GDC 2018: Game developers push for unionization in Game Workers Unite

Back in 2016, we covered the voice actors guild strike against multiple game companies in its an attempt to secure better compensation and working conditions. The drawn-out saga renewed calls among game developers themselves to unionize. As we wrote about last fall, such a trade union would ideally protect developers from discrimination as well as game industry “crunch” and its concomitant 100-hour weeks and poor compensation – the kind that has literally caused game developers to drop dead (never mind makes them burn out or abandon the industry).

Apparently, such an organization is finally in the works. As Kotaku reports, Game Workers Unite is using this year’s GDC to raise awareness and collect accounts of labor exploitation.

“Game Workers Unite is a broad-reaching organization that seeks to connect pro-union activists, exploited workers, and allies across borders and across ideologies in the name of building a unionized game industry. We are building pro-union solidarity across disciplines, classes, and countries.”

Don’t expect it to go unchallenged; in spite of companies like Riot and Blizzard expressing support for pro e-sports unions, some game corporations have already proven they’re willing to resort to disgusting tactics to fight unions.

Source: Game Workers Unite via Kotaku
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veldara
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veldara

Bout damn time, the people creating your favorite and cherished titles shouldn’t be treated like disposable cattle.

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Bryan Dixon

Think it’s a great idea as long as nobody is forced to join and pay dues.

Reader
Ssiard

I’d only be for unions if the following were changed

1) It was voluntary to join.

2) Union dues were only required if you joined.

3) They were required to have open financials.

4) They were prevented from lobbying politicians.

Until these are implemented then unions are just adding to the cespool.

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Utakata

It’s not the unions that need to change though.

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Utakata

Edit/PS: To clarify my position a bit, as one or 2 folks seems confused what I mean. I am looking at the practise of how private and public sector treats and deals with it’s labor force. That is, if workers rights where fully protected and fully supported, as opposed to treating them like an expendable force in the name of padding the bottom line, then there would really be no need for unions. This clearly isn’t the case. And that’s what needs to change. Or we need unions. /deal

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Ssiard

The confusion is with “protection”. You believe companies are only bad. You also believe that individual workers are incapable of protecting themselves. Neither are true. This is the fundamental assumption of unions and it is not correct.

Reader
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mysecretid

My extended family works on both the union and management sides of the issue, often in very highly-placed positions.

The reality is that, while the operational details change (often significantly) from location to location, both management and unions are equally susceptible to abuses of power whenever they become the only dominant power in the equation.

Neither side has a lock on virtue or vice in all situations, because these organizations are made up of individuals, who are various unknown quantities of good and evil — unknown, until they are given the power to unilaterally enforce their will.

Overly-strong management can be just as tyrannical and detrimental in business as an overly-strong union.

The ideal situation is one of balance, where neither labor nor management holds the authoritative power, but must negotiate with one another to go forward, with all parties in relative agreement.

Hammering out such agreements can be hellishly difficult, yes, but when neither management nor labor holds absolute power, the two sides become an ongoing check-and-balance on one another’s behavior, and both sides are motivated to find a workable compromise for their business to move forward.

Rather than striving to destroy unions or to eradicate management, it’s more useful (and typically more profitable) to create a balance of power, where each side’s power serves to keep potential abuses by the other side in check, and both sides must work together to keep their mutual business interest thriving.

As the old saying goes, “A compromise is an agreement everybody hates, but everyone can live with”.

Overweening power on either side leads to abuses — given that management in the gaming industry has demonstrably held most of the power for most of game industry’s existence, the abuses (also documented and demonstrable) have proliferated.

I’m not at all surprised that those on the labor side of the equation seek a more balanced relationship, going forward. I fully expect they will ultimately get this, if they continue to fight for it.

This is my final comment on this issue here. This is what I know. Take it or leave it, as you prefer. I’m not interested in having any sort of argument.

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Utakata

That’s a lot of stawmen you are constructing there. You must have fine hands to do needle work. o.O

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haishao

They definitely need to change. Unions are nothing less than organized crime. All they do is extortion and bullying. They force you to pay them so you get the right to work and if you do more work than they allow you, they start bullying you to stop.
And forget showing up to work if they decide everyone is on strike even if you don’t agree with it because then they show up to your house and start braking stuff.

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Utakata

If you think they’re organized crime, then we simply having nothing to discuss. /shrug

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Ssiard

How else do you describe being forced to pay money so that someone else can provide you with protection that you need nor want? It’s like straight out of The Godfather.

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Utakata

And if you think that, then I have nothing to discuss with you further either. /shrugs again

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Bhima Jenkins

You are forced to pay federal and state taxes, pay for car insurance, pay for property tax to send someone else’s kid to school. If we were not forced to pay for these things, they wouldn’t exist and our little experiment in civil society would come crashing to the ground.

This is why Union dues are mandatory, because if they weren’t, not enough would pay for it to keep the Union solvent. I have quite a few issues with the way some Unions conduct business (ie: nigh on impossible to fire a sub-par employee), but the mandatory charge is just not a big deal.

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Ssiard

There are a whole lot of laws preventing corruption in politicians. There is also balance of power. However, laws protect bad unions and make it difficult to even prove the union is bad. That is the difference.

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Ssiard

I disagree that unions do not need to change.

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Utakata

I am sure you do. :)

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Cosmic Cleric

For #4, just unions can’t, or nobody can lobby?

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Ssiard

No organizations should be able to lobby but unions should definitely not because it is a misappropriation of union dues and forcing members to promote a certain political stance.

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Sally Bowls

If you are getting your cleaning crew or seamstresses to work 80 hours, that is just a sweatshop. Shame on you.

OTOH
1) IMO, a very, very tiny % of the people who work 60+ hours a week do so in the games industry. It is a rare startup that is founded by 40 hours a week people. It is a rare associate who makes partner without working 60ish hours a week for 7-11 years. Not “crunch”; business as usual. Wiki article on Karōshi said “In 1988, the Labor Force Survey reported that almost one fourth of the male working employees worked over 60 hours per week” So in that one country, that was IDK say ten million people working, not just crunch, 60 hours a week which is about idk 100,000%? 1,000,000%? the number of game devs who do.

2) I am not sure if all those people working hard were compelled (some were) but some, especially of the older generation, were impelled. Just because you need to be compelled to work hard does not mean that all do. As we say here in old folks land, I suspect that a number of the people working that much may be happier than some of the Millenials standing around complaining the new espresso machine produces too much/little crema.

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Bruno Brito

Not getting your point. Are you saying if someone works too much, and you can see their untimely end because of it, you shouldn’t step in?

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Sally Bowls

Not getting your point. We can say it is a risk factor (at least at the high end) but we certainly can not “see their untimely end” – ethics and law and medicine have a much harder time with probabilities than certainties. But IMO, that is just a red herring; this is about money, not saving lives. I.e. not stopping the 90 or 100 hour, clearly-dangerous, should-be-prohibited, rare bingers but the 50 or 60 hour work weeks that millions have worked for centuries. (The extreme case is that if we were truly about public safety, which would save more lives, reducing by 10 or 20 hours a week that a few thousand developers work or outlawing video games; people spent 10 billion hours in a quarter just playing Blizzard games. I like video games but have seen few claiming they are a force for better physical or mental health, especially among the young.) If this were primarily about the lives/health of developers, then I am sure that things like required exercise and diet changes would raise their life expectancy far, far more than working ten fewer hours a week.)

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haishao

I’d work in a game studio for minimum wage and happily do overtime every day.

Leontes
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Leontes

Alright – just give me a sec to set up shop in Cape Town, and I’ll take you up on that offer…

Line
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Line

Sadly, that’s what most of the workforce is like in the industry.
And after a couple of years, they leave away screaming and find out how much more they could have made for less work hours at the non video game software company next door.

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haishao

That’s their problem. I have no interest in the software company next door. Unless they make video games.

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Utakata

Sure, whatever…more power to you I guess.

Leontes
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Leontes

This is kind of surreal…

Forget nukes – if you want to wreak havoc in the US, go found a union! ;)

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Bryan Correll

/peeks into the room.
/quietly shuts the door and tiptoes off to avoid getting caught in politics.

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Utakata

Kinda sad when something is needed, they argue about instead. /sigh

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Cosmic Cleric

/peeks into the room.
/quietly shuts the door and tiptoes off to avoid getting caught in politics.

Release the hounds!!!

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Surprised that this has’t happened already. The video game industry is like what, 40 years old?

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Sally Bowls

While there are a lot of visual and audio artists involved now (and probably more than I think,) game development grew out of software development. While I am sure there are counterexamples, I have never encountered unionized software developers nor can I think of a company with unionized software developers.

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Bhima Jenkins

Software devs make more money than their gaming counterparts except for the lead devs with bigger gaming studios and certainly work less hours overall. Its the nature of the industry because people love games, so there is a huge pool of people that will work in the industry for less than they could writing small automation scripts for Kaiser, etc. Same goes for video production artists in Hollywood. They can make a killing doing what they do for PR/Ad Agencies, but instead they choose to make movies and get the shaft.

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A Dad Supreme

The salary and benefits were far better than any average person made so why would they strike for those 40 years?

In the US, people are/were raised it was about money first and foremost. Generally the more you got, you’d look around and compare and see you had little to complain about vs the vast majority of other folks and their actual “working conditions”.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Really? From what people tell me, working in the video game industry is stressful and not as rewarding as other jobs for the same effort you put into it. Seems like due to the volatile nature of the video game industry, you put in alot of unpaid hours coding all day. Not to mention, boatloads of people are instantly laid off if a game doesn’t sell well.

Now, I’m just generalizing, but I’m pretty sure there are a few game companies are absolutely killing it (Blizzard and Valve comes to mind), but I think they’re the exception and not the rule.

I wonder, if you have the skills to program video games, why not be a web dev or go into app development? Seems like you’d get paid more and deal with less stress.

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Sally Bowls

There is an agenda in describing no-incremental-pay hours as “unpaid hours.” Who is being treated better in a high tech company, someone who is paid $10 per hour with overtime or someone who works the same hours without overtime pay but is paid a salary of $150,000 a year? Back in the day, you would read about founders of a startup who took zero salaries just for the stock (i.e. chance at being multimillionaires.) Initially, all their hours were unpaid hours.

Where this breaks down for gaming, is that while a lot of high tech workers have a big upside (cook at Google got $10M), [almost] all employees got nearly a million from IPO,) game devs get less salary and without the entrepreneurs’ upside. (Although IDK, but I bet if CSE does well, CU devs will get something.)

Re your “I wonder, if you have the skills to program video games, why not be a web dev or go into app development?”

Freakanomics:

Why do prostitutes earn more than architects?

As the supply-demand theory says when there are a lot of people willing and able to do a job, that job generally doesn’t pay well. Other factors that determine the wage are the specialized skills a job requires, the unpleasantness of a job, and the demand for services. The delicate balance between these factors can explain why the typical prostitute earns more than the typical architect although it may not seem as though she should.

The architect would appear more skilled and better educated (as the words are usually defined). But the girls don’t grow up dreaming of becoming prostitutes, making the supply of potential prostitutes relatively small. Their skills, while not necessarily “specialized,” are practices in a very specialized context. And their job is unpleasant and forbidding in at least two ways: the likelihood of violence and the lost opportunity of having a family life. And as for the demand, an architect is more likely to hire a prostitute than vice versa, let’s just say.

There is a huge demand to program for game companies. If there was not, the supply would decline and compensation would rise. At a SWTOR cantina, one of the devs talked about leaving a programming job in Australia and moving to Austin without first getting a job because he really wanted to work in gaming. Also, the skill barrier did not use to be that high. Instead of hiring expensive programmers with CS degrees, the path was forum commenter, to unpaid moderator, to CM, to SQA, to development.

So highly desirable jobs without excessive skill requirements are not going to pay as well. As the employee knew when they applied. It is a personal choice whether you would prefer to work in a field you love or make more money.

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A Dad Supreme

All jobs are stressful. Even jobs that people love can give them stress so let’s dispense with that. Stress is in everyone’s work to some degree.

“Rewarding” as a job function isn’t in most people’s priority set. Ability to eat, have a house, pay for kid’s college is pretty important; that they feel “fulfilled” isn’t up there usually. People would love that but it’s not the main factor, at least with most of the people I’ve met in my life.

This is why I said for as long as videogames were being made, the money was the important factor and people tended to put up with the complaints because they saw what their Cousin Billy’s family had to do for less money and how his kids grew up vs theirs.

The reason (I assume) a lot of devs don’t go into web or app development, or something in the wonderful fun world of insurance, finance or accounting is because by and large those jobs don’t have any freedom whatsoever and all employees generally have the same set of shitty health benefits, whether you’re a janitor, a receptionist or a programmer. You’re on an even bigger clock but with shorter deadlines for project after project after project from a never-ending stream of projects for customers. So pretty boring work.

In those jobs there is no such thing as ‘delays’ or ‘cost overruns’ or redoing the spreadsheet after a year of work. You have customers so you have to produce and that means working overtime when you have to at no extra pay in an accounting cubicle. The funny thing is those jobs aren’t unionized either.

So you could work for a non-unionized accounting firm developing software where there aren’t videogame breakrooms to blow off stress, allowances for employees to sport huge beards, earlobe plates and piercings, teenage-level branded T-shirts and catered Friday lunches while in your JCPenny suit or you could work for a non-unionized videogame maker in a far better “working environment” with much more lax conditional requirements instead.

plasmajohn
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plasmajohn

“Rewarding” as a job function isn’t in most people’s priority set. Ability to eat, have a house, pay for kid’s college is pretty important; that they feel “fulfilled” isn’t up there usually. People would love that but it’s not the main factor, at least with most of the people I’ve met in my life.

Money isn’t everything. I make a decent amount but I could make 3x as much if I went to work in NYC. I’ll never do that commute again. I’ll never join another company that bounced from crisis to crisis.

The interview ends when companies boast about paid dinner and their sleeping amenities. It’s just not worth the stress.

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rafael12104

Let me gingerly weigh in here. I’ll be brief, I promise.

So, I’m not a fan of unions. I understand the benefits, I really do. But they are also a detriment.

The biggest issue, IMO at the moment, is that unions lead to offshoring labor. Setting artificial wages and other demands on top of what is already a lucrative solution to cut costs will do that. You can’t force a company to build things in the US when there are cheaper solutions outside of the US, right? It is a global marketplace.

Besides, devs aren’t mfg workers. They are, usually, highly educated and skilled professionals. They should take advantage of that and negotiate their contract of employment individually. And many do just that because it is beneficial and not a rubber stamp to be another widget in the workplace.

BTW, crunch isn’t a reason to unionize. Many studious have already established anti-crunch policies as a way to attract talent. That will continue. Why? Because a good dev is not easily replaced, especially if they can negotiate their own contract.

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Alex Willis

The biggest issue, IMO at the moment, is that unions lead to offshoring labor. Setting artificial wages and other demands on top of what is already a lucrative solution to cut costs will do that. You can’t force a company to build things in the US when there are cheaper solutions outside of the US, right? It is a global marketplace.

This is the “workers as hostage” argument. It puts the burden for the profitability of the company on the shoulders of the workers, rather than on management. But as most non-management workers tend to have a narrow mandate, “profitability” writ large tends to fall outside their purview. Explaining to a janitor why he can’t have a dental plan because widgets are cheaper in Mongolia puts an undue and unethical burden on that person.

It IS a global marketplace. That is probably the most challenging argument against a union from a macro-finance point of view. But citizens and politicians should demand more of companies so that they’re not being extorted by these companies “give us a deal or we’ll do business onshore!”. Tax relief, special deals, legal exemptions, and all the incredible ways corporations skirt their civic obligations should come with a price tag: if they want to do business in your country, and get deals, they need to pay your citizens’ workers a fair wage. The entire economy benefits from that.

Besides, devs aren’t mfg workers. They are, usually, highly educated and skilled professionals. They should take advantage of that and negotiate their contract of employment individually. And many do just that because it is beneficial and not a rubber stamp to be another widget in the workplace.

Some devs ARE “workers”. In larger studios, you get a templated work contract and slotted into an HR-formatted job. I know lots of people who work at Ubisoft Montreal and Toronto, and many of them have zero latitude in their contracts, because they’re filling a role. The person in that role can easily be replaced. Most devs have no leverage: the marketplace is saturated with talent. Typically, negotiated contracts are only available if a person is a) moving into management or b) a content expert that cannot easily be found elsewhere. Do you know anybody working in QA? Ask them about when they got started, and if they had ANY leverage or security.

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Utakata

Mr. Willis, I am glad you are around to explain the finer details. As I have little or no patience to do so. Please keep up the good work. Thank you. /bows

Mr. rafael, please think of the Lyn Gunners available tomorrow for B&S instead. I know I will. So let’s be happy together for this! Thank you. /bows <3

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A Dad Supreme

I think the real question/issue is how the actual developers will accept or react to this news.

Some unions come with a lot of power, some don’t. Police/fire unions like the FOP are very strong while employees of a state government have unions like the CWA that typically aren’t. There is not telling which side of the power scale a “developer’s union” will fall on.

You guys like free bagels, swag and catered lunch/parties, events? Guess what? Now management no longer pays for that.
Your hours suck because sometimes you have a massive crunch where you have to sleep here to push a product? Guess what? Now you will be paid overtime but are on REAL timetables and if you don’t make them, you will get fired per your union agreement and we will hire someone else.
Excellent dental, medical, vacation packages? Guess what? Now we have higher costs so you have to pay more for them.
Getting a lot more union grievances about women and minorities not getting promotions? Welcome to a new workplace where employees are now accused by other employees of getting ahead simply because they “check a box” when the union represents them.
Moving expenses paid from one state to another? Sorry, management can’t cover those costs. We will be shutting down our studio in California and moving it to Omaha. If you want your job, it’s still yours but you have to get there on your own.
Let’s not forget the employees who actually have a good situation without unions who will not like to give up anything for what they have now. A lot of unionized places have problems because almost half of the workers don’t want one.

Welcome to your company possibly moving the entire studio to Asia, to pay those non-unionized workers much less salary or just paying supervisors a bunch to go there and oversee the farming out of most of the work because they claim “union costs are just too unmanageable in the US/Canada”, which in the end makes your union much weaker and you now have to pay for almost everything AND have a pay cut just to keep the same job you had five years ago. Oh, and now your union dues too.

In the end, a union can come with either very good benefits/working conditions/pay or much worse benefits/working conditions/pay. The developers could be forced to give back a lot of the typical freedoms/benefits that they enjoy that most other union employees would consider borderline obscenely upscale.

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Bruno Brito

That’s one of those “we have to wait and see” scenarios.

That being said, the industry as it is right now is unacceptable.

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A Dad Supreme

Agreed, this is kind of a unique situation imo.

Most unions exist in places where the jobs typically couldn’t/can’t be replaced. Each industry had a form and almost all of them thought they were “invaluable”. The US auto and garment industries come to mind. The taunt to the management was “Haha! What are you going to do? Move our jobs? Those third world people will make shitty products and you’ll lose customers!”

Now my job was invaluable. I was in law enforcement. You couldn’t outsource that job or replace it with robots. So the union has a lot of power in the US.

A job like game design has no power really. You can give a person in Africa a computer, some training and they can end up making the next hit. Eastern Europe and Asia has no unions, yet they push out games at a neckbreaking pace with no complaining, at least in public. They know they can be replaced easily.

I think over time a dev union will end up killing more Western jobs for gaming but it won’t affect fans/customers in any way. There is a ceiling people will pay for a game and you can’t go over it. Once they hit it, then costs have to come from elsewhere and then unions will go into negotiations. We know what happens after that.

I wouldn’t be surprised if game companies already have a “In Case Of Union, Break Glass” plan they have had for years. Doesn’t seem that difficult to hire rank/file programmers in a Third World since their level of tech is now up to ours and give them stable jobs. You just hire a bunch of upper level people, pay them non-union salary and the live in North Korea, Thailand, Laos, etc.

You say the industry as it is right now is unacceptable, that’s not exactly true. It’s more than acceptable for millions of people overseas and as always, a company can always find someone else to do things for less. They can either move the jobs or import the workers on those higher level visas.

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Armsbend

” You can give a person in Africa a computer, some training and they can end up making the next hit”

That isn’t true though. You think an African right now can be trained to develop a story or create art that westerners can, or want, relate to? They cannot in any mass market scenario.

Can they make a shoe? Sure.

There are exactly two markets that matter right now: The United States and China. Relating to them is paramount to success.

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A Dad Supreme

That isn’t true though. You think an African right now can be trained to develop a story or create art that westerners can, or want, relate to? They cannot in any mass market scenario.

I think you are missing the point.

Can they “mass market” right now? No. Tomorrow? Nope. Next month? No. By the same token, these devs have no union now. They won’t have one in a month.

The US auto and garment industries didn’t disappear overnight or even in a short amount of time. It took years for companies to figure out that all they had to do was move things and retrain people to make things the way you want them too.

I mentioned Africa but I could have just as easily said India or any number of places. The thing you are forgetting (or just not realizing) is that these countries have billions of candidates to chose from in that environment.

A company doesn’t have to train billions to make a video game lol. They simply have to hire headhunters to find the best and brightest minds there and that doesn’t necessarily mean “university trained”.

Actually that would work out for them because they only have to find a couple hundred or so high IQ individuals with a love for math to create art, and raise them in the company they way they want them to be. That kind of employee will be loyal from Day 1 until retirement and won’t be complaining about “sleeping at work”.

You are making the same exact mistake that crippled US manufacturing and put it in the position it is now… that it is “truly exceptional” and “no one can do what we can do so I’m better/smarter/valuable than anyone else”. Ask all the steelworkers in Allentown and the garment workers in New York how that turned out for them being “so exceptional.”

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Armsbend

Maybe you are right

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A Dad Supreme

Imagine if a software developer gets their hands on a guy like this:

Ghanaian ‘chalkboard computer’ teacher becomes international conference star in SG

A Ghanaian schoolteacher who used chalkboard drawings to teach computer science because his farming village had no laptops found himself the star of a global conference in Singapore.
Richard Appiah Akoto, who drew colored chalk diagrams to teach impoverished rural pupils how a PC works, rubbed shoulders with Silicon Valley hotshots in the glitzy Asian tech hub.

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Bruno Brito

Never understood how game design wasn’t a power job. Like, it does seems quite hard to be one and it takes some knowledge, doesn’t it? Programming seems to be a pain to learn.

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Sally Bowls

supply vs demand (see the Freakanomics quote above)
(Dr. Bartle the MUD co-inventor, known as the archetype quadrant guy, is a game design professor in the UK.)

http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2015/QBlog100615A.html

Whenever I hear about what it takes to get into the games industry these days, though, my heart sinks. There are so many applicants for so few places that it’s extremely difficult for a gifted student to reach the point at which their ability will be noticed by a studio and they’ll be given a chance. 22Cans takes more interns each year than some studios ten times its size, but even then that’s a drop in the ocean when there are maybe 10,000 graduates a year looking for a computer games industry job, 3,000 of whom have dedicated computer game degrees, in an industry that employs at most 25,000 people total in this country (including people working for companies servicing the games industry).

Rationally, I should be telling my students that they’re wasting their time trying to get jobs in the games industry. Each year, though, several do get them. Rationally, I should be telling them that they won’t be designing games, they’ll be programming tools or working in QA. This is basically correct, but a few years down the line they could indeed be designing games (like Jamie). Rationally, I should be saying that they’re not going to become millionaires setting up tiny development studios with one another, but each year some of them do set up such companies and some of those companies do have a paper value of over a million quid. Rationally, I should be telling them that they would get paid more programming practically anything other than computer games, and that should matter to them. I do, in fact, tell them this, but it makes no difference.

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Reht

Takes a lot more than just programmers to create video games though. Artists, etc. Good programmers can make serious money anywhere, not so sure that’s the case for animators (outside of TV/Movies/Videos), artists, etc.

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A Dad Supreme

I think for most people, programming is next to impossible.

The thing is though, how many people do you actually need to make games? Not many, you really only need someone with the capacity to program so out of billions in the world you only need several million or so.

The Third World is virtually untapped in terms of mental potential or opportunity for math-inclined people to show those skills. All they need in some of these places is opportunity which, up to now hasn’t been in short demand in the US.

If corporations find their costs going up, they will start to seek these rare individuals in markets they haven’t usually trafficked before.

Seriously, there are kids in Africa taking apart iPhones and computers as we speak that are self-taught. It’s only a matter of time before it’s second nature in places like that where companies poach them and train them in programming without them being required to waste time on things like Physical Education or Home Economics in typical school as in the West.

Even in your country of Brazil, you don’t have to train ALL Brazilians how to program; just the ones that show exceptional aptitude and then you’d have a new direction. But the government won’t pay for that, it’s up to private companies and they will do it when it’s in their interest.

It’s like those soccer schools in your country and South America; they go out and find the best players as kids, then raise them to do one thing… play soccer at the highest level. That’s why US soccer sucks.

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Sally Bowls

I think for most people, programming is next to impossible.

I agree. OTOH.
I read that maybe 80% of the 1.6M engineers that India turns out each year are “unemployable.” Even 1% of these million+ unemployed people with college engineering degrees could be made to program at game company levels, that would dwarf the demand for game programmers.