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Videogame Labour, Project-based Workplaces, and the New Citizenship at Work


May 2024
$59.95 CAD | $49.95 USD
408 pages | 19 graphs, 50 tables | 6 x 9
9781988111490 | Paper
9781988111506 | E-book
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A scholarly investigation into working conditions in the North American gaming industry

Motivated by the goal of understanding the labour conditions of workers in the videogame industry and their participatory power to create decent work, Not All Fun and Games is a critical examination of a global entertainment juggernaut with revenues that top film, television, and music production combined. Jobs in the industry are heralded as the vanguard of the new economy, governments offer lucrative tax credits to lure game studios to their regions, and game developers often express commitment and passion for their work. Yet, the industry is also known for its toxic workplaces. 

To understand these disparities and gain insight into twenty-first-century labour conditions, Marie-Josée Legault and Johanna Weststar have carried out a comprehensive mixed-methods study of the North American industry over the past fifteen years. They combine detailed survey data from thousands of game developers with over one hundred qualitative interviews to systematically reveal labour issues such as precarity, lack of workforce diversity, unpredictable schedules, unpaid overtime, low unionization rates, worker burnout, and significant pay inequality. 

Updating the theoretical concept of citizenship at work, the authors connect these labour issues to a fundamental lack of voice and representation in the workplace. They determine that videogame workers and others in contemporary project-based work environments lack agency in regulating their work and lack fundamental protections. Not All Fun and Games comprehensively documents conditions in the North American industry and highlights ways to counter workers’ lack of voice and representation in their workplaces to better create healthy, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. 

Marie-Josée Legault is an associate professor at École des sciences de l’administration, TELUQ University (Université du Québec).

Johanna Weststar is an Associate Professor of employment relations in the DAN Department of Management and Organizational Studies at Western University.

Not All Fun and Games sets a new benchmark for research on game development work. Marie-Josée Legault and Johanna Weststar have undertaken the field’s most systematic, large-scale surveys of working conditions and experiences of videogame developers, involving thousands of respondents. Rich in empirical detail and analytical insight into the challenges of game work—and pathways to its democratization—this book is a vital addition to scholarship on labour in the videogame industry and in the cultural industries more broadly.”
Greig de Peuter, Communication studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

The e-book version of this title will be available in Winter 2024.

Introduction  ix
Part One: Theory
1 Citizenship at Work in the Post-Industrial Landscape  3
2 Project Management at the Foreground  23
Part Two: Context
Videogame Development as an Illustration of Project-Based Work  37
4.The Other Side of the Playful Bunch: Risks Faced by Videogame Developers  63
Part Three: Applied Analysis
5 Are Game Developers Protected Against Employment Risks?  105
6 Do Game Developers Have Recourse against Arbitrary Treatment?  129
7 Do Game Developers Participate in the Local Regulation of Work?  167
8 Do Game Developers Participate in the Social Regulation of Work?  193
9 The Regulation of Working Time Is a Citizenship-Free Zone  227
10 Second-Class Citizens in the VGI  253
Conclusion 291
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