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Creator of DirectX: Unpaid overtime is part of the games business


Csonicgo
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Ever feel bad about your job? Be glad Alex St. John, creator of DirectX isn't your boss. He wrote an incredibly ignorant article "praising" the idea of crunch - basically unpaid/underpaid overtime for weeks and weeks at length.

 

I cant begin to imagine how sheltered the lives of modern technology employees must be to think that any amount of hours they spend pushing a mouse around for a paycheck is really demanding strenuous work.

This BS about how if you're not breaking your back splitting logs for the fireplace for starving peasants in Siberia, you don't have a "real job", is insulting to say the least.

 

Apparently, people can even burn out working too hard to make video games Making games is not a job. Its an art.

And there you have it folks.

 

What a dismissive attitude of the games industry in general. Either work for almost nothing, or you're not a game developer!

 

Thankfully, even his daughter has told him to apologize. And then there is this British bloke who tears him apart (warning: video, language).

 

I know there are a lot of game industry vets here that may have differing opinions about this, but "crunch" has been proven to not work. Overworking people, no matter what the position, causes more problems than it solves. That's just common sense, which seems to be missing in the games industry right now.

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I read the article, it actually isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Don't agree with everything that he says in it, but I think he brings up some interesting points.

 

 

I found his daughters blog post to be a little more insufferable than his to be honest. I get it, I should feel guilty for being a white male in the tech industry. Yes everything has been so much easier since I have male-parts, I know that I should be thankful my life magically floated down on a silver platter to end up in my lap. So sorry you're a female/minority that (apparently) I should feel personally responsible for oppressing by virtue of my very existence. Certainly I've never known hardships or struggles in my life that even come close to softly brushing against your herculean mountain of persecution.

 

 

EDIT: I will say also that unpaid overtime is very common. One of the jobs I had was in a warehouse, and routinely I would end up putting in 50, sometimes 60 hour weeks with the other guys. We were only ever paid for 40, but we never wanted to say anything because we would get canned. Even though we could fight it and it was illegal, nobody could afford to be without work for the months (possibly even years) it would take for it to get sorted out. So we shut up and worked. Wasn't awesome, but it happens.

Edited by TPA5
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What an amazing publicity exercise. His value as hardliner management went up because he took an business friendly stand against costly profit draining employees. Her value went up because she bravely stood up against daddy and rallied with her sistas. Branding "St. John" success.

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Even his DAUGHTER disagrees with him. Me, I'd like to kick him in the balls. If you're working over forty hours a week, you get overtime. Period.

I don't disagree at all, but just figured I'd point out this isn't a legal obligation in the US and Canada. Salaried professionals (programmers, IT, among others) are exempt from overtime regulations, and can be required to work any amount of hours.

 

If you have an employer intent on burning you out, your only recourse is to find another job. The faster, the better.

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So making games is just 'pushing a mouse', simple as that.

Yep! And if you want the games you create to always be bug-free, all you have to do is wait for Mike Kennedy to instruct you to make them bug-free. Simple as that!

 

But seriously, that characterization reminds me of my bratty fourteen-year-old sister, who thought that the mentally taxing work that I did at my computer amounted to nothing more than "typing on the computer all day long." By that logic, if you're not doing back-breaking work in the hot sun all day, you're not really working and should never get tired.

 

I get it, I should feel guilty for being a white male in the tech industry. Yes everything has been so much easier since I have male-parts, I know that I should be thankful my life magically floated down on a silver platter to end up in my lap. So sorry you're a female/minority that (apparently) I should feel personally responsible for oppressing by virtue of my very existence. Certainly I've never known hardships or struggles in my life that even come close to softly brushing against your herculean mountain of persecution.

Yeah, that's the mentality in our "check your privilege" world. To be male is to be guilty by default, and to be a white male is to be doubly guilty. You don't even have any business believing the contrary or standing up for yourself because, as a white male who has enjoyed a lifetime of decadent and disgusting privilege, you're not even capable of understanding how privileged you are! The only "right" thing to do is to apologize for living ... and then drop dead.

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I read the article, it actually isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Don't agree with everything that he says in it, but I think he brings up some interesting points.

 

 

I found his daughters blog post to be a little more insufferable than his to be honest. I get it, I should feel guilty for being a white male in the tech industry. Yes everything has been so much easier since I have male-parts, I know that I should be thankful my life magically floated down on a silver platter to end up in my lap. So sorry you're a female/minority that (apparently) I should feel personally responsible for oppressing by virtue of my very existence. Certainly I've never known hardships or struggles in my life that even come close to softly brushing against your herculean mountain of persecution.

 

 

EDIT: I will say also that unpaid overtime is very common. One of the jobs I had was in a warehouse, and routinely I would end up putting in 50, sometimes 60 hour weeks with the other guys. We were only ever paid for 40, but we never wanted to say anything because we would get canned. Even though we could fight it and it was illegal, nobody could afford to be without work for the months (possibly even years) it would take for it to get sorted out. So we shut up and worked. Wasn't awesome, but it happens.

 

Agreed. Unpaid overtime happens. I'm not happy about it, but in every job I ever had, there were times you did a little extra off-the-clock for whatever reason. The games industry may take it to an abusive extreme, but to imply that the practice is partial to that particular field is rather disingenuous.

 

I definitely feel for these people. I work in IT myself, and have frequently had people tell me my job must be easy because all I did was "sit at a desk all day". This has come from my co-workers, friends, and occasionally, even my own family. The myth that "it's just pushing buttons, so it can't be that hard" leads IT staff to be overworked and underpaid consistently. Job satisfaction is generally pretty low, and the threat of downsizing or outsourcing will keep you up at night.

 

Know why I'm not bitching? Because I'm not seeing how different we are from anyone else. Every job I can think of from ditch digger to radiologist is feeling the crunch of an uncertain economy. Everyone is trying to do more with less, working in conditions they'd rather not, and wondering why they even bother when the paycheck finally rolls in. We can talk about how this industry or that job really stinks, but that really misses the point, which is working for a living is always a compromise. Heck, I used to say the only job that was guaranteed to be awesome was Condom Tester at the Playboy Mansion, but I hear even Hef is cutting back these days...

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Making games is not a job. Its an art.

This right here is complete bullcrap. No games aren't art. Yes there are artistic elements in it but in the end most are a designed product following a set of bland social conventions like anything else on the market.

 

Nothing wrong with that, but don't pretend it's something it isn't to trick people into being exploited.

 

To paraphrase Mr. Aihara and Takekuma from Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, you want to make art? here's a naked old guy on a table among a bunch of fruit. Make a game out of that. Without meetings of your "creative team" or regards for any sales projections.

Edited by Newsdee
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I know there are a lot of game industry vets here that may have differing opinions about this, but "crunch" has been proven to not work. Overworking people, no matter what the position, causes more problems than it solves. That's just common sense, which seems to be missing in the games industry right now.

 

It's been more than three years and I still feel burnt-out from the game industry crunch I endured from 2005-2013. I've just recently been able to open Unity3D and start programming again.

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The myth that "it's just pushing buttons, so it can't be that hard" leads IT staff to be overworked and underpaid consistently.

While it's annoying, I don't think the "underpaid" part is really due to the myth. There are a few greater factors I've observed over the years, in no particular order:

  • Outsourcing
  • Work visa program abuse
  • Lying articles proclaiming there's an IT worker shortage, stating it's a good field for University students to enter. (gee, wonder who sponsored those, and why don't they let the invisible hand deal with the problem? :roll:)
  • companies colluding on hiring each other's workers. These are a lot more pervasive than what we've seen in the news.
I'm sure there's more IT wage gaming that I've missed, but I think those are the main ones.
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While it's annoying, I don't think the "underpaid" part is really due to the myth. There are a few greater factors I've observed over the years, in no particular order:

  • Outsourcing
  • Work visa program abuse
  • Lying articles proclaiming there's an IT worker shortage, stating it's a good field for University students to enter. (gee, wonder who sponsored those, and why don't they let the invisible hand deal with the problem? :roll:)
  • companies colluding on hiring each other's workers. These are a lot more pervasive than what we've seen in the news.
I'm sure there's more IT wage gaming that I've missed, but I think those are the main ones.

 

 

Corporate I.T. committed suicide in the mid 2000's. I saw it with my own eyes. 100's of proud I.T. workers lost their jobs at my work while everyone was told how much better I.T. was going to be, but that never materialized. Luckily, while I was "technically" in the I.T. dept, (because all "programmers are I.T., right?") they could not outsource my function because our game dev team was too efficient, worked too hard, and was too costly to replace...until 2011 when they "fixed" the issue and stopped making games internally all-together.

Edited by fultonbot
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I don't disagree at all, but just figured I'd point out this isn't a legal obligation in the US and Canada. Salaried professionals (programmers, IT, among others) are exempt from overtime regulations, and can be required to work any amount of hours.

 

 

IT always seems to be this way. I had nightmares about the long hours at the end of 'sprints' well after I quit that job, and vomited pretty much every morning while I was there. The whole concept of that type of cycle is just cruel.

Another big reason for long hours, more on admin than dev, is that everybody wants their IT maintenance done after business hours. (No matter how little user impact such maintenance might have.)

 

Coincidentally, tonight it's past 10pm, and I'm just coming home from ~15-hr day. Doesn't happen too often, but often enough. Weirdly, I'm now in government IT--with union and all, so you might think it'd be a different game, but it's not. IT never stops being IT, and I'll be back bright and early tomorrow. Timecard has to reflect 8's or I'll get in some kind of trouble for not getting everything approved in advance. Seems like I've heard that same line pretty much everywhere else I've worked.

 

And since sex was brought up earlier, I do feel that there is much more of an expectation for males to be in that 10pm club. I sorely wish that I believed that I had somewhere more important to be tonight than work, but cannot fathom how to adjust my priorities to match.

Edited by Reaperman
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While it's annoying, I don't think the "underpaid" part is really due to the myth. There are a few greater factors I've observed over the years, in no particular order:

  • Outsourcing
  • Work visa program abuse
  • Lying articles proclaiming there's an IT worker shortage, stating it's a good field for University students to enter. (gee, wonder who sponsored those, and why don't they let the invisible hand deal with the problem? :roll:)
  • companies colluding on hiring each other's workers. These are a lot more pervasive than what we've seen in the news.
I'm sure there's more IT wage gaming that I've missed, but I think those are the main ones.

 

 

Oh, your points are quite accurate. However, I will point out that nearly every company needs an IT staff of some size today, but when your company isn't an IT organization, they're seen as being an undesirable expense. You're someone who costs money, but doesn't contribute to the bottom line. Sure, we can talk about productivity, opportunity savings, and efficiency, but at the end of the day, the IT guy isn't making patients feel better in a hospital, or fixing cars in a garage, or cooking the food in a restaurant. He or she is helping those key personnel do their jobs, and given the choice between giving a raise to the core competency workers, or to the IT staffer, most companies will choose the former.

 

I'm speaking in generalities, of course. There are exceptions.

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This right here is complete bullcrap. No games aren't art. Yes there are artistic elements in it but in the end most are a designed product following a set of bland social conventions like anything else on the market.

 

Nothing wrong with that, but don't pretend it's something it isn't to trick people into being exploited.

 

I think you're confusing making games with the games industry. ;)

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I think I can see both sides of the father-daughter argument, but seems to me as long as there is a steady supply of people who are desperate to get into the games industry and will do what it takes to get ahead, there's going to be a workplace to exploit them. If they quit, there's someone else ready to take their place. It's the same way in Hollywood, the theater scene, and pretty much any gig-based music opportunity. Bitching about it is fun, but can only really be done from a place of privilege. Nobody goes into those industries with an eye on making lots of money or being super comfortable.

 

I can think of no faster way to kill my interest in a fun hobby than to make it a full time career.

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I think I can see both sides of the father-daughter argument, but seems to me as long as there is a steady supply of people who are desperate to get into the games industry and will do what it takes to get ahead, there's going to be a workplace to exploit them. If they quit, there's someone else ready to take their place. It's the same way in Hollywood, the theater scene, and pretty much any gig-based music opportunity. Bitching about it is fun, but can only really be done from a place of privilege. Nobody goes into those industries with an eye on making lots of money or being super comfortable.

I've heard the same story many times about the game industry: long hours and other causes of discontent in the workplace are often complained about, but there's no real motivation for these companies to fix them; after all, there are always plenty of starry-eyed people with dreams of "breaking into the business" who are eagerly waiting to take the complainers' jobs.

 

It's an aspect of the industry that's so well publicized that I'm surprised so many people still seem to want to get in on it. My university (among many others) offers a major in Game Design, and I sometimes wonder what the students will end up doing with it after they graduate. There are already too many people seeking out those entry-level jobs, and the indie/mobile market is saturated as well.

 

I can think of no faster way to kill my interest in a fun hobby than to make it a full time career.

Absolutely. That's why game design and game programming will ALWAYS be independent endeavors for me.

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Lying articles proclaiming there's an IT worker shortage, stating it's a good field for University students to enter. (gee, wonder who sponsored those, and why don't they let the invisible hand deal with the problem? :roll:)

 

There is a shortage in specific subsets, but I agree with your statement in that it's not right to say that there's a shortage in IT as a whole. There are so many different IT specialties and subsets that make up the field as a whole, with some specialties being in greater demand than others at any given time. I work in the security end of it and we've got about 15 people working in my SOC right now. 40 positions open but we can't fill them because we can't find people qualified. I don't think it's just us either based on job openings in my area.

Edited by Austin
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There is a shortage in specific subsets, but I agree with your statement in that it's not right to say that there's a shortage in IT as a whole. There are so many different IT specialties and subsets that make up the field as a whole, with some specialties being in greater demand than others at any given time. I work in the security end of it and we've got about 15 people working in my SOC right now. 40 positions open but we can't fill them because we can't find people qualified. I don't think it's just us either based on job openings in my area.

 

By the time the education market catches on that there's a "shortage" of anything, the pipeline fills up with people trying to get a piece of that (as well as educators trying to exploit them).

 

It's probably better to get a good general grounding in the basics and be ready to seize emerging opportunities from the beginning, rather than trying to catch a wave that was peaking just as you heard about it, and will have subsided by the time you're finished with your training.

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There is a shortage in specific subsets, but I agree with your statement in that it's not right to say that there's a shortage in IT as a whole. There are so many different IT specialties and subsets that make up the field as a whole, with some specialties being in greater demand than others at any given time. I work in the security end of it and we've got about 15 people working in my SOC right now. 40 positions open but we can't fill them because we can't find people qualified. I don't think it's just us either based on job openings in my area.

 

It's not just you. I work as a dev that serves a SOC (that I think is in your area, hehe!), among others, and the academic pipeline is so far off base from real world experience it's a crap shoot even hiring for openings. There is no shortage of applications or random BS cyber security blah blah but there is a shortage of skilled workers.

 

IT is a freakin' huge field and there are whole subfields within it. Off the top of my head I had one dev that could code just fine come over and ask me why the MAC address looked funny. I explained that it was an IPv6 address... He's gone.

 

On topic, we are adamant that our devs don't overwork and burn themselves out. It's a far different field than game dev but if that crunch time kill yourself BS is part of your standard cycle there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

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I know nothing of professional game development, but unpaid labour is the norm in some other professions as well.

 

To become a lawyer in Canada, after finishing Law School (3 years), it is required to "article" (i.e. complete an apprenticeship) for about a year. This requires working under the supervision of a senior lawyer. There is no way to get a license to practice (or a job) without first having articled.

 

Traditionally, these positions were paid a modest salary, but the person was expected to work very long hours. More recently, because of increased competition for a fixed number of positions, more people having been doing this for free. So, after graduating from University, it is sometimes necessary to volunteer for a year of 60+ hour weeks to move to the next stage.

 

As far as I am aware, there is no equivalent requirement in the United States, but I have seen "job" postings for year-long contract lawyer (attorney) positions with the Federal Government that are unpaid. I understand that these are very competitive, as people want to get the experience of working for the Feds.

 

As to how someone is supposed to live while volunteering F/T for a year, I do not know...

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