Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Credit Where Credit is Due

This is an excellent article at Kotaku about crediting practices at game developers. I've been lucky enough to have been credited on the shipped titles I've worked on in some capacity or another, but I've worked with people who haven't been so lucky. Case in point, the "Warhammer Online" crediting controversy. I personally know dozens of people who left that project before the game shipped and who had spent years working on the project who were not credited. Yes, some people left under less than satisfactory circumstances, but there were just as many if not more who left with no ill will on either side of the aisle. I'm lucky enough now to be working for a developer who even though they're most recent release was seven years in the making, did a rather good job of crediting even those who only spent a short amount of time on the project before moving on to other things internally.

The callousness of those who try and defend this practice by stating that they don't want their employees to be the targets of recruiters and poachers is unbelievable. If you provide your employees with a satisfying work environment, decent benefits, and competitive pay then they're not going to want to leave. Refusing to credit certain individuals is simply childish. The very least a company can do is throw former employees in a "special thanks" section. I spent very little time working on Turbine Entertainment's "Asheron's Call 2" but they had the decency to list me as an additional contributor in the credits.

What's most disturbing in all this however is the anonymity of those speaking out against it. The fact that such a stigma exists in this industry against those who publicly voice the slightest concerns is staggering. Game developers are expected to work long hours often without overtime pay and be completely satisfied with the experience. The general consensus is that the trade off comes in having such a job in the first place. I love what I do, I've spent years chasing this career path, but at the end of the day it's a job. I and others like me have made these jobs our lives, much in the way that the industry stigma assumes we should and sacrificed relationships and our physical, mental, and social well-being in the process. But it's just a job, it's not the privilege that it's often built up to be by the craven few who are so isolated in their thinking as to not be able to see beyond the tips of their own noses.

I'm grateful for my job because at the end of the day it's a paycheck for doing something that I enjoy, but game developers aren't the only people who are allowed to enjoy their jobs. Plumbers, police officers, shop owners, office managers, salesmen; for any job you can imagine there's more people than not who enjoy doing that job. And yes, those people complain from time to time, but they enjoy what they do and they expect to be recognized for it. Game developers are no different and unfair crediting practices do nothing but reinforce a "thank you sir may I have another" subservient attitude in the industry. It not only belittles those already in the industry, but doesn't give much reason for new or outside talent to seek us out or stick around once they get here.

The people making these decisions not to credit the people who worked hard and then left for one reason or another need to grow up. It's not just about who's there when you cross the finish line, it's about the people who helped along the way as well. If someone leaves your company for "greener pastures" then that's a cue to look at how you could have served them better, not to be vindictive and withhold due credit. I've said it before that game development is the new media of the 21st century, but in order for that to really take shape we need to grow the hell up.

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