Alex St. John, the co-creator of DirectX's family of APIs and co-founder of WildTangent, laid out his views on game development and his arguments against people wanting work-life balance in the industry over the weekend. He has since drawn considerable ire from people within the industry for helping defend the malpractices and incompetence of video game bosses.
St. John believes that many modern game developers have embraced a culture of victimology and a bad attitude toward their chosen vocations. "They complain that the long hours and personal sacrifices great games require are a consequence of poor management," he added.
"They want to pretend that they can turn an inherently entrepreneurial endeavour like game development into a 9-to-5 job. Somehow, these people have managed to adopt a wage-slave attitude toward one of the most remarkable and privileged careers in the world."
He goes on to point that "making games is not a job - it's an art". It's quite a horrible way to defend the terrible working conditions that are going on already in the video gaming industry, and St. John's remarks only serve to propagate them further.
Thankfully, for what it's worth, his peers in similar positions have displayed a lot more maturity. Tim Dawson, co-founder of Australian indie developer Witch Beam, took to Twitter to provide an alternate angle on the subject.
yeah so I'm independent now, but I worked for years at normal studios and did an awful lot of unpaid overtime and worked under bad managers-- Tim Dawson (@ironicaccount) April 17, 2016
... unpaid overtime / crunch is inefficient. It can get the ball over the line, but costs. Bosses who think otherwise are bad at their jobs-- Tim Dawson (@ironicaccount) April 17, 2016
... your boss should NEVER tell you that you should be thankful to have your job. This is not how jobs work, and this is a sign of abuse ...-- Tim Dawson (@ironicaccount) April 17, 2016
Jane Ng, artist on this year's Firewatch, went with a much more sarcastic approach to the whole thing.
Did you know Firewatch could have had AAA realistic graphics mode with 10x better pixels if I wasn't such a wage slave-- Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) April 17, 2016
Rami Ismail, co-founder of Vlambeer, preferred to break the entire St. John rant down and respond in chunks. On the topic of long hours coming out of poor management, he said: "And rightfully so, structural crunch is a horrible attitude and can really damage someone's ability to function and enjoy their dream job."
As for St. John's observation of video game development being pushing a mouse around, he said: "...Game development is far more than that. Programmers are continuously working at their utmost mental capacity, solving and optimizing highly complex and intricate codebases. Modellers and artists are continuously creative, operating complex software to create high-quality art that needs to not just look nice but also animate, shade, and interact nicely. Musicians are continuously creative, exploring new ways to weave game and sonic qualities. Designers are continuously struggling with communicating ideas, creating interaction, player feedback, [and] test feedback, at the forefront of our understanding of human-machine interaction."
"[There are] dozens of more jobs that are all equally important to creating a great game, and none of them [end] with pushing the mouse around. The jobs involved in the actual creation of a game require high degrees of specialisation, research, and care."
But the best piece of criticism for St. John's opinions on game development were offered by the experiences of his past self. In an interview for "On The Career Path", Christopher Redner noted St. John "started to burn out" at his job in Microsoft back in 1997. "He would pass out at his keyboard and straggle into morning meetings with key marks on his face. Worked sucked everything out of him; his marriage disintegrated," he added.
Redner also talked about St. John's hiring practices during his time as CEO of WildTangent. "As a CEO, St. John makes sure his staff is populated by younger versions of himself--smart, energetic, creative problem-solvers with workaholic tendencies--and hires sharp managers to tame them."