Need for supportive work culture – Gaming Industry Ravi Shankar Jayaman Today we have so many video games releasing every week. Most of the video games today bring in as much revenue as a Hollywood movie (reference needed). What was once considered a niche industry, thanks to various technological advancements, is no longer a niche industry. We have video games releasing for different age groups. Like movies, we have different flavours of games. We have dance games, party games, racing games, shooting games etc. Today, there really is a video game for everyone An introduction to video games
In 1958, William Higginbotham, a nuclear physicist, created what is now known as the very first video game – ‘Tennis for Two’ (reference). It was a two player tennis game played with two controllers. ‘Tennis for Two’ was meant for a small audience and was never seen as something people could make money from. This particular game was the inspiration to the first successful video game ever created ‘Pong’. ‘Pong’ was an arcade game that released in 1972. Pong’s success made people see gaming as a means of business and thus the gaming industry started. Today we have so many video games releasing every week.
There are many different game consoles – ones that can be played at home and ones that are portable. We can also play video games on PC, tablets etcfor example (don’t use “etc” in a paper). Even the mobile phones we use every day can be used to play video games. All these factors have made the gaming industry a multibillion dollar industry. Today the gaming industry is worth more than the music industry and even Hollywood (reference). A new video game that is released today has a good chance to earn as much as a Hollywood movie would. In fact in more than a few cases a successful video game would make more money than most of the
Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 1 movies ever would. For example, the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops totaled in at $1 billion worldwide within the first 42 days of its release (reference). Video games have always been something that people associated with fun. People see video games as a means of entertainment especially when they are with family and friends. Video games are good stress busters and can help keep people’s minds at ease. Video games are very helpful even in educational institutions. In fact a few gamers were able to break the AIDS enzyme puzzle that has been troubling scientists for decades (reference).
All these factors bode well with the booming gaming industry. Video games today can be both fun and educational. History of video game companies Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney are credited with establishing the very first video game company (reference). They created Atari Inc. in 1972. In 1972, Video games were relatively unknown. So, it was a very bold move by Bushnell and Dabney to venture into the unknown. Atari’s Pong was very successful and thus people started venturing into the video game industry. Today’s gaming companies are very different from the ones in the past.
There are people working on video games almost throughout around the clock to meet the various strict deadlines. This is a lot of pressure on the video game developers to get their product out on to the market. We all know that video games are so much fun to play and are a great means of entertainment, but are they as much fun to make? Comment [JBC1]: Be careful of sweeping statements. Some people may not find video games fun. Gamers tend to be young and male. The Ugly side of gaming – Work culture in Video game companies The organizational structure in a video game industry is a network organization.
Video game companies are virtual organizations in a network organizational structure. The video game console makers make the consoles and usually let the video game companies make games. There are companies that make Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 2 exclusive games for only one of the platforms and there are companies that make games for all the platforms available. Irrespective of the kind of video game Company, such is the video game industry these days that every video game company has to be continuously releasing great games.
All the companies compete among themselves to attract the ever growing number of people who are buying video games. Working in such a competitive industry can be challenging for anyone. The kind of work people do in the video game industry is not your regular 9 to 5 kind of work. This industry requires people to put in a lot of work hours. Sometimes at a level that is unsustainable and destructive. This could lead to employee burnout. Employee burnouts are quite common in the video game industry. The term crunch time is used pretty extensively in the video game industry.
Crunch time can be defined as the point at which a team is failing to meet its deadlines and milestones which could affect the launch of a video game. The complex nature of video games these days makes it tough to predict when one can achieve a milestone or a deadline. During crunch time situations the video game company exerts pressure on its employees to put in more effort. The sad part is that in a few cases people are not paid for this overtime. There was even a lawsuit filed against Electronic Arts because of the company’s push to make employees work for longer hours (reference).
Working for so long can not only make an employee tired, but also affect the employee psychologically. The mental stress involved could have a really bad effect on the employee’s health. Aggressive work schedules and strict deadlines are something that leads to mental stress on an employee. The companies can be too demanding at times and may cross the line by making an employee work more than what he/she was/is supposed to. The necessity of proper work culture and regulations to keep these kinds of adverse working conditions in check is really necessary. Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823
Page 3 Team Bondage – The story behind the demise of Team Bondi Team Bondi was an Australian game developer that developed video games for all the video game consoles available in market today. The company was founded by Brendan McNamara, an ex-big gun from Sony, who had had vast experience in making video games (reference). McNamara was very successful with Sony and had made a number of hit games such as The Getaway. So, when McNamara founded Team Bondi in 2003, everyone believed that the company was destined for success. Team Bondi’s first game was announced in 2004 as L.
A Noire. Sony had first dibs on this video game and worked out a deal for L. A Noire to be published by Sony. This meant that the game was exclusive for Sony’s Playstation 3. The game was expected to release in 2006-2007. In September 2006 news broke out that Sony has moved away from the deal of publishing the game. Rockstar took over from Sony and the game was expected to release in 2008. This was the first sign of things not being ‘OK’ with Team Bondi. There were then multiple delays and the game finally released in 2011, seven years after it was announced.
The game got rave reviews from critics and gamers alike. It was a commercial hit and everyone thought that Team Bondi was destined for more success. Sadly, in October 2011 news broke out that Team Bondi has closed down. It was not clear why, even after a very successful debut game, would the company close down. All the happenings during the development of L. A Noire were then revealed and the reason behind Team Bondi’s closure became clearer. After the game’s release former staff of Team Bondi came out to reveal the disastrous work conditions while developing L. A Noire.
It came to be known that Team Bondi was making its employees work overtime because of crunch. These overtime hours were not accounted for in the pay and there was extensive mental stress on the employees at Team Bondi. The former staff also questioned McNamara’s leadership. The former staff revealed that McNamara was a very angry person and also cited occasions when he shouted at employees. This style of leadership put off many people and many people quit. A Comment [JBC2]: Be explicit to be clear about his position at Sony. Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 4 ew people were apparently so put off by McNamara’s leadership style that they vowed never to return to game industry again. Even Rockstar, the publisher of L. A Noire, cut ties with Team Bondi citing poor leadership/management skills of McNamara. The disastrous work conditions and leadership style led to the demise of Team Bondi. The story behind EA lawsuits Electronic Arts (EA) are one of the biggest game developers in the world with revenues of over $3 billion (reference). EA are credited with a great record of releasing highly successful video games for over twenty years.
In 2004 a blog showed up on the internet by someone named ‘ea_Spouse’. This blog explained how EA treated their employees. The blog highlighted mainly about the work culture followed in EA at that time. The blog said that employees were asked to work extensively for 12-14 hours six days a week and at times even seven days a week. The employees were reportedly given the occasional Saturday evening off for ‘good behaviour’. Employees were reportedly made to work up to 100 hours a week on a few occasions. All these overtime work done by employees were not accounted for.
EA did not pay the employees for overtime. This forced the employees to file a lawsuit against EA (reference). The employees of EA successfully won this lawsuit. This particular lawsuit was a revolution of sorts and ensured that people in the gaming industry were paid on an hourly basis. Since this lawsuit hit EA very hard, EA were quick to take some positive steps to ensuring that no such events happen again. EA has taken steps to positively address work-life balance concerns. EA focused on long term planning, employee compensation and communication to improve work-life balance concerns.
EA did an overhaul of its Human resource policies to make EA a better place to work in. John Riccitiello was appointed CEO of EA in February 2007 and he ensured that EA were serious about keeping the work culture good within EA. Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 5 Importance of good work culture In these turbulent economic times, a lot is expected from the employees. An employee maybe required to put in the extra hours to get things done. An employee will be willing to put those extra hours only when the management recognizes the effort put by the employee. An employee will be more ommitted and motivated to his work when the management ensures a good supportive work culture within the organization. A good work culture keeps an employee more engaged to his work. A good work culture keeps the employee satisfied. A satisfied employee will in turn bring in more productivity and thus the organization is benefitted. Adding to the reasons above, a few other reasons on how a good supportive work culture helps the organization are listed below: 1. It retains talent: When an employee is satisfied with the work culture in an organization, he or she is very likely to continue working in the organization.
When the employee is kept satisfied there is no reason for the employee to move out. 2. It attracts talent: A prospective employee looks at the work culture closely when assessing an organization. An employee usually looks for a change when the work culture in not that great. So, the company with a good work culture will be pretty high on the list for people looking for a change. 3. It creates synergy: A strong supportive work culture brings people together. When people can communicate with each other easily, everyone gets to know each other well. This brings the people together.
When people communicate with each other well it improves the productivity of the employees. 4. It creates energy: Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 6 When the culture shows that people are valued by the organization, it creates a lot of good energy in the organization. In such an organization people can express themselves and this creates a lot of positive energy. 5. It changes the view of work The word ‘work’ in itself does not mean anything fun. It means that one has to do certain things. This understanding of the meaning of ‘work’ can be changed if an organization has a good culture.
When an organization takes an effort to have a good culture, work would become more fun and an employee would have fun doing it. 6. It makes everyone successful: Everything discussed above helps not only the employee but also the organization. A good work culture keeps an employee more engaged and more motivated to do his or her work. An employee will thus get more productive. This in turn helps the organization. This is a win-win for both employees and organization. In a very demanding industry such as the video game industry we can see how a good work culture helps.
In such an industry the company plays a very important role to help keep the employee morale high. When a company follows a good culture, all the points mentioned above become valid. The organization would benefit in the long run. In fact having a good work culture can become a competitive advantage. Comment [JBC4]: A good work culture is more likely or has the potential to engage employees but it’s not a sure thing. Same comment regarding productivity. Comment [JBC3]: Another sweeping statement. Some people find work fun. Importance of employee satisfaction An unhappy employee is very bad for an organization.
The employee will not be able to perform his tasks at his or her full potential level. This may in turn affect the quality of the product. So, it is very Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 7 important to keep an employee satisfied especially in a very chaotic industry such as gaming. A happy and a satisfied employee will always give you a better result. The various factors affecting employee satisfaction are: Comment [JBC5]: Not necessarily. A happy and satisfied employee does not always relate to productivity, for example, they could be happy, satisfied and lazy or poor at their job. . Job Security: This is probably the most important factor affecting employee satisfaction. There is always consistent pressure on employees of a video game company to do well.
The video game industry is a hit and miss industry. When a game does well commercially the companies reap benefits but when a game does not do that well the company gets a beating. So, job security is always on top of almost every employee’s mind. When a company can give proper assurances to their employees, the employees are bound to be happy and perform well. 2. Compensation and Benefits: This factor is a no rainer. Everyone wants more money and benefits and the company that gives their employees these benefits and pay are more likely to keep their employees satisfied. 3. Relationship with supervisor: The relationship between an employee and his or her immediate supervisor is very key to understand whether an employee is satisfied or not. The supervisor plays a very important role in keeping an employee satisfied. 4. The work itself: The work itself needs to be fun and engaging for an employee. A company that has a good work culture can ensure that the work is a lot of fun.
As long as an employee is happy doing his or her work the employee is satisfied. Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 8 There is a connection between work culture and employee satisfaction. A very good work culture can keep an employee satisfied. A satisfied employee is a boon to an organization. The productivity of the employee improves. This means that the quality of output will be pretty good. Isn’t that what every company wants? The way forward for video game companies There is no denying that the video game industry is a very challenging and demanding industry.
There will be times when people will have to put in a lot of hours to get a game ready. These extra hours can be very intimidating for employees. Video game companies can make sure that these extra hours put by employees are not seen as a negative. The onus is on the video game companies to make sure that the work environment is more fun. Good Human resources management and supportive work culture can ensure the workplace to be more fun. The companies will then leave very little for employees to worry about. There are video game companies who have successfully done this. These companies have released great products too.
These companies are proof to the fact that there is no tradeoff between good product and work culture/employee satisfaction. Two such companies are listed below: Insomniac Games: Insomniac games are an independent video game developer located in Burbank, California. They have been making video games ever since 1994 (reference). This company has consistently been ranked as a great place to work in. As recently as October 2011, entrepreneur rates Insomniac as the 16th best place to work in. Entrepreneur has highlighted the workplaces practices at Insomniac games. 2K Studios Australia Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823
Page 9 It was initially called irrational games. This is a very small video game company that has been doing well financially and also in maintaining a good work culture at work place. Small studios are very vulnerable in a competitive industry and this studio has survived the competition. They released Bioshock in 2007 and this was the biggest game to release in 2007. The company is widely recognized as one of the most innovative development studios in the world. After looking at all the stories in the video game industry, we can come to a conclusion that video game industry is a pretty unique industry.
It is a great mix of technology and entertainment, but at the same time it is a very challenging industry. Playing video games can be so much fun, but the making of video games is almost never as much fun. Aggressive work schedules, strict deadlines and mental stress can make jobs in this industry very demanding. In such an industry good work culture is a necessity. A great supportive work culture can keep an employee satisfied and improve employee productivity. With a good work culture in place the employee can excel and be on top of his or her ‘game’ (no pun intended). Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823
Page 10 References David Hinkle. (2011, July 5). Report: Game Industry worth $74 billion in 2011. Retrieved from: http://www. joystiq. com/2011/07/05/report-game-industry-worth-74-billion-in-2011/ Don Reisinger. (2010, December 21). Call of Duty Black Ops hits $1 billion milestone. Retrieved from: http://news. cnet. com/8301-13506_3-20026321-17. html CBC News. (2006, October 19). Video games can reshape education: U. S Scientists. Retrieved from: http://www. cbc. ca/news/technology/story/2006/10/19/videogames-education. html Medical News. (2011, September 20). Gamers crack AIDS puzzle.
Retrieved from: http://www. medicalnewstoday. com/articles/234664. php Ea_spouse. (2004, November 10). EA: The Human Story. Retrieved from:http://easpouse. livejournal. com/274. html Simon Carless. (2004, November 11). ‘EA Spouse’ weblog Raises Issues On Game Development Quality Of Life. Retrieved from: http://www. gamasutra. com/php-bin/news_index. php? story=4543 Kristan Reed. (2004, February 20). Team Bondi – The First interview. Retrieved from: http://www. eurogamer. net/articles/i_teambondi Brendan Sinclair. (2006, September 25). Rockstar gets L. A Noire. Retrieved from: http://uk. gamespot. om/ps3/adventure/l-a-noire/news/6158595/rockstar-gets-la-noire Nathan Brown. (2011, October 5). Team bondi to close. Retrieved from: Ravi Shankar Jayaraman 211586823 Page 11 Comment [JBC6]: All these references needed to be embedded in the paper. http://www. next-gen. biz/news/team-bondi-close Ben Maxwell. (2011, june 27). Former Team Bondi staff reveal troubled LA Noire development. Retrieved from: http://www. next-gen. biz/news/former-team-bondi-staff-reveal-troubled-la-noiredevelopment Nathan Brown. (2011, July 5). Report: Rockstar washes hands of Team Bondi. Retrieved from: http://www. next-gen. iz/news/report-rockstar-washes-hands-team-bondi Curt Feldman. (2004, November 11). Employees readying class-action lawsuit against EA. Retrieved from: http://www. gamespot. com/news/employees-readying-class-action-lawsuit-against-ea6112998 David Jenkins. (2006, April 26). Programmers win EA overtime settlement, EA_Spouse revealed. Retrieved from: http://www. gamasutra. com/php-bin/news_index. php? story=9051 Michael McWhertor. (2008, April 7). EA employees Now Pleased As Punch To Be Working At EA. Retrieved from: http://kotaku. com/377116/ea-employees-now-pleased-as-punch-to-be-working-at-e
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