Crunch time: It's all fun and video games until you're being pressured into working for free

UK industry survey sheds light on ridiculous hours, culture of harassment and bullying


The majority of video games devs do long stretches of unpaid overtime, and bullying and harassment is rife within the sector, according to a survey by entertainment trade union BECTU.

Games workers from across the UK described the sector's notorious "crunch working" – clocking up to 80 hours per week for six-week periods, with regular demands to work 12-16 hour days and through weekends prior to the release of games.

But the survey of 350 workers found 80 per cent regularly undertaking overtime for free.

Bullying and harassment were also widely reported (57 per cent), with 70 per cent of those saying nothing is being done about it. Meanwhile, 53 per cent said long hours have had a negative effect on their personal or home life.

There are nearly 50,000 games workers in the UK, with the industry estimated to be worth £3bn.

The sector has recently come under fire for its poor working practices and an independent union, Game Workers Unite, sprang up last year in response.

GTA V in game at 4K

UK taxpayers funded Grand Theft Auto V maker to tune of £42m – while biz paid no corp tax and made billions

READ MORE

Last year Rockstar was forced to defend its working conditions after its British co-founder, Dan Houser, described the 100-hour weeks prior to the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 in October.

Alex Sobel MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for video games, said: "The UK video games industry is undeniably dynamic, highly creative and an extremely profitable sector of our economy. But behind scenes, there are workers, many of them highly skilled, who feel undervalued, under-compensated and exploited. It's time that Parliamentarians start applying the same level of scrutiny to employment practices in the video games sector as they would any other."

One worker quoted by BECTU, who did not wish to be named, said: "There is no time for personal growth under long hours; you get home from work and you have time to feed yourself and clean the house and then if you want to get enough sleep to do your job right, it's straight to bed. Your weekend is spent doing nothing to recover. And that's me as a single person, no dependents. Work has to get all of me, then chores, then what's left of that has to be diced up between friends and family. How do people with children do it?"

Philippa Childs, head of BECTU, said: "While the gaming industry is being hailed as a success for the UK economy, the cracks are very visible and it is clear this success is coming at a great cost to the workers who have built it from the ground up.

"This success has not been without the sacrifice of a dedicated workforce who are yet to reap the benefits, being forced to work under stressful and oppressive circumstances to get games to market.

"We urge employers to take action if they want to sustain their economic success as productivity, employee morale and retention can only occur when you treat your workers fairly." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Cerebras sets record for 'largest AI model' on a single chip
    Plus: Yandex releases 100-billion-parameter language model for free, and more

    In brief US hardware startup Cerebras claims to have trained the largest AI model on a single device powered by the world's largest Wafer Scale Engine 2 chip the size of a plate.

    "Using the Cerebras Software Platform (CSoft), our customers can easily train state-of-the-art GPT language models (such as GPT-3 and GPT-J) with up to 20 billion parameters on a single CS-2 system," the company claimed this week. "Running on a single CS-2, these models take minutes to set up and users can quickly move between models with just a few keystrokes."

    The CS-2 packs a whopping 850,000 cores, and has 40GB of on-chip memory capable of reaching 20 PB/sec memory bandwidth. The specs on other types of AI accelerators and GPUs pale in comparison, meaning machine learning engineers have to train huge AI models with billions of parameters across more servers.

    Continue reading
  • Zendesk sold to private investors two weeks after saying it would stay public
    Private offer 34 percent above share price is just the thing to change minds

    Customer service as-a-service vendor Zendesk has announced it will allow itself to be acquired for $10.2 billion by a group of investors led by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, investment company Permira, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

    The decision is a little odd, in light of the company's recent strategic review, announced on June, which saw the board unanimously conclude "that continuing to execute on the Company's strategic plan as an independent, public company is in the best interest of the Company and its stockholders at this time."

    That process saw Zendesk chat to 16 potential strategic partners and ten financial sponsors, including a group of investors who had previously expressed conditional interest in acquiring the company. Zendesk even extended its discussions with some parties but eventually walked away after "no actionable proposals were submitted, with the final bidders citing adverse market conditions and financing difficulties at the end of the process."

    Continue reading
  • Singapore promises 'brutal and unrelentingly hard' action on dodgy crypto players
    But welcomes fast cross-border payments in central bank digital currencies

    In the same week that it welcomed the launch of a local center of excellence focused on crypto-inspired central bank digital currencies, Singapore's Monetary Authority (MAS) has warned crypto cowboys they face a rough ride in the island nation.

    The center of excellence (COE) was established by the Mojaloop Foundation – an open source effort to create payment platforms to make digital financial services accessible to those access to banks. The COE aims to "accelerate financial inclusion in emerging markets" through hackathons, workshops and pilot projects while examining expanded CBDCs payment capabilities."

    Singapore's sovereign wealth fund has invested in Mojaloop, and MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty serves as a board advisor and the authority provides representatives to the Foundation's working group, alongside folks from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and more.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022