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The game industry has a problem with employment misclassification

A recent Polygon feature collected stories from several game development veterans to highlight the inconsistent and unfair way many companies treat their contracted workforce.

Alissa McAloon, Publisher

December 19, 2016

2 Min Read

"Games companies are notorious for dangling the carrot. They put you on a year's contract and they say that it might end with a full-time position.”

- An anonymous game developer shares her experience working as a contracted worker in a recent Polygon feature.

Polygon spoke with a number of contracted workers to highlight what the article argues is the industry’s longstanding and continuing habit of employment misclassification. Multiple developers who have worked as contractors for companies like Riot Games, Microsoft, Activision, Ubisoft, and EA shared their stories on the condition of anonymity.

While the experiences shared within the article can act as a cautionary tale for those looking to work in game development, the stories also draw attention to a hiring practice that can sometimes be abused and explain ways individuals can avoid ending up in a disadvantageous position.

Many of these developers said they worked for years at major game companies as contracted workers, sometimes under the promise of eventual full-time employment. These individuals said that often they'd end up doing the work of a regular employee while receiving none of the job security or actual benefits of full employment.

"There was always a promise that 'once you graduate, you'll be hired as an employee. After I graduated, the promise became 'once we finish the game and money starts coming in, you'll be hired.' It took me a while to realize this wasn't a good deal for me, ” explained another anonymous developer.

International Game Developers Association head Kate Edwards says that asking questions and being fully aware of employment situations is the first step to combat harmful hiring practices.

“You have fantastic passion you want to channel into your job but at the same time you need to be aware of what you're getting into,” said Edwards. “You need to step back from that excitement and put on your rational thinking hat about the conditions under which you're going to be working.”

For more on this issue, including several stories from contracted developers and details on the sometimes legally dubious nature of these hiring practices, check out the full story on Polygon.

About the Author(s)

Alissa McAloon

Publisher, GameDeveloper.com

As the Publisher of Game Developer, Alissa McAloon brings a decade of experience in the video game industry and media. When not working in the world of B2B game journalism, Alissa enjoys spending her time in the worlds of immersive sandbox games or dabbling in the occasional TTRPG.

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