Quality of Life/Quality of Work Discussions

The quality of life and work of video game workers is a recurrent theme in discussions about the state of the industry at large. Although, they are not always tied to a particular event, most appear at a time that makes them at least tangentially related to the 'big events' like EA SpouseRockstar Spouse, etc.

An outline of the various career paths available in the industry:

David Mullich: Oct 19, 2015: What you need to learn to work in the game industry

Work/Life Balance:

Events such as EA Spouse have highlighted industry practices that put such immense pressure on workers to perform that their personal lives and mental health often suffer. This section houses articles that address the challenges facing video game workers in the maintenance of a reasonable work/life balance.

Crunch

‘Crunch’ is a commonly cited obstacle to striking a reasonable work/life balance. Crunch refers to a period of time in which video game developers are expected to work extended hours – at times more than 60 hours a week – to meet deadlines. Whether accepted as an inevitable feature within the industry, or vehemently opposed as exploitative, crunch is a well-documented issue in the discourse addressing video game workers’ quality of life. These discussions will be gathered here on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the IGDA Quality of Life Surveys, Develop ran one in the UK in 2009 and also polled developers about crunch/overtime in 2010. Their results are discussed in the articles below.

Health Care and Benefits

Health coverage, life insurance, and pension programs are not benefits that are universally available to games industry workers. This is due, in part, to the fact that many developers do not work under traditional employment contracts as employees to large companies where some sort of benefits package is the norm. There is a large subsection who work as contractors on a temporary or freelance basis and as such are often not entitled to the benefits of full employment; others are self-employed or work for small indie studios that have difficulty shouldering the cost of employee benefits packages. In these cases governmental health care plans have had to fill the gap. As such, the discussion of repealing the Affordable Care Act in the United States has generated some concern over health care for industry members. The below article addresses those issues.

Mental Health Services

In 2013 journalists Russ Pitts and Susan Arendt founded Take This, a non-profit charity that aims to combat stigma and encourage dialogue concerning depression and mental health struggles within the video game community, The organization provides quiet rest spaces at gaming conventions with clinicians on staff to provide support services to attendees as necessary.  On October 23, 2015 they released a video of the charity's evolution titled, "It's Dangerous to Go Alone: The Story of Take This". It can be found here.

  • The charity initiated a Twitter discussion, asking users to explain what depression is in their own experience. Here is the collection of responses.

General Working Conditions and Management Issues:

Stories from Industry Workers:

Compensation

Ratings of Individual Companies:

With a link to your Facebook account anyone can read company reviews on Glassdoor. Looking at a few for the games industry, it is clear that a range of positive and negative reviews exist and that the number of reviews for each company varies widely:

  1. Based on 77 ratings: Activision Publishing Reviews
  2. Based on 56 ratings: BioWare Reviews
  3. Based on 27 ratings: Rockstar Games Reviews
  4. Based on 9 ratings: Valve Corporation Reviews
  5. Based on 393 ratings: Electronic Arts Reviews
  6. Based on 10 ratings: Electronic Arts Tiburon Reviews

Other Related

Academic Articles

Dyer-Witheford, N. and de Peuter, G. (2006). "EA Spouse" and the crisis of video game labour: Enjoyment, exclusion, exploitation, exodusCanadian Journal of Communication, 31(3), 599-617.

Wimmer, J. & Sitnikova, T. (2012). The professional identity of gameworkers revisited: A qualitative inquiry on the case example of German progessionals. Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture, 6(1),153-169.