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When we talk about quality of life, the things that come up first generally go like this: 1) Compensation; 2) Production efficiency (management); 3) Benefits (health, retirement); 4) Morale (company culture). Within those lives a lot of discussion all on its own, and we'll get to that, but first I would suggest that to approach quality of life purely in terms of symptom management - that is, to engage in quality of life improvement solely in terms of making the development process less painful - is laudable but short-sighted.

There are other dimensions not generally considered part of the quality of life spectrum that impact it comprehensively and profoundly: 1) The education of future developers (academia and our vast army of aspiring game makers); 2) The public image of games as media (censorship and public relations); 3) Outreach and disinformation combat (the parent-child-game relationship); 4) Personal investment and professional longevity (credit, portfolio and trade organization). There are a number of reasons why each of these is critical to quality of life, but it basically boils down to this: I need to be able to sit on an airplane and tell a stranger what I do for a living without trepidation, without hesitation, without pauses for explanations that, no, not all games make you want to kill people, not all games are Grand Theft Auto (leaving out that I sort of, you know, liked Grand Theft Auto) and not all - not even many - game developers are immoral human beings. If I can't be proud of what I do, then how can I consider that I have positive quality of life?

We're going to talk about all of these things, and about why it is useless to consider quality of life without this full spectrum of the overall health of the industry. Hopefully you'll hear some new ideas, and hopefully you'll come up with some of your own, and implement them.

This column will appear on the first and third Fridays of every month. On the first Friday, the column will focus on information and ideas; the third Friday will follow the theme of the first but focus on perspectives and interviews with individual developers. In between those two, I hope you'll send me your ideas. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that things get better when people start talking to each other.

There is a universe waiting when we use the enormous creativity present in this business to benefit the people who make, play and observe games - which, these days, amounts to a good portion of the world. That potential, I think, is pretty damn cool. And that is how we are going to talk about quality of life.

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Erin Hoffman is a professional game designer, freelance writer, and hobbyist troublemaker. She moderates Gamewatch.org and fights crime on the streets by night.

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