Crisis in Ireland’s video game industry

The pandemic has hit many industrial sectors hard, but gaming has exploded as people have more free time and more disposable income.

But amid record profits for game companies, stories of working conditions and allegations of bullying and harassment have come to light, fueling a global push for unionization within the industry.

Ireland’s video game industry is now facing similar calculus regarding wages and working conditions, despite being much smaller than its US and Japanese counterparts.

While there are no trade associations like the Irish Farmers’ Association or the Licensed Vintners’ Association, Imirt is the closest and represents Irish game creators.

Two of its members, Denman Luke and Ellen Cunningham, spoke. On issues affecting workers in the department.

After working as an artist in a number of game studios in Ireland and the UK, Denman now runs an art services studio in Galway named Rúach.

Ellen Cunningham is a game writer working for a Dublin-based indie studio called Gambrinous, creating games like Guild of Dungeoneering and Cardpocalypse.

Magic the Gathering artwork by Denman Luke

Magic the Gathering artwork by Denman Luke

As members of Imirt and the Game Workers United Ireland union, they have heard firsthand about the problems workers face.

“The biggest thing I’ve heard from developers is that many of them burn out in a very short period of time.

“It’s not sustainable. It’s a very young industry, so there’s a lot of inexperienced people coming in,” says Ellen.

The ripple effect of people leaving the industry is that the team hasn’t developed their chemistry for a long period of time, which affects the quality of the game.

“We’re also hearing stories of people having a silly time and getting physically sick from the stress,” says Ellen.

This type of burnout stems from poor management where employees have to meet deadlines, i.e. forced overtime that goes unpaid.

“There is pressure to work late, and you are in a culture that is full of passion,” says Denman. “If you want to move up the ladder, there is external pressure to work late. There is.”

He says managers don’t do it on purpose, but when a project deadline approaches, they go into a cycle of leaning on it.

“And the fact that it’s free is another reason they use it,” he says.

crunch culture

What makes things worse, Ellen says, is that many workers don’t get sick pay as people burn out.

“It exacerbates the problem, so people can’t rest, but they burn out,” says Ellen.

One reason workers are often exploited is because of their contracts. Denman, who runs his own studio and is my boss, has also signed with the studio.

“For the past 10 years, when I was a full-time employee, my contract said 40 hours a week, but it also said I needed to work longer hours to meet certain requirements. I did.”

I’ve never seen a contract written about overtime.

The contract is intentionally vague because there is no overtime pay. “I’ve never seen a contract that mentions overtime,” Denman says.

There is no overtime pay clause in the contract, so the employee doesn’t want to go out of line and question management.

According to Game Workers United Pay Transparency Report 2021industry salaries vary by role.

According to the report, people working in programming roles are the highest paid, with 78% earning over €40,000, followed by production roles, with 63.5% earning the same amount.

When it comes to unpaid overtime, 82% of respondents said they didn’t get paid overtime. The survey also found that 78% of his workers received no pension contributions.

All of this paints an industry where workers feel pressured to work long hours and their long-term future is uncertain.

Denman said:

Ellen says this kind of labor practice could kill the industry here in the long run.

A source, a programmer at the Irish studio who did not want to be named, said the problem goes beyond management.

casual work environment

“I think it’s something that’s built into the industry. It’s an industry fueled by passion and rockstar developers.”

Programmers say that because the work environment is more casual, your commitment can often be questioned if you’re not engaged at work.

“Among other developers, the pressure is, ‘We’re working until 7:00 or 8:00, why aren’t you working?

There are also few paths for young workers to advance in the industry. Then they bring in the elders to fill those roles,” the source said.

Thankfully, not all is pessimistic and there are things you can do to fix these issues.

“We have a very impressive indigenous gaming industry, and that’s before any real investment from the government.

“What we really need now is government support for collective bargaining and union work,” says Ellen.

with digital game tax credit Like France and the UK, it is expected to help attract developers to these shores.

Game Workers Unite Ireland also wants a living wage of €12.17, the lowest in the industry.

This, combined with a better structure to ensure overtime is paid and a focus on worker retention in the industry, could be a starting point for the gaming industry to move in the right direction. There is a possibility Crisis in Ireland’s video game industry

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