fold the company rather than pay us. So they fired the whole team, and then they folded the company.”

While Mindscape would continue on under new management after the company sold itself, the Lego Group did not contract the developer again for Lego Island 2, or any further project. And, sadly, without the original team on board, Lego Island’s sequels never lived up to the original.

It’s no wonder the game industry has such a problem holding on to its talent. Why would anyone with actual programming skills (and thus capable of getting a job anywhere) voluntarily work for that kind of company?

When I first started working on my CS degree, I really wanted to work in games. It didn’t take me long to start asking the same question, though. I decided I was much better off making “boring” software and enjoying games in my leisure time. It’s not an industry I would want any part of both for how awful the industry is run as well as how toxic gamers can be. I don’t really need death threats or other crap because someone’s class got nerfed or a server crashed.

Somewhat atngential, I am looking to learn proper coding, as in for an actual career

I got contacted by a company offering me a full stack web developer course.

It looks good, and I have both the time and the spare money to go for it.

Thoughts? Especially form the more experienced here. I don’t actually have any friends in the industry, other than some people I know at Triumph (but they’re busy!) so I would heartily welcome outside perspective.

edit: and some preliminary job searching on the big UK jobs sites (,, etc) are all very encouraging.

I have a very successful third career as a full-stack developer after going through a local bootcamp in my city. So it can absolutely be a great move. I am so much happier, more fulfilled, and more successful than I ever have been and the bootcamp absolutely gave me the springboard I needed. Some things to look for:

  1. Having completed projects you can talk about and use as portfolio pieces in interviews. They call this out on their site, so you’re probably good here.

  2. Group work. I can’t stress enough how important collaboration and communication – the “soft skills” – are. I really liked how one of our faculty put it: “Being able to write the code is the table stakes. Everyone who makes it to an interview can do that. You get the job by being someone the other people want to come in and be around every day.” Plus software development is a highly collaborative endeavor. Being able to speak to your challenges and triumphs in a group setting is a must for anyone I would consider hiring.

  3. Professional development methodology. You don’t have to become a scrum master to be a developer, but some training in the forms of team development is essential. How to scope work appropriately, iterative implementation, design-first structure, working with version control – it’s important to be at least introduced to that side of the profession.

  4. Contacts with the business community. I would have been lost trying to find my first job in the biz without the contacts and networking available to me as an alum. My bootcamp had been around my city for years and placed hundreds of junior developers by the time I graduated, and their reputation for graduating quality candidates was huge to help get my foot in the door. The last place you want to be is feeding your resume into Indeed or whatever and hoping the algorithm spits a job out. Find out what post-grad placement help looks like before committing.

  5. Finally, this is true of any education, but you get out what you put in. I basically put my life on hold for six months to do mine – I didn’t really game, my wife took on the vast bulk of childcare duties, I barely saw friends and family – I busted my ass to graduate in the best possible position I could and it paid off. The people in my cohort who didn’t put in the work, well, they went back to bartending or smoking weed or whatever.

This career isn’t one where you can expect to warm a seat and be successful – at least not until you’re a couple years in. At that point you can punch a clock and be a “career mid-level” and remain gainfully employed until the heat death of the universe as long as you’re anywhere near competent – the labor shortage is that real. But not as a junior, not coming from a bootcamp.

Hope that helps!

That makes me so happy to hear that. Glad you’ve settled in to a good place.

I spoke to a lovely lady on the phone for 15 minutes, and a full 5 or more was about this specifically. She was at pains to point out how they support students, and aim for you to be generating £ projects about a third of the way into the course, and how to find the job openings, how to apply for them, how to display your portfolio (after you build it.)

I currently have no job but some passive income, so I have decent amounts of free time.

The course is some 500 to 600 hrs long.

I can comfortably put in 5 hrs a day (no job, and can work/study from home) and possibly more.

I tend to work best when there is something big on the line, and this would be something big.

That’s fine by me. I’m hoping to start a family soon, so the longer term goal is to have a job I like and that earns me decent money so I can provide, major bonus points for using computers (which I like) and being able to do it online (so not tied to any one location.)

It’s been a long time coming but over the last couple of years I’ve been leaning towards a job like this anyway, so it seems providential to find this course.

edit: one hopes my coding will be better than my typing :P

This is a great post and should be somewhere else besides just the gaming business thread.

I love my current career, but also suffer from the uncertainty of knowing I have a much better than average setup (even within this career path) and the sector is going through quite a bit of upheaval that may eventually get to me. I have some relevant skills/inclinations to a development career track and do occasionally envy the geographic flexibility (which my current career certainly is not, outside of pandemic).

I’ve often thought, and still do think, that if I suddenly lost my job (or, absolutely needed a change of place), the first thing I’d do is enroll in a intensive boot camp along the lines of what you describe. Your post makes that sound like a decent plan.

I would heavily spend some time trying to find reviews and alumni to give some views on any program you do. There are good programs out there, but a lot of really poor ones as well.