Game Developers’ Quality Of Life Is No News Bulletin

This is a news bulletin for many people but not for anybody who has ever even peeked inside the industry. There’s a new white paper over at the IGDA (IGDA – Quality of Life White Paper). You have to be a member to download the 90pg. complete report but the summarized highlights are no surprise. People within the game industry are grossly overworked and at least somewhat underpaid.
“Only 3.4% said that their coworkers averaged 10 or more years of experience.” – Yeah, that would be because by that time they’ve figured out they can make more money for fewer hours doing development of something other than games.
“Crunch time is omnipresent, during which respondents work 65 to 80 hours a week (35.2%). The average crunch work week exceeds 80 hours (13%).” – One developer in Dallas was known to have put cots or couches in all the offices and have YMCA memberships around the corner so people could go shower.
When I created the X-Plus and DevGames.com websites (prior to participating in GameDev.net) it was to become a game developer. I imagined that it would teach me about how to develop games and make industry contacts to get a game job. Here’s a news flash, never create a website to learn about anything. If you develop a big successful community you will learn a great deal about building successful web communities, not about your topic of choice. Everything I learned about people within the industry taught me the following things:

  • There is an endless supply of developers out there who believe game development would be really cool. The people hiring for the industry know this and aren’t going to pay you nearly as well because they rely on this seemingly inexhaustible pool of people.
  • Many of the developers within the industry may be good with 3D or sound or many other topics but often they are inexperienced with basic software practices that you or I might consider essential. In that category I would put things like source control, test first design, design patterns, etc. Even when they know better the time crunch to get stuff out the door often makes them toss good software practices in a foolish attempt to save time.
  • Working on a game for two years can quickly become no different than working on any other program for two years. That is, when you have to dig around in the guts of the program day after day and deal with its bugs and only with that one game it’s not going to seem all that fun anymore. In fact, you may find yourself playing other games just to get away from it for a while.
  • What says you are going to be working on Half-Life X or one of the few dozen cool games that come out every year anyway? Remember, somebody is out there building the game that goes with the next Jim Carrey movie and it’s probably going to be you. Look around at most of the dreck that comes out. That stuff doesn’t develop itself.
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