Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed dozens of game developers and other industry workers, who’ve spoken to me about how their jobs are ruining their lives. As they talk about the challenges they face, it’s not unusual for people to break down in tears,
Long hours, bad managers and lack of job security all contribute to mental health problems that go way beyond the normal parameters of workplace stress.
That the game industry has a problem — usually shorthanded as “crunch” — is well documented. But a new initiative has been launched that seeks to seriously address the specifics.
Take This, a not-for-profit dedicated to addressing mental health problems in the game industry, today announced a working group made up of five games companies: Big Huge Games, Bungie, Certain Affinity, Wooga and Zenimax. Human resources leaders from the companies will work with Take This on addressing the game industry’s excesses.
“We’re going to take a look at each company’s experiences and data,” said Take This executive director Eve Crevoshay. “Some of the companies are good at one thing and bad at another. These are hard things to solve, but these are companies that are willing to look at their practices.”
Company representatives will share data and will meet with Take This once a month to discuss how to resolve mental health issues associated with game industry specific problems like crunch, job security, diversity and online harassment.
Crevoshay added that a number of game industry companies had been approached, but declined to participate. “Some people are nervous about taking part, some don’t feel like they have the resources to commit, and some are dealing with challenging situations in real time,” she said.
“Responses to this challenge vary wildly. Some companies are committed to this, are very concerned, and are spending resources on solutions. There are other companies that don’t understand why it would be an issue.”
Take This wants to attract more companies to the effort, most especially publishers.
Although HR professionals will take part in the program, Crevoshay said that they are the conduit to the managers who can make the most difference. “The culture change that is required has to take place outside of HR,” she said. “It has to take place among producers and creative directors and other folks in senior leadership. At this point, HR is our starting point.”
Take This also released a whitepaper today, which gathers together research into mental health issues in the game industry, media reports and anonymous interviews from game industry workers. Titled “State of the Industry 2019: Mental Health in the Game Industry,” it’s available here. Resources and advice for individuals seeking help for mental health challenges are also available at the Take This website.
Crevoshay said: “In a year’s time we’re going to come up with a follow-up report that I would like to have lots more data and examples of companies who have attempted to implement some solutions and ideas. I don’t expect all these issues to be solved, but I expect there to be attempts to address the problem.”