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EbonyBetty

Games so good it costs human misery to make them.

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Hey, fellow Osidianites! All this CD Projekt Red Controversy has really got me thinking and I really want to have a discussion about it.  Yes, I know everyone with a Youtube channel is talking about it at the moment but I'm curious about what y'all think here. If y'all don't know about the CD Projekt Red hurrah, apparently working at current Video Gaming's Sweetheart company is the 7th circle of Hell. Due to the spotlight of negative  Glassdoor reviews , the game company put out a PR clean-up statement. Here are some really good videos to get you up to speed: 1, 2

 

Now I wont lie, I'm also starting this discussion out of self-preservation. If you don't already know, I'm a black woman that wants to get into the video gaming industry. In an industry that is 78% white males and with African American MALES only making up 9% of the industry, I know my journey is gonna be an upstream battle with a spoon for a paddle. But I love this industry so much and see so much potential in it that I think it's worth it. However as a black person, the true canary in the coal mine for black suffering in a workplace is: if even the WHITE people there ain't happy, then your black ass is gonna roast. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the workplace should be adult daycare with everything being fun and stress-free, but as an educated psychology student, I know morale in the workplace is crucial. There can be stress, pain, overtime, and frustration of the highest order but if there isn't any emotional payoff or self-actualization to justify it you end up with what's to be expected: people quitting, depression, hatred for upper management, health problems, rebellion/sabatage among workers, even suicide. Studies have shown a thousand times over, happy employees = less financial and social scandals for the company. 

 

I think the reason why CD RED is getting a lot of the spotlight is that most of their consumers aka people who don't work at CD RED but know their product are really conflicted about what to do with this information. The Witcher series has changed the game, not just for video games, but how to treat your consumer base. In one of the videos I've linked, a supposed ex-CD RED employee joked that since CD RED treats their fans like gold but their employees like ****, they can essentially get away with HR and PR murder. 

 

So I have to ask, are great games worth it even at the expense to the emotional and eventually physical immolation of its employees? Most of us are aware of the infamous "crunch" sessions in the video gaming industry. Those last 3 weeks before a game is launched and in the game developers offices where employees are spending 15-18 hour days at their desks. They're away from their loved ones, bad posture, eating breakfast, lunch, dinner takeout in the break room (if they even have one) on a product that might not even sell and/or review well. Here are some articles (for and against) crunch in the video game industry, 1, 2, 3, 4. Game developing is definitely a high risk-high reward industry and we, the consumers often see the high reward part. But what about the high risk and possibly little to no reward part? Do we as consumers have an obligation to demand better treatment of the employees to an entertainment that we cherish so much. There's the Actor's Guild for the movie and TV industry. We've seen that video game Voice Actors are demanding better treatment and trying to unionize, and some of you guys might remember the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild Strike . Is this par for the course for Game developers? Also this might pertain to us, Obsidianites more because most of us are backers for PoE and PoE II. What if we were to find out the game we kickstrted were forcing employees on year-long crunches and firing anyone who objected, such as the Glassdoor reviews for CD RED? (I don't think Obsidian is like this, but just to serve as an example). What kind of reaction would we give? 

 

TL;DR: Sorry for all the questions asked here. We as consumers often praise the "Blood, sweat, and tears" mentality in the video game industry, but what is too far? Video game fan and consumers have a lot more power in the entertainment consumption as to compared to the movie, book, or tv industry; sometimes swaying how developers work on their games. Is CD RED in the wrong if their products come out so right?

Edited by EbonyBetty
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Well, maybe it will be a surprise for you, the situation as described in CD-Project Red, is no different in most of the different companies in Central and Eastern Europe. Lot of people here are still exploited as a cheap labour, even if their job has extremely high added value for employer.

 

It get's slowly better, but lot of people here are still used to shut up and work, from our not so nice past... Some unions are still affraid to do a proper strike, like we can see in Western Europe. Even if Union declares proper strike, lot of people are more worried about losing their jobs, than their ****ty work conditions...

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Sent from my Stone Tablet, using Chisel-a-Talk 2000BC.

 

Let's Play/AAR Europa Universalis 1: Austria Grand Campaign (completed)

Let's Play/AAR Europa Universalis 2: Xhosa Grand Campaign (completed)

 

My PS Platinums - 19 games so far (my PSN profile):

1) God of War III - PS3 - 24+ hours

2) Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 - 130+ hours

3) White Knight Chronicles International Edition - PS3 - 525+ hours

4) Hyperdimension Neptunia - PS3 - 80+ hours

5) Final Fantasy XIII-2 - PS3 - 200+ hours

6) Tales of Xillia - PS3 - 135+ hours

7) Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 - PS3 - 152+ hours

8.) Grand Turismo 6 - PS3 - 81+ hours (including Senna Master DLC)

9) Demon's Souls - PS3 - 197+ hours

10) Tales of Graces f - PS3 - 337+ hours

11) Star Ocean: The Last Hope International - PS3 - 750+ hours

12) Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 - 127+ hours

13) Soulcalibur V - PS3 - 73+ hours

14) Gran Turismo 5 - PS3 - 600+ hours

15) Tales of Xillia 2 - PS3 - 302+ hours

16) Mortal Kombat XL - PS4 - 95+ hours

17) Project CARS Game of the Year Edition - PS4 - 120+ hours

18) Dark Souls - PS3 - 197+ hours

19) Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory - PS3 - 238+ hours

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This just in: work sucks (and then you get fired).

 

Sorry, I just find it hard to sympathize with the plight of game devs above and beyond my feelings regarding what is a thoroughly exploitative system of commodification of human labor.

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- When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.

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Ah, so you're excited to work in gaming development! Prepare to be chewed by the system until you burn out and then spat out, hoping you can still muster motivation to do what you want to do.

 

Edit: Let's say that there's a good reason why most of my friends who worked in game dev are only getting serious relationships now, in their mid 30s, after they switched job.

 

We are living in interesting times where people demand no hard work, multitude of benefits and bazilions of cash for their work. At the same time the same people demand top notch products, royalty quality of services and 24/7 help for a nickle of payment or even better for free.

Demanding no hard work is one thing, complete disrespect for labor protection laws that many gaming companies show is on wholly different end of the spectrum. Edited by Fenixp
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Well, maybe it will be a surprise for you, the situation as described in CD-Project Red, is no different in most of the different companies in Central and Eastern Europe. Lot of people here are still exploited as a cheap labour, even if their job has extremely high added value for employer.

Couldn't have said it better. My brother works as an architect in Vienna and the time he spent at Moser Architects during 2009-2011 was terrifying!  At one point they told them that either they will finish the hotel at schönborn by the end of September or they'll pay a fine of 300.000 Euros and you know something is not right when some of the employees have to take cocaine and speed at the same time just to get the job done and then spend a week at a sanitarium...can't imagine the gaming industry being any better. 

 

A new gaming industry crash?! It could happen.

Edited by Katphood

Katphood on PSN, Steam & Xbox Live

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I'm a software developer who likes video games, and I would not even slightly consider working in the games industry. It's the wild west out there. Cushy government job where I can count the number of times I've ever done overtime on my fingers - now that's my speed.

 

It's hardly a localised problem either, I remember reading about the development hell that was LA Noire, and that was made in Australia, where we have much stronger labour laws than the US or Eastern Europe. It's safe to assume it happens everywhere.

 

I'm not sure there's a palatable solution to all this. In real terms, games have never been cheaper to buy, and they've never been more expensive to make.The sticker price on games are still the same as they were near the dawn of the industry, absorbing decades worth of inflation. Meanwhile team sizes would be the biggest they've ever been, and that's before taking into account the auxiliary stuff like licencing, voice recording and marketing - the cost of which would also be at record highs. Sure, the greater volume of sales these days (compared to when gaming was a comparatively niche hobby) compensates to an extent, but in an increasingly saturated market, something's got to give.

Edited by Humanoid
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L I E S T R O N G
L I V E W R O N G

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Well, maybe it will be a surprise for you, the situation as described in CD-Project Red, is no different in most of the different companies in Central and Eastern Europe. Lot of people here are still exploited as a cheap labour, even if their job has extremely high added value for employer.

 

It get's slowly better, but lot of people here are still used to shut up and work, from our not so nice past... Some unions are still affraid to do a proper strike, like we can see in Western Europe. Even if Union declares proper strike, lot of people are more worried about losing their jobs, than their ****ty work conditions...

It's like that here, and we don't have any interesting past, heh. Unions are a dirty word for developers I have noticed over the years, heh. Not really worth it, but you get people that think crunch is normal or are blinded by enthusiasm so there's always meat for the grinder


Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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Do you even know what you talk about? CDP is placed in Poland and is subject to Polish labor laws. All the devs are doing is overtime, which they get paid for. Boo Hoo  :shrugz:

You know this for a fact? Because in this case, it's alleged that they don't.

 

Of course the answer is "if so then they should refuse and go to the labor inspection bluh bluh bluh". But if they step out of line they can easily be fired because there's always another chump ready to jump in and bend over because it's their "dream job".

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- When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.

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Do you even know what you talk about?

Yes. Do you?

 

All the devs are doing is overtime, which they get paid for.

Judging by large Czech gaming development houses and reports leaking from CDP, they kinda don't. I mean, one of my friends working for an unnamed dev house was getting free breakfasts, lunches and sometimes dinners so that he wouldn't have to leave the workplace, so that's something! Crazy unpaid overtimes are among the standards of gaming development, incidentally, along with a whole bunch of other issues.

 

Of course the answer is "if so then they should refuse and go to the labor inspection bluh bluh bluh". But if they step out of line they can easily be fired because there's always another chump ready to jump in and bend over because it's their "dream job".

Precisely - the industry is preying on enthusiasm, often times offering even unpaid jobs to "start off". It's kind of disgusting. Edited by Fenixp
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Yes I do. Because in Poland if the story is reported by the media it's treated as if it was reported to the authorities (police/inspections/financial supervisory etc.) and CDP was checked. The employees do overtime as everyone in any industry and they are payed. In fact it's +50% overtime and +100% in the weekends, so not a bad deal since they are not making minimum wage in there also.

Oh yes, we have those laws in Czech Republic too. In my career I've already encountered at the very least three employers who either found loopholes to circumvent them and make unpaid perfectly legal or quite simply don't lead proper records of the overtimes. "So, your working agreement says right here you're working daily from 8 to 17 with an hour for a break so that's precisely the time you're spending at work, right?" When you say "WRONG!", you may win a lawsuit - good luck finding even loosely related job in the country again. Edited by Fenixp

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CDPR isn't even among the worst. Check out the stories from Rockstar and Japanese development. The book "Blood, Sweat, and Pixels" has some fascinating accounts on the issue. The industry has a massive problem with handling this, expecting so many many to place their entire lives into the job. And even this ****show is not as bad as the situation in silicon valley.

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Karoshi is the ideal

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Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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I feel no sympathy from it, simply because it's everywhere that pays in salary. Hell just ask an asst manager at Walmart for instance, their salary pays them enough for 48 hours but many are working 50+ hours, alot of times working 6-7 days week without a day off in a couple weeks, especially around Christmas time.

It's more of a problem with salary, because pay per hour grants OT and enforces certain rules while u give up protections and OT for salary because of the slim chance of working less hours but still being paid for more hours.

It's more along the lines of problem with salary.

It's also where there's a product and a time table due to the market and bad decisions from stock holders that if not done within a certain time limit, the product is less worth while and can be worthless.

Example when I worked as a wood crafter, I got paid only what I made and sold. Some jobs I had to work double and even worked 36 hours in a row because the product had to be made within a certain time or they did not wanna buy. Now I could have afterwards, took days off to where my hours would go back down below 40, BUT because I was being paid per product and not per hour, if I didn't take on more jobs, I did not get paid and since work is not guaranteed, it was a gamble that could backfire because when I was rdy, there could be no customers for weeks bc they went somewhere else.

So blame the practice of salaries and also equally, the customers for their impatient and unrealistic expectations of when a product should be rdy.

So yes, working in that area, ur gonna be wrong out and chewed up. Everyone, no matter what race though if ur in America would have more protections due to ur skin color, will be chewed up and spat out because that's the work flow of making a video game. The 40 hour work week is designed around established factory line work, not making video games so different work flow.

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TL;DR: Sorry for all the questions asked here. We as consumers often praise the "Blood, sweat, and tears" mentality in the video game industry, but what is too far? Video game fan and consumers have a lot more power in the entertainment consumption as to compared to the movie, book, or tv industry; sometimes swaying how developers work on their games. Is CD RED in the wrong if their products come out so right?

IMO, this is a wildly varying situation of context and your personal values.  If you're young and don't mind sacrificing your life for your work, it can be worth it for a while.  You might learn skills or gain contacts that help you in the future.  It seems like a fair percent of the more successful indie devs started out in those environments.

 

A few things to consider:

You'll get paid significantly more working for tech companies than for game companies.  The few times I've looked at game dev salaries I thought they were extremely low.  OTOH, you could still end up in the grinder, and the bigger salaries aren't necessarily enough to make up for that.  In my 20s I went to work for a namebrand tech company.  The two guys I lived with at the time couldn't believe how much I was making, and kept repeating things like "No one should get paid that much.  That's ridiculous."  A year or so later, after seeing my non-stop 80 - 100 hour work weeks, they reversed, and kept pushing me to quit the job.  "Nobody should work that much.  That's ridiculous.  No money is worth that."

 

Long-term I think work environment is more important than salary, as is a feeling of satisfaction with what you're doing.  But short-term there are legit reasons to choose otherwise.

 

The question of artistic merit is likewise a difficult one.  Before Gaudi died he was going door to door begging for charity to finish his cathedral.  You could argue that one is fine art and the other is just producing mass market junk, but the central issue is the same.  Is it worth it?  There's no answer for that.  It's personal.

 

In terms of ethics, yeah, it's disappointing, and not all companies are like that, but it does seem widespread in the game industry.  I think that, like Hollywood, it's a perpetual buyer's market (for the companies), because they have an endless supply of young people with big dreams.

 

 

Yes I do. Because in Poland if the story is reported by the media it's treated as if it was reported to the authorities (police/inspections/financial supervisory etc.) and CDP was checked. The employees do overtime as everyone in any industry and they are payed. In fact it's +50% overtime and +100% in the weekends, so not a bad deal since they are not making minimum wage in there also.

In the US there are labor laws and a variety of employee protections, and yet, in the real world, companies disregard them and sometimes employees are too scared to speak up.   The last place I worked had a recently promoted manager that generated 11 HR complaints within 2 months of starting his new position.  Completely ignored.  The whole company is a walking collection of lawsuits waiting to happen, but until it starts rolling, all protections are theoretical.

 

Other companies I've worked for do take those types of issues seriously, but the real world is a case-by-case basis.  I don't know much about Poland, but I suspect the differences between "on paper" and the real world exist there just like everywhere else.

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We are living in interesting times where people demand no hard work, multitude of benefits and bazilions of cash for their work. At the same time the same people demand top notch products, royalty quality of services and 24/7 help for a nickle of payment or even better for free. 

 

Cannot have everything.

 

If game industry is to hard then they can go and try underwater welding or coal mining.

 

 

You can always count on Sharpie to throw in the "kids these days!" argument.  :biggrin:

 

http://ambitious.com/the-younger-generation-has-been-ruining-the-world-since-forever/

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CD Projekt are crooks.

Didn't they start out hocking warez. Wait, no, just Iwinski

Edited by Malcador

Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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I don't know much about Poland

And that's why all you wrote can be thrown out.

 

 

Funny coming from a guy that spends way too much time commenting on the US. :p

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And that's why all you wrote can be thrown out.

As I said there is no "lawsuits waiting to happen" or "employees to scared". The story broke to the press and the authorities goes into action, they don't have to wait for anyone else to "come forward". They already checked the company.

And you may have noticed that this entire topic talks about more than just CDP: Red. Anyway, large companies are quite careful to have paperwork in check when they break law, or make sure to do so in such a way that legal system can't get to it. Loopholes exist and are routinely abused. "They checked the company" means very little when speaking up is just not worth it to the employees.
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CD Projekt are crooks.

Didn't they start out hocking warez
Ha. Warez. No, you had to physically sold diskettes and later cd's on the markets back then. And yes they did.

Well sure sounds like hocking warez, then. Ah the old copy protection was great in some ways.


Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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One positive aspect of the terrible grind that many AAA developers seem to employ is that in a lot of ways it is responsible for the indie gaming renaissance we are currently in. People don't mind hard work. Far from it. But if you are going to sacrifice your health and sanity, it is much more rewarding to do so for something you own than a corporate behemoth. Unfortunately the risks are much greater in that regard, but so are the rewards.

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We get these periodic overwork scandals and nothing changes- EASpouse, anyone? About as much practical effect as #StopKony2012.

 

As others have said, game development is a vocational job, there are always other people willing to come in at the bottom of the pile because they theoretically love games development to replace those burning out from the practicalities. It's a similar situation with other vocational jobs like teaching, nursing or (low level) doctoring- because people want to do the jobs they get under valued and over exploited until their goodwill runs out and they realise anything else is better, then in comes the next bright eyed bushy tailed innocent willing to work 100 hour weeks semi permanently.

 

This is also a world where games companies get subsidies for working in cities or countries and are seen as being great value added to be competed for with inducements; in those circumstances one may find a 'coincidental' lack of labour rules enforcements lest all the 'bureaucratic red tape' drives them off to some other city or country.

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If I remember correctly, quite a bit changed at EA as a result of those reports. It is in their best interest to attract talent, and that sort of reputation makes it difficult to do so. 

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I've been working in the TV industry for a long time, and what I soon learned was that I wasn't really cut out for long-lasting projects, of which the majority was sliced, diced and decimated along the way. It was disheartening and very exhausting, especially so when I became a parent and had much more responsibilities in life. My solution?

The brave step of becoming a freelancer. Slowly, but surely (it took years), I made myself attractive enough in certain scientific broadcast niches (remember, though, nobody's indispensable) for companies to come to me, companies that I admire and like to work with. Best thing? Except for deadlines, I can plan my work exactly how I want, and I've done away with almost all commuting.

And I can adjust my workload in accordance with the ups and downs of my life (to a reasonable extent, of course). It's a very rewarding feeling to be your own, but obviously less social.

 

EDIT: I forgot to mention how much healthier my noodles became when I didn't have to attend oodles of meaningless meetings.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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If I remember correctly, quite a bit changed at EA as a result of those reports. It is in their best interest to attract talent, and that sort of reputation makes it difficult to do so. 

 

I don't think much at all changed at EA- the situation was not actually as bad as was made out by EASpouse which is somewhat different. Plus they now have a bunch of outsourcing studios in places like China where the situation is undoubtably worse.

 

It does seem to be cyclical though, companies work out that there are diminishing returns from overworking people as quality declines and productivity gains reduce; then they forget that after a few years when the competent managers and producers have moved on or there is new top level management looking to make things 'cost effective'. The decline in quality in particular can be very important as bugs may be very hard to track down so it's better to have as few as possible from the start. That's why most of the outsourced studios are for things like textures and models though, easy to overwork since it doesn't matter so much if they make mistakes or die at their desks in their 20s.

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