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Game workers in Ireland are concerned about low pay, unpaid overtime and uncertain work

The Irish games industry employs around 2,000 people.

Image: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

IRISH GAME WORKERS feel that the government should provide greater investment in the gaming industry, a survey has indicated. 

Irish game workers have recently joined the Financial Services Union to lobby for their workers’ rights. This part of the international Game Workers Unite group, which includes artists, designers, testers and production workers.

Issues that game workers are concerned about include low pay, unpaid overtime, and uncertain work.

A survey is currently being carried out among gamers – preliminary results indicate that survey respondents feel low pay is an issue in the sector (64%), and that the government should be lobbied to provide greater investment in the game industry (67%). 

“All that game workers want is to work in a sustainable industry where they are not taken advantage of,” game workers representative Ellen Cunningham told TheJournal.ie.

They want to be paid for any work they do for a company past their expected work hours and they want those hours to be capped to avoid mental and physical illness.

“They want increased funding in the sector relative to the funding of flourishing game industries seen in other countries such as England or Canada.”

About the Irish gaming industry

The Irish games industry employs around 2,000 people.

Despite being an emerging industry, the Irish game industry has hit the headlines a few times, including the valuation of Keywords at over €1 billion and LA-based Scopely acquiring Dublin based game development company Digit.

Some of the more popular and anticipated Irish games include the indie hit Guild of Dungeoneering; the popular narrative game Darkside Detective; the upcoming Empire of Sin from Romero Games; and If Found by Dreamfeel. 

There are also many notable Irish developers who have emigrated and found success in other countries such as Brendan Greene (designer of Player Unknown’s Battleground), or Terry Cavanagh (developer of indie hits VVVVVV and Super Hexagon). 

Ellen Cunningham, the Game Workers Unite Ireland coordinator says that there are a number of workplace issues that gaming workers experience.

She says that some of the most reported issues include:

  • Low pay (in relation to their job responsibilities and the costs of living in Ireland)
  • Crunch work (sudden spikes in work hours which are often unpaid)
  • Job instability and the prevalence and abuse of a system of unpaid internships
  • Not being credited for their work on game projects

Cunningham says: “The game industry sits at an intersection between tech and art and almost all of the workers I have talked to are incredibly passionate about their work.”

They feel prepared to sacrifice in order to do what they love and this has lead them to be taken advantage of and has resulted in, what is slowly being revealed to be, an unsustainable industry to work in.

State investment

So why should the State invest in the gaming industry?

“This could be used as an argument to withdraw all state investment from all cultural industries indefinitely,” Cunningham replies.

“The Irish State has a lot to gain and very little to lose in increasing funding in cultural industries, particularity games which is estimated by experts to be work at around €177 billion globally.”

I think it’s about time that Ireland raise its ambitions and assist its highly qualified Irish trained game workers, large and small Irish based companies and foreign game companies wishing to build new offices and hire in Ireland to acquire some of that global value and create a flourishing and sustainable industry.

The survey has been shared by members with their colleagues, and list their roles within the sector, as well as their employer, while remaining confidential and anonymous.

On 16 November, Game Workers Unite Ireland members officially launched the branch.

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