With the Rockstar Wives ‘scandal’ currently the talk of the game development industry, the thorny issue of Quality of Life in the game development industry has once again raised its ugly head.
Regardless of whether or not the claims of these assembled San Diego spouses are correct, it’s incidents such as this – and the original EA Spouse that first brought the issue into public consciousness back in 2004 – that highlight the practices going on behind closed doors at studios. But it also highlights the widespread belief that this is how things have to be in such a creative industry, where those extra hours at the end of a project can make the difference between an average game and a great one.
The IGDA’s new Quality of Life Special Interest Group has been set up specifically to educate and inform both staff and management as to their rights and responsibilities, and to promote healthy working environments. Although still in its early stages, the group has kicked off its efforts with a wide-ranging survey to gauge the current state of quality of life for game development industry workers.
Although the group aims to present its findings at GDC next month, Develop has been granted an exclusive sneak peak at early results. We’ve focused on the thorny issue of unions, which often goes hand in hand with discussions on working conditions, to see how those surveyed by the organisation felt about the issue.
One of the IGDA Quality of Life SIG’s goals is to empower games industry workers to know their rights, so they can know whether they are being unfairly exploited or not. These results show that a third are confident in their knowledge of their rights, but almost half are unsure whether those laws could actually be of use to them in the event of a grievance procedure – and one in ten felt they would be no help at all.
What’s interesting here is the almost completely even split between those for, against or ambivalent towards unionisation – a similar split was also featured in our own global Quality of Life survey last year. While it’s more common to hear games industry mouthpieces claiming that the concept of unionisation doesn’t fit with such a creative industry, it’s worth nothing that a third of the workforce is actually concretely in favour of it. Whether or not any union will be able to gain the critical mass of support necessary to unionise the industry in the face of such split opinion is another matter, however.
It’s not a huge surprise that the views here are as evenly split as in the previous questions. It is surprising, however, that six per cent of people think that their company would react favourably to unions, if only because it’s hard to find anyone in a position of authority agreeing with the concept. That half think their employers would oppose it is little shock, but that 15 per cent think they would result to threats or harrassment is indicative of how people view their higher-ups.