Industry comes clean on crunch

Industry comes clean on crunch

By Ed Fear

May 26th 2009 at 3:39PM

98 per cent not paid official overtime despite average crunch of ten to 15 hours per week

Ninety-eight per cent of game developers across the world do not receive paid overtime, despite being frequently asked to work an extra ten to fifteen hours per week.

That’s according to over 350 industry professionals who had their say on working conditions through Develop’s Quality of Life in 2009 survey, the results of which have been published online today.

The survey was launched in part as a result of the controversy surrounding the International Game Developers Association and, in particular, Epic CEO Dr. Michael Capps, who suggested that Epic’s staff would be expected to work 60 hour weeks as part of the corporate culture.

The resulting argument split the IGDA membership between those that felt the organisation should be making a stand against such practices, and those who thought otherwise.

Similarly, our interview with Peter Molyneux highlighted the changes Lionhead had made in its corporate culture in order to - in his own words- “stop ruining people’s lives”.

The survey aimed to get an overview as to the current work/life balance experienced by regular everyday game studio employees, and explore how game developers felt the industry had improved since the EA_spouse incident, now almost at its five year anniversary.

The results – which you can find here – show that, while the 46 working hours per week figure is similar to the UK average of 44 (2001 data), only two percent of respondents received official overtime pay, with a surprising 18 per cent receiving no bonuses whatsoever above their basic salary.

“It’s critical that the UK industry invests in its workforce,” said Tiga CEO Richard Wilson when presented with the results. “We don’t have tax breaks or government support to help the games industry in general, so game developers have to rely on the skills and experience of their employees. That’s a key competitive advantage for us, I think, because we do have a very skilled and very experienced workforce.”

“There is obviously a particularly intensive crunch period towards the end of projects, but one of the important things shown in this survey was that the problem was somewhat down to unrealistic scheduling in order to meet publisher demands."

"I suppose the response to that is that one would hope that over time developers in the UK will become more effective in dealing with publishers, and publishers will hopefully become more ameniable to the working needs of developers in order to make their schedules more reasonable. The trend towards self-publishing will also give developers more freedom to schedule their work, and would hopefully diminish the tendency towards crunch working.”

One of the other interesting outcomes of the survey is that the overwhelming majority of respondents felt that games industry bodies should monitor and potentially restrict working hours.

“That’s a very interesting outcome, actually,” said Wilson. “Tiga is a trade association for MDs and CEOs, but I think it’s important from our perspective to represent the games development industry as a whole. Ultimately it’s the CEOs and MDs of studios that pay for Tiga and keep it functioning, but I think they’d be surprised if we had such a narrow perspective that we didn’t cover the industry at large, and that of course covers the workforce.”

In fact, the organisation had already made efforts to tackle the quality of life problem that stops the industry from attracting talent it might otherwise.

“We recently set up an HR group for HR professionals in the industry, in order to share knowledge and develop best practice,” Wilson explained.

“It’s a small group at the moment, but we’ve had some leading companies involved and sharing information, so I hope that over the coming months ahead we will develop best practice procedures for the industry. It’s at an early stage, but we take the interests of the workforce very seriously, as do I think most of the MDs and CEOs.”

To check out the full results, click here.