Mike Capps, head of Epic, and a former member of the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association, during the IGDA Leadership Forum in late 08, spoke at a panel entitled Studio Heads on the Hot Seat, in which, among other things, he claimed that working 60+ hours was expected at Epic, that they purposefully hired people they anticipated would work those kinds of hours, that this had nothing to do with exploitation of talent by management but was instead a part of "corporate culture," and implied that the idea that people would work a mere 40 hours was kind of absurd.
Now, of course, the idea that a studio head, which Capps is, would have such notions is highly plausible; but he was, at the time, a board member of the IGDA, an organization the ostensible purpose of which is to support game developers. Not, you know, to support management dickheads.
Morever, the IGDA has for some years had a Quality of Life Committee, which strives to demonstrate that long hours are an unproductive use of employees, and that superior alternative to the exploitative conditions at many development studios exist. The simple fact (as demonstrated in its research, available at the link above) is that most game developers burn out within 5 years of entering the industry, because of the absurd hours (for, incidentally, lower pay than programmers, artists, producers, and Q/A people can command in other software and media ventures). (And for the youth reading this post, this is why you are an IDIOT to attend Digipen or Full Sail -- get a generalized CS or art degree, so you can get a job somewhere else when you get burned out on the industry. Do NOT get a degree that ties you to the medium for all time to come.)
The notion that a fucking board member of the IGDA should defend (and indeed, within his own studio, foster) such exploitative practices is offensive on the face of it, and has caused a considerable kerfluffle within the organization.
And there it stood, until the recent IGDA Annual Meeting, at GDC, where the chair emeritus, Jen Maclean, attempted to forestall controversy by claiming that the IGDA doesn't exist to "dicatate" to anyone what hours they should work. The response was utterly devastating: Scott MacMillan of the Boston chapter pointed out that the whole controversy made the IGDA look utterly irrelevant to the concerns of the community it supposedly serves, and John Feil, a former board member, totally eviscerated the incoherence of Maclean's response. (For videos of all three, go here.)
Somewhat poingnantly, we have Tom Buscaglia, another board member (and a good guy, btw) discussing the constraints under which the board operates, and responding somewhat heatedly to flames in their direction. He has a point, but it really doesn't seem too much to ask the board to take a principled stance under these circumstances.
Jen Maclean is right that the IGDA shouldn't be telling free men and women what hours they should work; but she is utterly wrong in her easy assumption that this means that the iniquitous practices of businesses that exploit game developers cannot and should not be condemned. There is no contradiction between "We do not believe that unreasonable working hours are both wrong as a matter of ethics, and unproductive as a matter of fact" and "People are free to do as they wish." Nor is their any contradiction in saying "A studio that demands that its employees work more than 40 hours a work, or punishes those who does not, is behaving unethically" and in saying "Those who choose freely to work longer hours at times are free to do so."
In my youth, I often worked more than 60 hours. And then I got married. I limited my hours to 45 hours per week. My then boss (and continuing long-time friend, Eric Goldberg), groused a little, but noted that I still got more done in those 45 hours than most of his employees got done in 60.
That's how things should work.
Never mind that I, for one, do not want any programmer who hasn't slept in the last 24 hours checking in code. That's nuts.
Apparently, some IGDA members have resigned in protest; and per report, the issue has made many others reluctant to join the organzation.
I have another suggestions: Do not resign, and if you are not currently a member, join. And then vote to replace anyone on the current board who will not take a clear stand in favor of reasonable working conditions with others who will -- like, say, Darius Kazemi.
And not incidentally: Bob! Isn't it about time you said something on this issue?
Update: Jen MacLean responds to the brouhaha without taking any kind of stand on the issue.