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Troubles at a video game start-up ripple down the economic chain

March 9, 2009 | 12:24 pm
Employees of WhiteMoon Dreams feel the pain of the hurting economy
The remaining employees of WhiteMoon Dreams currently aren't  drawing a salary. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.

Once thought to be one of the few industries immune to the effects of an economic slowdown, the video game industry is feeling the pain too. WhiteMoon Dreams, a Pasadena company that has created a multiplayer shooter game, knows it.

A video game publisher canceled a contract with the company in August when the markets began their free-fall. That move rippled down outside the tech industry, as a front-page story in today's paper details. When he couldn't find other work, Bill Maxwell, a contractor for WhiteMoon Dreams, had to lay off his live-in nanny, Dave Vasquez. Vasquez shaved his head to avoid spending money on haircuts. His barber, Rogelio Valdez, says business is down 20%, so he stopped going to his favorite Chinese restaurant. Alice Lau, a waitress there, had her hours cut, so she fired her gardener.

The founders of WhiteMoon Dreams know that people depended on them. But without funding from publishers, there's not much they can do. They have to sit and wait for major publishers to start spending again, which they're hoping will happen at the Game Developer's Conference in a few weeks.

"Like all game developers, we have a stable of designs that we want to do, and we’re currently in a place where we could do one," founder Scott Campbell said. "But that’s just something that people aren’t looking for right now."

It makes you wonder: How many jobs would have been saved if video game companies were recession-proof, or at least believed that they might be?

--Alana Semuels

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