It's Time to Radically Remake the Games Industry


Well, first off we’re not settling, many if not most of us put in the extra effort to make our jobs / studios / industry better. It is fighting capitalize so it moves slowly.

Also, as a second point we all know that there is more money in different areas of development if your skills transfer which is far more likely in programming than design.

Money however is not the only motivator, I didn’t work for a military contractor so my work isn’t killing people and I can go into any game store in EFIGS regions and find at least one thing I worked on.

We work for large companies because of security and risk mitigation. Going indie is a luxury and risk that few can afford.


Which is why I suggested it as a hobby/side gig instead of full time. Software development is also not limited to just military and games there are plenty of other industries you could be working in that have a real impact on the world. Name an industry and it needs programmers.

Programmers also arguably have the most power in a studio and should be the ones spearheading unionization. Being complacent is damaging to yourself and those you work with who do not have that same level of power. It’s already been proven that companies will gladly fire and hire replacements for artists who don’t fall into line but you can’t exactly do the same for your core engineers.


It’s probably worth putting out there that general reporting of a “STEM shortage” and companies desperate for programmers are, in general, propaganda from corporate heads who are pushing to allow them to get unlimited work visas for programmers and so lower wages by preventing even a temporary or specific skill shortage. This on top of widespread illegal deals that lock wages by preventing competition for workers between big tech firms and so preventing workers’ ability to demand higher salaries outside of “star” or senior roles. Lots of programmer jobs are poorly compensated (edit: especially due to where they are often located in the most expensive cities to live on the planet) and do include the same expectation as in the gaming industry for unreasonable overtime (sometime unpaid or sometimes compensated via what look to be inflated salaries until you see the cots on specially-built campuses where developers eat three meals a day, go to the company GP when sick, and have their laundry done before relaxing in the office gym and then going back to get a couple more hours done in the spreadsheet mines).

Things after often good but also often bad and there is a lot of pressure to give a rosy picture of the sector when many indicators are not good in various major education locations.

Although the burnout issue is not as critical as high level sports (or possibly even finance - although a lot of finance burnout can be in the coding departments which drive their various systems from maintaining a never-crash necessity or developing HFT optimisations), there is a lot of it. Just as you can’t look at the salary of someone who will have to retire from pro sports by 40 with a host of injuries, so these salary figures are inflated by the percentage of programmers who will not make it through the stress of the job into later years in any way capable of sustaining and will take early retirement that is, at best, into part-time consultancy.


My friend, you’re suggesting I work a full time job and then work a part time second job (for no pay).
That will not help with too much crunch and poor work/life balance.


Plenty of us already do it as a hobby.

I like video games and I like developing them and I easily do that right now after I get off of work at 6. I spend 1-2 hours most nights working on it and still have time for other things.

I have no deadlines. The game is done when it’s done. I’m never crunching, if a bug takes 5 days to solve that’s fine. I answer to no one but myself.

You’re making the assumption you still have to hold yourself to rigid deadlines and answer to a higher up. You are applying the system they force you into onto yourself which is very much the wrong way to go about it.


Cmon, what you’re proposing is not sustainable on an industry wide level. You are in essence asking people to take up more of their precious free time to make games, conveniently disregarding the fact that many people lack the time or energy after a long day of work to sustain what you are proposing.

It’s great that the arrangement works for you. But it’s not an arrangement that creates the next Spider-Man, nor one that works for people who have families to take care of, or the working poor. It’s an arrangement that favors the young, well off, and male demographic that already dominates game development.

I make no claim to know the first thing about game development, but as a player, I know it won’t lead to the diversity of games nor the ethical working conditions that I want to see in the industry.


That’s all based on the assumption that everyone has the energy to work full time and then also work on a game after they come home from work. Even if you completely disregard other obligations, like taking care of your familiy, or having a social life, this is not possible for everyone.

I had a part-time job recently and I was so exhausted from work, that when I had days off, I wasn’t even able to clean up my apartment, let alone work on a videogame. Sure, my mental health issues also played a huge role here (I ended up quitting said job, because of them), but just assuming that everyone has the same amount of energy as you have, is not the best way to approach things.


Today of all days, weird to see this thread veer towards victim blaming.


“work full-time at a normal programming job and use your free time to make games for the pure love of it” and “the developers would finish the game for free if they really cared about it” have a lot in common


If all these video game programmers go into software development, what happens to software development wages? They don’t hit zero, but my hunch is that the wage differential between software and video game development goes down quite a bit.


I’ve been following the devs of Paratopic for a while and they have repeatedly said they will take any sort of funding or job offer from the industry because despite the game’s critical success and features on most of the big websites including Waypoint, they are still on the poverty line (literally). Indie dev isn’t wine and roses and have staked their entire lives on a game succeeding and it’s such a gamble that they can succeed. It’s no wonder there’s been a push for indie publishers and venture funds for those games because that industry also has challenges and issues to solve. And as a remote worker myself, there is a lot of temptation to overstay my hours when you are “On a roll” and incredibly productive because the only check and balance is myself. And that’s lead to some really awful burnout that takes days away from me. I would much rather have a 9-5 job (But that is personal preference and I support remote working. Especially for new parents).

Is gaming development broken at a corporate level? Absolutely. But it means we have to fix it rather than look to other methods because they can be broken as well. Unionisation and collective bargaining is one. Trying to diagnose the symptoms of crunch culture and how to stop it without leaving the people who are “On a roll” and who may be single, new to the area something to help burn off their energy in a social and healthy way is another so its not pressuring people with families and commitments to crunch. There’s multiple aspects to this that can allow devs to control the balance of their lifes and create a healthier industry and it’s what we should be looking for first and then reviewing it step by step.


This is some of the most careless writing I’ve ever seen on this forum.

You are saying that software developers in game development are failing their industry and failing themselves by “settling” for the current situation, suggesting that their current job offers nothing of value to the world compared to other programming jobs, and telling people in that position to pick up another hobby/job on the side if they still want to live their dreams. That is something few are financially privileged to do and even fewer are able to handle.

Reading this as a creative who is working for myself, you sound like the kind of person who emails me asking for free work and tries to exploit me.


Hey you know what else giant shitty corporations have to offer in the hellscape that is America? Healthcare! Probably aren’t gonna get the best health plan if you’re working indie, with the way the ACA is slowly being bled out.


What can we, as the buyers of these games, do to help those in the industry being exploited? Other than boycotts and advocating unionization, what else can we do?


Building off what @Dyfrig asks: what can we do in our professional or hobbyist capacities to help the industry. I’m an IP and business attorney, and would love to do pro bono work for devs or games employees, but I haven’t found an avenue for that.

Any ideas, including for folks with other kinds of professional or hobbyist skills that want to help?


I think, the best way to help would to be decisive action that helps developers and customers. Around 2002 there was a campaign in the UK called “Don’t Buy A Game Week” organized by EDGE Forum users, game developers The Pickford Brothers and a few ex- and current gaming journalists in response to the spiraling costs of games and a lot of forum uses working retail seeing that low-income families were just really hurting themselves for buying the latest games and not just the hardcore groups. They established a group called “Fairplay”, organized proper media relations, reached out to developers to see what their goals would be (Of which there was a surprising amount of positive reaction including well known devs like Miles Jacobson and Peter Moleneux who supplied quotes saying how difficult it was for developers under the development model then).

And a lot of the campaign focused on how the obscene margins didn’t go back to the people who made the game and how it was stopping low income people from affording games. There was a lot of laughing off but as the message grew, it got a lot of blowback (Including some amazing reactions like a public TV debate, the Publisher lobby group getting incredibly angry and making some spectacular hit pieces in the press and of course Angry gamers because the campaign was particularly focused on Nintendo’s pricing and licencing structure). There was a bit of a silly feeling standing in the streets with a flyer on a cold and wet December afternoon explaining why you shouldn’t buy a game. But amazingly it worked, sales dropped and there was enough of an impact that retailers took prices down. Games were very affordable that year, Nintendo eliminated their contentious licensing fee, after an inital stock drop, retailers reported a large rise in sales and developers saw a rise in bonuses. There’s a great archive here detailing it

So the issue is. How do we replicate that success that benefited developers, consumers and in a roundabout way, Publishers (Who thought the campaign was going to be the death of them and their profits that year). Especially since Fairplay was a completely non-profit endeavor and done out of people’s free time and passion while these days “Pro-Consumer” has been monetised and beaten to death by toxic youtubers who see industry problems as a way to make a quick buck by making everyone rage instead actual solutions to developer and consumer issues. On top of that, some Devs see core customers as dangerous threats to them and their family (And I don’t blame them) and people have way, way too hard brand attachments these days that you mention a 1st party and all hell might break loose. And also the “Ethics In Games Journalism” crowd, who like every other problem, would use it as a shield to attack minorities and women because it hasn’t stopped them using various consumer issues like lootcrates and DLC before as just a way to send vitriol to developers.

There’s so much in the way of a consumer campaign now. Even though, ironically, I think publishers would be much more willing to listen because its in their interest for good PR and sustainability that people with a healthy interest in making a better industry for the people who make the games and the people who play the games have a voice.