Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Damn I Need to Publish More...

So, I really hate not existing.

First thing this morning I saw Erin Hoffman's recent "The Escapist" article. Which had me feeling pretty good about myself. That this is a place where I have something to offer. Helping bridge the worlds of academia and the video game industry.

I felt useful and happy that someone who has worked in the industry is calling for a better approach. (More after the excerpt...)

The Escapist - Tighten Those Graphics
The commercial marked the vanguard of a disturbing trend in game education: advertised instructional programs so out of touch with actual game development they couldn't tell a sound effect from a polygon.
The bugbear, ultimately, is in the instruction of game design. While game art and game programming are distinct specializations with their own manifold quirks and details, it is possible to be a phenomenal artist and never work on games; it is possible to be a genius caliber programmer and never code gameplay. It is not, however, possible to be a game designer without making games. The notion is patently absurd.

Yet this is exactly what many private college instructors - and even, in some cases, faculty at major universities - are claiming they can do.
But that's not the gaming community. Gamers and developers alike were outraged at this commercial; almost curiously so. One YouTube user who posted the video, "randomgenius," was especially upset: "The hill to success is hard enough without money grubbing colleges who offer no true training, but so eagerly take your money." While the advertisement was clearly a marketing mistake rather than representative of what Westwood actually teaches, this sentiment is rife among those trying to get a job making games. That no one goes into games for the money is an accepted truth, and the corollary to that fact is that anyone truly serious about a game career must be intensely passionate about the biz.
A number of questions remain to be answered. Can a college really claim to be teaching game development if their faculty has no game development experience? Where does theory end and practice begin? Is it more important to be a strong communicator and teach solid skills, or to have spent time in the trenches? On one issue the industry is unanimous: There is no replacement for live experience. But experience making games does not immediately correlate to skill in instructing and inspiring students.

Time will have the final say - which is unwelcome news for current hopefuls. But the bright side is game instruction

in academia gets better every year, and this can only mean good things for the industry as a whole. Increasing numbers of programs, small and large, are bringing in developers as adjunct instructors, and game analysis itself is a tremendous skill growing in academia apart from its production-based siblings.

But then I see the following up on the IGDA website. Despite all of my activity with the IGDA, and my great efforts to speak about my research, I haven't actually published much. I've got a couple of things in the pipe, but nothing written.

Not good.

Despite a CV full of me being an anthropologist studying the video game industry, I've somehow managed to remain invisible to the rest of the academics.

Getting worse.

So while I'm sitting here trying to get the dissertation written, I'm realizing that what I need to be doing is publishing more smaller articles and talking less, because obviously that isn't working to well.

Coming from a discipline (if I even want to call it that) that specializes in how networks form in disciplines I should have realized that speaking wasn't enough, that something written on the page was necessary.

So I only have myself to blame.

Better get that Games and Culture paper finished...

IGDA - The Professional Identity of Gameworkers
Writing in Escapist magazine (issue 61 of September 5th, 2006), John Szczepaniak laments: “Few know the real truth about who creates videogames [...] It must also be noted with bitter irony that for a medium which is forever debated as being "art," the people behind it seldom get the acknowledgement deserved.” Beyond numerous blogs maintained by game developers and the occasional interview or studio profile in a trade magazine, little indeed is known about the people behind the keyboards. The situation is even worse at the level of academic research: even though studying games is incredibly popular among scholars and students alike, few professors seem to be interested in the professionals (and amateurs) who make the games they play.(1)

As researchers at Indiana University's Department of Telecommunications – where part of the graduate program is designed to train people for jobs in the digital game industry – we took up the challenge. We wanted to know not only who game developers are, but also what they do, how they go about doing it, and what their work means to them. Thus we set out to review the available scholarly literature on the making of computer and video games, reports in trade magazines and journal articles (including IGDA white papers), posts on group and individual weblogs of game developers. Then we went to the GDC of 2006 and 2007 and talked with lots of developers, attended IGDA sessions on Quality of Life issues, e-mailed our contacts in the game industry as well as (the few) colleagues studying gamework at universities all over the world. Put together, this material tells a comprehensive story about the key issues informing and influencing the working lives and professional identity of gameworkers.(2)
The ability for external organizations such as unions or industry associations such as the IGDA to influence, establish or enforce industry standards has thus far been marginal. The settlements by EA following the ea_spouse case of extreme workers' rights violations were followed by a movement of hundreds of workers from their Los Angeles based studio to studios in Florida and Canada. As many states (such as Texas and Washington) and countries (like Canada and the U.K.) provide tax incentives and other regulatory waivers to software companies, precedent has been set for game companies to cluster based on local or regional legal benefits and deregulatory frameworks regarding, for example, workers' rights. The South Korean government has even dropped the requirement of military service for those willing to work in the game industry, considering digital games key to the international export of Korean culture. Developer organizations, such as the IGDA, could be an adequate or helpful representation of developer interests but are largely powerless, and thus act more as advocacy groups. As organization structures shift towards outsourcing – an estimated 60% of game studios outsource today, primarily in the areas of localization, cinematics, sound design, game testing, middleware and artwork – and an almost exclusive reliance on contingent labor, the strong social networks needed to take collective action and participate in unions or advocacy groups effectively evaporate.
Considering earlier comments on the blurring of work and play among those who play games, as well as the “work as play” ethos in most game development houses, a picture emerges of an environment where the organization of work cannot be seen separately from personal preferences and individual negotiations. Yet such a conclusion runs counter to the signaled managerial practice of a militarized systematic division of labor (at least on paper), that models industry productivity based on milestones. This among a professional context that can be characterized by increasing corporate pressures to bring in significant returns on investment. In this system, the identity of professional game developers must be seen as inseparable from the products of their work – making clear crediting standards vital and all too often vague.

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  • Hey – since you’re a YouTuber, you might want to check this out… There’s a video company that’s recruiting
    YouTubers and if they like your stuff, (and they should) they will actually pay you when your video gets a hit.
    Here’s their link… It’s about time the people who make
    the videos get some of the money instead ng to YouTube!

    By Anonymous BJ, at 5/30/2007 07:46:00 AM  

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