Erin Hoffman’s comment on my previous IGDA post got me to thinking. If the IGDA are looking for a tangible way they can help things, what can they really do? So here’s my suggestion:
My issue with the way the IGDA work with regards to these reports of crunch is pretty much the same every time. They don’t seem to do anything unless someone makes a formal complaint to them, and even then they seem to put the onus on the individuals at the studio to be acting on it themselves. To me, it should be the other way around. There should be a ‘report a company’ button on their website which is 100% anonymous, and really simple to find/use. Once pressed, the IGDA (or whomever) would come along to the company and ask the company if it’s true. Either:
- the company says it is, and they’re not ashamed
- the company says it is, and they’re sorry, and here’s how they’re going to address it
- the company says it isn’t.
In 3) the IGDA can then ask if it can speak to employees at random for their opinion. The company can only really refuse if they’ve got something to hide. The company won’t be allowed to know who said what, and they’ll have to ask enough people so that the employees can’t be threatened or accused of ‘ratting the company out’. The employees will either:
- confirm that there’s no crunch, and the original report was bogus
- confirm that there is crunch (and ideally give details), showing that the company is both deliberately crunching, and deliberately lying about it.
In most of those outcomes, they can publicly state the results of their investigations. It doesn’t have to be a big fanfare or singling particular developers out (at least to begin with), just quietly announcing what they discovered when they asked the question.
- If a company is never reported on, you can take that as a good sign.
- If a company isn’t crunching its staff, it can be held up as a good example.
- If a company is crunching its staff and isn’t ashamed, the IGDA can publicise that fact (and discourage potential applicants).
- If a company is crunching its staff but wishes it weren’t, that can be publicised, and the situation monitored; if they have a plan to fix it, the IGDA could go back in a year or two and see if they’ve made progress, and if so hold them up as an example to others as to how to get out of crunch mode.
- If a company is crunching its staff but pretending they aren’t, that can be publicised as well, including the fact that their staff say something different, all of which will discourage potential applicants.
Even those at the IGDA who are convinced that the “40 hour week” is some crazed ideal that not everyone agrees with can’t really argue against that, because you can do it neutrally, without stating categorically that crunch is bad. Even if you think crunch can be a good thing, it can be highlighted in the findings. What matters is that the situation be made clear to one and all.
It only relies on the simple fact that any organisation can ask a question of another publicly. The respondent is then put on the spot, either they have to ignore the question, lie, admit it, or deny it. Failure to answer the question is damning enough in itself. An organisation which doesn’t crunch has nothing to fear, an organisation which crunches and doesn’t care (like Team Bondi) won’t mind the question being asked. The only organisations which would be disadvantaged are the ones who are crunching and trying to hide it. In which case simply asking the question is enough to bring it out into the light.
Our real problem is that the press and the IGDA and others aren’t talking about it enough. Not in general terms (‘crunch is bad’), but in specifics (‘the kind of crunch being talked about at Bondi is bad’). If no-one asks the awkward questions until after it’s been so f*(&ed up for years, then it’s only going to continue.