I once worked at a local newspaper, operating the machine that inserted ads into papers. I also worked at a bakery, washing dishes and cleaning up.
My first real game job was as a C programmer working on a 3D PC game named Montezuma's Return. I made $1500/month as a contractor in 1996, which seemed like a lot of money to me at the time (as a 19 year old). From there my pay skyrocketed as I shipped more games and got more experience.
Was making a lot of money a stress reliever? Not really. My best paying gig (at Valve) was exceptionally stressful. I made like 1/3rd as much at Microsoft (at Ensemble Studios) but I was much happier and totally less stressed out. I think optimizing for a balance between income, happiness, and low stress is a lot healthier vs. just optimizing for highest income.
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