Team Bondi & LA Noir

20Sep11

After the EA_Spouse case, and the subsequent pay-out, industry professionals and pundits alike lauded the case as a milestone in worker rights, and to some degree as reported to me by friends and acquaintances in the industry, this has been the case. Overtime is now being paid by many companies, though the hours of crunch still happen, and in my opinion always will, whether because of poor planning, the unpredictable nature of development, or the desire to create the best possible game within the time given by the publisher.

The issue for me as a prospective games developer is not necessarily specifically of financial reparation, as I agree with the studies Deuze outlines where “pay is one of the weakest predictors of job satisfaction” (Deuze, 2007, p. 106) but one of recognition in general, whether in the form of payment, or as is highlighted below having your work acknowledged.

I’m sure some of you must have played this summer’s blockbuster from Australian developer Team Bondi, published by Rockstar about a detective in 1940’s Los Angeles. What you may not have been so aware of is the controversy surrounding its development, the staff conditions and attitude of management towards crediting those who created the game. For those of you who don’t know the game, here’s the official launch trailer:

In what seems to be a case that echoes in parts that of EA_Spouse from 2004; following the release of LA Noir, the “Bondi Eleven” spoke out claiming as reported by IGN.com writer Andrew McMillen that they had to endure what can only be described as exploitative and abusive work conditions. When talking about one of his sources he says “Of the three years that this artist spent at Team Bondi, he worked 60-hour weeks on average. To meet each development milestone – around one per month, he says – his workload would jump to between 80 and 110 hours per week, for a period of one to two weeks at a time.” In addition the article goes on to mention the disposable attitude towards staff, “’it’s a privilege to work for us, and if you can’t hack it, you should leave’” and poor professionalism on the part of management, while a follow up article by McMillen for gameindustry.biz points to an intent to keep developers in the dark about the actual state of the project. What promted these people to speak out? In part it was the omission of over 100 developers from the game credits (which have been amended and published at lanoirecredits.com). What seemed to frustrate some of the people quoted was not so much the work hours, but the fact they had not been recognised for the work they had contributed to the game.

IGDA, the Independent Game Developer’s Association, announced in June it is to investigate the claims made against Team Bondi (Crossley, 2011), and called for responses from the current and past employees of Team Bondi in order to better ascertain the extent of the conditions talked about in the articles. The findings from this have yet to be released to my knowledge, and I fear never will be now that Team Bondi has filed for administration.

 

Crossley, R. (2011, June 28). Industry outrage at ‘brutal’ Team Bondi crunch. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from Develop: http://www.develop-online.net/news/38125/Industry-outrage-at-brutal-Team-Bondi-crunch

Deuze, M. (2007). Media Work. Malden, MA, USA: Polity Press.

 

– Craig Harkness

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