Casually Corporate: why the casual nature of game development may be hurting our industry

When you picture the 9 to 5 job we were all told to work towards in the 90’s the concept of the office was undergoing some major changes.  As people stopped working in offices in a traditional sense and started being crammed into cubicles, the way we worked stopped being a social matter and became more of a “work produced at your work station” affair.

When video game development proved to be a lucarative industry we started to see game developers rail against the idea of shoving people into work stations and asking them to do so in a shirt and tie, blazers and heels. Partition walls were literally taken down and we saw a reemergence of the bull pen style office space of decades past, where people could and were encouraged to engage with one another.

However, there now exists a rift between the two philosophies; are we a casual freethinking development community, or are we just another manifestation of corporate life?

The problem arises when we ask ourselves what we expect from a company? Whereas any other “serious”, “suit and tie” industry would make a receptionist a salaried employee, part of the company, with full benefits, the gaming industry may make that same role an employee hourly and only provide partial benefits.  In the video game industry there is a low expectation of what compensation will be, and due to the casual environment and hierarchy, the seriousness of the work.

This maybe partially due to the fact that people are typically all dressed casually and fighting to make a statement about their outsider identity from traditional corporate structures. However, in doing so we are also saying “don’t expect the bad or the good of the other industries, where they ask you to take things seriously”, and that can lead to us actually ending up behind other industries in terms of; wages, benefits packages, hierarchy, career development, and job security. You can read more about the wage gap between the video game industry and other industries along with the problems with OT in my article, Glorifying OT: the law of diminishing returns.

It is ok to change the way we interact with each other and the environments we establish as an industry; however, that doesn’t have to come at the cost of what other industries have already proven to be successful.  While we may want to define our corporate environment as casual, we must still ensure that the end result of a career in the video game is not a casual matter.  That the way we develop our corporate culture is beneficial for both the individual employee and company as a whole.

How do you feel about the corporate structure of companies? Do you feel that they are good for both the employee and the company? Do you feel that they too often tilt towards the benefit of the company?  How do you think the casual approach to attire, hierarchy, and compensation helps or hurts the video game industry? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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