Actual Blog Post 4

And here I thought working at a videogame production studio was all fun and games.  It is certainly depicted that way.  Apparently it is far from that, however.  According to Nina Huntemann, working for a videogame studio is not only mentally and physically challenging for the person who is working there, but is also very trying on their spouse or partner.  The people who work for these companies will often work enormous amounts of overtime to meet deadlines.  It’s an interesting read, because it gives us a glimpse not only into the lives of videogame developers, but also demonstrates how important it is for people who have ties to the gaming industry, whether they be workers or consumers, to speak out towards the gaming industry about things that need to be changed.

When the article was written in 2010, the artists and programmers who work for the gaming industry had not unionized.  The hours that they were forced to work to churn out videogames were obscene, which kept them from seeing their families.   The overtime was often unpaid.  The workers often suffered declining physical and mental health, a drop in morale, and their salaries did not reflect an increase in the cost of living. The people who work at videogame studios are most often young, white, heterosexual, and male.  The hours they work keep them from forming too many attachments outside of the office.  This led a woman who called herself “EA Spouse” to post a letter online voicing her complaints about the industry and worries for her husband.  Later, in 2010, another woman taking the name “Rockstar Spouse” wrote a similar letter, again voicing complaints about a studio’s mistreatment of its workers, this time Rockstar San Diego. 

Huntemann does not go into how effective the letters of Rockstar Spouse and EA Spouse are, whether they resulted in any change or even an acknowledgement by the companies they are targeting.  She does, however, delve into the overall importance of the letters.  Not only do they highlight some of the most disturbing problems plaguing the gaming industry, and alerts potential employees of the companies about the poor working conditions.  The turnover for employees is incredible.  Eventually, if things don’t change, it will be harder and harder for companies to even be able to find and hire good employees because of the negative press.  People will not want to work for the companies that have particularly bad reputations, which will result in a loss of quality and a decrease in sales.

Huntemann, through the actions of EA spouse and Rockstar Spouse, shows how important it is for the consumer, worker, or spouse to speak up about the things that they don’t like in the gaming industry.  Complaints may not result in immediate change, but it may help raise awareness and cause others to voice similar issues.  Once enough people get behind an idea, the industry will either have to change or face the possibility of losing customers. 

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2 Responses to Actual Blog Post 4

  1. karlinr says:

    From a business perspective, it’s pretty astounding that video game companies would treat their employees so terribly, especially considering the immense profits that these companies are raking in. The game developers are the creative and technical force behind these massively successful titles, and without their hard work these games would not have yielded such a huge gross profit. Problems in game-play mechanics, sub-par graphic, and other problems which result from inferior game developers would have been lambasted in video game reviews on websites and social media, and the title’s sales would have suffered. While a select few game franchises, such as Madden, Call of Duty, and Zelda, are enough to be able to sell millions of units on brand name alone, many games depend on reviews and word-of-mouth in order to gain popularity.

    I understand that video game production companies want to control costs, but it is also necessary to properly compensate valuable employees and maintain a positive morale. By demanding long, stressful hours without paying an equitable wage, these companies are fostering a negative culture within their offices. As RJ noted, it will be harder and harder for these companies to be able to lure in qualified employees if they continue these practices. I would also be interested to see if there is a correlation between companies with this kind of poor work environment, and bugs or glitches within the games they produce.

    Other creative workers within entertainment industries, such as screenwriters and professional athletes, have unions that negotiate salary standards, benefits, and work conditions with their employers. As the video game industry continues to grow within the entertainment sector, the need for them to have this kind of organization will also grow. I did a Google search and found that there is an “International Game Developers Association” ( http://www.igda.org/ ), which has been around since 1995 according to Wikipedia. Judging by the working conditions described in this reading, however, it would seem that this organization is not doing enough to serve its members. I should note that it calls itself a professional organization, which means it likely does not have the power a union would.

    If game developers were to unionize, it would give them not only the opportunity to band together to demand better working conditions and compensation, but also to bring increased public attention and action that RJ mentions to this matter. During the 2007-2008 strike by the Writers Guild of America, the struggle between the two parties was one of the dominant news stories. The entertainment-consuming public was exposed to the writers’ grievances and demands, and the lack of new episodes of television shows on the air certainly got the strike a lot of attention. While a strike by video game developers would probably not garner this much media airtime, and the effects would not be felt immediately due to the length of the production cycle, it would at the very least generate more awareness of the problem, and likely result in more consumers calling for the game companies to improve their policies.

  2. cstabile says:

    What’s so interesting about this case is the way in which the industry takes advantage of young (mostly) men’s energy and inexperience to basically work them to death. Think about the presentation on Braid, which showed how independent game developers also internalized this form of labor organization. I wish that unionization would solve these issues, but I think that video game culture and masculinity combine in detrimental ways in the very way that games are produced.

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