Having been through a massive layoff or two (at EA), I have a rather vivid idea of what yesterday was like at Electronic Arts.

Let’s not dwell on that. It was no fun, and a whole bunch of people got caught in the proverbial threshing machine of business priorities. If you are still at EA, and still want to be, congratulations. If you are not there, and wish you were, my condolences to you and your family.

I do not share many people’s urge to shake their fist and rail against the cruelty of these financial institutions; I am not startled when a large, soulless organization makes a large, soulless decision, shifting the world around to better suit its aims. I observe these behemoths in the same way I would a Tyrannosaur: with some fear, some respect, and very little surprise when their predatory instincts flare up.

It is clear what it would feel like to have been given the boot. A variation on anger, or a variation on acceptance, or a variation on relief, are in my mind the most likely candidates.

What fascinates me are the moments just after events like this. In particular, when one is among the survivors.

For example. Immediately after a large layoff, the folks who have not been pulled into an office and given a sad (but stern) communication from the Human Resources group end up kindof… walking around. You can’t really work on a day like that, and no one expects you to. But you do go looking. Can’t help it: you want to know who made it and who didn’t.

And then, you see a friend of yours, maybe that one artist guy who worked with you on your level a few months back. And he’s out looking, too. You look at each other.

That moment there? The air fairly shimmers with the unspoken communication. “So. You lived too.” And, you both share this strange sequence of emotion:

  1. Relief (or regret) that he made it.
  2. Brief shared sympathy for those that didn’t.
  3. Quick (and unadmitted) pride that you didn’t get cut, shared (also unadmitted) with your coworker who also didn’t get cut.

And you both move on, looking for other signs of what people the future might contain, and what people it won’t.

And now, today. Today, of course, the surviving members of the Event gather together in the auditorium for a studio meeting. At this meeting, the Heads of State will stand up in front of the uncertain crowd. And, the remarkable thing about this moment is that as everyone is streaming in, witnessing the podium and the preperations for the PowerPoint presentation that will explain what just happened and why, and what will happen now, there is this almost tangible undercurrent, talking to everyone in the room.

“We lied to you,” the undercurrent says. “We have been lying to you for some time. We have been lying to you about the security of your positions, what the future holds, who you will be working with, what you will be doing, what our plans are for the studio… just about everything, in fact.

“However, that is our job, in times such as these. You know that, and we know that. If we had told you the truth about this before it happened, it would have gotten ugly. Because it had to happen. Or, at the very least, that is the conclusion we have reached.

“And now, even though it is remarkably uncomfortable to start over like this, we want to tell you a new story about the future. And, we want you to believe that this one is the actual truth.

“But… let’s be honest. You know, and we know, that this new story is also a lie. And, we are all painfully aware that that doesn’t really matter. Because we never tell you the actual truth. We don’t have to, but… also, we really can’t. Not if we want to keep our jobs.

“Please don’t think about this too much, for your sake and for ours, but the main difference between today and any other day is that today it is much harder to convince yourself that the world is not filled with monsters.”