With all the technological advancements and our increasing interest in video games in today’s society, there is a lot more digitalization jobs available. Our economy is now a symbolic economy. In the book, Understanding Media Industries, by Havens and Lots, “symbolic economy refers to those kinds of commodities and industries that primarily serve communicative, informational, or entertainment-related functions, such as the media industries, the fashion industry, and the telecommunications and computer industry.” Symbolic economy” came from the Post Fordism time period when mass production was instituted in the late 20th century. In the 1970s, the media industries became one of the most important parts of our economic growth. Producers started targeting the consumer and figuring out what they are interested in instead of producing for the masses.
The video game industry is a relatively new business. In 1962, the first computer game Tic Tac Toe was invented and, in 1971, the first video game was used for arcades. Nintendo came out in 1989 and the video game business really took off. It is one of the hottest selling items and, in 2011, 245.6 million games were sold. The industry is continuing to expand and the demand for new games is steadily increasing. Bright creative young people, usually men, are attracted to the industry and initially the money seems very fair. Unfortunately, developing a video game means being part of a huge team, each responsible for their own segment. Very little credit, if any, is given to the employees that design the games. The hours are normally twice as long as a regular 40 hour work week and even more time is asked for during “crunch” time. Crunch time is the time the companies or the industry is about to produce their product and the employees often have to work around the clock to get the product done. This is known as ”Just in Time” production.
Apparently the competition is so high that employees that do not like working such extreme hours without compensation as easily expendable. Employees suffer mental and physical fatigue from not getting enough down time and this is reflected, not only on their lives, but the lives of their families. We do not often think about the ramifications to spouses and families when we hear about unfair work practices. As written in the article “Gender and Labor in the Video Game Workplace” by Nina Huntemann, the consequences to the families of video game employees who are being overworked and not compensate are far reaching. Several complaints have been posted by the spouses of video game employees who are being overworked and misled by management. The posts by EA Spouse and Rockstar Spouses in San Diego claim that the spouses, usually men, are forced to work exceedingly long hours every week and they are not given any compensation for their overtime or cost of living increases. Male employees make up 88% of the workplace and women are usually found only in operations, HR, or marketing. There is very little diversity in the video business which should be addressed. The large companies have driven out most of the smaller video industries and intimidate their employees to work or quit. The big video companies are earning millions of dollars but not protecting or reimbursing their employees. The long hours affect not only the employees but also their spouses and families. Workers, at the very least, feel that their families are feeling abandoned by their fathers. They simply are not home enough or too tired to positively interact with their relatives. They also complain of headaches, depression and even suicidal thoughts because they do not receive enough rest. If this is happening at home, surely the quality of work has also gone downhill. It is interesting that the spouses once again rally behind their husbands. History has shown that women have fought for the rights of the workers with support and protests. It can be a powerful motivator with enough people involved. There are current lawsuits against some of the large video companies who have unlawfully allowed this to happen. Changes need to be made now.