UT game development students express concern amidst industry working conditions

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Photo Credit: Ella Williams | Daily Texan Staff

UT students studying in the Game Development and Design Program have expressed concern for working conditions in the video game industry.

Recent reports about the video game industry have brought several issues to light — most notably the trend of mass layoffs. Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard, a publisher responsible for well-known video games such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch, let go of 800 employees, or roughly 8% of their workforce. Contributing to this trend, Telltale Games let go of 200 employees without severance pay when the studio was forced to shut down from lack of funding.

“We are not in the position to improve this reality,” said Paul Toprac, associate director and senior lecturer of the program. “However, we do make (the students) aware of these concerns.”

Studio art senior Rose Hansen, a student in the program, said she finds these issues discouraging when studying for a possible career in the industry. 

“I love art and it’s all so very exciting ... but I don’t know if I can enter that lifestyle and feel comfortable with the constant pressure,” Hansen said. “I could lose my job and then have to go find another one constantly.”

Government senior Sara Yang, who is interested in getting involved in the video game and film industries, said these issues are symptomatic of creative industries in general.

 

“The video game industry itself is very volatile because we are working on projects (and their success) depends on the audience,” Yang said. “When a game doesn’t do well, there’s going to be a massive layoff. The content that you’re working on is actually really fun and you get to do a lot of creative things, but there’s a lot of sacrifices.”

Harrison Varvel, an arts and entertainment technologies senior, said companies in the video game industry need to better organize and manage their projects in order to avoid making their employees expendable.

“Sometimes they take on a lot of people — productions shift, plans change and suddenly there’s not as much of a practical need to hold on to that many people,” Varvel said. “One of the biggest changes that would be needed would be focusing on having more flexibility regarding deadlines for projects and some built-in margins of error for how many people they are planning to take on for each project.”