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August 31, 2006

IGDA Employment Contract Quality of Life Certification program.

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 1:50 pm

OK…I admit it, I am a very proud of this one. It is not often that one has an idea, and the opportunity to bring that idea to fruition, that can have a positive impact on both individual developers and the “good guy” studios they work for!

I came up with this idea at the IGDA board retreat last December. I mentioned the dreaded “U” word (unions) and the board quickly decided that that was not something the IGDA could do. But we had also been getting a great deal of criticism as an organization for just talking about industry matters, but never doing anything about them.

As I was pondering the problem I came up with this voluntary employment contract idea that would provide the Studio with the benefit of a significant advantage in the talent pool and identifying the studios that have adopted “Best Practices.” It would also prevent the too often situation where someone changes jobs and has no idea of what the actual employment contract looks like until after they have resigned and show up for work at the new studio, i.e. after it’s too late to do anything about it!

It looked like a win win for both the progressive studios and for our members. I think the board members present were skeptical about getting studio buy in or whether anyone who actually owned or ran a studio would think it was a good idea…as was I.

Brian Reynolds, the head of Big Huge Games (then board member and current IGDA Chair) arrived the next day and I ran it past him. To my pleasant surprise he was as stoked about the idea as I was. In addition to the competitive advantage and recognition for being one of the good guys, he also liked the idea that the IGDA would be providing a solid model employment agreement to the studios to use at no significant cost. :)

Of course the fact that this process is only available to IGDA Affiliate Studios who pay for their employees membership in the IGDA is also cool because, if it is as effective and well adopted as we hope, it will be just another reason for studios and individual developers to join up!

I recruited Taskforce members at GDC and we added more through the process. We tried for a good mix of line developers, HR and management, a recruiter, lawyers with employment and contract experience and others involved in IGDA QoL issues. Here’s the list of the present composition of the Taskforce:

* Tom Buscaglia, The Game Attorney (Chair)
* Dustin Clingman, President Zeitgeist Games, Game Instructor, Full Sail
* Jason Dell Rocca, Executive Director, IGDA
* Erin Hoffman a/k/a EA Spouse, Gamewatch.org and 1st Playable
* Ben Mathis, Character Artist and Modeler, Neversoft Entertainment
* Gaurav Mathur, Art Department Director, Factor 5
* Kent McNall, President, Gas Powered Games
* Marc Mencher, President, GameRecruiter.Com
* Clarinda Merripen, VP Operations, Cryptic Studios
* Gina Neff, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Washington
* Marty O’Donnell, Audio Director, Bungie Studios
* Brian Reynolds, Chairperson IGDA Board and President, Big Huge Games
* Jeffery Rose, Attorney
* Patrick Sweeney, Attorney
* Richard Woods, Managing Director, Black Lantern Studios, Inc.

We are in the process of getting suplemental input for the entire IGDA membership through the IGDA forums and then refining the elements that we will include in the initial ECQC Model Contact. Once the elements have been agreed on by the Taskforce, we have a public comment period to, hopefully, get a concensus of support from both the individual game developers and those who run the studios…but you know we are not going to be able to please everyone!

The lawyers on the Taskforce will then turn the elements into the provisions of a proposed ECQC Model Contract. Then the whole thing will be approved by the IGDA Executive Committee or board. After that, a little beta testing to help us debug the application,process and procedures.

We hope to be able to have the formal ECQC Certification Application program in place by the first of the year. We will then offer certification to all of our affiliate studios and announce our initial Certified Studios with much fanfare at GDC in March after which they can start using being an “IGDA QoL Certified” employer in their job postings. That should give everyone who want to a chance to get on board and eliminate any unfair advantage among our existing affiliate studios.

Tom B

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