A well-written piece by Ian Williams about the sad state of labor practices in the video game industry, where forced “crunch” periods are destroying souls:

Here, as in few other places, we see the kind of exploitation normally associated with the industrial sector in creative work. Already subject to lower wages when compared to the broader tech sector, video game studiosā€™ management maintain the status quo by consciously manipulating the desires of writers, artists, and coders hoping to break into a creative field. The profit vacuumed up goes to ever more bloated management salaries and the unremittingly glitzy, tacky spectacles churned out by gamingā€™s PR departments.

One conclusion at which he arrives is something I sincerely hope does not occur:

The exploitation in the video game industry provides a glimpse at how the rest of us may be working in years to come.

But part of his solution for the industry is what I have been assuming is necessary for some time now:

Real unionization, involving an alliance between middle-rung workers and those itching to take their jobs below, is not just desirable but necessary, not only for the workers enmeshed in twelve-hour days, but to save the industry from tottering over the edge into obsolescence.

The games industry may soon be at a point of reckoning, with working conditions at an unsustainable level and games that sell four to five million copies considered failures because of the skyrocketing costs of development that don’t seem to be finding their way into the bank accounts of the creative people who are making them.

The games industry desperately needs unionization.

Ben Kuchera was at theĀ Battlefield 4 reveal, and posted a small report about the event (which was at GDC). What struck me the most about it was this:

TheĀ Battlefield 4Ā reveal has suffered leak after leak, and in fact many of us were watching a leaked version of the trailer in the theater before the actual reveal took place. This makes the flashlights EA representatives were shining in the eyes of the press to make sure there were no hidden video recorders in the audience even sillier than they would normally be. Any damage had already been done: People knew the game in question, and were dissecting some of the content that was supposed to be a surprise.

That AAA publishers continue to insist on revealing games using showy events shown only to a select few is yet another symptom that the games industry is dinosauring itself. Imagine the amount of money that could be saved across all aspects of an industry that is closing dev shops, bankrupting publishers, and missing completely ridiculous “sales targets” if these companies would just use their existing internet channels in smart ways to reach both the news sites and their customers at the same time.

This information gets out anyway. It’s yet another instance of games publishers being tone-deaf and oblivious to the realities that surround them.