Friday, November 8, 2013

Labor of... Passion?

I'm not a big fan of reality shows, I will admit though I watched a little of Flavor of Love (Big Public Enemy fan here), back when internet was slow and Late night Cable shows kept you company before bedtime, but I do watch a few when they are related to a field I am interested in. One in particular that I kind researched was Sony's "The Tester," a reality show that asks the question, "Are you ready to be part of the Quality Assurance Team for one of the biggest video game companies in the world?" Compete for this "once in a lifetime opportunity."

"Quality Assurance" Engineer is basically you play a game and make sure there are no bugs, glitches, and problems with the programming code. How is this done?? Well by playing sections of the game, over and over again. Hours and hours of mindless grinding, and basically not fun. Imagine playing Mario, and you've beaten the 1st stage, it's pretty easy and you want to continue, but you can't. You have to play the 1st stage only, and for a 10 hour workday. Sure you try new things and follow the directions of the programmers, but still, it is a tedious and not a stimulating experience. 

People want to do this though, and are attracted to idea of playing Sony's 1st Party games before anyone else, the exclusivity is such a big selling point, and want to be game testers. Also the idea of getting paid to play is such an alluring concept for so many gamers, and I will admit as a younger and naive kid, I did want to participate in a job like this. But upon further research, and reading interesting articles like this, "You Can Sleep Here All Night: Video Games and Labor," by Ian Williams, my middle school dream was quickly changed . This article is an excellent leftist approach to this new age industry. A few points he makes:
Testers, and many of the entry level job at these video game companies are terrible.

- Pressured to work 80 hour workdays, to reach deadlines
- Minimum wage with no benefits, many are considered to be just temp jobs
- The constant of badgering by management and developers, the more well paid positions, and in turn they are pretty shitty work conditions.

There are many accounts that verify his points, and people trying to organize workers in the tech world is a next step in this digital age, but one section that he elaborates is in is so interesting. A common word to describe "the ideal employee" in this industry is, passion. Great games are made passionate people make sacrifices to insure success. This ain't no passion project, not something you do with people you went to school are something, you do the work, and you reap the benefits. The guise of passion has been capitalist tool for free labor and exploitation for centuries. Especially with the amount of money making games are making nowadays, where GTA5 has already surpassed the 1 billion Dollar profit mark, that kind of talk is bullshit. Also QA testers are so vital for the development of these games, testing code is long and tedious process, that the coders and designers don't have the time for, they are crucial part of the system. 

This whole discourse is allowed because the common geek, no matter what breed, is very apolitically in their own right. This was covered by the author in an interesting way that I have heard, and that is he says nerds are more willing to sacrifice and surround them with their passions. I do agree with this too, they become very short sighted and many things that do happen around them are not given the thought they deserve.

Last night I hung out a beach party that was organized by my GF, it was for the Anthropology club and Department for the local university.  While I did get there a little late, it was my dad's birthday and went out for dinner, the turnout, food, and the atmosphere all looked mighty fine, even by the time I got there. Glad it was a success for her! She really does work hard and for her to get this recognition, and the President spot for the club, is damn awesome. Met some of her teachers and stuff, always interesting to see how faculty conduct themselves in a party setting, since that is usually the big difference between High School and College, you hangout with your professors, outside of class, more.  We were both pretty tired, long days for both us, so afterwards we relaxed and embraced each other in our arms, felt so maolek.

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