Last month, the April issue of Game Developer made its way out to subscribers, and ever year at that time their annual Game Developer Salary Survey is published. These surveys serve as helpful barometers to gauge just how much the averages are for jobs within game development. Artists/animators, audio developers, business/legal, designers, producers, programmers, and QA testers are all quantified into averages per discipline and level of seniority. They also happen to display the percent of women in each, as well as how much they make on average as compared to men.
This information is posted in nearly the same fashion year after year. However, it was with 2013“s Salary Survey that many people began to take notice. Across all jobs, aside from programming, women were earning marginally less. Each other job had at least a $10,000 difference in average salary, although there were jobs with far greater disparity as well. These numbers were pushed out by various sites, including our own, and many made the implication that it was hard proof of sexism, or at least, the pay gap being alive and well.
Of course, jumping to this conclusion isn“t something many were willing to go to immediately. Some of the most important information was missing, such as percentage of women in regards to seniority as opposed to men. As the survey stands, it only shows the breakdown between being in a job for 1-3, 3-6, and 6+ years as an average between everyone. Further breakdown has been deemed necessary by many to get a more accurate view of pay differences. Game Developer does sell 80 page survey result books which provide much more information in detail. Unfortunately, with a cost of over $1,000 to access, this report is not something that many are going to ever have access to.
Many people, both commenters and journalists themselves, made the concession that women are only recently entering the industry. This supposed bit of â€œcommon knowledgeâ€ has been dispersed all over in response to the survey without much reason. Why is it that everyone believes women are newly entering the industry? Is this a line of thought worth pursuing? Many may now just be becoming aware of women in the industry around them, but is it actually a trend? Women may be more willing to flaunt their gaming interests, but does that mean they“re brand new to the world of gaming?
I“m not going to be able to answer these questions, but there certainly have been women involved in game development from the beginning, as well as games journalism and other places. For example, some of my personal heroes are Roberta Williams and Joyce Worley. Williams co-founded Sierra On-Line - a developer of a great many adventure games. Worley, on the other hand, co-founded Electronic Games which was the first video game magazine in the US.
Perhaps these examples of women in the industry are outliers, or maybe they“re not, but then my task turned to using Game Developer“s previous surveys to chart an increase in women joining game companies. My research turned up Game Developer Salary Surveys covering the years 2004 to 2012. There were a few surveys published before these years, but I was unable to find them. Regardless, starting at 2004 is probably for the best because it also appears that the magazine had access to far fewer employees in the past. This appears to have skewed some earlier (and even current) numbers. For example, â€œaudio developersâ€ has been noted for multiple years as having a small sample size. Because of this, massive fluctuations are seen and I am choosing to ignore that section. Unfortunately, QA testers also seem to have that same problem. For other areas though, survey numbers appear a bit more standard.
For artists/animators, business/legal, producers, and programmers, there is no significant increase in women entering game development from 2004 until now. Only in design do we see a steady increase, although it is only 5% over the time span. Business/legal fluctuates regularly between highs and lows, programmers continue to hover around 4%, and women artist/animators have been in a downward trend since 2010. So, according to what little information we have here, there does not appear to be an across the board increase in women rushing toward the world of game development. Not for the past decade, anyway.
This nine year set of data shows that some women could easily be beyond the 6 years required to be listed as â€œseniorâ€ in the survey. Of course, that doesn“t necessitate that women are in senior positions despite being in a job for that long. Nor does it follow that the average women are sticking around in development roles for that long. Apparently men are, if you feel that the reason why men are paid more is due to having 6+ years of experience. Because they are paid far more in almost every example, according to this information compiled by Game Developer year after year.
According to all I was able to gather, the gap between artists/animator salaries is widening, which makes it the outlier. Of course, comparing that to the dwindling numbers of women proves there are probably a good deal of senior status women leaving. Still, that doesn“t help its salary discrepancy always being lower for women. Of course, the same is true for each other field as well. Business/legal, where women regularly have been between 17%-25% of the workforce, salaries rise and decline at similar rates but with a 20 thousand dollar gap between them. When men gain, women lose, and vice versa, but that buffer of a significant amount of money never shrinks beyond a certain amount.
Game designers have a fairly interesting chart as well for salary comparison. 2005“s numbers were the only time that women were shown earning higher than men. Even then, this amount was only marginally more as compared to how much more money men make on average elsewhere. Aside from that probable statistical anomaly (due to low sample size), women then have taken the backseat for following years. Trends in payment increase steadily for men, and for women as well - as long as you take sample size into account - and they do not appear to be approaching parity.
The producer salary is quite interesting as it looks almost exactly the same for women and men. That is, if you take a man“s average salary across 2005-2012 and then deduct 10 thousand dollars at any point. Since 2010, it appears that the women and men“s salaries are heading toward equality though, which is very much worth noting. This comes in light of a small burst of women entering the field in 2011. With the trend beginning in 2010, one could speculate they are offering women more as a starting wage. Otherwise, the influx of women in the last year would cause salaries to show marked decrease, right? At least that should be the case if one believes that seniority is the only cause for salaries of specific amounts.
Finally we reach programmers who appear to be closest to pay equity of all branches in game development. There have apparently been two years in which women earned more than their male peers (2009 and 2012). Again, these gains were incredibly minimal, marking only about $4 thousand more in each event. Still, it appears that there is a regular tussle between salary supremacy despite the not really ever being a shift between percent of men and women within the field. Men sit between 95%-97% at all times, after all. Of all disciplines, it seems that producers and programmers are valued highest in regards to being paid fairly for their work.
I wish there were a way for me to gain access to the full scope of Game Developer“s survey results. It would be immensely useful to see their statistical findings broken down further. Elusive information such as women“s vs men“s years in a field remains a mystery for all but 2012. Editor of Game Developer, Patrick Miller, shared a few of these numbers in a post on Gamasutra, but this doesn't change the illusive nature of past years.
For reference, the levels of seniority per gender for 2012 show men as ultimately sticking with game development longer. Of 1,333 surveyed men, 47% spent 6 or more years in their job, 32% were in the middle with 3-6 years experience, and 21% were around for 1-3 years. Of 173 surveyed women, 29% held a position for six years or more, 45% were there for 3-6 years, and 27% were currently in the 1-3 year range. Unfortunately, we only see this as the case for 2012, as published in April 2013“s issue. So far they have not shared other data for years before freely. Considering they charge for full details, it“s unlikely we“ll ever get a very useful breakdown.
When people reported on this year“s Salary Survey, it“s unlikely that they all went to the effort of charting data for previous years before making assessments. The Border House Blog posted first, which everyone followed after. How is it, despite not looking at every ounce of data, they were able to so strongly state an inherent connection between gender and pay wages then? To many, it seems an irrefutable claim, as of course was resounded in comment sections across the web.
This is due to the fact that women and those who study women in the workforce are aware of many facets of life that cause the pay gap to exist across many fields. In regards to male-dominated fields of tech, there is even more at play. Those who simply paid attention to panels at PAX East and GDC recently would be aware that women in gaming are not treated fairly on many occasions. One incredibly likely facet of all this data is that women do not stick around as long as men because they eventually lose patience for the sexism so prominent in the industry. Many women have spoken up (recall #1reasonwhy on Twitter) about very personal shows of disrespect or hatred by their own peers, not just internet strangers.
There are far too many facets of the pay gap to be discussed here, but they are hotly debated all the time. Let“s put at least a few to bed as succinctly as possible. Some claim men work more hours which equates to higher salaries. Professionals are likely on a salary, which means you are paid a specific amount. In game development, overtime pay is not granted as much as it is simply expected of you. Some suggest that women must take more time off due to being mothers, but fathers too take time away from work to care for their families. They do not become pregnant, but it“s not as if women must leave work for the entire nine month pregnancy, nor is pregnancy even an inevitability in every woman“s life.
These reasons, as well as many others, are why The Border House, Rock Paper Shotgun, and others are able to make connections between the Salary Survey and a true issue within the industry (or any industry with a noticeable pay gap). Women have worked in the industry alongside men from IntelliVision and Atari days to now. The horrible fact remains though that women are still only a sliver in an industry full of men, and that is not likely to change soon despite claims to the contrary.
The gaming industry needs more women and it needs to treat them respectfully as well as with a paycheck much closer to that of their male peers. Of course, higher paying jobs should still go to those with more experience, but don“t inevitably give all these positions to men. Women and men exist in nearly equal numbers in society, so showing such a vast discrepancy of representation in any industry is a sign that something is very much an issue.
Overall, it is an incredibly complex issue which is found in many industries outside of gaming. Considering the many pushes women have made to speak out we shall hopefully see the trend of pay disparity being pulled back, as well as women feeling comfortable in the industry to stay involved for years to come.