Game Developers and Porn Stars

They are hired in young, generally in their late teens and early twenties. They are energetic and excited about getting paid to do something they really enjoy (and probably have been doing on a small scale for years without pay). They tend to have more experience than you’d think, less than they think, and hopefully are able to take direction well.

In those early years, they are worked hard. As much as you can get out of them, as soon as you can get it, before they realize this is not as glamorous as they thought. Yes, even the ones who heard about the working conditions were still being a bit optimistic. Make sure to have the appropriate chemical stimulants on hand to let them keep going to the limits of youthful endurance. Until they get burned out, these are the best years to work them until they are dry.

They will get burned out soon. The disillusionment process can be traumatic, and many try to hide it because they cannot admit it was a losing decision. They will keep going, pushing those hours, hitting those stimulants hard. If you look back in a few years, you will see how their bodies have changed, not from aging, but from the work itself.

Eventually, both aging and the work catch up to them. In any other industry, they would still be young, but here you can see how used up they are. Now is the time to cast them off for the next crop, and there always is a next crop of eager young things who want to take their places, and will do so cheap.

A few survive this process. They are the old hands you sometimes see around, increasingly as names rather than faces. They become producers, running the shops that employee that next crop. Some of them join the cycle of exploitation, knowing exactly what illusions the young ones enter with. Others think there must be a better, more humane and sustainable way to do this work, and they found their own projects with better conditions. This latter group seems less visible and prosperous, although more outspoken.

: Zubon

36 thoughts on “Game Developers and Porn Stars

  1. Chris F

    Porn and MMO in the morning. Great start to the day.

    I watched a special on the porn industry (for uh, research purposes?) That show that Women stars are the ones that get chewed up and spit out much faster than the men who have long (pardon the pun) “illustrious” careers. Waiting for someone to hack up a 15sec clip with tags of game companies “giving it” to the entry level worker. *shudder*

    Fun analogy though, with all the talk of this of late. =)

  2. Pete S

    Wait, what? Marilyn Chambers died? :(

    The original Ivory Snow girl, gone??

    Do young porn stars really see the business as “glamorous”? I find that kind of hard to believe. Easy money, maybe, but glamorous?

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  4. derivedKarma

    As someone who used to work in the industry (games, not porn, unfortunately) this is very true. I think games has more of a tendency to treat their employees (read: use) like crap because they know there are 100 kids out there who would gladly take the place of a veteran (as in someone who’s already worked on a game). There is this inherent attitude by upper management that you, as an employee, is LUCKY to be working in games. They don’t seem to understand that the company is LUCKY to have talent since my experience has been that most people who work in games have no idea what they’re doing or what they WANT to do. They just want to come up with the next great game, without realizing there is more to game devlopment than coming up with the idea and actually executing it.
    Great post, great insights…!

  5. Nerdcore Steve

    This makes me sad. It’s not like I didn’t know it was bad but this just paints the picture for me. I was already leaning toward only playing open source or indie games. I think this just might push me over the edge.

    I wonder what it’s like in other countries. Is Japan just as bad?

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  7. Robak

    I felt this article somewhere near my stomach.
    Heavy stone…
    So heavy because so true…
    I work in gaming industry…

  8. Don McClure

    Having spent 10 years in the gamers industry and 10 years now out of it I can say that on the one hand the industry (While I was in it) had very low standards for real project management and worked people to death. On the other hand, a game isn’t just a piece of technology, its a piece of art as well, so rework really needs to be expected. I would have to make a game again for a major company to see if anything has changed.

    At Digital Element we purposely keep a mix of young and more senior employees. It creates mentorship opportunities and a vibrance.

    My worst working experience was Cyclone with an all-just-out-of-college team. The team was super bright, but they really needed a technical mentor.Of course I was 27 at the time and perhaps still had a lot to learn about managing people. I probably still do now as well.

  9. Xanthippe

    I’d love to see a graphic correlation between “successful game” and “average age of team members.”

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  11. Manu3d

    Sadly, I believe that the picture is not only accurate for the game development and porn industry but for many other industries as well, pretty much all those that have some kind of “coolness” factor associated with it. For example, I worked in the Visual Effects industry for about 12 years and it’s exactly the same story. That’s why I eventually left and I joined the rank of those founding our own less visible and less prosperous projects.

  12. Jake

    “All entretaiment industries tend to be like that. Sorry.”

    Except maybe the novel “industry,” where it’s uncommon for writers to be successful—especially in a financial sense—before they’re 30. Indeed, I just looked down the list of recent books I’ve written about on The Story’s Story and found few whose major accomplishments were in their 20′s.

  13. Kin

    Good article/analogy but porn stars make a lot more money to justify their lifestyle. Also the ones with a massive fan base have a lot more leverage, much like a movie star demanding more money to be in a movie sequel. In any case, how do successful developers such as 2d boy fare?

  14. Enlightenment

    A better analogy between game developers and porns stars is they are both always “getting f*cked in the a$$”.

  15. Mike

    Also, professional athletes, especially in tennis and gymnastics. Some kinds of physical labor. Some kinds of musicians. Visual artists. Mathematicians (Hardy famously called mathematics “a young man’s game”).

    Basically, every field which requires creativity and energy more than wisdom and experience. Are you trying to make programmers sound glamorous by comparing them to an older industry? :-)

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  22. ickydime

    but do you enjoy what you do while you do it? do you enjoy the hard work, pushing things to the limit, expanding your knowledge/toolset, and creating kickass work?

    if so, then is it really that bad to spend our youth having sex all the time??? I mean, developing games? ;)

    I enjoy my work and feel as though both I and the company are growing/moving forward… so there is a payoff for this hard work, even if its not in the form of money.

  23. Pedrete

    To “Nerdcore Steve”, just to say that in all the countries there is the same bullshit.

    All is about the total lack of management, it doesn’t matter what industry, if you are managed by an asshole you get burnt because you will be paying always for their mistakes, or didn’t you realize that when your boss SUGGEST to do overtime they usually have to go home.

    The problem gets much worse when the industries where you usually find young people passionate about them. The level of stupidity of the management staff reach absurd levels, since they ALWAYS think that the workers are willing to do OVERTIME. Such stupid behaviour will be there while the humankind exist, it was there with the Ancient Egygt, in the Romans, in the Feudalism, the Industrial Revolution and it will be there FOREVER. The management assholes WILL RULE FOREVER.

  24. Riva

    I am from Czech republic and here and in surrounding countries of previous ‘easter block’ the situation is different in my opinion.

    Many tryed to build companies on young (unexeprienced) people and all of them have failed.
    Now for about 4 years it seems the industry somehow learned. They (management) understood they need experineced professionals and they both started to value those people (as in money) and started kind of fighting for those people since the local resources are limited.

    Im not sure how the world crisis have changed things, but maybe in IT overaly it didn’t really.

    The level of ignorance in management stays high though :)

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