The hazards of making video games


Despite some popular beliefs, the people who make video games are not working in a stress-free environment. Video game companies and their employees have to deal with a number of external and internal issues. These issues, inevitably, lead to various disorders and psychological issues. In rare cases, they may even develop early symptoms of arthritis.

For major video game companies, or those that already have strong footholds in the industry, the stress can come from performance anxiety. Pressure is exerted on these companies to ‘up the ante’ since they already have a reputation for quality and fun in terms of video game design. Gamers have become accustomed to the high standards of previous game offerings and, naturally, they expect a higher level of quality from new versions or the latest games. This constant demand for something ‘new and better’, combined with the generally unstable nature of the modern business environment causes performance anxiety from the video game developers to the humble programmers, even up to the producers who call the shots in game development.

For other companies, it isn’t the company’s reputation that’s at stake. Their own ‘stressor’ is the drive to to outdo their own previous offerings. Outdoing their own product is simply their obsession. A prominent example of this is Blizzard, the developer and publisher of the ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Starcraft’ games. Both games were known for making the most of technology existing at the time, as well as being some of the best games in the Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre. In South Korea, ‘Starcraft’ is still played heavily despite being having been released over half a decade ago. Buckling under the pressure, some anonymous employees have reported that if Blizzard management did not implement an open time frame for releasing sequels to the above games (theoretically, to ensure quality), most employees would have suffered from extreme cases of performance anxiety. This has resulted in Blizzard, as a company, gaining a reputation for taking almost a decade to produce a follow-up to one of their titles.

Of course, it isn’t simply the mind that is worked and drained by being in the video game industry. The body is just as big a target for a number of problems, as the mind is. After all, games still have to be designed, the concepts have to be developed, and the beta releases need to be driven through a rigorous quality testing process.

For the visual and auditory aspect of the games, the most likely problem would most likely be muscle pain and migraine headaches. Some have reported symptoms of arthritis. Artwork for video games goes through multiple processes, and it is not entirely unusual for artists to be asked to rush through the art concept for the game. For smaller companies, a few artists might be given strict deadlines for the concept art of more than one project. The rapid pace of drawing makes them prone to muscle pain, while the constant thinking and visual analysis can cause migraine headaches.

Another section of the company that may suffer from muscle pain would be the programming team. Games have to be coded, with every piece of art and every bit of storyline converted into a language that the computers and gaming consoles can understand. Most people are unaware of just how much goes into even a simple video game like ‘Tetris’ much less some of the 80-hour long epics produced by SquareEnix, a major Japanese game developer. This is further complicated when there are countless possible interactions within the game’s context, ranging from character creation options to how specific in-game abilities interact with one another. Now, top that off with a deadline, and you’re all set to see programmers suffering from symptoms of arthritis, possibly with migraine headaches as the sarcastic cherry on top.

Migraine headaches are also far from alien when it comes to the quality assurance teams, who are tasked with playing the beta versions of the games. Beta versions are unreleased, incomplete versions of the game that require extensive testing to see if everything works. Apart from that, the quality team must also check on the other game elements, such as difficulty or the plot. Since the beta versions are incomplete, there are naturally a number of graphical flaws, some of which have been known to cause migraine headaches.

For millions of gamers around the world, they enjoy the virtual worlds without even knowing the enormous pressure and dozens of headaches that came in designing their favorite video games. For most kids, playing video games is pure fun. But for the game-makers, developing video games is not ‘play time’ at all.

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