It’s funny what a few words can mean to somebody.
Especially when those words involve your name at the end of a game you’ve worked on.
Gamasutra has a feature up on that topic, with comments from Mark Jacobs, CEO of Mythic, Jen MacLean, chair of the IGDA board, and Doug Lombardi, dude at Valve.
It is perhaps unsurprising that most studio heads have opinions like some of those presented in the article. They’re simply not directly affected by the problem. The notion that people can avoid working at places that don’t have reasonable crediting policies is a myth, because the large majority of studios do exactly what Mythic used to. If you want to work for somebody else in the game industry it’s pretty hard to avoid it. Kudos to Mythic & Mark Jacobs for making a change and treating the work of all of its employees with the respect it deserves.
Admittedly the reason accreditation is important to me is my own story. I went to work for Radical in April 2003, on a project that soon became Scarface: The World is Yours. I worked there for over 2 years, about a year and a half of which was crunch. At that point, Scarface got extended for another year, and I just couldn’t take the physical toll – severe tendonitis in my wrists (all better now thankfully), as well as back & neck pain (that I unfortunately still have problems with). I tried to find another position at Radical, but none of the projects really interested me (Prototype barely being more than a twinkle in Dennis Detwiller’s eyes).
When Scarface shipped of course, I was credited under Special Thanks. That was a step above a lot of studios that simply wouldn’t have given any credit for someone who left before the game shipped. Now in the year or so after I left, lots of people worked on the game, but while I was there I busted my ass to make the game as good as it could be. And for a while, I admit, I was kinda pissed, but it’s not like Radical was doing anything different from the rest of the industry. And it’s easy to point fingers, but that’s not solving the problem when the core of it is that we don’t treat our own work with respect.
And that’s it, that’s the bottom line, respect. However I continue to be amazed by the array of silly arguments being paraded before progress on this front. For instance:
The effort – a standard actually simplifies the work a studio has to do, since it removes any and all discussion of what is fair and proper (by saying this is what is fair and proper!). Any standard will have problems, but then it’s a discussion about the standards and not more finger pointing.
The space – This one trivializes all the work employees do. You mean to tell me even one month of creative work is not worth 4 or 5 words, one line of text? A few bytes of a download?
The latest, perhaps most desperate one yet, that standards represent the stifling of a studio’s artistic choice in how to present their credits. You know what? You can list credits in whatever manner you deem to be fitting, like putting them in the beginning (who would actually use this as an argument against credit standards?) or listing names with no titles. Perfectly fine. However there’s miniscule effort involved to also list credits in accordance with an established standard. Is your studio’s artistic choice to emphasize the equality of everyone one on the staff worth holding an entire industry back in terms of gaining the respect we should have for our creative work?
You’d think I would be a fan of the work the IGDA does towards this goal. Not so much. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I cancelled my membership this year. The one value I want the IGDA to provide, because it’s the best entity currently in a position to do so, and it’s continually failed at it.
While MacLean may use the press & her position as IGDA chair to criticize studios that don’t credit employees’ work, the IGDA as a body doesn’t do what it actually could to work on the problem (plus I’m not sure finger pointing at single studios here is even fair or constructive when it’s so widespread). Granted the IGDA does not have many tools at its disposal to enforce a crediting standard, but as far as I am aware, it doesn’t even use the tools it does have.
Member studios pay money to join the IGDA and give membership to all their employees. The IGDA could simply revoke studio memberships for those that don’t apply the crediting standard (which is pretty loose anyway). Granted, that’s a bit of work to review credit lists, but as the only other value I received being an IGDA member was an invite to the party at GDC, I’d much rather have my membership dues go to the former than the latter. That’s why they’re not getting my dues anymore.
What else can be done about it? Take the time to write a few simple words of your own, like Manveer Heir of Design Rampage. Write a letter to your company heads telling them why their studio will attract higher quality employees the more they respect the work their employees do. You may not yet have the freedom to choose a job that respects employees work through their credits, but it’s worth taking the time to communicate the problem – we as an industry (and any studio that doesn’t credit fairly) are worth nothing if we can’t even pay simple basic respect to the people that move the industry forward.
So again, good for Mythic on its new crediting policy. Hopefully this great example will lead the discussion for the rest of EA as well as the rest of the industry.
It is after all, just a few words.