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Feature: A View Toward a Game Developers Guild

Professional talent guilds are a mainstay of film, television and other entertainment media, so why not video games? A new Gamasutra feature explores the issue.
Professional talent guilds are a mainstay of film, television and other entertainment media, so why not video games? The issue is actually quite complex, and a new Gamasutra feature explores the issue -- do we need a Game Developers Guild? What would it look like, and what are some key roadblocks? As Tim Carter writes: Our CFO, who comes from film and television, can hardly believe this. In film, writer-directors will wash dishes, wait tables, mortgage their house, max out their credit cards, do anything to get the time and freedom to craft their dream script or shoot a short film. But their game development equivalents -- designers -- seem to crave security. It's not because they don't have great ideas. Most do. But they come to us as if we are a game publisher. They want to do the minimum -- a pitch doc, basically -- and then have us hire them, buy them out, and make the game. Problem is, we aren't that. A game producer can't work that way. It isn't about being a monolithic corporation with a static roster of unchanging talent, grinding out games that, even if they come in the front door with a unique vision, leave the back door all looking the same: large, brown-castle shooters done in the Unreal Engine (or something like that). So we tell them, we need more. A game producer needs commitment. Needs a good design that it can establish chain-of-title to; that forms a selling basis -- one you breathe life into. But then, when it comes to this, many of them back away. Why do they do this? Why don't they make a more thought-out, better design, with actual production-ready documentation and maybe an early playable prototype? It's not because it's not doable (though there aren't many good writers of design docs today). Mostly it's because it's dangerous. Dangerous how? For one thing, there are discipline-specific issues that can arise: But let's say we, the game producer, do get that great game design (document and/or prototype), and we do do an option or co-production deal on it. What kind of problems do we have now? Well, since a game producer has no internal prototyping or production capacity -- giving it zero to no overhead; allowing it to spend months working out the early vision of a game with the designer with little pressure -- it has a problem. It now has to crew up for prototyping and later, hopefully, for full production. And since any core talent they found to work on this might only be available for a certain period -- on top of the ticking clock of the option -- it has a time pressure to do this. You might see the risk in this. You might hire the wrong people or the wrong outsourcing company. How do you know they're any good? Are there any professional standards to rank them by? If some of them turn out poorly, do you have any recourse to replace them? If you get into a production schedule, and you realize you need more capacity or you're going to miss a deadline, can you quickly ramp up with more production capacity? You can now read the full feature at Gamasutra (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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