If You Don’t Like the Game, Change the Rules (Interview Recruitment)

In an illustration, a number of friendly monster-like game developers stand a on a purple backgrounds. Through speech and thought bubbles, we can seen them contemplating things such as "indie", "co-op", and "help."

The games industry has become infamous for enforcing untenable hours (crunch), churning through employees, and fostering toxic work cultures that are particularly damaging to marginalised creators. Despite these concerns, game developers are often hesitant to adopt new labour structures such as unions and co-operatives, or work modifications like 4-day work weeks.

If You Don’t Like the Game, Change the Rules explores the possibility space for Canadian game creators who are interested in structuring their labour in new ways. Game designers are world-builders and creatives, which begs the questions: How are we designing and shaping our own worlds? Do game creators have new ideas on work? How do we choose to work together?

We are looking for people to interview!

We are currently looking for past and current members of unions and co-operatives in the game industry to speak on their experiences. We will also be speaking to freelancers and game creators who work at traditional studios. If you participate, you will be asked to take part in an interview to answer questions about your game development practices, your own history, and your opinions of the contemporary game industry.

The interview should take about 40-90 minutes to complete and will be scheduled in the format and at a time convenient for you. We can offer a $50 (CAD) prepaid Visa card or a $50 (CAD) Amazon gift card for your time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is doing this project?

Marie LeBlanc Flanagan will be leading this project and writing and illustrating the comic, with project management and dissemination support from Jim Munroe and research and writing support from Michael Iantorno, who will be writing the white paper.

Marie initiated this project after a series of conversations with Canadian game creators in 2021 about work. Marie was born into an informal co-op and has an enduring and deep curiosity about community structures and alternative labour. Marie will write, illustrate, create, and disseminate the comic. 

Michael is a researcher at Concordia University whose work focuses on videogame histories, hacking and modding practices, and socioeconomic class structures in-and-around games. Michael will write the white paper based on insights gained from surveys and interviews, which will be conducted together with Marie.

The project is supported by Jim Munroe, founder of Game Arts International Network.

Who is supporting this project?

Funding for this project is provided through Ontario Creates, The Canadian Media Fund, Game Arts International Network, and Mitacs Accelerate. Ethics clearance for interviews and surveys is facilitated through Concordia University as part of the SSHRC-funded Class and Games research project. SSHRC does not provide funding for this project.

Where will this research end up?

We are creating a comic and a white paper, which will be shared online and at events in both digital and print formats. We will also be writing a number of blog posts for the GAIN website and may speak about our findings at academic and industry events.

What kind of comic are you making?

Our comic will explore alternatives to traditional work structures in the game industry. We are designing it to be a playful and useful resource for folks interested in exploring alternative labour arrangements, through a narrative style. Right now we’re thinking of writing a story about three friends who decide to start a co-op together.

What kind of white paper are you making?

We’re writing a concise research report about the complex issue of labour and games. Drawing upon interviews and surveys conducted with game developers, our white paper will discuss attitudes toward alternative labour structures in the Canadian game industry using charts/statistics, interview excerpts, and references to existing articles and literature. The white paper is a great resource for readers looking for a more formal review of what we’re uncovered.

If I am quoted, can I review my quotes before they are published?

Yes! We will never quote or name a participant directly without checking in with them first. If you are hesitant, we won’t quote you. If we are uncertain about your consent, we won’t quote you. We can discuss what works best for your comfort level. Our goal is to create a useful resource for our community, not to introduce friction for someone who is precariously employed.

When will this research be published?

The blog posts will be released between October and January 2022/2023. We are aiming to publish the comic and white paper in 2023.

Will I sign a consent form?

Yes, you must sign a Concordia University information and consent form. We can pass along the form ahead of the interview and are open and happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about it.

May I remain anonymous?

Yes, you may remain anonymous. It is a personal choice to be identified or anonymous, we absolutely need you to feel protected and safe in these conversations.

How can I get in touch with you?

Feel free to reach out to Michael (michael.iantorno@gmail.com) and/or Marie (marieflanagan@gmail.com) via email!