Dyack’s concerns about game outsourcing

Never let it be said that we don’t hear all sides of the story. Silicon Knights’ Denis Dyack went on record against the concept of “free agency” and its identical cousin outsourcing. While I don’t begrudge him his point of view, I thought I’d play devil’s advocate.

Dyack aimed at the Hollywood model, saying “You become a utility, and your value becomes diminished significantly.” Actually, the opposite is true in Hollywood. Back in the days when studios signed actors and writers to deals, the studios called the shots. Since the free agency model, the power has shifted to the free agents, who now command large, sometimes astronomical, salaries. For the rank and file, quite a few unions formed to protect workers from long hours with low pay. Hmm… sound familiar? In fact, the real losers in the shift to free agency were the studio heads. I can’t help but notice Mr. Dyack founded the studio he now runs.

As for workers feeling like utility players, game professionals already have that experience. Many companies do in fact lay off employees when the project is done. Furthermore, how valuable do you feel being kept on at a company when there’s no work to be done? There’s little more demeaning than being relegated to busy work, or worrying that your job could be taken from you at any moment. As many workers in the 21st century have discovered, loyalty often only goes one-way.

Finally, Dyack points out that some Hollywood denizens do quite well with the free agency model, but he wagers the majority do not care for it. I have encountered quite a few in Hollywood who love free agency — working for six months, then taking six months off. Nice, right? Of course, there’s a bit of a chicken or egg situation. Do people in Hollywood like free agency because it’s great? Or do people who like free agency go to Hollywood?

Fortunately, the game industry doesn’t have to make the either-or choice, at least not yet. At the moment, we can continue to combine studios with a core staff with outsourcing. With balance, maybe we can get it right, where Hollywood got it wrong.

Which way do you think the game industry is headed?

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! Today’s line: “The humanoid will not escape!” Check back next week to find out where it’s from.

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Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 11:08 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It is tough to find job security in the game industry.

  2. Very true, and no matter which model we choose as an industry, I don’t see the situation getting better in terms of job security overall. The nice thing about the Hollywood unions is you keep insurance benefits, etc., even when you’re not working… unless you haven’t made a certain amount of money, then you’re kicked to the curb. Both employees and contract workers have perks and drawbacks — which way do you prefer to work?

  3. […] Last week’s game dialog came from the classic arcade game BERSERK. More Guess that Game Dialog to come! […]

  4. If you want job security, become a fucking accountant. This is an entertainment industry! It’s hit-based! If you’re kowtowing to the suits for job-security, and not standing up for your basic rights as a creator, that says a lot about you – and it isn’t kind.

  5. That attitude is the reason behind the WGA strike. While one creator can’t easily go against the suits to protect his/her rights, the entire union can. Do you think, then, that game devs should unionize, or do you think that only certain creators, maybe Will Wright, will be able to own creative rights?

    I’d like to see more companies that share profits for everyone who worked on a project, not just the suits or a select few who negotiated a good contract…


  6. This attitude?

    You mean the attitude which does not “enable” you? The way the partner of an alcoholic enables his sickness by providing booze.

    You speak about this “attitude” as if it’s prevalent in the game industry.

    Fact is, the real attitude prevalent in the game industry is a kind of sickly, fearful, groupthink. You actually say…

    “I’d like to see more companies that share profits for everyone who worked on a project, not just the suits or a select few who negotiated a good contract.”

    In other words, you don’t want to stand up for your own rights and demand a better contract. You want someone to give it to you.

    You want charity. A crutch.

    Poor you. You poor little crippled child. Perhaps you don’t feel you can hack it.

    I’ll give you a hint. If you want stuff handed to you, you are passive. Not active. Passive. And passivity has never, in world history, lead people forward. It’s just a way of feeling sorry for yourself.

    What I’m doing is making a company that is trying to give game designers a better deal. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m laying it on the line, putting aside my game design ambitions for the time-being, and trying to help designers realize individual talent – which history has shown is the fount of all creativity.

  7. I didn’t mean attitude in a negative sense. I’m sorry if you felt personally attacked. As for the rest of your comment, you seem really, really angry, but I’m not sure it’s at me or us, especially since it’s over a year since this was posted. Opinions are always great, but I don’t think name-calling is necessary.


  8. […] the Elephant, and Roger Travis from Living Epic blog, we discussed social games, game vernacular, Denis Dyack, Wizard 101, game pricing, auteurs, narrative design, and game genres on this episode of The Brainy […]

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