Take This, a non-profit mental health organization has released a State of the Industry report that outlines some of the most pressing mental health concerns within the video game development industry. They have stated that the remainder of 2019 will be devoted to researching various issues with developers and invite those working inside the industry to share their stories on social media with the hashtag, #gameindustrystory.
Many of the issues identified in the report have been hot topics in the news as of late, with a fundamental focus on what is known as “crunch." This is a broad term that describes the often imminent pressure for workers, as deadlines loom, to work exhausting, compulsory hundred-hour work weeks, destroying any notion of work-life balance. This often leaves employees afraid that refusal to work will lead to direct or indirect consequences within the industry.
Other topics mentioned in the report deal with factors that impact mental health such as issues with public perception, inclusivity, and diversity. Most recently we have seen significant issues with Riot Games and NetherRealm Studios, both at the forefront of controversy for what can only be termed toxic environments by anonymous sources who fear retaliation for speaking out against what has become a norm.
In the report by Take This, there are both solutions recommended and general outlines of areas of opportunity where further research is needed. Overall this is the best direction that the discussion can be taken; moving from anecdotal experiences to industry-wide investigation allows for a clear picture to form with quantifiable goals. Otherwise, these issues might remain within the realm of subjectivity, and thus would be difficult to tackle.
The report comes at a time when game developer CEOs appear entirely disconnected from the reality of the experiences of their workers. Co-Founder of Telltale Games Kevin Bruner, for example, was firm in his position that crunch was absolutely necessary to development, and his company is now bankrupt.
Take Two’s CEO Strauss Zelnick offered another ridiculous insight as he said that it would be inconceivable for employees in the video game industry to want unions or other organizations because they are paid well. Apparently for some CEOs, a large enough salary should make up for a an environment that cares little for the mental health of its employees.
Hopefully Take This continues on with its initiative and is successful in bringing to light the most important of these concerns. There is no reason for an industry to remain stagnant when mental health is on the line. As the industry continues to grow, the people who create these gaming masterpieces deserve to be treated with respect and care.