Let’s talk about the gaming industry. Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be unboxing video games and downloading new updates this week adding billions of dollars to an industry that’s already richer than both the global box office and the music business combined.
But the huge success of video games has come at a cost to many people who make them. So what’s happening to the workers behind the screen? It’s pretty incredible, really, just how massive this industry is and how much it’s evolved over the decades.
First Gaming Machine
This was Nimatron, the very first game machine that debuted in New York in 1940.
Fast forward to the archade games of the 70s home gaming consoles, computer games in the 80s and 90s online gaming at the turn of the century and now mobile gaming and e-sports where full-time, professional gamers fill stadiums and earn millions, yes, millions of dollars.
Let’s wrap our heads around some numbers. In 2016, a third of the world’s population were video gaming that’s two and a half billion people. In 2017, more than 660 million people watched other people play video games on platforms like Twitch and Youtube.
In 2018, the gaming industry made at least 130 billion dollars. And this is a business that’s still growing by about 10 percent a year. That’s a pretty exciting industry for aspiring animators, developers and coders to want to be part of. And staff salaries for developers are a lot higher than your average job.
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Earning of Devloper
In the US, a developer can earn around $100,000 a year. In India it’s about 500,000 rupees or $6.000 a year a lot higher than the average person’s $2.000 yearly salary.
You know I am so glad I got into game design it’s cool to be able to create the kind of games that we play. And 2019 was the year we found out just how big a price people pay to be part of the world’s biggest entertainment industry.
Crunch culture is still a huge issue in the industry. It’s when workers are put under enormous pressure to work overtime in order to meet game launch deadlines.
Before the studio Treyarch released “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” last year some testers said that “crunch time” involved working 70-hours a week for weeks on end.
What Say Kataku About Gaming World.
The gaming website Kotaku, says some of those guys earned only 13 dollars an hour, while Black Ops made about 500 million dollars in just a few days. “This multiplayer mode is super fun, dude.” Some testers working on Fortnite, another massive and free online game, also reported 70-hour working weeks.
And what happens a lot is that after a launch many workers are laid off. Kevin just mentioned women and they have major concerns about the gaming work culture. As many as a billion gamers are thought to be women and only 19% of the industry’s staff are female Ever since the #MeToo movement, more and more women are coming forward with allegations of rape and harassment. We spoke to one designer who even made a game about what it was like to be a woman in the industry.
In 2014 a scandal known as ‘Gamergate’ consumed the gaming world. It was a huge online culture war about a lot of things but at the heart of it was the treatment of women in a male-dominated industry.
At the time, a developer named Zoe Quinn and others received rape and death threats. So much so that even the FBI was called in to investigate. People like feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian came under pretty heavy fire for posting this: came under pretty heavy fire for posting this: extremely toxic, patronising, and paternalistic attitudes about women.
Workers have been trying to unionise to demand things like better pay, and fair treatment by gaming studios. But it’s not been easy. That conference triggered an online movement called #GameWorkersUnite and it’s now an international organisation whose mission even has the backing of US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
So is the industry doing anything right? So is the industry doing anything right? Gaming studios, including Treyarch, which we spoke about earlier say they are trying to reduce the crunch culture. The GameWorkersUnite movement has formally been accepted into the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.
And some companies like Blizzard Entertainment and EA also made Glassdoor’s 100 best US companies to work for in 2018 although EA fell off that list in 2019.
For consumers and developers, there’s a lot to look forward to and the hope is that as this industry grows and rakes in billions more gaming workers will reap the benefits of a business that at the heart of it, is meant to be about fun.