4/14/2008

04-14-08 - 4

There are three big problems with game development (from a working conditions point of view) :

1. The amount of work vs. amount of reward ratio is way off. The amount of work expected of employees is massive, and you have to be very smart, and the reward is nowhere near what you can get for similar highly skilled work in other industries (such as being a quant in finance, or a consultant for petro companies, etc. etc.). The big problem is that so many people want to work in games because it's fun and they love playing games, that it drives down the wages and makes the working conditions worse.

2. Competition with other crunchers. I suppose this happens in other industries as well, but the problem is to some extent all the game companies are competing to do the next cool thing, and everybody else is way overworking and crunching to produce things fast, and everyone is making things with a lower budget and shorter time than is really needed, and you have to compete with that. Some people seem to avoid this trap to some extent, like Valve and Blizzard, but they can really only get away with it because of the fact that they are the only ones that do it. And I don't think they're working at any less of a fever pitch, they just do it for longer.

3. Bad management. Most of the people running game production are not qualified for the task. I'm not sure this is necessarilly worse in games than it is in other industries, but the thing is game technology and production is changing so fast that you really need powerful intelligence to run a game company, whereas in other industries there are these learned best practices that have developed over N years that people can just copy and do okay. If you like you could phrase this as saying that the high rate of change of methods and technologies is what makes games so hard & painful to make, but really those things just expose the weaknesses of planners that can't handle thinking ahead and can only learn from experience. (eg. was the debacle of the Iraq invasion necessary because it was a new situation, or did the novelty of the situation just expose the incompetence of the planners that didn't anticipate the challenges correctly?). Also by "management" here I'm not necessarilly just talking about the game studios, but also the direction from publishers. Of course the rapidly changing technology is what makes it really fun to program for.

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old rants