The video game industry is a behemoth. It shapes our culture, it shapes our discourse, and it’s on its way to becoming something like a $200 billion industry. But what is it like for the people who make the games we enjoy? Unfortunately, many developers deal with long hours, precarious contracts, hostility, and harassment. There’s pushback, however, from workers who expect and demand better — and who are organizing to get just that. On this episode, we set out on a quest to level-up our knowledge of the video game industry.
- First, (@12:15) Carolyn Jong is a freelance video game designer and a founding member of the Montreal chapter of Game Workers Unite — a worker-run, pro-labour industry group. She discusses “crunch,” work weeks of 50 hours that can creep up to 80, even 100 hours as the rush to release a title intensifies. She also talks about the pushback: the struggle for workers’ rights.
- Then, (@31:41) Johanna Weststar is an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario. She runs large-scale international surveys with game developers, tracking crunch since 2014. She goes beyond the culture of the industry to reveal the heart of the matter: how games are financed and developed from the top down.
——————-FURTHER READING & LISTENING——————-
- Don’t miss Carolyn Jong and the Game Workers Unite Zine, including a printable version. And while you’re there, have a look at previous editions.
- Go deeper into the research with a look at some work done by the Weststar Lab, including the Developer Satisfaction Survey, and “Why Might a Videogame Developer Join a Union?”, and “Building Momentum for Collectivity in the Digital Games Community.”
- For a look at life deep inside a game, listen to some real talk as Maximilian Dood talks about being ADDICTED to Final Fantasy XI.
——————-SUPPORT THE SHOW——————-
We need your support. If you like what you hear, chip in. You can find us on patreon.com/dartsandletters. Patreon subscribers — such as Camille, Robert, and Adam — usually get the episode a day early, and sometimes will also receive bonus content.
Don’t have the money to chip in this week? Not to fear, you can help in other ways. For one: subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. It helps other people find our work.
Darts and Letters’ is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic. Our lead producer is Jay Cockburn, and our chase producer is Marc Apollonio. We had research and support from Addye Susnick and David Moscrop. Our theme song was created by Mike Barber. Our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop.
This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor. It was also part of a wider project looking at the politics of video games, housed at UBC and also advised by Lennart E. Nacke at the University of Waterloo.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.