Bo Ruberg on the Precarious Labor of the Queer Indie Game Maker

10 Jul, 2019

Bo Ruberg on the Precarious Labor of the Queer Indie Game Maker

Alum Bo Ruberg published "The Precarious Labor of Queer Indie Game-making: Who Benefits from Making Video Games “Better”?" in Television & New Media's special issue on Contested Formations of Digital Game Labor in May 2019.

This special issue investigates contemporary formations of digital game labor, with a focus on the political-economic forces, social inequalities and technological dynamics mutually shaping these formations. Promoting a research orientation attentive to how work in the digital games industry might be made more accessible and sustainable and providing empirically informed portraits of diverse contexts and experiences of gamework, the contributors interrogate multiple dimensions of precarious work and social exclusion within an industry whose playful self-image can make it a resistant object of labor-centered analysis.

From the abstract:

This article looks at issues of precarious and exploited labor surrounding contemporary queer independent video game making. In recent years, there has been a marked rise in indie games made by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. These games and their creators are commonly lauded for inspiring change in the mainstream game industry and making the medium of video games more diverse and therefore “better.” However, this cultural narrative obfuscates the socioeconomic challenges faced by many queer indie game-makers. Drawing from interviews conducted by the author, this article presents a counter-narrative about the work of developing video games by and about marginalized people. Although such games are often described as “easy” or “free” to make, they in fact entail considerable, and rarely fairly compensated, labor. Simultaneously, value is being extracted from this labor by companies who look to queer indie games for inspiration, which translates into profit.

Check it out here!