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How passion for the work undermines game industry labor practices

"It’s easier to use the passion of the people making the product to their disadvantage," BioWare cofounder Dr. Greg Zeschuk tells writer David Wolinsky in a new 3-part series on game labor practices.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

November 17, 2016

2 Min Read

"I think games in a sense is worse because it’s easier to use the passion of the people making the product to their disadvantage."

- BioWare cofounder Dr. Greg Zeschuk reflects on why working in game development can be more problematic than working in other businesses.

Game industry labor practices have a checkered past and an uncertain future. Recently, writer David Wolinsky published a three-part series on Medium that seeks to try and shed light on the topic by investigating why, for example, video game developers haven't unionized the way voice actors or writers have. 

It's an intriguing read for anyone working in or around the game industry, and there are some notable thoughts laid out by folks around the business who were interviewed by Wolinsky between 2015 and 2016. Among them is BioWare cofounder Dr. Greg Zeschuck, who retired from games in 2012 to go pursue another passion (beer) before coming back (sort of) to get involved with augmented reality games for kids.

"What everyone complains about is the fact that you still have a huge variability of quality of management in the games business," Zeschuk told Wolinsky, noting that the game industry lacks an understanding of what good management is because it has its roots in the "self-destructive management of a lot of young dudes that were super-passionate, trying to get things done at all costs."

Moreover, Zeschuk suggests that game companies are heavily incentivized -- due in part to game industry culture and in part to global economic laws -- to unfairly overwork or underemploy staff.

"We can have a deep conversation on globalization and offshoring of work,” Zeschuk said. “But at the end of the day companies are encouraged to have minimal payroll, and one way to do that is to have lots of contract workers because your benefits are down.”

You can (and should) read more comments from Zeschuk, as well as a wide variety of folks from around the game industry, in Wolinsky's three-part series on "The Videogame Industry’s Invisible Workforce" over on Medium.

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