Is streaming an oligopoly?

Is streaming an oligopoly?

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 A lawsuit against Activision Blizzard by the state of California has resparked the debate around workplace culture in the gaming industry. Stories of harassment and discrimination of women in the workplace are not new, a survey in 2014 by the international game developers association found that many women struggled to be taken seriously and were often invited to ‘meetings’ that where actually dates. The problem goes further than just the developer industry, as many of the developers come from the gaming community itself. The gaming community has been grappling with a sexist and bullying culture for many years. The industry also faces toxic working culture around deadlines and budgets, leaving crunch time (unpaid over time close to a games release) as the only current solution.

Sexism in the gaming community is common, and it comes in a variety of forms. The most fundamental is women being rejected from the community by their male counterparts. Some members of the community try to sideline women into certain types games, like The Sims or music games. A culture of insulting ones fellow players is common, and while it has been decreasing over time (one merely has to have been in a Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer lobby at the games height and compare it to the latest Blacks Ops game to understand this trend) insults based of sex and race are still common. The BBC reported lines such as “Get back in the kitchen and take your goddamn hands off a video game controller” and “I hope your boyfriend beats you. Nah, you can’t get a boyfriend”. Many female players also reported being stalked and harassed for personal information online by their fellow players. While sexism in the community is improving, much of the industry learnt from the gamergate controversy, a online harassment campaign that started out as concerns around unethical practices in the gaming journalism industry, the original concerns where quickly overrun by the harassment and doxing of female journalists and developers in response to questions around the presentation of women in the industry. The tactics used by the harassers are still looked at today when developers are designing systems to reduce harassment, and also brought a spotlight to the issue and has started the change necessary.

Sexual harassment is not the only ethical issue in the development industry, toxic cultures around deadlines and crunch times (the increase in working time just before a game’s release) have been prevalent throughout the industries history. One game developer summarised the issue with “Every game you like is built on the backs of workers”. The unpaid overtime pushes many developers away from the industry, thus pushing talent and creativity away with it. It originates from deadlines, scopes and budgets being set years in advance (Cyperpunk 2077 had roughly 9 years of development). Many pitch the issue at bad mangers who are unwilling to face blame when projects don’t meet unrealistic deadlines, projects which fail to meet deadlines and budget even when they are almost finished are often cut.

The unethical practices seen in the industry can’t be put down to one issue. The industry which is historically against change may need it to overcome the issues that it now faces internally. Games are made by the talented developers and pushing them away will only leave games which are boring and devoid of creativity.

About author

Aaron Petty

Australian born Economics and Politics student at the University of Reading. Passionate about a wide variety of topics, from politics to music and gaming.