Maya Rand, founder and CEO of TheXPlace, billed as a new way to connect and find work in the gaming industry, talks about credits in video game development.

Imagine you’ve been working on a presentation for a few weeks and it’s a big success, but the accolades stop with your boss. Won’t you feel wronged? Of course! Now imagine how you would feel if you invested for a year and didn’t get a credit for it. This is exactly the situation most video game creators find themselves in every day. And not because they are reserved and prefer not to be seen. This is because the video game industry lags far behind in giving credit where credit is due.

Crediting is a gray area in our industry and depends on each studio. Bad apples have set devastating precedents for how studios can view workers when making credits. This includes setting unattainable expectations for temporary workers who will not be credited at the game’s final launch unless they can extend their contracts until the project is completed. Some studios even use credits as leverage to keep talent in the game until launch. For example, Rockstar Games previously stated that only workers who complete games would be credited and then retracted the statement after public backlash. But the nature of game development makes it ambiguous when someone has “earned” the right to be credited for a launched title. AAA game development often works in multi-year phases, so contract employees who are engaged for six months and then let go before the project is finished, or even full-time employees who can burn out mid-cycle, can potentially remain completely uncredited in a final game launch.

It should be quite clear: the talent who developed the music for the game should be recognized for their work. Just like movie credits. Some studios will credit their talent, but do so in a long list without detailing the actual roles played by each pro. Look to the credits for Fortnite: Battle Royale, a perfect example. Is this just laziness or a tactic to prevent other studios from poaching their talent?

Game credits are an incredibly sore subject in the industry due to the severe disparity between studios and professionals. Especially today, with telecommuters delivering from afar, beyond the plain sight of office walls, it’s even easier to exclude their names. This approach can obviously be leveraged further with more teams working partially or fully remotely. In an industry where major, portfolio and concrete credentials are the key to landing your next opportunity, a broken game credit system is a career brake.

During my time at EA, I worked closely with multiple game teams, including DICE, BioWare, PopCap Studios and others, and received dozens of credits that appeared in games. I recently looked up these credits on MobyGames, IGDB and several other data sources. To my surprise, the credit information I found was incorrect or missing. In one data source I found only two credits, in another it listed 13 credits, but the description of my role in some of the games was completely off. Gaming professionals know that the only way to prove their credit claims – for those lucky enough to receive them from the studio – is to keep screenshots of the credit line. Some of the games I worked on over a decade ago are not available today. Finding a screenshot is simply not an option. To me it means I don’t have valid proof, and to some opportunist it means they can claim credits they don’t really have. There is no reliable way to prove or validate credit, and this reality fuels mistrust.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) created the Game Credits Special Interest Group (SIG) and designed a system of credit guidelines indicating that any professional who has worked on the development of a game for a certain period should be credited for your work. Unfortunately, implementing these guidelines with studios is a challenge, as less than 10 percent of gaming professionals are IGDA members. IGDA is not alone, the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) is another organization that tried to solve the credit challenge and couldn’t move the needle.

Gaming industry workers continue to be frustrated by these associations trying to take matters into their own hands through social movements. #TranslatorInTheCredits is an example of a hashtag created to put social pressure on studios and agencies to recognize the contributions of translators. But with limited scope and negotiating power, the studios continue to have the upper hand.

TheXPlace takes a different approach to work and credits in the video game industry. By empowering talent to own their destiny, TheXPlace builds a trusted community and platform that digitizes the individual referral network of those who can vouch for one’s work.

It starts with automation, where TheXPlace collects credit lists from all primary sources today and then allows employees to fill in data gaps by asking their collaborators they’ve worked with to verify them and credit them appropriately. TheXPlace then validates the feedback and keeps a record of it. Credits are the key to unlocking the next opportunity, and with that in mind, TheXPlace provides professionals with easy tools to share their credits on social networks. This approach aims to return control to the professionals and also set the true north for the industry in terms of credit validation that everyone can trust.

Industry Voices: Can the broken game credits system be fixed?

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