Few subjects are as contentious amongst developers, staff and management alike, than “unpaid overtime”; it’s sadly an issue that still divides, and about which more has been written, argued the toss about and discussed with less possible hope of an outcome than the Israeli-Palestine question. Game development being a highly creative industry staffed by motivated and, frankly, obsessive talent the idea that overtime is absolutely required if one is to develop a decent game is sadly still prevalent. Ignore scheduling issues, if the staff isn’t willing to kill themselves for the good of the project no good games, some say, can ever be made. Management obviously thinks unpaid overtime is great for business, squeezing free man months out of staff while conveniently ignoring century-old research that pretty much proves that overtime turns to negative productivity. My personal views on the matter should be obvious by this opening paragraph alone, but for every lefty liberal socialist like myself there is a raving workaholic who will come with plenty of counter-arguments. So, we look at some representative body to take up the issue, and as game developers we have, sadly, only one of those: the IGDA.
Recently somewhat of a storm has erupted when the IGDA, which claims it champions “QoL” (Quality of Life) for its members, ostensibly developers, had a roundtable discussion at the IGDA Leadership Forum 08, “Studio Heads Hotseat”, where a board member, at the time, boldly claimed:
there's a lot of talk, "oh you can make great games working 8 hours a day 5 days a week, it's management's fault if they work more than that," fuck, it's management's fault for hiring people who want to leave at 5pm every day is the way I look at itVideo here.
-- Mike Capps, President, Epic Games
This, in turn caused somewhat of an uproar on the IGDA feedback forums and a very lackluster, non-committal response from the board.
The story drags on quite a bit, and rather than recounting it here I suggest readers to watch the videos and follow all the links in the forums and the IGDA website. The long and short of it, though, is that the IGDA, the only spokesgroup our industry has really managed to create basically has very little it does for the lowly developer, seeming to be more in line with the management ideas for which us developers exactly need an organisation to protect us from.
The overall usefulness of the IGDA is also an issue many developers can’t seem to agree on, with some local chapters actually being well-run and offering a lot to the local members, yet others being pretty much useless. So far I have been a paid member, a token of support for the idea alone, as I was never in a real position to devote myself to the organisation in the form of tangible help and commitment; sadly a common situation for many developers. After this QoL debacle, though, I have decided to let my subscription run out after which it shan’t be renewed. We desperately need an organisation to protect the interests of developers, and the IGDA has sadly proven itself to be somewhat of a lame duck in this regard, peppering their site with splendid ideas and research, yet not being able to even stand up to its own board of directors when they blatantly and openly defy the very principles it is supposed to uphold.
These mundane issues, readers, are what keep developers awake at night. I’m sorry it’s not as sexy and academic as ludological narrative philosophy, but we are people after all, people stuck in a industry so mired in the 80s bedroom coding scene that it never found the time to grow up.