Gamedevs make games, and they deserve a dignified wage!


Game developers are routinely underpaid, made to work 100 hour 'crunch'es often for months, being hospitalized, and routinely experience mental health breakdowns, crying in dark rooms due to extreme overwork and stress. All workers, including game workers, deserve a dignified wage that pays rent, food, healthcare, and basic needs; and most Americans and game workers can't afford these basics. Demand your human decency, unionize, and strike till you get it! Also, don't support crunch culture or the idea that games are made 'by magic' as Bioware and Rockstar Games, who have made billions from the labor of their workers, have both suggested, erasing the crushing toil of their workforce. Games are made by workers, as are movies, clothes, burgers, functional electrical and internet grids, cars, etc...

(In this livestream I work on animating more Neofeud 2 characters while discussing this topic of paying workers what they're worth. (It takes several hours per animation!) )

Neofeud took me three years to make, and it was a game I put my heart and soul into, it was the game that I wanted to make (rather than another corporate big-box cash cow or just another app clone). It was a labor of love, but also labor, which is why I do ask to be paid for it. I spent much of the development of Neofeud, while working other jobs including social work and teaching, and I was not making enough to pay for rent, food, and I feared getting sick because I couldn't afford to go to the doctor. Much of Neofeud was made while my wife and two kids lived in a van or in a tiny 7x9 closet in my parents house, sleeping literally on top of each other. I regularly ate Skippy peanut butter from a jar because working full time in a US city, that was what we could afford. I, and countless workers across Hawaii, America, and the world are treated routinely like disposable "pets or cattle" as the sentient machines, transgenics, and underclasses in Neofeud are. (Largely what the game is about.)

If I had guaranteed healthcare, housing, decent food, transportation, education, and other basic necessities for myself and my family, then perhaps I would reconsider asking for $ for Neofeud. But unfortunately, I live in America, where you are left to suffer without these basic decencies unless you make money. This is why I ask, and I think game developers (or writers, artists, creatives) who spend serious labor making something which people enjoy, should ask to be paid fairly for that labor. If you are in a privileged position where you have all of your basic necessities, and perhaps luxuries like eating at nice restaurants, regular plane trips/travel,  owning your own home, air conditioning, or taking vacations (we can't afford vacations or those other things) then giving away your games, writing, or other creative output for free is also a *luxury* that comes from your privilege. It is not a luxury for the many people who rely on income from their creative output to cover their rent, including artists, programmers, writers, musicians, etsy clothing creators, Youtube video makers (these often take many hours of labor), or writing -- the Writers Guild of America is right now on strike, in fact. https://variety.com/2019/film/news/wga-to-members-there-is-no-deal-fire-your-agents-at-midnight-1203188712/

The act of giving away a game which you put serious effort into for free, and encouraging others to do so, normalizes a culture in which the work of making games is seen as 'just for the love of it', 'you do it cause you're passionate'. This is exactly what the multi-billion dollar game industry wants, and tells workers, in order to justify paying them less, making them work till they keel over from dehydration and mental health catastrophes, then discard them like so much used tissue, and hire a new batch of bright-eyed young devs to exploit the next year.

Don't help erase game work, or normalize crunch culture. Support the devs. 

I have not, but if I was somehow to magically make 5 million dollars from Neofeud or Neofeud 2, win a lottery, etc.. to the point where I didn't have to worry about whether my kids would be fed, have a roof over their head, worry if we would be bankrupt when one of us gets sick -- even then, I would still ask for money for Neofeud and Neofeud 2 (although I would donate the proceeds to a cause that would help cover the basic necessities for other struggling workers). The reason is the work that was put into both of these games -- now over 5 years of hard work at 8 hours per day -- doesn't suddenly stop being hard work because I've somehow been 'bestowed' with lots of money and privilege. I would ask for money simply to help normalize respect and remuneration for the toil and sacrifice of game workers everywhere, and to fight this idea that games spring fully formed from 'magic' or 'passion' or that most game workers have the *privilege* to just 'make games for fun'.

I would remember what it was like to be asked to work insane hours, be paid starvation-wages, live in a tiny studio in a ghetto, then be laid off. I would remember all the homeless children I worked with, living in tiny trailer in tent-cities with *two working parents* still unable to afford housing, in a large US city (Honolulu), and the 63% of Americans that live in these cities, many even *more* catastropically unequal than mine. 

If you live in a country in which your healthcare, quality nutrition, primary education, college, decent housing are guaranteed to you as a right, perhaps in a social democracy somewhere, realize that this is also a luxury which most of the world does not have. When all people across the planet live in a society where you don't need money to not be treated like a piece of sub-human garbage, then we can consider *possibly* not worrying about asking for payment. But we are nowhere *near* that yet. In fact we're going in quite the opposite direction, with 3 white guys owning as much wealth as the rest of the 300 million people in the US, and globally the inequality is just as grotesque.

A final note on the writers strike. The median full-time writer in the US makes $20,300, below the poverty line. The median part-time writer makes $6,300, enough to pay for a years worth of ramen, instant Folgers, and a futon for an abandoned Suburban (I know from experience). 30% of the US relies on temp/part-time/gig economy as a primary salary. 

https://www.vox.com/2019/4/12/18307677/stop-shop-supermarket-strike

The largest private sector strike in years is playing out at supermarkets across the Northeast... the supermarket chain is trying to slash their pay by hiking health insurance premiums and lowering pension benefits for new employees.

“They’re a billion-dollar company because of us.”

Again: Pay. People. Enough. To. Live. With. Dignity. (Strike till you get it!)

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Comments

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(+1)

Corporations go unchecked, don't pay taxes, and treat their human resources as...well...human resources. I'm not sure what's worse the fact that people who work for slave wages pay more taxes than their bosses or the fact no one seems willing to fight this.

It is a travesty no doubt. I think game worker organizing to take control back from their employers is an important and major step. I'm glad that Game Workers Unite, and other game worker unions seem to be on the rise. https://www.gameworkersunite.org/