GDC award shows gave space to devs rightly critical of the industry

There's no "wrap it up" music here. Take all the time you need.

MajorLinux - Editor-in-chief

As long as I’m able to draw breath and can move my fingers, I will continue to decry the practices of capitalism in all its forms. Outside of the material conditions of my own life, the only other source I can pull from is gaming and technology, two industries I closely identify and work with. So, it was nice to see people from the gaming industry able to take the stage and speak on the same unsustainable practices that are running rampant in one of those industries while at GDC this week.

GDC made room for devs

This week, the Game Developer’s Conference held a couple of award shows that highlighted gaming achievements as voted on by the developers. Both the Independent Games Festival Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards were heavy with the criticisms against how corporate greed was handling game developers and their work.

One of the biggest critics was Swen Vincke, the director of Baldur’s Gate 3. He held no punches when blaming the massive layoffs on corporate “greed” that’s been “fucking this whole thing up for so long.” He made these comments while accepting the award for GDCA Best Narrative award for Baldur’s Gate 3.

Greed has been fucking this whole thing up for so long, since I started.I’ve been fighting publishers my entire life and I keep on seeing the same, same, same mistakes over, and over and over.

It’s always the quarterly profits, the only thing that matters are the numbers, and then you fire everybody and then next year you say ‘shit I’m out of developers’ and then you start hiring people again, and then you do acquisitions, and then you put them in the same loop again, and it’s just broken…

You don’t have to. You can make reserves. Just slow down a bit. Slow down on the greed. Be resilient, take care of the people, don’t lose the institutional knowledge that’s been built up in the people you lose every single time, so you have to go through the same cycle over and over and over. It really pisses me off.”

Swen Vincke, Director of Baldur’s Gate 3

Studio head of Strange Scaffold, Xalavier Nelson Jr., shared similar sentiments.

Narrative is the glue that holds a project together, the context and framing, characters and worlds that transform a good game into something transcendant. This past year, unfortunately, the most common narrative brought to us by the games industry is that making fantastic games requires layoffs and the destruction of human lives. This story is not only cruel, but it is definitively and provably false.”

Xalavier Nelson Jr.

GDC has become a luxury

Alanah Pearce, GDCA host and writer at Sony Santa Monica pointed out that a lot of developers couldn’t be in attendance because GDC suddenly became a luxury.

People in this room have lost their jobs. People who normally attend GDC every year have had to cancel because coming here is sort of an extravagant luxury when you don’t know when your next paycheque is coming.

We’ve lost people with years of experience who have worked hard to make some of the games nominated tonight, but more importantly, we’ve watched our friends get laid off, we’ve seen how that impacts their families, their children.”

Alanah Pearce, GDCA host

Shawn Pierre, the chairperson for the Independent Games Festival, introduced the awards with further criticism of the industry as a whole. Not only did he speak on the current layoffs, but he included the harassment of marginalized developers in the industry.

It’s been so difficult to see our peers not treated with the respect they deserve. We’ve already seen thousands of people losing work this year because they’re not being valued the way they should be. People are working overtime and on weekends only to be left behind when a game is completed. It’s unhealthy, it’s certainly not sustainable, and the end result of this is a weaker game industry for all of us.

Between the countless announcements of layoffs, we’re also reading too many stories of how people are being systematically pushed out of the game industry rather than being empowered or recognised for their contributions. They’re being made to feel like they don’t belong, that the work they are doing is not significant, and instead harmful to games. This is beyond unacceptable, and change is well overdue.”

Shawn Pierre, chaperson for the Independent Games Festival

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) also published a statement this week expressing “deep concern” over the “increased harassment of historically marginalized developers and those advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives”.

These concerns stem from similar harassment campaigns experienced during the GamerGate period in the mid-2010s. Harassment has no place in games or the games industry, and we must create a safe, welcoming, and equitable environment for everyone.”

IGDA statement

A lot of this is just 2023 in a nutshell from the layoffs, acquisitions, reshuffling, studio closures, and overturning of Affirmative Action by the US Supreme Court.

I said this just before the lockdowns began, but a reckoning was going to be coming. Whether it was through self reflection or machine being made bare by lockdowns, people are waking up to see the system for what it truly is.

I’m glad these developers have finally made their voices heard and I hope more people will going forward.

Source: Eurogamer

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By MajorLinux Editor-in-chief
Marcus Summers is a Linux system administrator by trade. He has been working with Linux for nearly 15 years and has become a fan of open source ideals. He self identifies as a socialist and believes that the world's information should be free for all.
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