Comments on: Some thoughts on the IGDA (or: why I quit) Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:53:13 +0000 hourly 1 By: Johanna Weststar Wed, 13 Nov 2013 15:58:38 +0000 I am an outsider so I will flag that from the start. But my background is relevant I think because I am a professor of industrial relations/labor studies who has been researching the game industry and its working conditions for the past number of years.

Discussions like this are critical within the membership of any organization as they are the life blood. Even if people don’t agree, these discussions show people care.

I think that many of Darius’ points about a ‘weaker’ organization standing in the way of the development of a stronger organization are very true. Not to say that the IGDA does not and cannot do good things, but if it continues to shy away from engaging in labor issues there are just some things that it will never be able to do for its members.

Darius, I have been writing academic papers about unionization and collective action in the video game industry and I also have a number of references to articles about union models in other industries that would actually fit well. The suggestion about looking to entities like SAG and the Writer’s Guild are bang on. This industry will never unionize on a studio-by-studio basis. An industry wide certification will be needed where membership is maintained across different employers and where the ‘wages’ are then taken out of competition. This means that each studio is facing the same basic contract and is not either better or worse off in terms of labor rules than any other studio. These unions also manage the issue of seniority vs. meritocracy which is a big stumbling block for many high-skill and driven workers (like game devs). There can be standards that still allow for individual negotiation above and beyond – but that also achieve basic equity across like groups.

The point made about the unionization of other professionals is also an important one. High skill, highly educated people have a right to have a democratic voice in their organizations and industry just the same as anyone else. ‘Professional’ workers are in a power imbalance in an employment relationship just the same as anyone else. I am from Canada and almost all of the university professors are in unions – and we are an individual, merit-oriented lot, let me tell you. In Canada the medical doctors engage in collective bargaining through their professional association. Nurses are unionized. And even some lawyers unionized when they realized their professional standards were not being protected by their employer.

So…long post – but game devs are no different than other workers and there are models of worker representation and collective action that could be brought to bear on this industry. And, though it is cliche – you are your union so you make it what you want it to be.

My email is if anyone wants to get in touch directly – then I can send you things to read, etc.

Currently I am working (with the IGDA) to get more data about the industry – check out a report here:

By: This Week I Read: PAX is bad and other things are good « Normally Rascal Sat, 14 Sep 2013 19:36:53 +0000 […] On Tiny Subversions, Darius Kazemi explained why he left the IGDA last March. I believe he mentioned at the time it wasn’t only because of the incident at GDC, and now we know why: he likens the organization’s ethos to imposed austerity, in that fiscal conservativism usurps all purpose. It becomes a self-perpetuating machine devoid of any sense of civic duty. A parasite on its members, much like an austerity-minded government fleeces its people for the political body’s own continued existence. Better to cut loose and start afresh elsewhere than to help perpetuate the redundant, destructive organisation, he says. […]

By: Darius Kazemi Tue, 10 Sep 2013 16:17:03 +0000 Generally speaking: I wanted IGDA to cut out corporate members, including studios that pay for individual memberships of every developer (it gives management leverage to tell them what to do or not do). I wanted IGDA to create some kind of a program where we can say “as of this date and based on our research and interviews with random employees, these studios are good places to work, those studios are not.” That got stalled and then downgraded to a “here are studios that volunteer information about their workplaces; draw your own conclusions” type of thing which to this day has not launched. I wanted the IGDA to take a stand on all forms of harassment. I wanted the IGDA to speak out more in general, but the organization was more interested in not alienating people/companies. Because appeasement always works so well :P

By: Graham Fri, 06 Sep 2013 23:23:26 +0000 You stated in your article that you wanted to make changes to the organization, but you never really stated what they were. Can you maybe divulge into what IGDA’s “status quo” is and what you wanted them to do differently?

By: Michael Lubker Fri, 06 Sep 2013 12:23:24 +0000 *cough* I remember the “edgy” times *cough* regarding member (or board member) “protection”.

By: Paul Sinnett Fri, 06 Sep 2013 09:19:50 +0000 I’d agree that if the IGDA went away I don’t think any single organization would naturally spring up in its place. But to my mind that’s an indication that it has become an irrelevance. Certainly in London, where the local group rarely runs any meetings, any number of game developer meet up groups have sprung up. They are all more narrowly focused but some are larger individually than the IGDA group even at its most populous; together they are much larger.

By: Steve Meretzky Fri, 06 Sep 2013 01:03:42 +0000 Darius,

I haven’t read Dustin’s response yet, but here’s my initial reaction: I think you are really really wrong that if the IGDA went away, the vacuum would likely be filled by something better. I was there when the IGDA formed (or, more accurately, when the IGDA’s precursors formed). And not to say that conditions of the industry in 2013 are anything remotely like the early 90′s, but there’s nothing about today’s conditions that would lead me to think that a vacuum would be filled any more quickly, efficiently, or effectively now. Conversely, you’d be throwing away 20 years worth of growth and struggle.

I think the idea of starting a developer’s guild is worth exploring, but there’s no reason that this effort can’t co-exist in the same world as the IGDA; I don’t see your desire to see the IGDA go away as being in any way a necessary precursor for that effort.

By: Chris Sanyk Thu, 05 Sep 2013 23:30:05 +0000 I agree. I can’t fault IGDA for prioritizing continued existence. I think Darius’s argument is a bit overstated; if we re-state his position slightly, to something like “IGDA is too risk averse to make necessary change in order to better serve its own membership,” I think he has a stronger position.

Darius, it’s good that you put in the time and fought the good fight. Also, good on you for learning when to resign. If you can’t be effective within an organization, the right thing to do is to resign, and then speak out publicly, in order to foster the sort of dialog that is necessary in order to move forward on an issue where things were previously stuck.

By: Jason Della Rocca Thu, 05 Sep 2013 17:54:45 +0000 Interesting discussion… though a little surreal given I’ve not been involved with the IGDA (other than helping to run the Montreal chapter), since I stepped down in early 2009.

I recall covering the fiduciary responsibility aspect of being on the board, but was certainly not the emphasis. I even encouraged new board members to be radical and to push and prod and not be shy. During my tenure, it was less an issue of misspending funds (though we were always quite frugal), instead boards just didn’t want to screw up. Being on a board and leading a non-profit is not an every day skill, and there really was a sense of being afraid to do something and then have it blow up. But, I suppose that is just another form of maintaining the status quo.

I was often threatened to be fired because I was always pushing too hard for change (one year they sent me to business manners training because I was just too aggressive (and media training too, both of which were great, BTW)). But, I didn’t care. I was always willing to risk my job to push for what I thought was best for members and/or the industry.

For example, before I stepped down, I was making a big push to open up membership and make it free. Actually, funny enough, not dissimilar to a free-to-play model, whereby members who wanted to engage more deeply could pay for different services (eg, register for an IGDA conference, or a ticker to the E3 party, etc). But of course, that was too radical.

Along the lines of what Darius says, there is a great quote from Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” that essentially states that as soon as the org is focused on preserving itself (rather than deliver its mission), it is over. I always took that to heart and often naively assumed that if we pushed enough on the mission, the preservation aspect would just work out fine.

Kate has that drive for the mission… I’m eager to see what she can do under such challenging times.

By: Ken K Thu, 05 Sep 2013 16:34:39 +0000 I think the thing is a lot of people see unions as self fulfilling organizations (like the IGDA was somewhat described here) full of corruption and protecting deadbeat employees… and frankly in some cases they may be… but rather than blanket perceptions of unions I’d say fix the union if it isn’t doing its job.
I’d be willing to be all but the most fractured union is still protecting its members… who without organization come from a much weaker bargaining standpoint that the larger better financed organization.