Must have a passion for Games...

...Is code I'm sure for must be willing to accept poor wages and conditions.

Anyone out there at the level of Experienced/Senior/Lead Artist level who believes they're well paid for the work they're asked to do? Would you feel comfortable supporting a partner, children and a mortgage on just the one salary for an extended period?

For serious folks, we, the people doing the work, set the market standard when it comes to wages, why do we put up with around 20% less than equivalent level jobs in other fields like Post production and advertising? Overtime without pay, why the hell is that still happening? You're not going to get anything for your effort you know, work ain't setting this worker bee free!
Studios are complaining that they can't retain their senior staff, and yet, maybe 1 or 2 Oz wide are actually listening to the staff and providing conditions that create an incentive to both avoid the poor management that leads to overtime and a benefit for folks who are needed when the inevitable extra hrs have to be put in.

I was offered a very poor salary once from an existing company in Melbourne with the admission that it was poor but that "We don't feel it's a wise to pay our staff too well as it could affect our ability to function as a company during the lean times". Honestly can't see the advantage in struggling to get by myself so that my very well paid boss can keep his company alive.

I'm really, really, really pissed off can you tell? Who else out there needs to vent?

Anonymous's picture

Well, I am currently looking for entry into the industry. I had a job for a bit, but then the project was cancelled so now I am back to looking from outside in.

For me, I don't care about the pay, I just want experience so I can establish a career. I guess people like me don't help your cause much... it is a popular industry, and the more people who want to join, the less they can pay.

As for already established people like (i assume) your good self... I suppose they can pay what they do because people are willing to accept it. If they weren’t, then I imagine wages would go up and studios would close. The fact we are 'cheap' is one of the industry in Australia's strengths too... which means higher wages would not help the cause.

souri's picture

I've come across this question many times over the years - particularly on places like Slashdot in regards to programmer wages in the games industry, and the most common answers I've found are usually this... (note: I'm not agreeing with all of them, but these responses are the ones I've consistently found when it comes to questioning game dev wages).

1. Don't work in the games industry if you want to make bucket loads of cash. There are much easier, laid back and better paid 9-to-5 programmer jobs where you do things like develop and maintain applications for companies, but as you could imagine, it's not terribly exciting work. Same deal with working in advertising etc Game development is however, a lot more stimulating and rewarding career than those kind of jobs. Having said that, programmers are generally the highest paid talent in game development.

2. When there are so many people vying to get into the workforce, many of whom are willing to put up with lower pay, then it's hard for companies to offer competitive salaries when they know that talent are banging on their doors for cheaper.

Actually, one of my friends is a lead / senior programmer, and he does pretty well. My other programmer friend who has since left the games industry is working as a .net programmer, and I'm pretty sure he is bored off his nut as he's a pretty damn talented coder.

Anyway, I remember reading some salary stats that artists and programmers in U.S compiled a while ago that I think was conducted by the IGDA, and game devs don't do that bad in terms of wages if you've been in the industry for a few years. Here it is:

http://wii.spong.com/article/15209/US_Video_Game_Developer_Wages_Revealed

You can't compare local wages to that overseas however, but if you think the wages here are low, you need to factor things like cost of living, rent etc.

Anyway, I realise that I probably haven't answered your question and spewed stuff that you already know, but I agree that Experienced/Senior/Lead talent wages should be competitive (if that isn't the case). With the local industry with such a shortfall of experienced talent, it makes sense that there is a financial incentive to keep talent. Can I ask what sort of salary you were offered? (don't mention the studio though, however).

Anonymous's picture

In the USA, there's developers who have won "best workplace" awards (and thus have great retention rates), so the traditional myth that the games industry *has* to be exploitive of staff isn't valid any more.

I'm currently in another (traditionally well paying) industry, but even though I am on decent money, I *still* feel exploited.
Yes there is always a tin of Nescafe in the kitchen, and I get one piece of fruit on a Wednesday (if I run to the fruit box before everyone else) - but that is about as far as "caring for staff" goes in this place. No one knows what it is that I do, and no one cares. I've watched 10 "man years" of work be thrown away as a token gesture to share-holders, which is pretty bad for morale.

I actually long to go back to the games industry just so I feel like my work is valued (by myself, by co-workers and by management) even if that does mean taking a pay-cut and giving up my weekly banana...

NexusSix's picture

What I'm trying to get at is that companies are complaining about retention and yet there seems to be no incentive to stay. At the minute there's a glut of talent on the market looking for places and so there's even less room for good salary negotiation. So these people will get work no doubt but how many will be struggling to justify staying "in the community"? How many will be looking for higher pay and better conditions 3, 6, 9 months from now? Now, I've been in the industry a fair while and I've seen starting salaries for juniors improve somewhat. However, we still do unpaid overtime, not just little bits here and there which might be accepted us unforseen circumstances in the planning stage but rather repeated constant overtime on schedules that obviously have the 'extra' time factored in by management.

To Answer your question Souri. I had 4 years experience in games when I applied to this company and they offered me 30k. It would have been 3 years ago I guess. I am by no stretch of the imagination a bad artist. My work history was and is solid. The guy was being tight, I think he was only paying his lead 45k.

Anonymous's picture

Hmm, I work for a game company, and we get fruit! It took a few months of staff meetings, but eventually, we gots fruits!