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April 2, 2009


Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 7:30 am

This is part of an email to Darius Kazemi regrarding a blow up on one of the IGDA forums as a result of a former IGDA Board members touting the value of working his employees liik dogs, but paying them like princes and the perceived failure of the IGDA to publicly criticize him for his statement….

You know when someone gets elected to the Board they are not issued a cape or any superpowers. Most just want to help out…sure, some want to pad their resumes or feed their egos…but for the most part the board is very dedicated to the org as a whole. But that does not mean that they are the stooges of the members or have to do what a few vocal people think they should.

Here are a few of the more urgent issues the board is presently addressing….

A diminishing membership, both individual and studio affiliate

Operation loss and diminishing cash reserves

Replacing the Executive Director

Launching the new web tech

Continuing and expanding our stand alone conferences

Implementing a marketing and communication plan (we have none)

Launching the IGDA Magazine

QOL Surveys (both Studio and individual)

Managing our relationships with other conferences (like the whole China GDC/GDC China cock-up)

Chapter formalization

SIG formalization

The moving forward with the IGDA Foundation

Finding sponsorship funds to do all this stuff…

I am sure that this list is incomplete…that’s just off the top of my head. Right now every member of the Board is putting tons of time into the IGDA without thanks or compensation…I am not bitching here…but I have spent most of my office time since I got back from GDC on IGDA stuff…and I know that Bob Bates has done nothing else as well. And we all have to make a living on the side.

So, if you think you’re frustrated with the IGDA, you have no idea. The IGDA as an independent entity is less that 4 years old (since the CMP spin off). We have one employee (well we should, but right now we don’t) who is the Executive Director. We also have Talley Group, the Association Management Company that handle the back end. The rest is all volunteer efforts..from the Board chair on down…some more than others (I don’t want to even guess at the actual monetary value of of my investment of time into the IGDA over the past 8 years.)

The Board usually meets by phone for 90 minutes every month or two and has a face to face two day retreat annually to try to set priorities and make action plans. Not a great deal of bandwidth there is there? I am not asking for any appreciation here..but perhaps a little understanding of the inherent limitation of a member funded volunteer organization…we can only do what we can do….

Darius, I know you do a great deal for your chapter…I ran one for 5 year myself…but doesn’t it sort of irk you when someone shows up at a chapter meeting and tells you how your chapter is a stupid waste of time and sucks? And then tells you how to run the chapter because they have a special bone to pick…and they know better then you do how to run things…I’ll bet that engages you in a positive manner to make changes and to prioritize their issues…well maybe not. In fact this sort of attitude does just the opposite. I actually had one of the fucktard’s on the forum string tell me I should resign from the Board because I am such a failure?!?!?! WTF is up with that?

The Board does not do a very good job of engaging its volunteers…but those who want to bitch about the Board need to think about this same issue…the Board is also volunteers and telling them that they are failures, should quit, and are not doing their jobs does nothing…at least nothing positive. It just makes me wonder, “Is doing something positive even on the agenda here?”…or is it just telling others how they should live their lives because you know more about what’s good for them than they do…Bah! What arrogant bullshit!

I was raised a socialist. I took the the streets the day after Kent state, I am the “man of the people” on the Board. And in my heart I agree with the position regarding QOL expressed by the most vocal of those posting on the thread. But that said, I do not think it is the place of the IGDA to tell anyone, employer or employee how to work. If someone believes in a high QOL, then they should work someone where that is the standard. Everyone gets to vote with their feet! If they want to work long hours, for whatever reason, that is their decision. This effort to turn the IGDA into a moral police force “that knows better what’s good for you than you do,” is lame as shit. And as much as I believe in QOL, I will have no part in it…

The IGDA QOL effort must be one of education of employees and enlightenment of management (a carrot, not a stick!), not one of sanctions or anything else like that.


  1. Tom:

    I acknowledge that you are one of the good guys, and I understand why you’re responding somewhat defensively to this kerfluffle, and to the somewhat heated comments of others.

    But really.

    You’ve posted before on the unreasonableness of the demands of many studios, and IIRC, have even suggested that unionization is inevitable if reforms aren’t achieved.

    Is it unreasonable for others to ask IGDA board members to take a principled stand in favor of reasonable working hours for developers?

    I don’t think anyone is talking about a stick; we’d actually have to transform into a union, with all the legal consequences that entails, before that could happen.

    Let us suppose that the IGDA, under the full approval of its board of directors, issued a statement saying: “The IGDA believes that employers who require employees to work more than the statutory 40 hours, or which punish those who do not, are behaving unethically; moreover, our research, fully document by our Quality of Life committee, shows that excessive working hours are both unproductive and destructive of employee morale.”

    Such a statement would, I believe, defuse much of the controversy. It would also be entirely true. It’s probably too much to expect that it would cause any real change, but at least it’s a start.

    What’s your objection to that?

    Comment by costik — April 2, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  2. Greg

    What I say and what the IGDA’s official position are two different things. Just like what Capps said and the official IGDA position are two different things.

    And, to be honest, my position on much on this has softened somewhat after facing the realities of our industry. Though I still feel that forced overtime is a bad thing. But, that said, I would sure hate to see the passion drained out of the people who want to burn to do something they love.

    Case in point, my son Thomas. A few years ago he landed his first development job. He jumped in and for a while was probably working 80-100 hours a week doing his job and anything else around Garage Games that he thought needed to be done. He has mitigated his passion since then, but in the process he went from an intern to a programmer, to a lead designer to the Creative Director for the game he is working on in about 3 years. Hard to argue with that sort of passion (and his tremendous talent of course ;) ).

    If the IGDA were to say, as some have suggested, that working more than 40 hours a week is, per se, evil, that could never have happened.

    I am also not convinced that all the the relevant research supports a straight 40 hour standard. I do think that it does show that extended periods of long (60+ per week) hours is both destructive and inefficient. But that is significantly different that advocating a 40 hour standard. I also think that required week ends are total crap.

    That said, I think that if the QOL SIG, which is not even formed yet, where to come up with a coherent proposed industry QOL standard, the Board would support it. But we are not there yet. The whole QOL focus of the org has been dead,or at least pretty much dormant, for the past few years due to a lack of support from the members and volunteers. (Sucks but true!) And a few vocal flamers on the forums, many of whom are not even members, is far less persuasive.

    Moreover, with the org in “survival mode” due to financial and staff issues, getting a consensus through the Board make take some doing. I think this effort will have a much higher chance of success after the Studio and Developer Survey results are in later this yer.

    But since you asked so nicely, I’ll give it a try at the next Board meeting and try to get the new IGDA Chair (Bob Bates) to issue a more forceful statement than Jen did under he tenure. It’s the least I can do!

    But remember I am only one vote on a 12 person BoD!!! So, any help lobbying the other Board members in advance of next week’s BoD meeting couldn’t hurt.

    Thanks for the post…

    Tom B

    Comment by Tom B — April 3, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  3. Tom:

    I have worked my share of long hours, too — but it was a matter of choice on my part, not my employer’s policy.

    Thanks… And I’ve written both Bob and Brenda Laurel on the issue as well.

    Comment by costik — April 3, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  4. Greg has the right of it: it’s not that working over 40 hours per week is evil. Anyone who wants to start their own company and thinks they can get away with only working 40 hours in a week is deluding themselves.

    The difference is when 40+ hours per week becomes required by the employer for employees. That is when it becomes a serious Quality of Life issue and becomes unethical if not downright evil. When Capp unambiguously said he wouldn’t hire anyone who wouldn’t commit to 60+ hours per week, that’s a world of difference than when your son recognized his passion and decided to work enthusiastic hours.

    I’ve told the story before about when I was working at 3DO. I was passionate about my project and even came in on holidays to work on a problem I was facing. I *loved* it. But, when I got moved to a new team and told, “It’s really better to start crunching now because we only have 6 months scheduled to work on this title,” that made me tremendously unhappy. The issue wasn’t how many hours I had to work, it was about being told I had to put in long hours by my bosses. (It didn’t help that the project was rushed to get it out the door and was a terrible game by any standard.)

    Anyway, I won’t belabor the point any more than I already have here. I just hope everyone understands the distinction between wanting to work more than 40 hours per week, and being required to by the management (or the company culture, etc.)

    Comment by Psychochild — April 5, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  5. I weirdest story I have head of recently was someone being forced to come in on week ends and be on site for long hours during crunch even tough their work on the game was completely finished. Apparently the policy was if anyone has to crunch, everyone else has to be there for it.

    That not just evil, it’s stupid!

    Comment by Tom B — April 5, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  6. Hmm… Well, in an email exchange with Bob Bates, he pointed out that the QoL committee hasn’t received much attention and passion of late (a typically gentle, for Bob, criticism of me, I think, but not an unreasonable one). On the IGDA website, I don’t see a way to volunteer, or apply to a list-serv, or anything of the kind… If I’m going to whine, I think I also should contribute. How do I go about doing so?

    Comment by costik — April 6, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

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