Should Game Developers Have A Union?

In light of the accusations of horrible working conditions that L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi has garnered of late (excessive hours, no overtime pay, employees cut out of the game’s credits), do game developers need labor rights?  Should they have a union?

This is the latest query posed to Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter on his weekly GameTrailers show, Pach-Attack!

The short answer?  No.

The long answer?  Well, watch the video.  If you don’t have 13 minutes, here’s a summary:

Pachter points out that game development is not a 9 to 5 job.  It’s a typically well-paying, salaried position and not one that‘s entitled to overtime pay (although, Pachter admits he’s not familiar with the wage and hour laws of Team Bondi’s home country of Australia).  Additionally, game developers should expect to work crazy hours at crunch time, the three to six months leading up to a game’s release.  

L.A. Noire was in development for over five years and missed several release dates so there were probably a lot of crunch times and many may have run together so “crunch time that never ends” would be a valid complaint.  It’s unfair and simply not a good business practice to have your employees working overtime for 18 months straight.  However, if a game is successful, and L.A. Noire certainly is, there will be a profit pool.  This means that Bondi head honcho Brendan McNamara should be able to compensate his employees for their work so accusations of mistreatment at this point are premature.  

As far as Bondi employees being cut out of the game’s credits, Pachter says that’s a Rockstar issue.  Hundreds of people worked on the game and Rockstar, not wanting a 45 minute credit sequence, made an executive decision.

After all that, Pachter sums up his thoughts on a game developers’ union:

“I think unions are there to protect people who can’t protect themselves.  I think once you get up to a certain wage level you’re charged with being able to take care of yourself and if you can’t handle it, don’t work there.

We’re talking about a games industry where the average compensation is well above $60,000 and often above $100,000 a year.  I just don’t think people who make a hundred thousand bucks a year need a whole lot of protection because they might have to work overtime.”

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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