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Pachter: 'Sweatshops Should Have Unions But Games Studios Shouldn't'

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Aiursrage2k, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. Aiursrage2k

    Aiursrage2k

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    Okay what do you think about that comment "Pachter: 'Sweatshops Should Have Unions But Games Studios Shouldn't'". This is after LA Noire sold 1.6 million units in a week.


    http://www.gamepro.com/article/news...hould-have-unions-but-games-studios-shouldnt/

    http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/adventure/lanoire/show_msgs.php?pid=988983&topic_id=m-1-59215412
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  2. KnifeFightBob

    KnifeFightBob

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    Pachter is an ass - simple and quick answer.

    I've been thinking a great deal about the pretty weird conditions of working for anyone other than oneself lately. I'm not going to write lots about that, but with that in mind I believe Pachter is taking a seriously wrong-minded turn on the indie scene. Basically, my thoughts are these: As an independent (which in the end, ultimately, finally, everyone should be) you will work lots of overtime when you are trying to build a reputation. Then it becomes easier (hopefully) to gear down with time and put in less hours and still do a good job. As an employee you are already working essentially on someone else's merits (if you didn't found the company as such) and are then pretty much jackshit in economic terms - this is the practice we commonly see in game dev today.

    So what to do? Don't work for the man because the man is a catch 22 thing: he needs you, but you need his cash. Only solution is then to cooperate and co-own smaller businesses with a gradual decrease in workload/working hours.
     
  3. Arowx

    Arowx

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    What about a co-operative game studio, everyone has a say and a vote and equal shares in the companies profits?

    In effect most Unions are just ways for the workers to have more of an influence in the workplace and gain a voice and more of a power balance.
     
  4. Redbeer

    Redbeer

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    "So what to do? Don't work for the man because the man is a catch 22 thing: he needs you, but you need his cash. Only solution is then to cooperate and co-own smaller businesses with a gradual decrease in workload/working hours."

    YES!
    I've been saying this to people online for years.
    There are so many unhappy workers out there in creative industries, not just games, but movies, CG contracting, engineering, etc.

    Unionizing generally doesn't work well if the creative tasks you do can be done by someone else more cheaply and there is no regulation forcing corporations to use people within the country they are incorporated in.
    The writers union for films and television in the US gets away with this because they're providing a service to English speakers that can't as "easily" be farmed out to a foreign country, because it requires a certain type of prose, understanding of storytelling structure as it pertains to the particular US culture, and certain knowledge of current events and trends.
    The same goes for actors, given that it is the actors that define the movie in the minds of many of the consumers. However, for all these other "behind the scenes" tasks, all this will do is "further" ship your jobs to India, China, Singapore, etc. because programming is programming, in any country, and visual arts are much more easily adapted across cultures.

    So your best bet/best recourse, is to develop small companies and or some sort of profit sharing collaborative if you really want to be free of all this. You can consult for crunch time projects at larger corporations along the way until you have your own products and IP's to leverage.
    This is a far better option than working for 5 suits and thousands of rich investors who have no idea what a quality video game is, in many cases and are really just in it for the dollar signs, as much as possible, in the least time possible.
    Also, there's something to be said about working hard and reaping the fruits of your own labor vs. doing it for someone else.
     
  5. KnifeFightBob

    KnifeFightBob

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    Interestingly the above solutions are part of a new turn back to the creative industries as being part of the craftsmanship/art tradition with more selective and independent work done, also meaning larger personal investment and a sharp accent towards the industrialized way the 'industry' works: cheap labor cannot be traded away from pure craftsmanship. Names DO matter then, as well as history and the work itself. Very different from the faceless masses that huddle in the hundreds below the board of directors at Rockstar.

    I just received Richard Sennett's book 'The Craftsman' today which seems to totally support my notions and thoughts of late. Maybe something for you others to look at as well.
     
  6. Dreamora

    Dreamora

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    Such stuff only works cause people like him get away ignoring legislation or cause the legislation sucked like hell in first place.
    Any legislation that has no max hours per week law just never left the days of industrial revolution or went back to it in favor of legalised slavery.

    He is an ass yeah, but he can only be an ass cause the politics are greedy, industry corrupted morrons.


    Good thing is the game industry is starting to balance out this issue, with talented people leaving such companies founding new studios, its only a matter of time before the field changes when the big players become big hot air talkers with no talents left but only cheap brainless drones and a single designer that so far hasn't designed a single good game, where the good games were a result of the teams talents input.

    Its true, you can offload programming etc, but you can't buy talent for cheap, you can only get "massware work drones" and those won't get you the next block buster game normally, they will get you the next 15M grave and crossplatform flop.

    Compare blizzard to the rest of the industry when it comes to long term standing in art quality and consistency and ask yourself why others struggle to create high quality games more often than they deliver them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  7. AnomalusUndrdog

    AnomalusUndrdog

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    Pachter is a professional troll. I thought we already established that.
     
  8. Dreamora

    Dreamora

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    :)
    Unhappily even trolls have a point from time to time, at least professional trolls
     
  9. n0mad

    n0mad

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    Unfortunately, just like in so many underpaid jobs, as long as people will accept to work in these conditions, there will be those kinds of jackasses.
    As soon as there will be a real lack of talents because of so called unpaid huge additional work hours, it won't be taken as a common practice anymore.
    Snake biting its tail.

    edit : oh sorry I didn't see Dreamora wrote exactly this ^^
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  10. AnomalusUndrdog

    AnomalusUndrdog

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    Unlike you, they don't give it in a constructive point-of-view
     
  11. JRavey

    JRavey

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    In an industry with too much labor hoping to participate there is no reason for employers to worry about the long-term health and happiness as long as their projects are completed. To avoid this, just don't work at such shops. The people who work there have chosen those conditions and if they don't like it they should do something else whether that be start their own thing, leave the industry, or find a new job. As long as you have thousands of young programmers who think making games would be the greatest thing ever despite long hours and poor pay, you aren't going to see an industry wide change.
     
  12. Dreamora

    Dreamora

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    Thats not true JRavey
    Yeah the point that "as long as" is true, but fact is they didn't sign contracts that said "you will have 80 hour weeks, no weekends and 12h days", otherwise they would have demanded an adequate payment for lose of social life, relationships, family etc.

    In some parts such a major breach of contract would actually entitle you for indemnification upon a leave, in others they would just have to pay the over hours or allow you to compensate it by taking the time free - which as the project has a defined length etc - means mid project.
    In both cases they on their own ensure that in such countries companies don't try such shady slavery methods.

    that being said, I'm sure that most of the countries in the western area where it happens would have laws to prevent it too, the workers are just to "stupid" (don't know a better word) to inform themself about their rights, as I wouldn't assume that any 1st world industry country kicked out the laws and rules stipulated during the industrial revolution 200 years ago as the whole globalization power of them builds upon it.
     
  13. Aiursrage2k

    Aiursrage2k

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    The problem is that there is no end to the people who are lining up to become game-developers so the companies can simply prey on there enthusiasm and naivety, they will chew them and spit them out how long can you really do that many crazy hours before you become burnt out and not only that but they are not going to pay for all the work they actually did.
     
  14. RElam

    RElam

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    Ehh, this is just way out there. You're acting as if these people don't choose a heavy workload, and comparing to slavery? Dude... Even comparing to sweatshops, IMO, should be wildly offensive to people that don't really have a choice but to work in a sweatshop. I've never known anyone entering the game field that assumes they'll work only 40 hours a week, and won't work overtime. Most people in the game industry could easily have far less demanding jobs, perhaps making less money, but again, if that's the tradeoff then it's a reasonable choice.

    Most teams aren't working on the next blockbuster, if they're lucky they're likely working on the last blockbuster, churning out sequel X or DLC Y. The point being, for the vast majority of teams and jobs on those teams, IMO, there's a demand for technical proficiency, but not much for serious talent (assuming the producers would even recognize it). I don't think treating most game developers as expendable will change.

    Because they don't already have blizzards army and IP :). I love's me some blizzard games, but I'm not sure what this intends to demonstrate, blizzard wasn't always BLIZZARD, and I'm sure then and now, there's plenty of overtime worked by salaried employees.

    I'm all for fair worker treatment, but these are generally well paid employees that chose a field that they knew way ahead of time would require long work hours. To compare to minimum, or sub-minimum wage employees is just absurd, IMO.
     
  15. Dreamora

    Dreamora

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    But for long enough. Right the old Viking games on SNES and alike weren't the burner, but since WarCraft 2 and Diablo 1 they are they. They didn't have armies nor a strong IP (the Command and Conquer IP or Baldurs Gate IP were both significantly larger at the corresponding times) but they had the required spirit to create quality games, not shovelware, thats why not a single blizzard game to day aws less than 9 month late, normally even more. As such I would suspect that their overtime handling works a bit different, they realized that quality work and valuable input comes from happy, fresh workers, not people that wouldn't be able to see the text on the screen anymore without their 3rd coffee ;)
    I think they are also still one of the few "big" studios that actually have their workers play the games, not just a small department of underpayed "cellar kids" spending all days in dark rooms which lost the enjoyment to play the games months to years ago.

    But yes even they had changes and switches especially when they were "eaten", but even that ended in the good as we all know, from the Blizzard side as well as the "traitors" (-> Torchlight ;)) that formed a new company.

    Its clear that beyond a given size of team (or one should say beyond a given number of sub teams) the spirit changes as it just won't work out as before anymore, but its still a major difference there between the various companies with good ones and bad ones and really bad ones (where rockstar definitely is among the top 3 with 2 major shoutouts in less than 12 months, makes me wonder where the US gov is to check the claims against them first by the rockstar north employee wifes and now with bondy)

    From what I recall, the average is still in the range of $60'000 per year. Thats far from "well payed" especially for 7 day weeks and 12h days for which Rockstar got burnt publically now twice within a year.
    No reasonable person would work that long for that little money, if you can earn much more with significantly less overtime if you just become a business programmer in the financial sector and stopped enjoying your work long ago. The number of idealist that do it cause they like games beyond the 3th - 6th month of such projects should be in the single digit percentage range.

    The claims on minimum wage and comparision has to fail yes, but only cause life quality is still not included in wage comparisions, otherwise they would be below sub-minimum wage as nothing can compensate for the lose of all life quality and to a given degree any enjoyment of being alife at all.


    On the rest of the points: We will see. Teh gaming field is changing, its less and less about major investment big money that make the largest boom, its more and more the creative games with the "healthy gaming culture" and proper development practices (search for the game plays fun, not its technical implementation) becoming more dominant on mobile than graphics (angrybird? dead simple yet with the methods applied by big studios it would never had a chance to exist in its form. Tiny Wings would by big studio producers not even have been recognized as addicting if it had a 20feet neon sign on it).
    As apple pushes what their engineers and testers experience to be great, indie game devs push by what they and their testers in reality experience to be fun, not what a department of overpayed psychologists and PR heads "declared as fun according the survey in the target userbase", and within this culture of agile, experience oriented game development, the devs no longer are replaceable like mechanical drones and talent will matter.

    If you need more proof for that theory of "big studios missing the fun in favor of survey knowledge and theoretical fun", look at what EA and Ubisoft released for the Wii and ask yourself about why the hell the producer and designer behind nearly all these titles was / were not fired flat out cause they obviously didn't play with the wii more than 10 mins to find out whats enjoyable and fun and what not.
     
  16. RElam

    RElam

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    It seems both of us are fairly ignorant of blizzard's behavior in this regard, but I'd wager you're right, they likely treat their employees well. But choosing the most successful developer ever, at the most successful time in their existence, and using them as a model just isn't that useful. Assuming their prior overtime practices were exceptional, and/or that that was clearly instrumental in their success, it's just not realistic, IMO.

    But I'm not a big fan of sustained crunch periods, I think they're bad too. But I think you have to be pretty naive/blind to enter this industry and think a sprint can't turn into a several month crunch period. If there's any ambiguity, get it in writing that it won't happen.

    That's a very low estimate for the studios we're talking about, but even at 60K, compared to sweatshop workers, yea, that's very well paid.

    But again, you're talking about low estimates on worst case examples, this would drum more people out of any industry (well, actually, you should check what medical interns work).

    Way too subjective, but IMO, government has no place determining the ratio between money and happiness. I think it's perfectly fair to require a company to make clear what requirements may be placed on an employee, for how long at a time, etc. But government/union involvement, no thanks, I prefer my world less than completely homogenized, thank you.

    Yea, I'm sure that team of 4 on Angrybirds really blows the bell curve :). These small games are inspiring, but the biggest games (and we did discuss blizzard) have larger budgets than ever, the idea that the existence of low budget, big money makers really changes anything is highly questionable. Even the mobile market isn't that much different, sure, Angrybirds is massive, and if you could do 50 games before it, and guarantee you could get Angrybirds, it'd be a great investment, but that's not how it works. Looking at the successes, and disregarding all else, just like looking at the worst case scenarios, doesn't give you a good picture.

    In the end, though, I very seriously doubt that the companies with the best work schedules and healthiest atmospheres will also have the best compensation, which would be fine with me as my happiness is not a function of my salary. In my mind what you're saying just gives those making the higher salaries and working the greater hours have less reason to bitch.

    I think this wanders off the point, as I don't have a problem with small games and small studios, just with the idea that developers will largely be valued more because of these successes. I mean, if you're saying that companies will try to emulate Angry Birds, I'm sure they will. But let's think about what that REALLY means. This isn't a company that, with their brilliance, create Angry Birds from thin air because they knew what it was gold. They created like 50 games before that, why? Did they wanna practice up for AngryBirds? No, they did 50 games, then likely saw Crush The Castle or something, and said, let's rip that off with something cutesy. And they nailed it. I'm sure some luck was involved beyond that, but this was no work of development genius as you seem to think, it was a buck-shot approach.

    If I were a big publisher, the way I'd emulate that is to hire good artists and sound engineers making cutesy animations and make highly polished rip-offs of as many games as I can find on Kongregate, and hope one sticks. Huzzah! I don't see how the publishers will will see those developers as irreplaceable.
     
  17. KnifeFightBob

    KnifeFightBob

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    I love when people talk about grown-up things, like working conditions.

    My problem is that I see little worth in discussing what we have now, that is, the status quo of something that likely will not change by hands of the workers themselves.

    Game Developer Magazine's latest Game Career Guide states the average salaries are as follows (non-indie, corporate workers):
    * Designer 46,214$
    * Producer 51,324$
    * Programmer 55,426$
    * Artist 45,714$
    * Audio 39,217$

    Those are, at least converted to Swedish kronor, pretty low salaries. Not that Sweden has the highest salaries either, but compared to the number of hours worked, the above numbers are lousy.

    Personally, what I'd like to see is more dedication and investment into game development such as that seen by craftsmen in other fields. In short I believe the corporatization to be the major issue here. If nothing else one will always know that one owns the work made, no bosses can squeeze you more than necessary and a top-down perspective can be put on more things in developing the business than you can as a mere worker.

    Indie studios have this already, but it is probably seen less politically than it could. Also, larger studios like EA are, as you all know, branching off into lots of smaller studios. Big-budget games won't go away, and I think most of us don't want that either. However, like (and this is highly personal) global capitalism in the sense that it has worked until now is eroding, I see businesses taking measures to rethink how the actual 'business' part of the industry is handled. That will be all.
     
  18. mr. wrong

    mr. wrong

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    Of course a union would encourage some of the companies to move their work force into the third world but there is no guarantee that it would not happen anyway at some point. If they can create the connections and make more money that way then it is almost certain.
     
  19. Aiursrage2k

    Aiursrage2k

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    The only way to stop that is with a sort of economic national socialism which we have in Canada, where the government will force all radio and tv to promote x-amount of "Canadian content" so it does not get swallowed up by the Americans.
     
  20. KnifeFightBob

    KnifeFightBob

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    Again, I think the solution is really no more and no less than what it's pretty much always has been: If people are willing to pay, and workers are willing to spend time learning and creating artifacts they are capable of making, it is only down to the smaller details, like running your own business in a decent, honest manner and making sure you steer as far away from the corporate course as humanly possible. Owning your own operation with a select few will be the new standard to come and is economically more viable than creating the next Blizzard or Activision. Just like there will likely never be another MMO of the same dimensions as WoW, I have a hard time seeing room in the economy for more mega-conglomerates.

    What concerns me is that despite Chinese and Indian IT workers only competing for the jobs that demand raw efficiency, people still are afraid of them taking over their jobs in some arbitrary manner. Only if you have nothing more than a naive faith in the industry and no creative skills will you be expendable. Start your own thing.
     
  21. Dreamora

    Dreamora

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    So if you are a business programmer ;)
    And thats where the fear comes from as businesses outsource their business IT affairs there or at least used to (with the breach of security and other things, people are more and more understanding the risk of handing their vital business detail and future over to the asian continent blindly in the effort to save some dollars)
     
  22. Ntero

    Ntero

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    Please re-read the context of the values you are quoting. Those values are for employees with less than 3 years experience in the Industry.
    http://gamedeveloper.texterity.com/gamedeveloper/2010cg#pg21
    Note the 3 Years or less directly above the number.

    The actual values are measurably higher (tallied in this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/..._2010_Game_Industry_Salary_Survey_Results.php).

    The numbers you quoted are 20-30 thousand dollars under average.

    The overall averge accross all disciplines was 80 817

    As a comparison for independent developers (page 29 in the above magazine link):
    Averages by type of developer:
    Contractor: 55 493
    Independent Team: 26 780
    Solo Independent: 11 379

    Don't go independent because you are afraid of wages and mistreatment, go independent because you want to be independent and are passionate and good at what you do.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011
  23. Ntero

    Ntero

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    A lot of people here seem to equate massive game company with game company that abuses it's workers. Currently I work for a massive game company(second largest in the world iirc) as a programmer. I work 10-5 or 6 most days, sometimes till 8 or 9 if I'm right near a deadline, but it's not heavily enforced. I don't feel remotely over worked, and definitly not micromanaged. My pay is about 10% below average(taking into account my experience and field with the actual Game Developer Survey numbers), but compared to a lot of other studios nearby I would probably be exchaning some quality of life for salary to get it fully matched. On Fridays I get free beer after 4, and breakfast on Tuesdays, and they host many social events.

    There are large companies, and there are companies that will abuse you. They are not remotely mutually exclusive (I've got a buddy in a smaller studio I know who seems to be working 18 hours days for the past 6 months as near as I can tell).

    I just figured I should clear that up, though it's mostly anecdotal, but just because Team Bondi treats their employees like garbage doesn't mean all studios who make more than $X per year are abusive conditions.
     
  24. KnifeFightBob

    KnifeFightBob

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    @Ntero: My bad. I was using my laptop so I missed the very, very small print there. Kudos for clearing that up.

    Also I am glad to hear that you are being treated well. Independence must, as you write, be something that is valued by its own merit. My personal crusade for smaller (and more) indie studios is deeper than merely a salary thing as well, and it's probably far OT to go into that.
     
  25. tatoforever

    tatoforever

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    I won't comment about my ex-employes but that's one of the reasons I've left Gameloft (not only to self-fund my own company).
     
  26. ippdev

    ippdev

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    Let the market take care of it. Keep the government out of it. Unions do not allow individuals to shine and achieve their appropriate pay recompense. They also prop up slackers on the backs of producers who receive the same wages.

    Rev9
     
  27. stimarco

    stimarco

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    Equity called. They'd like a polite word.
     
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