The Buzz: Game workers weigh in on what they want for the future of the game industry [Update]

#AsAGamesWorker has united a big chunk of the industry on Twitter to talk about what they want to see for working conditions at studios, from each other, and from the fans.

Update (10/3/2018): We originally attributed this movement to starting with a single person when, in fact, it was a coordinated effort among a number of key industry professionals. GameDaily has learned that this was in order to shield any particular professional from potential issues with their individual employers, which speaks volumes about the health of the industry at large.

We spoke with Jennifer Scheurle, celebrated game designer, about #AsAGamesWorker, as Scheurle is an avid and outspoken advocate for developers. 

"I decided to participate because I believe it’s time we spoke about this in a more official manner," Scheurle said to GameDaily. "It’s time for change in this industry. We have only recently started talking and reporting on working conditions and the issues we face as developers. But we’ve barely scratched the surface - I think the hashtag showed that quite clearly."

#AsAGamesWorker wasn't just about what developers are dreaming about: it's about what they need to survive an increasingly hostile work environment on a global scale. 

"Our problems go way beyond working months in crunch, poor pay, very little security," she continued. "The hashtag showed that many of us are angry, afraid and tired of the idea that making games being cool is enough to keep us in line. Games workers have grown up. We have families, ambitions, we want a sustainable future. We need a sustainable future because making games is becoming a highly specialised job that requires huge amounts of skill and constant improvement. Game companies need to recognise that and incorporate it in their leadership."

The fact that the hashtag reached as far (and as deep) as it did wasn't a surprise, but it was gut-wrenching to sift through the responses. 

"I’m happy so many people participated - but as I was going through the hashtag and replies, my heart was heavy too," Scheurle agreed. "I know we have problems, but it’s always sobering when you stare at the full scale of something that affects so many of your treasured friends.

"Many of us know we need unions... and we are scared at the same time because unionising is hard to begin with and even harder in an industry as competitive and brutal as this - with the extra challenges of being extremely global. As a gamedev community, our circles aren’t local, they are international. Our challenges are very large scale. It’s hard to even figure out where to begin."

These kinds of conversations around studio sustainability has led to a number of discussions about the indie scene, but not because any of the workers can't cut it in triple-A, but "because they can’t live in expensive game hubs such as San Francisco or Los Angeles or Seattle." Indie development, no matter how challenging or frustrating or life-consuming it can be, is almost location independent. Indie games happen in apartments, university halls, and even on trains.

Scheurle is pleased that the hashtag has started to find purchase, but she's wary that developers aren't able to be loud enough to be heard.

"The hashtag is great, but it’s also only a careful step to share what we need with our employers when in reality we should be able to demand."

Original Story:

GamesIndustry.biz has dubbed 2018 the "Year of the Bad Employer." They're not wrong. Between Capcom Vancouver, Carbine, Big Fish, Disney Canada, and Telltale Games, the industry has suffered almost a thousand lost jobs. September is usually a brutal month for studios, as it's end of fiscal year for a good chunk of the industry, and if the EOY (or quarterly) post-mortem land wrong with investors... the games workers are the ones to suffer. 

#AsAGamesWorker

There are a lot of hopes and dreams inherent in these tweets, but one theme is clear: games workers deserve better from the industry and the studios that employ them. There's no clear path forward -- unionization, the Hollywood gig model, something else entirely -- but the time for discussion is fast approaching its final stop.

Games workers need the industry to take action, to protect its workers, and to prioritize the people making their games, rather than just the bottom line.

Managing Editor

Amanda has been meandering around the game journosphere since 2010, mostly covering indie games, culture, and industry news. These days, she talks about the business of making games through a critical cultural lens. She adores RPGs, weird narrative indie games, and strategy games that take forever to learn. Amanda is also the managing editor of SuperParent. You can find her on Twitter as @AmandaFarough or you can email her at amanda.farough@gamedaily.biz.