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Men still dominate game development

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The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has put out the results of their developer satisfaction survey. For the most part, the results are as expected – while there have been some changes since the last one in 2009, the status quo is still the same.

Compared to 2009 when 11.5% of respondents identified as women, this year 22% did so and 2% defined themselves as transgendered or “other”. This means that 76% of game developers are male. Nearly 50% earn less than $50k per year, with 19% raking in $100k or more.

However, it’s the actual satisfaction element that I find most interesting. 41% of developers say they do the job because they’re able to earn a living while doing what they love, and 40% give the reason that they’re following their passion. However, when they leave the industry it seems understandable:

IGDA leave

With 15% burnt out and 39% seeking a higher quality of life, things aren’t easy for the people who make our preferred form of entertainment. Part of this is that many studios still make use of “crunch time” prior to the launch of the game – this is when developers are expected to work like demons for ridiculous hours to push towards the deadline. Despite the added workload, only 45% reported earning extra compensation during the crunch. Considering the difficult market, it’s also not surprising that the average developer had four different employers over the past five years.

While many of us might dream of making our own games, the reality clearly isn’t that great. The income is less than stellar, the work environment can be really poor, and it’s an industry that seems destined to lead developers towards burn out and seeking a better life elsewhere. The only thing keeping people at it seems to be their passion for games and game making, but it must be absolutely grueling in the industry, and almost impossible to have a good life or family. It’s no wonder that it’s still such a male dominated industry – women typically avoid industries with such high burnout and low lifestyle situations. It’s not universal, but as a general rule women tend towards industries that are more secure and low risk, with the flexibility to spend time with their families.

What sort of changes would you expect or like to see in the industry? I would hope that game developers could get higher rewards (read: more money) for their labors, giving a higher quality of life and hopefully lower burnout rates. It makes me sad to think that inspired developers and creators are leaving the industry that makes them happy because it simply chews them up and spits them out.

Last Updated: June 25, 2014

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