Inside Job: Revisiting Quality of Life

Inside Job: Revisiting Quality of Life

The industry will never be 'done' addressing quality of life issues, but Erin Hoffman believes there's reason for hope and praise as well as critique.

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There have been, in fact, been numerous lawsuits concerning overtime against all of the major developer-publishers, but this comment reflects a very common perception among developers that still hasn't changed. What I would say to these developers is that a company that will refrain from hiring you because you've defended your legal rights is not one that you want to go anywhere near with a twelve foot clown pole. If anyone should have been blacklisted from the industry over troublemaking, it's me, and the job offers didn't cease or even trickle once I went public. It is still the case that talent and skill trump politics in this industry, and I hope it always is.

Wouldn't it be possible, if enough evidence was assembled, to drag a studio or publisher to courts because of such a discrimination (against people who defended their right to have a decent quality of life), if it would ever happen?

As always, you always notice that until you become vocal about the problems, some suits will always try to abuse you. Fuck eh. :P

Hi Arbre. Yes, if you could pin a studio down on that kind of discrimination, it would be possible to litigate. The perceptual problem doesn't cease, though, for a couple of reasons.

First is that the kind of discrimination people are afraid of would be very difficult to trace. You can't call discrimination on someone if they just don't give you an interview. It would be possible to have a 'chilling effect' push you out of the industry just by virtue of you not being able to land a job in the first place, which wouldn't be difficult in a business that is so competitive. The balancing factors to this are that studios -- especially the large ones -- are often so intensely in competition that if you make an enemy of one you make friends of another. Game development isn't the "one big house" it can often seem to be; it would take an awful lot to have the whole thing blacklist you; rightfully suing an abusive employer wouldn't do it. And studios are also pragmatic; when they're looking for talent they'll overlook an awful lot if they think you'll bring value to them. This is what I tell students who ask how they can stand up for themselves, and I do truly feel their pain because they are in a less advantageous bargaining position: but standing up for yourself intelligently actually *inflates* your value. Because so many jobs in this business are negotiation based in their origins, they're political, and I have perceived that it is actually a political advantage to show spirit and the desire to safeguard one's creativity by taking a stand for working conditions that nurture, rather than destroy, creative ability. If you stand up and say "I'm worth more than this", and you're willing to stand out to do so, most people, weirdly enough, will tend to believe you. ;)

Secondly, no one likes filing lawsuits. Despite the overall litigious nature of the US, or perhaps because of it, there's an unfortunate stigma attached to making use of the legal system. It's an intimidating process -- lawyers exist in their own virtual world as far as I'm concerned, and surprisingly little of it is communicable to a "normal", or consistent. Most game developers I know have this weird guilt complex attached to the idea of litigation, which I do understand. It's very confrontational and adversarial, or at least that's how it's perceived, which is very distasteful to an industry that is so camaraderie focused as game development. But it is business, and business does not exist without law; if game studios and publishers want to take advantage of the law to protect themselves and their businesses, it is simple hypocrisy to think that developers should not do the same.

I certainly burned some bridges by taking the actions I did. I don't personally regret it by simple virtue of the fact that it organized people for me. If someone was going to hold it against me that I thought working 90 hours a week for 6+ months was counterproductive and insane, I didn't want to be working for them anyway, so it nicely cleared them out of my path. But most developers who stick with the career love making games so much they are unwilling to do anything that they even perceive closes a door to them. No matter what that door looks like.

 

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