I’m saddened to hear about the terrible working environments over at Bioware, especially during the production of their last two games. Is anyone surprised?
If there’s one thing most studios in the entertainment industry have in common, it is the overworking of the ground level staff. Programmers and art teams are constantly sharing their horror stories from the front line. Of course, the Bioware news was timely following the flop of Anthem. The vision of the game changed drastically over the last 7 years, and that cannot be blamed on the base level employees. Yet, time and time again, the hourly and entry-level spots on a development team feel the brunt of the breakdown.
Where does the breakdown start? To be honest, it varies. The only certainty is that lower level employees are often asked to do more with less, whether it be resources, time, or money. The exploitation of entry-level development employees is not new, but when it yields as poor of a result as Anthem, it’s increasingly visible. When a game like Super Smash Bros. comes out and we hear the team is using IVs and staying up for 36 hours at a time coding, we don’t necessarily blink because it all turned out okay. It was worth it.
Worth is a wild concept, especially in the abstract. Unfortunately, capitalistic values will tell you that blood, sweat, and tears is worth a piece of the pie. Let’s not forget, we’re talking about humans, not machines. Humans who feel pressured when their livelihood is on the line. Humans who suffer from stress, anxiety, and mental strain, that they cannot leave at the office when they clock out for the day. Humans who love games just as much as the people they make them for.
The treatment and subsequent coverage of Bioware’s Anthem meltdown, and even the studio’s overall climate are being seen largely as a product of “well, that’s the business.” I can’t stand that take, especially when the labor value of a coder is being put ahead of their wellbeing.
Now, Bioware pivots and starts announcing all staff meetings about how to improve things, but the damage is done. Anthem disappointed players despite 7 years of development. Chalk that failure up to the high-level management and team leaders, who of course were feeling pressured as well. The difference is that they take on those roles where pressure is inherent to the position. The more money you make, the more pressure is on you to succeed.
For an industry hitting record highs in profits and mainstream permeation, a major screw up like this is unacceptable. It’s not enough to sit on high horses claiming workers need better. Breathing support into a keyboard does nothing. The calls for reform in regards to the treatment of creatives at the lowest level of the film, video game, and general entertainment industry cannot go by once again with no accountability.
The entertainment industry pumps so much money out of its projects, that this is unacceptable. Unless, of course, the calls for better working conditions are simply PR stunts that will convince the masses to buy time until the next studio abuses its workers. But that wouldn’t happen, would it?🔥20