Imperial College researcher conducts over 60 interviews in unprecedented study
Heated blame-games, sudden colleague departures and interdisciplinary tensions are just some of the findings revealed in an unparalleled study into the working conditions of game developers.
Dr Patrick Stacey, research associate at Imperial College London, interviewed over 60 workers across numerous development studios in Singapore to come up with his 1664-page paper.
And in an exclusive findings report for Develop, he concluded that the industry “needs to attend to the day-to-day social, technical and political forces that act on our game development efforts.”
One incident he cited in the report was of a “bitter war of words between artists, programmers and designers over technical constraints” at a studio given the nom de plume ‘CGS’.
The report said that technical limitations were not properly understood across the studio, resulting in art assets that were too vast in size.
“The subsequent need to reduce the size of art assets led to further multiparty conflict and blame games over the poor resultant art,” Dr Stacey wrote.
This led to disheartened staff as well as less social interactions between the teams, the report added.
“Don, a programmer, was frustrated with Gayle’s lack of flexibility to change the art. He said ‘we can’t have something that looks good that runs at one frame per second.’ The artist did not cope with the conflict, retreated from the team and was unwilling to contribute further. A programmer made special effects to cover up the so-called poor art work.”
Dr Stacey said that the incident was representative of quality of life conditions and factors in game development. He concluded that "being well psychologically is fundamental to being creative”, adding that there is a strong case for developers to take Quality of life conditions seriously.
“The study raises the issue that we also need to attend to the more micro day-to-day social, technical and political forces that act on our development efforts,” he said.
Image used for illustrative purposes.