Sunday, 17 April 2016

Don't Take Advantage of my Passion

There is an article that is making waves recently in the world of technology and game development. This article by one Alex. St. John makes a lot of assertions about the state of the games industry, and more specifically, the mentality of those within it. He talks a lot about how privileged a position it is to exist within this space, how games are an art and should be a labour of love, and he uses the term "wage-slave" a lot, among other things. To be frank, this article is probably one of the most disgustingly disillusioned things I've ever read, and I've got a lot to say on the matter.

Just off the top, I want to address the concept of game development being a privileged career. Next Mr. St.John is going to tell me that I need to eat all of my greens because children are starving in Africa. This is a common fallacy - that I don't have the right to complain about my position in life because there are others who have it worse, as though the fact that I sleep in a bed with a roof over my head removes my right to be treated fairly in life. Yes. Game Development is a fantastic vocation in a lot of ways, but if you are trying to tell me that having a cool job somehow means I have fewer rights, then you can kindly fuck off. 

On a similar notes, in his article Mr. St.John describes Game Development as "pushing a mouse for a living", in addition to asserting that concepts like work-life-balance, burnout, and being creatively tapped out are all nonsense, because this job involves sitting at a desk making video games. One could only assume this is all coming from someone without any real idea of what working in the industry is like, and yet his own Wikipedia article seems to think that while working at Microsoft he "was fired in 1997 when exhaustion left him unable to perform his duties both at work and at home". I've personally seen people walk away from Game Development because of just how draining it is, mentally and creatively. Why on Earth would anyone rather work at a supermarket, if Game Development was really so easy?

I think the most egregious part of St.John's article however, is the idea that devs should not be in the industry if they "can't love all 80 hours/week of it". I'm not sure how anyone can claim a profession is not strenuous, and then immediately go on to claim you're doing it wrong if you aren't doing it for 80 hours a week, but there we are. St.John seems to be very convinced that creating games is an act of passion, that if you can't dedicate your entire being to it without worrying about the sacrifices, then you don't belong to be here. Again, he throws around the phrase "wage-slave" constantly. In other words, the message of this article can be summed up in saying "you have a cool job, you should be thankful for that, rather than complaining about pay or burnout or hours". This is some of the biggest bullshit I have ever read, and equates to saying that you should let people take advantage of your passion, because if you don't someone else will gladly be taken advantage of in your place.

What infuriates me the most about what St.John suggests, is that it's actually extremely damaging to the industry that I love. Games is still a relatively small industry - it's one that has significantly more people trying to break in, than it has positions to be filled. If you look at pretty much any growing industry, you will see the same thing - the communities that grow the fastest and the healthiest are always the ones that treat their assets fairly. It doesn't matter how much passion someone has, you can't expect someone to dedicate their life to their craft if you treat them like shit. The number of bustling youths trying to get into this field is ridiculous, and this is already an industry that is, on average, underpaid, lacking in benefits, and unstable. Nobody would be here to begin with if they didn't have passion, so maybe don't take advantage of them because this is a "privileged job".