Reports of discrimination and crunch culture.
Another day, another expose revealing the dark machinations spinning in the games industry. A new report by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has revealed a culture of discrimination and crunch experienced by Quality Assurance (QA) video game testers within Call Of Duty Black Ops 4 developer Treyarch.
QA testers are treated differently in Treyarch, often like second-class citizens or subjects on the lowest rung of the social ladder despite working on the very same game as the developers. They work on different floors and are ordered by their higher-ups not to even speak with developers, as if they’re riddled with the black plague.
They are also forced to park 10 minutes away from the workplace and only allowed to eat leftovers of lunch (when its catered) one hour after the development team has already had their fill. We haven’t even mentioned the horrible crunch conditions yet.
For instance, during the months following Call Of Duty Black Ops 4‘s launch in October 2018, Treyarch rolled out constant updates for the game, as many as twice a week. QA testers faced the brunt of this, as they had to work absurd hours just to hopefully find all the bugs in that build of the game before the updates went live.
Those who worked night shifts were forced to work in extremely hot and uncomfortable conditions, as the air-conditioners were turned off at night seemingly for no other reason than to save money.
Worst of all, QA testers are not even eligible for overtime pay, despite cranking up crunch hours. Why? Because they technically don’t work for Treyarch, as they are usually hired through outsourced contractors like Volt.
Remember when it was reported that next year’s installment in the Call Of Duty franchise would be Black Ops 5? QA testers learned about it the same way we all did, via Schreier’s initial report. Their high-ups only bothered to send an email confirming the title several days after the news broke, and that wasn’t even addressed to the QA testers.
Earlier today, as a response to Schreier’s article, Treyarch studio heads Dan Bunting and Mark Gordon sent the following email to all their staff, which probably (and hopefully) includes the QA testers.
Today, Kotaku published a story that explores a number of reported behind-the-scenes issues in Black Ops 4 development. The first and most important statement that we want to make to the team is that, as managers of this studio, we take the well-being of every single individual working here very seriously.
We have a vision for the future of this studio that includes significant improvements to work/life balance, and we plan to achieve that through better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines. It is also our intention to maintain our commitment to increased transparency.
Getting there will require time, hard work, and commitment — most of all, it will require open communication. If you ever feel like your needs aren’t being met, please do not hesitate to communicate actively with your manager. No one should ever feel like they don’t have options, can’t talk openly, or that the only choice is to take their concerns to the public. These conversations should always start with an honest dialogue with your department manager, and if that’s not working, feel free to reach out to one of us.
Game development is a wildly complex art and it requires a diverse set of people and skill sets to do it successfully. It’s important for all of us to foster a studio culture that treats all team members with respect.
We appreciate the contributions made by all parts of the team in the name of the games we make.
Dan & Mark
Treyarch perceives QA testers to be irreplaceable low-skilled workers, which is a sentiment shared by many other developers and publishers in the industry. Until that changes, these people will continue to be mistreated and not given the respect they’re owed.
Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if things will change, considering how many gamers still lap up each and every Call Of Duty title released annually like they’re hotcakes. It’s no wonder that the higher-ups over at Treyarch and Activision feel so solidified in their position, unafraid of any backlash or outcry, with all the money they’re raking in.