Working Hours and the IGDA (Part 1/2)

And so the perennial topic of working hours comes back to us again, this time as a result of some spirited discussion from the IGDA. The exact nature of the discussion has been covered well elsewhere, but suffice to say that an IGDA board member (Mike Capps of Epic) has been lambasted by the game developer community in general for his statement that Epic doesn’t want to hire the sort of people who just work 40-hour weeks.


Slaves to the Grind

Slaves to the Grind

There are two parts to this issue really, the first fairly obviously is the problems that this has raised in the IGDA itself. Rather than take what seems to me the obvious route (make a public statement that Epic, while being free to run their studio any way they see fit, is choosing to operate in a way at odds with the IGDA’s stand on quality of life for developers), when pushed on the matter, the rest of the IGDA board has essentially folded, almost entirely on their QoL position.

Now for an organisation that has put QoL very high up on its list of priorities, this is a real problem. The developer community (or at least, that part of it that I hear from and talk to) has always struggled to see the value in an IGDA membership; it doesn’t provide much in the way of tangible benefits, and the social and networking aspect varies massively based on the activity of the local chapter in your area. Certainly the IGDA doesn’t provide anything like the benefits that a union would, as it’s specifically written into its constitution that it cannot become a union or anything like one. But the IGDA’s advocation on quality of life issues has always been one of the big pluses for it in my book – it occupied a niche in that it is placed to represent the best interests of its member developers in campaigning for a better industry for us all. To take away that advocacy position seems to me removes the biggest reason to support or recommend membership to others.

The furore surrounding both the original statement by Mike Capps, and the subsequent IGDA refusal to condemn his stance on general principle is what confounds me though. There is no reason why individual members of the IGDA, even board members, have to work for studios that slavishly follow ever policy that the IGDA might recommend. And with that in mind, it’s perfectly acceptable for Mike Capps to remain a board member, even when his employer’s position conflicts with the recommendations of the IGDA. The next time the elections come around, the IGDA membership will think long and hard about whether or not it’s a good thing to have a board member whose personal policies conflict with such a high profile policy of the organisation. Great. That’s democracy in action.

No, what bothers me is that the other IGDA board members have steadfastly reversed their own organisations positions rather than criticise another board member. They even seem to have gone so far as to implicitely defend Epic’s policy. What, exactly, is the point of saying “all studios should aim for a 40 hour week, because it’s better for everyone involved”, if you then follow it up by saying “oh, unless you’re an IGDA member already; in that case you can run your studio however you like, and I’m sure Epic have a good reason for preferring a longer work week, they do seem to be quite successful and all.” The whole discussion on the IGDA forums has been flabbergastingly forthright in its defence of the over-working of individuals in games development.

The board members, and other senior figures in the IGDA, all seem to be quite surprised at the vehemence with which they’re being attacked. They don’t seem to see their own stance as hypocritical, but attempts to get them to justify their position have resulted in only anger and latterly heavy-handed moderation to quell the continuing argument on their own forums. More recently they have come out with public statements to clarify their position, and to attempt to re-assert their original position on QoL issues, but it all smacks of too-little-too-late unfortunately. The board’s own defence (both implicit and explicit) of Epic’s practices have in my opinion exposed their stance on QoL as nothing more than lip-service towards the ideal, despite the obvious importance the issue has with their (non-management) membership. If that membership hasn’t already voted with their feet and left by the next elections, I hope they show their dissapproval and vote out the incumbent board members in favour of some who actually believe in the policies the IGDA publicly endorse.

All that said, I’m not an IGDA member, and with all of this, I have no intention of becoming one now. No, what worries more is the attitude shown originally by Mike Capps, and latterly people on the IGDA forums. That somehow a person who only wants to work a 40-hour week is just a jobsworth, there marking time and collecting a pay-cheque but with no real passion or involvement with the work they do. That somehow the number of hours you work is linked to your talent. That somehow the fact that the job is making games makes it special, and exempt from all of the normal moral implications of taking advantage of your staff. 

(continued in part 2…)

3 Responses to “Working Hours and the IGDA (Part 1/2)”

  1. DariusK Says:

    Indeed, I’m hoping to get on the board and make some changes to the IGDA. I was motivated by this whole incident to do so.

  2. MrCranky Says:

    I certainly think there’s a lot of scope for improvements to be made for the IGDA now, and of course it can only be driven from the inside by members. I understand now that Mike Capps is no longer on the board anyway? A shame, as I think being voted out by the membership would have been inevitable for him, and it would have made a stronger statement.

    Sadly though I think this set-back has shaken and devalued the industry’s opinion of the IGDA and its position on QoL issues, and even with the best efforts of the membership it will take a long time to get back to where they were six months ago.

    I’m just surprised that there is even contention on this issue. Yes, you could argue that public QoL ratings of companies isn’t the way to go about improving things, but it’s not even that which is being argued; it’s the fundamental principle that >40 weeks are bad for everyone. And I just don’t see how there can be disagreement on that. I think as an IGDA member, especially one wanting to run for the board, your most important task is not to get companies to make changes to their QoL policies, it’s to get everyone to agree on that one fundamental principle; to find those who disagree with it and convince them just how wrong they are. Only from that strong and solid position can the IGDA hope to persuade businesses to change their policies.

  3. Black Company Studios » Blog Archive » Working Hours and the IGDA (Part 2/2) Says:

    […] (…continued from part 1) […]

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