Are video games just software? Creative labor in video games.

A diagnosis of video games in popular culture is a convoluted one. A couple of decades back one could say that video games belonged in the niche market but as of now, they are one of the most popular modes of entertainment. Video games are technically softwares; a game is a written code with an engine running it with correlated graphics but this just the technical side. Excessive classification of games as softwares and game developing as software developing undoubtedly misrepresents the creative labor in this industry. There is a huge distinction between what goes into the production of a video game and “just programming”. The wide cluster of aptitude, expansive social marvel that encompasses games and the cutting edge technological and political-monetary framework that encompasses the game industry cannot and ought not to be caved in into the simple class of software. The creative collaborative work that is essential for the production of games is sufficiently imperative to be respected. Without a doubt, the development of programming frameworks has dependably been and will keep on being a piece of this action, yet it cannot be pushed into that particular classification.

It is without doubt that a modern examination for the video game industry is imminent. This examination should take into account the cultural, economic and political aspects of the industry. “Neglecting to examine the work necessary for video game production often results in broad sweeping claims about “what games are”. (Wilson 2012, p.31). Although, games are much more than softwares, there are still being put in the category alongside with straightforward softwares. How did this happen? No clear answer is awaiting anyone but guesses would be that it is historical and simply being uninformed. First games were not developed for the sake of culture or anything like that, they were formed a result of software developers trying to improve their skills in a new area. After almost half a century, this is not the case anymore. Dymek (2010) believes that activities like game development have more recently labeled as “cultural industries”. The complete software frameworks might be made for auxiliary purposes all through the game development process. The spotlight in game development is not to make attractive software framework but rather a genuine experience for the player. This refinement is basically essential for game developers. What they are developing is not software, but rather encounters and satisfaction for the player. Artists and specialist game designers are the legitimate users of computer game software. What the player encounters is an unpredictable framework that is built well beyond the software. It is this refinement that is frequently misunderstood when comparing video game development to software development. Software is a device to be utilized to develop different things. “The experience of playing a video game is the goal of game developers. The software is secondary to the experience just as Microsoft Word can be used to construct a novel, poem or short story, no one would be so quick to label writing and book production “just software”. Video games are software combined with art and design in such a way that a virtual play world is constructed for players to experience. Put another way, the software of a game is the “brush of the video game artist” (Dymek 2010,p. 214).

Adams (2006) asks the wonderful question; what does it take for games to be an art form? According to Adams, the games should start doing what other forms of art do; satisfy people’s expectations of an art form. He makes a good point however one could argue against this suggestion of Adam’s simply by stating that games are very different to many mediums: people either play them or do not. Therefore, it would be really hard for games to satisfy people who do not even interact with them and usually these people are very biased too. A comparison of video games to movies could clear this point, even the people who do not watch films a lot would not argue against the idea of films being an art form. They have been around for so long and largely accepted by the society. Games on the other hand, require more commitment to prove itself. Although, there are hundreds of millions gamers around the globe, they are powerless when it comes to change non-gamers minds’.

Creative labor is always a tough choice to make in terms of choosing a line of work because of its constant pressure of producing and creating. However, as it is in video game industry, the creativity might not always get the credit. Florida (2002) adds that creative labor stands out despite its lower pay; it has got flexibility and advantage of being your own boss. This does not apply to each and every individual in the creative labor. Many individuals are actually working under direct supervision with schedules to be met and other specific requirements. For instance, as discussed, video games are more than just softwares but this does not deny the fact that not everyone in a game studio is free on their creativity. Workers still follow given instructions and try to meet deadlines. Therefore, one requires a high skill set to be able to work in the advertised form of creative labor; otherwise it will not be much different from any other employment.

Creative labor is not unlimited in its creativity, not even for the most authorized person in any given videogame studio or any other place of work. This is due to simple fact; economics. However creative a person might be, he/she still needs to make a living. Everyone would like to go with their 100% personal creativity on a project but if it does not sell, what good is it? Video game developer organizations frequently wind up working between various different companies, console makers, publishers, motion picture studios and potentially more. Each organization turns into an affiliate in the production and speak their opinions on how the final version of the game will be like or should be like and this reduces the freedom of creativity considerably. Creative labor is in fact not what many people think of it to be. Menger (2006) points out that artistic work is highly compliant with demands of modern capitalism. According to Ross (2000) the traditional artist has the perfect characteristics for creative labor; they like their work; they are adaptable and willing to work on a project longer than they are required too. “ A key basis of the critique has been ‘self-exploitation’, whereby workers become so enamored with their jobs that they push themselves to the limits of their physical and emotional endurance”. It is arguable that no one is pushing workers to work over their limits but at the same time one cannot be any less skeptical about this exploitation as this whole creative labor might be form of capitalism.

In conclusion, it is highly accurate to say that video games are not just softwares. Are they are though? It is harder whether they are or not but it is certainly up to debate. There are lots of creative work going in video games such as design, storytelling, sound mixing, music and much more. Creative labor might not be absolutely free in creativity but if there are a few places where the freedom peaks, one of them would be game industry. Although companies still need to consider the marketing of the game, it is easier for video games to come up with something new and still be successful rather than, for instance, music industry. Creative labor in music industry are tied to produce depending on the demand, it is rare that an artist comes up with something very unique and does not fail. This still applies in gaming industry but not as harsh. Also the fact that creative labor might be a functioning branch of modern capitalism; it should not be much of a reason to step back from it. It is still a privilege to do something we love for living, therefore, those who are in that field and thinking to quit, should reconsider.

Reference list:
Adams, E.(2006). ‘Will computer games ever be legitimate art form? , Journal of Media Practice 7: 1. pp. 67–77 , doi: 10.1386/jmpr.7.1.67/1
Dymek, Mikolaj. Industrial Phantasmagoria. 1st ed. Stockholm: Skolan för industriell teknik och management, Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, 2010. Print.
Florida, Richard. Rise Of The Creative Class–Revisited. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Print.
Menger, P.M (2006), ‘Artistic Labor Markets: Contingent Work, Excess Supply and Occupational Risk Management’ , in V.A Ginsburgh and D. Throsby (eds) , Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, Amsterdam: North Holland, pp. 765–811.

Zackariasson, Peter, and Timothy L Wilson. The Video Game Industry. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.