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 Spouse, Rockstar 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
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.
- Jesse Harlin: Apr. 5, 2013: A eulogy for LucasArts
- A response to the above article by Ben Kuchera on The Penny Arcade Report (archived on EQ2Wire): LucasArts' eulogy reminds us of the inhuman cost of game development
- Ben Kuchera on The Penny Arcade Report: Apr. 14, 2013: Why your games are made by childless, 31 year old white men, and how one studio is fighting back
- Anonymous on Gamasutra: Dec 15, 2014: GDC debuts childcare services so parents can attend worry-free
- Julie Bort on Business Insider: Mar. 16, 2015: The stress of being a computer programmer is literally driving many of them crazy
- Rebekah Saltsman on Gamasutra: Mar 20, 2015: The IGS Soapbox: Bekah's 5 Minutes
- Jurie Horneman on GamesIndustry.biz: June 2, 2015: Knowing when to stop
- Marie-Josée Legault and Johanna Weststar on Gamasutra: Oct 23, 2015: Working time among video game developers: Trends over 2004-14
Ian Williams on Giant Bomb: Feb 9, 2016: Guest Column: It's Time to Talk About Labor in the Games Industry
‘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.
- Evan Robinson on the IGDA site: 2005: Why crunch mode doesn't work: Six lessons
- Mac Senour on about: making GAMES: July 1, 2009: Crunch time = Producer failure
- Steffen Itterheim on Indiepinion : Jan 17, 2010: My worst crunch(es)
- Chris Remo on Gamasutra: June 2, 2010: Study: Developers claim 13 weeks of crunch per year
- Examiner.com: July 14, 2010: BioWare Austin protecting dev's quality of life
- Chris Kosanovich: Feb. 2, 2011: Having a life while working on games
- libcom.org: Apr. 21, 2011: When it comes to the crunch - Unpaid overtime in the games industry
- Ars Technica: May 27, 2011: The death march: The problem of crunch time in game development
- James Madigan on The Psychology of Video Games: Aug. 8, 2011: Burnout, crunch, and the games you play
- Brian Taylor on Paste: Nov. 12, 2013: Crunch time: working overtime to kill you
- Katherine Rogers on Gamasutra: Mar. 4, 2014: Working in the games industry: a job to die for?
- Ian Williams on The Guardian: Feb. 18, 2015: Crunched: has the games industry really stopped exploiting its workforce?
- Jason Schreier on Kotaku: May 4, 2015: What it's like to crunch on a video game
- Jason Schreier on Kotaku: May 15, 2015: The horrible world of video game crunch
- Richard Rouse III on Gamasutra: July 17, 2015: Is it worth it? Whiplash & the fetishization of crunch
- Andreas Papathanasis on Gamasutra: Aug. 17, 2015: Can crunch ever be fixed in the game industry?
- Press Release on the IGDA site: Sept 18, 2015: Press release: 62% of developers indicate their job involves crunch time
- E. Zachary Knight on Game Politics: Sept 21, 2015: IDGA: 62% of devs say jobs involve crunch
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.
- Ed Fear on Develop: May 29, 2009: Industry comes clean on crunch
- Develop: May 26, 2009: Burn out: The develop quality of life survey
- Rob Crossley on Develop: Jan 21, 2010: Develop Jury: The threat of crunch and overtime
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.
- Joseph Knoop on Waypoint: Jan 19, 2017: Developers speak up in the face of Obamacare repeal
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:
- Gamasutra: Oct. 26, 2009: Who REALLY says your product Is done? Not who you think
- Bruce Everiss on Bruce on Games: November 12, 2009: You don’t want to work in the video game industry
- November 11, 2010: Why the video game industry is in such a mess
- Kotaku: Sept. 5, 2012: Pissed off 'employees' bash pretty much every major video game company
- A number of forums re-posted the above article and readers are shown here taking this information 'with a grain of salt' given Kotaku's reputation for somewhat sensationalist reporting. Polycount Forum: Kotaku: Pissed off ‘employees’ bash pretty much every major video game company
- Ian Williams on Jacobin: Nov. 8, 2013: "You can sleep here all night": Video games and labor
- Dean Takashi on Venture Beat: Feb. 4, 2015: Riot Games' Brandon Beck says game industry doesn't invest enough in its people
- Ben Kuchera on Polygon: Apr. 15, 2015: Why do AAA devs often hate their jobs?
- Brendan Sinclair on Games Industry: Sept 22, 2015: Survey finds more stability in gaming audio field
- Chris Reed on Entertainment Cheatsheet: Nov 4, 2015: Five lies you've been told about video game development
- David Mullich: Jan 4, 2016: Creativity within constraints
Stories from Industry Workers:
- Paul Tozour on Gamasutra: The Game Outcomes Project
- Alex Norton: Dec. 12, 2012: What they DON’T tell you about being a game developer
- Username "PreludesAndNocturnes" on a Reddit forum: Jan. 22, 2014: So what really happened with Assassin's Creed 3 production?
- Patrick Klepek on Kotaku: Mar. 18, 2015: Veteran game developer says Atari's trying to screw him over
- Jason Schreier on Kotaku: Apr. 17, 2015: Kotaku asks: An anonymous PR person for a major video game publisher
- Jason Schreier on Kotaku: May 29, 2015: Kotaku Asks: An anonymous video game tester
- Matt Bertz on GameInformer: July 20, 2015: Assassin's Creed creator talks life after Ubisoft, again
- David Wolinsky on Don't Die: Sept 18, 2015: Interview with Kathryn Greenbaum (former Rockstar Screen Capture Artist)
- Patricia Hernandez on Kotaku: Oct 21, 2015: 10 big myths about video games, debunked by the people who make them
- Alex Nichiporchik on Gamasutra: Nov 6, 2015: Don't develop games full time
- Steven Honders on Gamasutra: Jan 5, 2016: How we finished our game on time
- Anonymous on The Guardian: March 7, 2016: The secret life of a games programmer: I’ve lived my dream and it came up short
- MSNBC.com: Feb. 5, 2007: Sure, it's a cool job. But do games pay?
- Ryan Henson Creighton on TechVibes: Jan. 29, 2014: Failing to look before they leap: Just how do all these Indie devs plan to retire?
- Michael Hoffman on Daily Tech: Mar. 14, 2007: The stress of the video game industry
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:
- Based on 77 ratings: Activision Publishing Reviews
- Based on 56 ratings: BioWare Reviews
- Based on 27 ratings: Rockstar Games Reviews
- Based on 9 ratings: Valve Corporation Reviews
- Based on 393 ratings: Electronic Arts Reviews
- Based on 10 ratings: Electronic Arts Tiburon Reviews
- Alex Wawro on Gamasutra: Mar. 6, 2015: 'I'm still creative!' - Game industry vets rally against ageism
- Matthew Handrahan on GamesIndustry.biz: Mar. 12, 2015: Is ageism the only prejudice the industry isn't discussing?
- Nathan Grayson on Kotaku: Mar. 13, 2015: The GDC I saw after one of gaming's roughest years
Dyer-Witheford, N. and de Peuter, G. (2006). "EA Spouse" and the crisis of video game labour: Enjoyment, exclusion, exploitation, exodus. Canadian 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.