Actual ethical issues in video-games


#1

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#2

Would not a more accurate headline be “Actual ethical issues in the video-games industry”?


#3

If you find yourself working 80 hours a week with no overtime pay, I would recommend keeping a log of your time spent. Many “salaried” employees should really be hourly which in turn would require overtime pay. If the company balks at you putting down more than 40 hours on your timecard (because you’re salaried), you probably have a case for back collection of overtime. The criteria for being salaried is pretty specific but many employers see being salaried as a way to get lots of free overtime.

If you say nothing because you don’t want to lose your job, then you’re an enabler.


#4

That can be the cost of the job.


#5

Yeah, I was hoping for something more like this.


#6

There are a couple problems: The industry doesn’t - and will not - pay most positions on an hourly basis, so you can’t exactly demand to be paid that way if you expect your managers to do anything other than laugh in your face (also, what timecard?). Overtime doesn’t apply for “creative” jobs - although a court ruled that game programming isn’t a “creative” job and thus can get overtime, design, graphics and sound production workers can’t, even though they’re really no more creative for the most part (ironically the programmers are already paid better than anyone else to begin with). Programmers don’t tend to demand the overtime, though. I’ve heard about people getting fired for taking pre-approved vacation days (after months of seven-day work weeks); programmers demanding overtime are not only going to get fired, they’re probably going to get blacklisted from the industry. Some of the industry has already switched workers from salaried to temporary contract positions to avoid the issue. You don’t have to do massive overtime - it’s totally voluntary - but if you don’t, it is hinted, you’ll find your contract isn’t renewed. The industry is also pretty good at selecting for workers who are “passionate” about their jobs, i.e. will do massive overtime willingly. If they stay with the industry to the point where they’re no longer so willing, they tend to no longer work for the industry.
What the industry really needs is to unionize, but for that to happen, the workers would have to acknowledge that they’re being exploited. The games industry is rife with labor law violations, but with very few complaints. The industry has been pretty good at convincing people that it’s such a privilege to work in it, and that should be enough.


#7

Unions are often rather good at securing things like decent working hours. They also do stuff like maternity leave, sick leave and weekends. Unions are cool.


#8

Yeah, but if the workers in the industry unionized, the industry would just move to Right-To-Work states, while probably extracting large tax concessions from the states involved.


#9

“YouTubers have and continue to accept money to put games before their fervent consumer audiences and are not meaningfully obligated to disclose those relationships. They can then occupy leading curation spaces on a major storefront like Steam, Currently Steam curation’s discoverability algorithms mean the most powerful forces — many of whom, again, earn money from some game developers and not from others — only become more powerful.”

This sounds like people still butthurt that TotalBiscuit is the #1 curator on Steam. Which is weird because whether you think that’s good or bad, curators on Stream are not “powerful” but, frankly, barely register at all among Steam users.

Steam has 100 million users and Bain, the #1 curator at the moment, has less than 260,000 people following his recommendations. OMG, tha power.

YouTubers taking money for promotion of products is definitely an issue (Bain himself just hosted a 3 hour discussion of this with some other YTers, Devs and PR folks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy1Ms_5qBTawC-k7PVjHXKQ), but this is just poor journalistic ethics they inherited from many of the incestuous print/web-based game outlets (as she does point out in her full piece).

OTOH, some of those YTers might argue they are more like Conan O’Brien, providing entertainment rather than traditional reviews, and, like Conan, should be able to get paid to play

When it comes to reviews of games, I think both sides of this issue are off base. It is far easier now than at any time in the past to get accurate information about video games thanks to the web and YT.


#10

They just introduced curators on Steam. A lot of users haven’t even noticed it yet. They also re-vamped what games are displayed on the front page and how recommendations are done. It’s pretty clear that in the new system, curators, especially curators that have built-in audiences, are going to be very powerful. But it’s obviously going to take more than a few days for this to happen, so the fact that it hasn’t instantly happened doesn’t mean much.
Traditional gaming journalism has always had a problematic coziness between journalists and publishers, with journalists frequently and easily sliding into the role of marketer (without even realizing it), this is true. So yeah, that was the basis for YouTuber’s notion of propriety, though they’ve instantly gone into the most ethically questionable behaviors as soon as they could. Ironically in recent years there’s been a growing awareness in games journalism that their traditional behavior isn’t acceptable and things have been changing. The big problem is there’s no acknowledgement that Youtubers have turned into paid marketers, and it’s not actually a curatorial selection if someone paid you to include it (and who would even want a “curated selection” that was actually just a list of paid advertisers; it totally defeats the purpose).


#11

My God what a feverish and incestuous little world. Her points sound valid but still… people pay to read about this stuff?


#12

Looks like that wasn’t a veiled attack on TB, but then what was the point as once you get past the top 2 or 3 curators, the numbers really drop off:


#13

This seems like a problem where geographically dispersed community such as social websites could reverse the whip by creating new, skewed but gathered groups of individuals to re-build the power structures that unions found in the geographic centralized units of labor.

Like … why doesn’t reddit offer health insurance and a 401K to its users that buy reddit gold? Why not gather power where corporate segment are mutable to the user base?


#14

". They also re-vamped what games are displayed on the front page and how recommendations are done. It’s pretty clear that in the new system, curators, especially curators that have built-in audiences, are going to be very powerful. "

I doubt it. The overall reaction to curators seems to be “this is stupid, how do I stop seeing this.”

The fact that the small percentage of people who are followers of TB on YT are going to follow his Steam curator account is really never going to add up to anything IMO. It just saves me a click of not having to go back to TB or Extra Credits channel to see what they recommended.

As far as YT propriety, the XBONE promotion that Microsoft tried to do that has at least put devs and YTers on notice that they need to explicitly disclose paid content deals.


#15

Yeah, it’s one of those catch-22 situations. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the labor department (at least in California) is pretty specific about hourly vs. salary jobs and the bar is probably not met most of the time. However, to just go along with it, not say anything to your employer and then complain that you’re being exploited is a bit contradictory. There are companies that value a productive and non-exploitive culture (I work at one of these companies) and don’t ask for more than 40 hours/week without reimbursement in pay or comp-time. The tech industry has pretty much told the world it doesn’t need unions and frankly I think unions tend to exploit the worker just as much.

I think some companies are missing the boat here. I watched an employment consultant tell my company that some employees should be hourly, that everyone should use a timecard and sign it and that there should be a policy on comp-time. The company did exactly that and guess what, the turnover is almost nil. People love being treated fairly.


#16

I’m fairly certain that covert youtuber payola is a very minimal issue here.
I actively sub over a dozen of the most popular LP youtubers, and, while yes they do sometimes engage in pay-for-play it’s almost universally transparent. People like Cry, Minx, EatMyDiction, Jacksepticeye and even PewDiePie always make it known when they’re being payed to do a let’s play. Most recently demos of the Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor has been going around, and pretty much everyone has been honest about either being paid to do a video of their gameplay to highlight various aspects of the games.
There’s other youtubers who outright state that they never accept sponsored gameplay, for instance Markiplier, who has played AAA titles, but has a specific focus on indie games and doesn’t shy away from calling out lazy devs who make terrible games while praising devs who make an effort to enhance the user experience in their games. A lot of youtubers are also very dedicated to charity. For instance Muyskerm, Lordminion777 and Markiplier together host monthly charity streams giving proceeds from swag salses to childrens hospitals as well as hosting donation links ontheir sites. I don’t care if they might be getting a cut, these guys have a focus on givimg back to the world, and I find that admirable.


#17

Blimey, I’d not heard of Right-to-Work States. So does this mean that some states still allow Closed-shop Unions?


#18

I am not sure on the details. IIRC, I don’t have to be in the union, but if I don’t pay the dues, I’m expected to contribute an equivalent sum anyway, or something (I think there’s some kind of religious exception clause?). I don’t know, I just pay the dues. Happy to be in the union :smile: They seem to be on my side a lot more than my employer is.


#19

Over here in the UK, the Closed-shop (where you had to join the Union to work at the employer) is long gone. That said, we still have a fair number of Unions and Union Members (I always pay my dues and turn out for Industrial Action). It is good to have someone in your corner against the management :wink:


#20

here in the states we have what are called union shops where you don’t have to join the union but you can be required to pay an agency fee to the union to cover the costs of dealing with management. 24 states have so called “right to work” laws that forbid even that. as a teacher in texas it is illegal for me to join a union at all.