Thursday, October 12, 2006

More of the essay draft, from the world's laziest essayist. Look out Somerset Maugham. Yeah.

Later on in this discussion I’ll look at some of these unheard minority voices, the currents within the gaming scene that are consciously trying to push the games medium in new directions. First, however, I’ll take a broad look at game developers in general: how they feel about their work, and the creative environment in which they work.

Without speculating too much about the psychology of an artist, the ostensible reason has always been the same. This is the desire to aestheticise, specifically to create aesthetic contexts that can mediate various agendas: the inspiration of pleasure, reflection and commentary upon society, externalising emotions and abstract ideas, and so on.
[find quote and reference]

So what motivates game developers? Why do they make games?

There is a strong popular mythology surrounding game development. One can count on the fact that at any given moment, somewhere in the world, there is a game developer at a dinner party or some other social occasion who is finding themselves obliged to defend their vocation against the same inaccurate popular perceptions: that most game developers make violent games (not true, [re Bond uni stat]), that there’s a lot of money in games (true, and there’s also lot of money in sports shoes but tell that to South-East Asian factory workers), and that unlike people who work in ‘real jobs’, game developers get paid to play games. These perceptions don’t just plague game developers at dinner parties. A common complaint among game programmers, for example, is that they find it hard to have their skills taken seriously when they seek employment outside of the games industry

A great deal of emphasis is placed, especially by the mainstream media, on the economic significance of the games industry (game industry turnover compared to Hollywood box office returns is usually the comparison made). This is often pointed to as an indicator of cultural significance, an implied causal relationship along the lines of “games are important now because, if nothing else, so many people are buying them nowadays”. (Sadly, this is usually in place of venturing into an intelligent discussion about the medium itself and its relationship to contemporary culture.)
This "wow" factor publicity helps to fuel a lingering popular perception that as the turnover of the games industry becomes bigger, more money is the to be made by individual game developers. While it is true that in the 1980s and 90s, the fortunes of a number of people were famously made [give examples], the phenomenon of the sensationally successful game developer has become less, not more, common with the growth of the industry. The worlds of film and music may be full of obscurity-to-fame success stories (or at least myths), but the common wisdom in game land is that the days of Ferrari driving game designers and millionaire coke-snorting game coders are long gone. [reference 2006 panel with warren spector and molyneux]

Even if the dream of becoming an overnight success (or even a lifelong one) is no longer believable, do normal game developers have it over their non-game industry peers in terms of pay and general job satisfaction?

It is no secret (in fact, in recent times it has become a public scandal) development is very hard work, for low pay compared to equivalent industries. Excessive working hours, poor management and terrible working conditions have plagued the industry for years [reference: IGDA report].
The fact that the average career of a game developer spans only 5 years (IGDA report), mostly due to a choice to leave the industry, is testament to the financial and lifestyle sacrifices required to work as an average developer within the industry. It is common to hear game developers say “Much as I love games, I can’t afford to remain in the games industry”, citing the need for a job with less hours, less stress and better pay as a reason for abandoning their games career. [Quote from the chaos engine]

Workers who choose to a career in the games industry have clearly not chosen game development as a lifestyle choice or an easy meal ticket. And yet despite all this, there are many budding developers waiting on the sidelines, eager to take their place. Chris Crawford describes this as [insert quote].

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