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Has anyone built a studio on internship style free labour?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Arowx, May 18, 2018.

  1. Arowx

    Arowx

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    Is it even legal to do that (based in UK)?

    I have a game development website and just recently I've started receiving e-mails from students wanting placements with a studio.

    Unfortunately I am in no position to fund other staff... However what if I built up my game studio using the internship approach where I hire unpaid interns to work for me and if the studios projects take off then I could actually start paying them.

    It seems dodgy and morally wrong but don't other big industries do this e.g. fashion.

    Do you know anyone who has worked as an intern or a game studio that uses this form of 'free' labour?

    What are your thoughts on 'free' internship powered development is it a financial trap?
     
  2. passerbycmc

    passerbycmc

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    Just don't, you get what you pay for and if people are doing the work they should be paid. This would just be horrible for all parties involved.
     
  3. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    We had a guy send us a email applying for internship and we decided to go for it, 10 weeks unpaid, he needs the weeks for his degree so it's win win that way. He will be making a new level for us, he is pretty good, keen to learn but very green so I need to learn him everything from light probes to lightmaps etc. If you think you can just hire a intern and let him work on his own you are in for a disappointment
     
  4. Lu4e

    Lu4e

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    It's better register your studio to the student career service centre of universities in your location, and let them manage the contract if you are not familiar with personnel.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  5. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    This. Taking on interns is something you should do out of a desire to help develop the local industry, not out of a desire for short term free labor.
     
  6. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    angrypenguin likes this.
  7. elbows

    elbows

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  8. Arowx

    Arowx

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  9. Arowx

    Arowx

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    Why don't colleges, schools and universities allow students to set up their own companies for placement years?
     
  10. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    I never said anything of the sort. I asked if you bother researching before starting a discussion. While I don't expect you to constantly be aware of the laws for your country I definitely would expect you to do preliminary research before starting a discussion.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
    Lu4e likes this.
  11. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Before I started my own company I was employed at a consultant company, they had both in-house managed and customer managed projects, in the latter the consultant was hired as a resource and was sitting at the customers premises. The in-house projects was mostly formed out of people directly from the university and maybe one senior programmer. Sometimes there was 5 juniors on one senior and sometimes complete projects without any senior. I was a senior myself so never worked in-house but one summer between two projects I worked in one of those in house projetcs and it was a complete mess. I choose to scrap it all and begin on from a clean slate because the state of the code base was not usable.

    Anyway my point being, you cant just let these interns alone and think you will have a maintainable product.
     
    Lu4e likes this.
  12. Lu4e

    Lu4e

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    You probably drink too much today:)
    Haha, interns need to be supervised. I remember there was a disaster happened in long time ago, one intern from the neighbour team accidentally(or intentionally?) removed the whole pvcs mirror, that was a showoff from a dean's list student, while the intern didn't has the access privilege to the system. Have to admit some interns are smart, fast, creative and hard working, but still need to be supervised.
     
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  13. Metron

    Metron

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    Every year I have at least one intern in my company. Internship is 3 months. I let them develop a prototype of a game that I have in mind. They learn a lot of things and i see my idea as a game..
     
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  14. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    Taking on interns is a service to the interns and the industry not to your company. You show them what the industry is like, give them something vaguely useful to do, and in general try to ensure they learn and enjoy themselves.
     
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  15. zombiegorilla

    zombiegorilla

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    That isn’t an internship, that is just collaboration. Most internships are through academic organizations, and in addition to experience, the get some form of academic credits. No organization like this will recognize a hobbyist looking for free labor as an actual credible value.

    No, they don't. Interns are not "free" labor. Unpaid internships cannot displace paid positions, and the employer may not receive any benefits from the activities of the intern, it is only training. In other words, unpaid interns cannot perform any actual "labor". Paid interns can, but there are guidelines for pay. But as above, in both cases, internships are largely for academic credit/requirements, and the institutions offering those credits scrutinize employers offering internships.

    So, bottom line, no, you cannot legally offer "internships" as a source of free labour. You can try to scam people into working for you free, but that isn't the same. And if you can't actually afford staff, you probably can't afford legal fees/fines for violating labour laws.
     
  16. winterfluxstudio

    winterfluxstudio

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    I'm also in the UK and have run a business before so I thought you might want another opinion.

    Firstly, I would like to clarify as to whether you even have a registered business with Companies House? because just having a website does not make you a business entity.

    Secondly (assuming you do have a business already registered - private limited companies are pretty easy to setup), there is the route of a volunteer

    https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/volunteers-rights

    "You do not have a contract of employment as a volunteer, so you do not have the same rights as an employee or worker."

    https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/pay-and-expenses
    You are not paid for your time as a volunteer, but you may get money to cover expenses. This is usually limited to food, drink, travel or any equipment you need to buy.

    There would still be paperwork to deal with and I can't exactly vouch for what you need to do in those circumstances (never "hired" volunteers myself).

    Morally, it doesn't really matter. If you make your expectations/the terms of volunteer work very clear, then both parties could get something useful (you - work and assets you might not have been able to make yourself, them - experience working with others and possibly credits if you publish a game)

    but it all hinges on if you even have a registered business otherwise it's moot.

    insofar as the legality, just phone HMRC or the business support helpline

    "You can contact the government’s Business Support Helpline for free advice."

    https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
     
  17. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Has anyone built a studio on internship style free labour?

    Not anyone who wants something half-decent to get made, I would imagine. Have you ever hired a cheap freelancer? Was it a great/easy experience? Now imagine trying to get 10x better results from someone with 0 incentive.

    Students/beginners like to intern at reputable, established companies filled with experienced people who they can learn a lot from, or exciting startups made up of exceptional people pursuing exceptional goals. Failing this, they either want to be paid, or they want to do the minimum required to have something in their resume. They are not interested in interning, much less doing a great job, for anybody and everybody who will take them.

    I think there are three ways to make headway in the tech/software industry:
    1. Go and work for a company like most people do;
    2. Have fun crusading on your own with limited resources;
    3. Prove yourself worthy of working with capable people who could easily do 1) or 2), but just for fun would rather crusade with you with shared, semi-limited resources to do something they wouldn't be able to otherwise.
     
    Ryiah likes this.
  18. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Maybe not a hobbyist, but we are a company of 2 with a relative small budget, atleast compared to the AAA studios. And thats enough for institutions like you mentioned to actually recognize you as actually credible value (I guess it depends on your IP too)
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
  19. Kiwasi

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    Highly illegal in my jurisdiction (Australia). If a person works on a commercial project, they must be paid award rates. Volunteers can only be used for non commercial projects (ie like cleaning up a local neighborhood playground). If interns are unpaid, they must be fully supervised. To the point that the intern + supervisor cannot accomplish more work then the supervisor could by himself. As soon as the intern adds any value to your project, they must be paid.

    Interns are great resources. They are much cheaper then fully fledged professionals. And they often have the basic skills of a professional. But they are not free.
     
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  20. Chrisasan

    Chrisasan

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    Becoming an intern for work experience, and then picking a company that is not established? I think this would mess up my skill.
     
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  21. elmar1028

    elmar1028

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    Working in a company during placement year is more rewarding. Apart from knowledge that you gain from working with experienced colleagues, you get valuable connections, technical knowledge, references and higher chances of being employed by other companies once you graduate. It serves as a push in your career!

    Setting up a company means you need to learn about business and legal side of things, which is a waste of time if you're going to look for work in the industry once you graduate.

    Companies tend to pick employees who had prior experience in the industry.
     
    Ryiah likes this.
  22. Arowx

    Arowx

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    It's not that complex or difficult, especially when an education establishment (EE) could contact the local business hubs that are common in the UK for assistance, then again don't most EE's have business/enterprise courses today?

    And existing businesses could provide lighter mentoring and assistance, imagine a game studio or business hub that every year sets up new businesses and provides networking and mentoring services from existing studios.

    You could scale this up compared to the impact of a single studio being able to take on and mentor a couple of students.
     
  23. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    My local community college's programming course had a business class but it was just a basic introductory class. I don't remember if it was just one of the optional classes you could take or if it were part of the actual associate. It's been entirely too long since I looked into going to college.

    I don't see it in PVCC's current computer science degree requirements though.

    https://www.pvcc.edu/programs/computer-science
    https://www.pvcc.edu/sites/www.pvcc.edu/files/as_computer_science-2018-2019.pdf

    I don't see it in MIT's degree requirements either.

    http://catalog.mit.edu/degree-charts/computer-science-engineering-course-6-3/
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
  24. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Starting a LLC is just a click and a small fee away, if you like me don't like the admin side of running a business you can outsource that part.

    Edit: in sweden you also need to put in min 50k SEK (6k USD) as shares.
     
    Chrisasan likes this.
  25. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Because the point is to learn from the experts who have done it before. Not to just hang out with your mates for the summer.
     
  26. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Such places exist, but you're missing the point of an "internship" if you think that a brand new startup without anything established provides value in that regard. It would provide great value for people who want to work in that specific environment, but it's not much use for someone who wants to get experience at doing a job to a professional level.
     
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  27. zombiegorilla

    zombiegorilla

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    Sure, scale isn't a factor. An established legit business is one thing, a single hobbyist developer with no commercial projects/background trying build a complete staff from interns... won't fly. Certainly not legally, but more importantly not with the institutions or applicants.

    - -

    Here in the valley, internships are often largely about getting your foot in the door, building contacts and getting a great bullet point on your resume, as much as they are about work experience. My old studio would get a couple of thousand applicants each season. We would take on 6-8 a year, depending on availability for people doing the supervising. It was always a negative impact on productivity because many of us had to split time between actual work and training. But the upside was worth it. Often we would hire 3 or 4 of them after graduation. And it was also valuable to help potential developers get a realistic view and understanding of the real world. (so many regular applicants were completely clueless). One of TA interns was hired directly into ILM after her internship and now helps administer the creature pipeline for film. Not bad for her first job in the industry. (well deserved, she was brilliant).
     
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  28. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Indeed. There are plenty of established businesses that are a single, experienced consultant or specialist who just does their thing. And that's something that an intern could validly learn from.

    It doesn't matter if it's one person or a hundred. It's the "established" part that matters. Do you have a product or a service that you're reliably getting out to real customers on a consistent basis?
     
  29. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    In my industry it works the other day. Interns are massively productive. Mainly because they do all of the projects that no one else has the time to get around to. Sometimes they prove the project is rubbish, and we can stop talking about it. But other times they can make major step changes.
     
  30. elmar1028

    elmar1028

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    From university perspective, they would have to maintain dozens of companies for students' sake. Which means additional staff would be required for it = additional cost.

    On top of that, I don't think I would want that as a CS student. That would be great for more business-oriented courses but not for courses like computer science.
     
  31. Arowx

    Arowx

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    They would be totally different learning experiences, one setting up and running a business the other improving and learning skills to do a specific job/role within an existing business.

    So the Question is does the industry need more skilled workers or more creative startups?
     
  32. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Well, it needs both. But no, that was not the question.
     
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  33. Arowx

    Arowx

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    Are you sure, why not ask interested business students to join in and help run the companies, e.g. providing accounting services, markets services, management services.

    The thing is most courses try to teach the full field of a topic however most jobs are very narrow in focus, surely setting up and running a business would give a much wider experience and learning experience than joining a company and being an understudy to someone who does one niche role.
     
  34. RichardKain

    RichardKain

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    Basing your studio off of intern-style labor is a terrible idea.

    This is not simply because you would be exploiting the young and inexperienced for cheap/free labor. (although that would also be happening) It is because you would most likely spend the majority of your time training that labor. This wouldn't even be a matter of choice, it would be a necessity. As some of the other posters have pointed out, inexperienced interns have to be trained to do their job properly. A big part of why they are looking for an unpaid internship in the first place is because they don't have industry experience. And that means that 9 times out of 10, they will not have the skills necessary to start working immediately.

    Heck, this is usually true of staff that you have to pay. Any job requires some level of hands-on experience in order to get up to speed. Focusing on acquiring interns as labor means that the level those interns start off at is lower. It also means that your turnover will be CONSTANT. Once their internship is up, they'll take the experience they gained under your tutelage, and go get a paying job at a studio that can afford to employ them. Even if you can replace them quickly with another fresh intern, it's back to square one with them, and now you're training again.

    It's not impossible, but you would have to get used to the idea of doing little to no development yourself, and being a constant training churn for the inexperienced. How much do you like to educate, and hold the hands of beginning developers?
     
  35. zombiegorilla

    zombiegorilla

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    I should amend my comment a bit. The drop in productivity was primarily on the engineering / tech side. Intern engineers required a lot of hands time from our senior engineers, to learn the project, architecture, methods and follow up and such. A senior engineer can tear through a lot if they are focused, but much less with constant interruptions and bulk of their time training. And the trade off for the work interns were doing (primary bug hunting and prototyping), was much less value than the senior could be doing on their own. (not a bad thing, just the cost associated with interns).

    However, it was a different story on the art side. A bulk of an artist's work were skills that the interns already brought to the table, (some really freaking good too...), so their productivity was very high, and much of the training involved less hands on time, mostly pipeline and process outside of painting, modeling and texturing. Having an intern "build a damaged x-wing fighter with x texture/geo budget in this art style", will typically happen with little (no more than usual) AD input and a few questions. Having an engineering intern "design and implement x feature", will require a lot of specific knowledge of the application and architecture. The ramp up for new engineers on a large project can be time consuming, let alone those who haven't worked in professional environment before.
     
  36. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Same general rule applies that I mentioned earlier. The whole point of an internship it to learn from and hang out with the professionals in your industry. A business student will benefit more from going to an established accounting firm then from trying to do it on their own in a indie game studio.
     
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  37. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    @zombiegorilla Totally agree, our intern is doing a new level, and I just need to give him pointers on how to place lightprobes etc then he is pretty much self going since a level is pretty much doing the same thing, over and over until the level is done
     
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