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