I posted the following off-hand comments on Twitter today
— Lee Winder (@lee_winder) October 1, 2014
By me, I mean the jobbing developer who goes into work, does a job, goes home, gets paid. Still waiting for that game industry union. — Lee Winder (@lee_winder) October 1, 2014
I’m guessing, even with the disproportionate indie coverage, people like that make up the vast majority of the industry.
— Lee Winder (@lee_winder) October 1, 2014
I got a few replies but the following stood out
@lee_winder really? what kind of person who is not on there would you have on there to represent you out of interest? :0)
— Doctoe (@Doctoe) October 1, 2014
So, replying to those with anything less than 140 characters wouldn’t give enough respect to their questions (especially Jo Twist’s), so I thought I’d answer it here instead.
It’s a Trade Association
It is, it says so on it’s website
Ukie, pronouced you-key, (UK Interactive Entertainment) is the only trade body for the UK’s wider games and interactive entertainment industry.
(FYI – I’ve never understood the difference between TIGA and Ukie with that statement but that’s another thought line…)
But, Ukie positions itself as a body that is also there to support developers, as covered in it’s vision and mission statement says
To make the UK the best place to develop and publish games and interactive entertainment. Our mission is to support, grow and promote the UK games industry.
Why does this refer to developers? Because you can’t create the best place to develop games without it being a good industry for developers to work in.
But also, their sub group
Developer Sub Group – Chair Ella Romanos, CEO, Remode
The developer sub group aims to support all developers within the Ukie membership, in particular the smaller studios. The purpose is to ensure that developers are able to find out what Ukie can do to help them, provide an easy way for developers to make suggestions on things that would be useful and give feedback on available services.
So yes, they are a trade body, but they do explicitly position themselves to support developers within the industry, so you could say it is actually part of their remit.
Who Could Represent Me?
I’m a salaried developer – I go to work, I do a job for someone else, I get paid, I go home and luckily I love it. There are a lot of people like me in the industry, we probably make up the vast majority of the industry that we work in (though looking at the press you’d think not).
So looking at the make up of the board (which is quite difficult because people hold various positions)
- 9 Directors
- 3 CEOs
- 1 COO
- 3 Vice Presidents
- 1 Chairman
- 1 Investor (not really sure about this one)
- 1 Lead Programmer
So who best represents me? Me, of course, but failing that (more on that later) someone who does a job like me and who, through simple positioning within the workforce, doesn’t share the same concerns as those people running and founding companies in the UK.
Now looking at the prospective board members for the recent election, there actually were a couple of people who would fit that bill
- Guy Davidson, Coding Manager, The Creative Assembly
Well, one actually.
So why were there not more, why was it not a wider field. Very difficult for me to answer, but I’d hazard a guess that the majority of the rank and file in the industry either don’t interact with Ukie or didn’t think they’d stand a chance against some of the industries heavyweights.
So Why Not Me?
I stood for election recently, on my local Parish Council, and it was hard work. I didn’t win (came 3rd if you’re interested, which I was immensely proud of) and I’m still thinking about standing next May when the entire council is up for election. I also do a lot of work outside of work hours, and weekends are taken up with family since I don’t see them much during the week.
So my main reason – I simply don’t have the time I think is needed to fulfil the duties of the board.
But of course I do have time for off-handed comments on Twitter…
Why Do I Care?
Why do I care enough to write this post, and why did I care enough to post on Twitter in the first place?
Well, the second point is easy enough, posting on Twitter is easy, you don’t have to care too much to make a point on there but it was one I wanted to make.
As for the first point…
Right now, and I’m being honest, it’s probably not a problem as Ukie do good work within the industry, supporting developers through free courses, community and educational support, company initiatives that will hopefully trickle down to the rank and file, and their sub groups. But long term, it’s a sure fire way to run into conflict.
Ukie is a trade body, managed by company executives who have a right and duty to look after their companies and their shareholders (where they exist). At some point in the future, as with every industry that has ever existed, there will be issues where the solutions contradict each other depending on which side of the coin you happen to fall.
Without people on the board that actually represent them, that contradiction will inevitably fall on the side of the company at the expense of the workers. So while Ukie does offer support for developers at the moment, that net could be taken away at any point in the future without the possibility of another safety net being there in place.
There are two solutions that I can see
- A more representative board that covers both sides of the coin, and makes sure the organisation is guaranteed to fight for the betterment of the industry rather than the betterment of the companies within the industry.
- A developers union
Personally, I would prefer to see the foundation of a Developers Union, the effective counterbalance of a union and a trade body has shown to be highly effective over the course of history (though depending who you are, you might actually see it as highly disruptive). A more representative board would bring balance, but would contradict the main reason for Ukie existing in the first place.
And no, I’m not about to found a union. The kind of individual needed for that is someone with an incredibly strong sense of self, charisma off the charts and skin as thick as a Rhino. I’m pretty sure I have none of those.
Though I’d happily be that persons Josh Lyman to his Jed Bartlet!