[“Born Depressed” by Drill Queen] Hello. I don’t yet know what today’s episode’s gonna to be about. By the the time this is published, by the time you’re watching this, Obviously, you know what it’s about. But we’ve been moving. Up north, getting out of Mississippi. So we’re recording this early while I’ve still got the studio area. And… …I hope today’s video is good! Um.. I’ve got nothing to add. So here we are, today’s video, all about pork markets! Pork markets! If you’ve worked hard on something that people enjoy, chances are pretty damn good that you’d like credit for it. Some acknowledgment of the industriousness and quality of your labor. I sure as shit know I’d like to get positive acclaim when I’ve done something well, and whenever that day comes I hope it’s recognized. I do get the thing that’s a bit like credit, though: blame. I get that all the time. Even if it’s just a small bit of text swiftly scrolling up at the end of a television show, a place in the credits is to be expected for anybody who’s invested time and effort into a production. Some people, however, aren’t even awarded that much despite what they may have contributed. The realm of videogames is one such place where credit isn’t guaranteed, even if it’s due. A problem felt especially keenly in an industry where big name creators such as directors and writers are uncommon, and executives tend to become better known than the actual talent. Millions of people love The Witcher 3, for example, and the majority of those people know it was published by CD Projekt Red. But how many of those people know it was directed by Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, Mateusz Kanik, and Sebastian Stępień? That it was written by Marcin Blacha? (quietly) Oof… I’ve fucked their names up good and proper. Jesus. Now unlike with some of the examples we’re gonna talk about in a bit, these names aren’t hidden, they’re on the Wikipedia page. But the creative minds behind the household name that is Witcher 3 are not themselves household names. Videogame acclaim just doesn’t seem to work that way, the vast majority of people put the credit for the game’s creation purely on the studio and we don’t really do that with movies. When you think of the Terminator, you think of James Cameron, you don’t think of Hemdale or Pacific Western Productions. And how sad is it that we’ve had to wait until this video for the creative mind behind Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing to get their acclaim? [background applause] We salute you Lead Designer Artem Mironovsky, we salute you. As noted, when a movie is successful, sometimes when it’s not, we know the creative minds behind it. From your Martin Scorseses to your Taika Waititis to your Sofia Coppolas you can’t move for famous helmspeople of the medium. Meanwhile, in the videogame industry, comparatively few directors or lead designers are all that well known. Now I’m sure you could name quite a few off the top of your head. Shigeru Miyamoto of course, John Carmack, Roberta Williams, but! Compared to Hollywood, you see a mere handful of games actually promote their directors let alone use said directors to promote the games themselves. It often seems like you have to be megastar in the first place to get treated like you’re noteworthy. Considering you could remain an obscure creator even if you create a hit game, it’s small wonder that some directors plaster their name all over their products lest they remain as obscure as Sunnyside Farm. American McGee and Sid Meier have their names baked inherently into game titles. And Hideo Kojima makes sure you know that you’re playing a Hideo Kojima game. His name’s all over the fucking shop. I always thought it was arrogance, which… …I mean, that may be part of it, but also kind of maybe not? Maybe it’s just creators wanting you to know that they created something. Although, that itself can be a problem if you present yourself as a videogame auteur you might, either deliberately or accidentally, trick people into thinking you were responsible for the entire game. This is something that director Warren Spector talked about years ago. He said “There’s a tendency among the press” “to attribute the creation of a game to a single person.” Now what he said there is part of a popular meme, because in the interview where he said this, it was followed by IGN saying “says Warren Spector,” “creator of Thief and Deus Ex.” And I’m sure you can see why it was a meme. At the same time as Warren Spector is complaining about videogames being attributed to a single person, IGN is attributing TWO games to Warren Spector. Now this meme is often shared around to make fun of IGN, but I think that’s the wrong lesson to learn from it. The takeaway should be that it’s very hard to communicate the full scope of a team working on a game, exactly how many people put their labor into it. And when a single, well-known name emerges from the development team, it’s hard to talk about them in a way that gives credit to what they do without making it sound like they’ve done everything. The important part of the meme is not what IGN said about Warren Spector, it’s what Warren Spector said in the first place. And it applies to everyone. We have a tendency to latch on to recognizable names and faces, and subsequently, in our minds, we make those names and faces responsible for everything. And that can be a real problem because we don’t just have an issue where creative minds were the directors and the writers don’t get enough credit, we can see a far worse problem of active talent suppression that the game industry has been engaged with for years. Wait, sorry, not years, DECADES. More and more, fair treatment of workers has been a growing issue in videogames and one issue that really needs to be addressed is also a very simple one. Fucking credit your workers! Game companies. Fucking credit ’em. It doesn’t matter what they worked on or for how long, if their labor helped make the game, then recognize them. The most recent instance of a company not crediting its creators was Xseed and its active removal of names from game credits. Brittany Avery, a former production coordinator and localization producer with the company noticed that her name was scrubbed from the end of The Legends of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. While credited in the original version, she was silently removed from the PS4 port. Silently, until Avery called out Xseed and the story got picked up. There was an outcry, quite rightly, and Xseed responded in a way that left some people utterly dumbfounded. (mocking imitation) “We appreciate the hard work of everyone who contributes” “to our releases,” it said. “but it is and always has been company policy” “that only current members of our staff are credited.” “We have NEVER credited staff for their individual roles,” “or if they have left the companyyyyyyyyy.” Yeah, that tweet is still up by the way. It’s still up! They’re okay with it! And why wouldn’t they be? If you call something ‘policy’ you can get away with any fucking thing. And considering everyone quickly forgot about the whole kerfuffle, a cynical person would say they were right to hide behind corporate tradition. And it is TRADITION. You see, while people were shocked by Xseed’s amazingly callous response, it’s not actually a new thing in the industry, nor is it limited to just Xseed. The idea that someone’s name is off the credits if they leave the company has been around for a very long time. And it’s something that absolutely needs to change. The practice was being called out at least as far back as 2009. A Kotaku article titled “They Worked On The Game You Played, But Didn’t Get Credit” by Leigh Alexander exposed how disappointingly common the issue was then, and stores like this deserve reexamination at a time when people care a lot more than they used to about this medium’s business practices. One developer was shocked to learn his entire TEAM had been removed from the credits of Operation Flashpoint 2 after he’d left developer Codemasters. This is despite some of those uncredited people working on the game for 18 goddamn months. Reportedly, the game’s messy development was colored by a perceived lack of appreciation for worker efforts, a lack of appreciation CONFIRMED by Codemasters’ decision to give no recognition to more than a year of work. “OFP2 was a seriously broken project,” “with two or three restarts and a high turnover of staff,” revealed the developer. “Looking through the credits list,” “it was disturbing to see how many people had been left out,” “presumably because they either weren’t part of the core team who finished it” “or had left the company before it shipped.” Codemasters’ response was almost EXACTLY the same as Xseed’s, claiming it was company policy to only credit (mocking imitation) “Those who are with a team through the successful completion of a game,” “or those that completed their contribution to a specific element of a game.” According to the aforementioned Kotaku article, the International Game Developers Association found that 35% of developers admitted they never or only occasionally, receive credit for their labor. “Grippin’ my.. consensual -” “Pork markets!” Mythic Entertainment pulled the same shit with Warhammer Online in 2008 to a ludicrous degree. According to a report at the time, Mythic took explicit steps to ensure that the only people listed for credit, were those who werein the officeon the day the list was made. I mean… what the FUCK. And of course in 2013, Mythic would punish people for insubordination by putting them IN the credits for Dungeon Keeper Mobile! (yelling off mic) Am I right?! Am I fucking right?!
[wild applause in background] Unsurprisingly, Rockstar Games has had trouble crediting people in the past. The company, upon which we did a blistering Jimquisition regarding its awful working conditions, has on at least one occasion failed to credit a studio of 55 people! As revealed by IGDA’s Jason Della Rocca. “One of the most extreme examples is what happened with ‘Manhunt 2’,” where a publisher, Rockstar Games, literally pretended that the studio that made the game never existed.” “It’s the perfect example for why this industry needs crediting standards.” Depressingly, JD Rocca said this in 2007. And while his trade association does have crediting guidelines, they areonlyguidelines, that no company is obligated to follow. Nobody can make them appreciate their own workers. It’s not hard to see one particularly slimy motive for leaving names off the books. Leaving a project before completion could see all your hard work go unsung, and if you’ve poured months or maybe YEARS into a project, the prospect of becoming essentially unpersoned is going to be pretty damn painful. Should we be surprised that an industry raking in billions off the back of microtransactions is using the concept of the sunk cost on its own developers? I mean, it works on the customers, right? The choice for developers is as simple as it is sadistic. Stay with a project even if it’s a grind, even if it’s a mess, even if it’s hurting you, because the only way you get to prove your accomplishment is if you’re with the company when production wraps. It’s leverage at the end of the day. Pure fucking leverage. Sadly, it behooves game publishers to, as much as possible, have brand names be seen as responsible for the games we enjoy. Infinity Ward makes Modern Warfare, Bungie makes Destiny, for example. For the most part, the industry would rather see logos than people at the center of a game’s creation. We live in an age where brand is everything, and having a platform is more valuable than ever. Those with a platform, those with a brand, get to broadcast their message out into a near fully-connected world, and they can cause all sorts of fun trouble if their broadcast gets a signal boost. Anyone with a brand, even a relatively small one, can become incredibly powerful under the right circumstances. And if there’s one thing major corporations don’t like, it’s individuals with power. They’ll tell you that no one is bigger than brand, but fuck that. It’s easier for the “AAA” game industry to keep treating works like dirt if they don’t have a name because if they don’t have a name, they don’t have a voice. If they don’t have a voice, they can’t expose physically dangerous working hours. If they don’t have a voice, they can’t call out incompetent management. If they don’t have a voice, they can’t describe toxic workplace cultures. And when a company has control over whether or not the world will even know your name, they can make you do all sorts of things. I mean, some game publishers will even treat their most FAMOUS names like shit because they consider nobody as big as their brand. Hideo Kojima’s departure from Konami was alienating and bitter. They wouldn’t let him attend E3, they scrubbed Kojima’s name from Metal Gear Solid 5’s website, and made sure to change the name of Kojima Productions Los Angeles to Konami Productions Los Angeles. Konami even legally blocked Kojima’s appearance at the Game Awards one year as if the company was scared of someone with their own platform and brand. Andthat’swhat this industry will do to an auteur, to afamousperson, to one of the biggest names on the market! Just imagine what it does to someone with NONE of Kojima’s advantages. In 2007, The Hollywood Reporter’s Paul Hyman wrote this: “Imagine working on a blockbuster film for two and a half years,” “and then being left out of the movie’s end credits.” “It’s not likely to happen because union contracts dictate giving credit where credit is due.” And that, right there, lies at the heart of the issue. As far as videogames are concerned, IGDA can only write up standards as guidelines followed at a publisher’s discretion. A movie industry union can actually MAKE a company give credit where credit is due. Unions the likes of which this and many industries resist, badmouth, and undermine at every turn. Because actual representation? It takes their power. It takes their leverage. It takes their ability to keep the people responsible for their very success faceless, voiceless, nameless, and powerless. And they don’t fucking like it. When major videogame publishers don’t fucking like something, it usually means it’s a pretty fucking good something. Ha ha ha haaaa ha ha! Ah ha ha haaa ha ha! I’ve, as I’ve said, I’d have no idea.. ..what the video is about! And therefore no idea how to end this. Um, what is something that I’ve wanted to say but don’t have an excuse? Ah, AH, jizz!! Some say jizzum! Didja get it? From Bloodborne. I’ve looked for an excuse for years to say “Ah jizz, some say jizzum” instead of Kos, Kosm. Because that amusedme, but I’ve hadnoexcuse to put it into a video so it might as well be now. Alright? Anyway, I’m gonna go now, the glass in one of these goggles.. fell out.. ..when we filmed last week’s bit where I made out with the.. [Boglin wiggles] …with the Boglin, um… [adjustment noises, Jim exhales dismissively] This’ll be gone by then anyway. Uh, so make a mess. We’ll see you next time! Byyyyeeee! [“Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego]