While editing this article this morning I was a bit hesitant about publishing it. I was scared about the negative repercussions it might bring to me. I decided to publish it as I know there are people out there having a terrible time that need to hear they aren't alone, that they can do something about their situation.
Keeping this to myself would only benefit my image, but helping others is way more important than that.
I’ll try to keep this article as non-biased as I possibly can. My experiences in the industry haven’t been exactly great, which may turn into a pessimistic approach to what it means to be an artist in the games industry.
I remember entering one of the biggest AAA companies when I was only 21. I was hungry back then. I wanted to eat the world, and I was making it. I was ready to make any sacrifices for it.
On the first day on the job, I realized something when it was time to sign the contract. My offer was two thousand pounds bigger than what the contract stated. I asked about it to receive a blunt answer.
“There has been a mistake, but this is what you’ll get.”
I have never been interested in making money. I was there to become a great artist, so I signed the contract anyway. I became part of the problem.
After a couple of months, I started to see how our compensation for an extra 4 hours a day was a free dinner worth something like 10 pounds.
Just for context, the company wasn’t under financial pressure or something like that, pretty much the opposite. They had the most successful franchise in the history of video games.
Related to this experience of mine is this article from a while back. Different studio but similar practices. The "Rockstar Wives" case was very notorious a few years back.
They could afford to hire more people to ease the pressure of working 12–14 hours a day but decided not to do so. Why? They didn’t give a shit about us. They knew very well that there would be another 50 naive artists waiting in line to be hired when we left because of burnouts.
This is a massive problem in the industry. Some of the biggest companies, and I’m not saying all because I hate to generalize, take advantage of people wanting to make a living out of their hobbies. They profit out of junior artists.
I’ve been in companies where 95% of the staff were junior people. That’s a huge lot. Makes you think. What happened to people when they weren’t juniors anymore? Were they still worth paying when being promoted?
If you think about it, this is cheapening the cost of art in games, which leads to lower wages and worse conditions.
A few days back, I saw a video that I’ll link below. It is not 100% related to this topic, but it makes me think. We are reaching a point where it looks like things might be changing.
I know it’s a really long video, but it’s worth watching.
People like the author of the video above are starting to come forward, and things look like they could be changing, so I really think this could be an inflection point that will determine how we are treated by these big companies.
If you are interested in reading more about the blizzard problem, check this article out:
If you ask me, and these accusations turn to be true, these companies shouldn’t have the pleasure to hire us anymore.
It is now time to fight for a fairer industry and bring down all those who agree with these practices.
More and more, I’m seeing artists create their own companies to make a living that sustains their mental health and that of their employees. People aren’t afraid to say no to terrible conditions because they now have options.
The games industry lost its beauty a long time ago for me, but now it looks like this new wave of denouncing the unjust might bring my interest back to it.
So what can we do to make this better?
We are facing a tough situation. It is our responsibility to make things better for ourselves. If the game art market doesn’t end up changing, we’ll have to look for other opportunities elsewhere.
We also need to defend ourselves from this by ensuring we aren't desperate when looking for a job. This morning's article by Bryce gives you a set of rules to follow to be attractive for studios so that you can choose between many and find the right one for you.
I advise everyone looking for a job to not be accomplices to these behaviors. There are many ways to be a successful artist that don’t go through bad conditions, and we should always think about our mental health and following our values when accepting a job.
In the long run, we won’t be the ones realizing we lost good partners because of our actions.
On a more positive note, I know not all companies do this, but we should be careful not to let anyone take advantage of our dreams.
If we continue to let this happened, we will never fix the problem.