Game Developers’ Group Sees Positive, Negative Employment Trends for Industry

The number of female game developers has doubled in the last five years, according to a new survey by the International Game Developers Association. But IGDA also found that people working in the industry struggle with work-life balance.

It’s been a while—five years to be exact—but the video game development industry is once again taking a closer look at itself. The results, released this week in the International Game Developers Association’s 2014 Developer Satisfaction Survey [PDF], uncovered some good news and bad news for the industry.

Let’s start with the good.

The survey of more than 2,200 developers found that the number of women in the industry has nearly doubled—22 percent of respondents identified themselves as female, compared to 11.5 percent in 2009. While the trend is positive, the figure trails the presence of women as game consumers: 45 percent of gamers are female, according to a 2013 Entertainment Software Association survey.

“The reaction that I’ve been getting so far from people who’ve seen that number is mostly, ‘Wow, that’s higher than I expected, but wow it’s only 22 percent,’ which to me is the proper reaction and kind of how I felt as well,” said Kate Edwards, executive director at IGDA. “It’s nice to see that kind of jump, but still less than one in four developers are female.”

Edwards credited the jump to an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the work of IGDA’s Women in Games committee.

“That’s become somewhat of a rallying cry over the last couple of years in a lot of circles, which is fantastic—we all realize we need it,” she said. “Aside from the education aspect, our committee has been focused on helping companies understand their hiring practices and the biases that sometimes creep into that process.”

Now for the bad news.

While 76 percent of game developers enjoy full-time employment status, they tend to do a lot of bouncing around from job to job. The average survey respondent has been in the industry for nine years and had an average of four employers over the last five years, the survey found.

“I think that number reflects how the game industry, similar to television and film, is a project-based industry, and you see people who go into a company, they’ll work on a project for nine months to a year, and then when the project ends get let go,” Edwards said.

Work-life balance was another pain point for developers. Respondents said they felt the need to work more hours than required. Almost 45 percent said they experienced at least two “crunch periods”—periods of longer work days as a project is winding down—in the past two years, and 38 percent received no additional compensation for that extra time.

“We do this survey once every five years, and this year we wanted to get a better sense of the demographics of the industry and also how developers perceive their own job and how they view the industry as a whole as well,” Edwards said. “When you’re trying to serve a membership, you have to know who they are, what they’re concerned about, what are their joys, and all of these different things. Of course we hear things through our networks and at industry meetings, but it’s not captured in a way that we can act on it. This survey gives us something more concrete that we can present to the industry and will hopefully result in meaningful change.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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