Friday, July 8, 2011

L.A. Noire controversy

At, Andrew McMillen has published a long and detailed examination of the various labor relations issues behind the mega-hit game of the year, L.A. Noire.

There are allegations of abuse, arguments over credit, tales of high emotion and conflict. It's juicy stuff, just like reading the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly ... well, d'oh! The games industry is the entertainment industry, nowadays, and an expose like this just fits right in.

One of the most interesting parts, to me at least, is the discussion about how global and internationalized the games industry has become, and how much of an effort it was for Australia to compete:

Looking back, what would he have done differently? "I think we'd think twice about Sydney, wouldn't we?" McNamara asked Vicky Lord, Bondi's general manager, who was within earshot throughout our 50 minute interview. "There's not that much government assistance, compared to Canada or the U.S.," he says. "The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself; well, you can't, whether it's in London or New York or wherever; you're competing against the best people in the world at what they do, and you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do to compete against those people. The expectation is slightly different."

"And the people who're making [this game], their experience [with other Australian game development companies] has generally been work-for-hire, which is a lower level of expectation in terms of quality than what we would expect, with Sony in London and all that kind of stuff. So that's been the hardest [part], but having said that, have we got great people here? We have," he concludes. "We've got some people who started as kids, and have since become great men and women. We're really proud to work with them."

While the movie industry (what's left of it) is still mostly a Southern Californian affair, and the book-and-magazine-publishing industry (what's left of it) is still mostly a New York City affair, video games production is incredibly spread out. There is no single center; top gaming studios are distributed throughout the U.S., and throughout the world. I can rattle off the names of top studios in: Texas, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, Japan, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, Israel, ...

So, although McMillen's article reads a bit like a breathy Hollywood gossip rag, dig into it and give it a try. This is one of the most important industries of our generation, with its issues and topics worthy of consideration by the Supreme Court, and you're not wasting your time learning more about how it ticks.

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