April 16th, 2016



There's an article that hit the games industry interwebs that's causing a huge uproar, a backlash against the author. It's actually quite a horrific article. You can read it at this link, and I recommend it, if only for the shock factor.

The article is about the fact that it is commonplace in the games industry for employers to pay their employees less than fair wages for their skills and to demand that they put in 60+ hour weeks regularly to complete the games on schedule. (Note that most games industry workers are salaried, so they don't get paid more if they work longer.) The rationale for this is that making games is fun, so the workers should feel privileged that they get to work on them, and because it's an art, they should want to throw their entire lives into it, other life considerations be damned.

The author of the article defends this attitude, calling people who ask for fair compensation "wage-slaves" and claiming that their jobs are just "pushing a mouse around" and are certainly not taxing like doing manual labor. Making legendary games requires sacrifices, and games industry workers should be willing to make them. That's the gist of his argument.

As you can imagine, no one agrees. If a game requires that the makers get paid poorly and work constantly with no sleep, life, or family, then the fault is with the management, who didn't budget and schedule the development properly. This is a systemic problem in the games industry, and it's something that they've been trying hard to solve. Luckily, instead of causing a move toward worse working conditions, this article as sparked a lively discussion on how to fix the base problem.

There's a lovely rebuttal you can read at this link: the author wrote his comments in-line, and it's a fantastic read. I hope that the rebuttal inspires people to work on balancing their passion for game creation with their lives and families.

I bring this up because one of the lines in the rebuttal made me really think. Here's the original line and the rebuttal:

"Don’t be in the game industry if you can’t love all 80 hours/week of it."

Don’t listen to this person. Please be in the games industry if you want to make games and care. I don’t care if you want to make games for 2 hours every night after work, or for 40 hours for a paycheck, or for 80 hours as an entrepreneur. Just don’t make others pay with their health for your shitty scheduling.

I thought about this with respect to writing (and any other endeavor that you really love). I've always considered my fanfic writing as a hobby, nothing particularly serious or anything. I do it when I feel like it, when there's a story to be told, and no one's really going to read any of it. But you know, it doesn't matter how much or how often I write. It's about caring about it, loving it, wanting to do it. I'm that person who "makes games for 2 hours every night after work" - just in this case, it's not making games but writing stories. That's the important part: that I do it because I love doing it. I don't need to commit every single moment to it, and I don't need to feel bad that I don't. I shouldn't obsess over the shortcomings and the writer's block. And I should always make sure to have time for writing and for life, both in balance.

The rebuttal author closes his article with the following lines. Just replace "making games" with "writing stories", and the types of game makers with the different types of authors, and it's just beautiful.

I hope you’ll take care of yourself, so we can have you and your games and your experience around in this industry for many more years to come. Whether it’s as a 9-to-5 employee making AAA games, a legendary developer, an indie working on their first games, or a part-time developer that makes games for fun. Be passionate. Make games. But please take care of you.