Deuze 2007: Professional Identity of Gameworkers


Deuze, M., Martin, C. B., & Allen, C. (2007). The Professional Identity of Gameworkers. Convergence13(4), 335–353.
Other References
De Peuter, G. and Dyer-Witheford, N. (2005) ‘A Playful Multitude? Mobilising and Counter-Mobilising Immaterial Game Labor’, Fibre Culture 5. URL (accessed 8 June 2007): http://journal.fibre
Dovey, Jon and Kennedy, Helen (2006) Game Cultures. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Floyd, C., Mehl, W., Reisin, F., Schmidt, G., & Wolf, G. (1989). Out of Scandinavia: Alternative approaches to software design and system development. Human-Computer Interaction, 4(4), 253-349.
Kline, S., Dyer-Witheford, N. and de Peuter, G. (2003) Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.


Unfortunately, the “identity” part of this work isn’t strongly grounded in any discipline’s identity theory. The authors do provide some information that supports the position that game workers and the game development environment differs from other forms of IT development.

Careers in post-industrial cultural fields such as gamework tend not to follow a neatly structured, seniority-based and long-term route. Gamework is much more random, sporadic and messy – a type of work and a kind of career that favors the young, the unattached and the male. In the international edition of German magazine Der Spiegel (24 August 2006), game designer Heather Kelly is quoted on the difficulties faced by women in the industry:

Many so-called girls’ games have a bad reputation – and rightly so [. . .] Most producers are male and difficult to motivate. They can’t really be bothered to develop a game for their niece or daughter. And when they do, the game is usually full of dumb clichés. The budgets are also often much lower than those for men’s games.

This seems to be a statement regarding an unwillingness of a gameworker to develop a game with which they did not have a personal interest. It also asserts that the nature of employment in the game industry is different from that in the rest of software development. Both support the investigation of differences in development methodologies between games and other software development.

De Peuter and Dyer-Witheford (2005) signal three particular types at work on the ‘dark side’ of gamework: passionate pay slaves, precarious global developers (as game- workers are increasingly employed through worldwide outsourcing practices), and free networked labor (provided by modding and fan communities). Their research showed that developers, initially delighted by their ‘work as play’ jobs, often found that the very factors that first appear so attractive – individual autonomy, flexibility, a ‘cool’ corporate context or even a distinctly anti-corporate work culture – can be also seen as a smokescreen to hide the exploitation of the enthusiasm of young gameworkers and game fans. Such exploitation is also made possible by the unlikelihood of young urban professionals to be married and/or have child-rearing responsibilities – which considering the gendered nature of gamework seems to contribute to its masculine culture.

More indications of differences between game development culture and other software.

The role of work in games is characterized by the time spent away from working as much as the time spent working. Social activities such as playing videogames together, playing sports at lunch, and going on outings in the evening contribute to the assimilation into a team mentality that is as much a construct of company branding as it is part of one’s professional identity. Reports on the culture and structure of the workplace at various studios similarly note how professionals tend to refer to a kind of rebelliousness in studio culture. Even though most development studios have become part of big multi- national companies or production processes, many on the work floor cultivate a distinct anti-corporate culture and ‘work as play’ ethos (Kline et al., 2003). Such a perception serves multiple functions: it convinces workers that they are free to really do what they want to do; it contributes to a more effective recruiting and retention system (construct- ing a narrative that people want to work there because of the supposed ‘coolness’ of the studio); and it facilitates subtle yet pervasive disciplinary mechanisms for keeping people at work all the time (Dovey and Kennedy, 2006).

The authors point out that social activities of game developers include playing games together, a statement unlikely to find a parallel in other sub-domains of software development. Also, this passage details ways in which game development studio culture is distinct, and Floyd et al. (1989) asserts that culture can affect software development approaches.


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