Last week, a Darksiders II developer posted comments on Twitter about being left out of the credits despite working on the game. Some joined his side, some ridiculed his outburst, but most ignored the issue altogether. Does the troubling topic not warrant our attention? Who better to answer that question than Andy Modrovich: industry veteran, ex-Vigil Games employee, and the latest victim of the increasingly common industry practice of leaving staff out of game credits. This is his story.
One thing more than anything else struck me when I first read the discussion over the Darksiders II credits: the feeling that we've been here before.
The feeling that an uncomfortable truth about the industry, commonly known and accepted in game development circles as Just The Way Things Are, had been revealed to a surprised outside world. It was the same way I felt after the EA Spouse letter went viral, in which the fiancee of an EA game developer detailed the abusive culture of overtime at the company. I remember being inundated by emails and phone calls from family and friends who had read the letter, wanting to know if that kind of thing really went on, and had I ever experienced anything like that, and how could people do that to other people? Of course; yes; and I don't know, I answered again and again.
I was surprised that they were surprised; somehow I thought these things were common knowledge. But then, why would they be when so few are willing to discuss them publicly?
And now here we are again, only this time the issue is the game industry's crediting practices. Seeing the heated reaction to Xander Davis' story convinced me it's not that no one cares about this issue, it's simply that few outside the industry really know much about it. Consider this my small attempt to help change that.
I witnessed a situation at one company where one of our top artists was cut out of the credits for a game, despite having worked on it from the very beginning all the way to the end. After we had locked our content in preparation for submission (meaning the artists were literally forbidden from making any further changes to their work) he announced he was leaving the studio for another opportunity. The day after his announcement, his title was stripped and his name was moved all the way to the Special Thanks section at the very end of the credits file. After the endless parade of corporate brand managers and marketing executives, after the HR people at the outsourcing studios, after the voice-over talent for the French localization. He did what you're supposed to do: he did quality work and saw the game through to completion. Yet because he left before the game discs were actually pressed, he was essentially erased from the credits.
Another reason, which studios are less likely to vocalize, is that de-crediting people the minute they leave provides a good incentive for them to stay through to the very end of the project. However, I suspect that at too many places, the real answer comes down to a simple desire to punish. It's really the only legal way studio executives have to get back at an employee they feel has "wronged" them or put the project in a tough spot by leaving early. Yes, it's petty and unprofessional, but human nature is what it is.
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