Gimme Some Credit

i introduced myself to residents at the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab this week, by telling them about my background making web games for a Canadian broadcaster. i said that after my tenure there, i had over fifty games to my name … and then i paused. “To my name.” i corrected myself – i had worked on over fifty games, but not one of them had been to my name. In over seven years at the place, i had not been credited on a single game.

Mystery Man

If i could receive credit, i would reveal that this is, in fact, a picture of me.

The story continues today. A new client – an animation company – asked to partner with us on a Request for Proposal. They asked me to provide a credits list. i had never heard of such a thing. i told them that i could provide a list of games and projects we’ve worked on, but i confided that i hadn’t actually been credited on anything. This was despite over two years of operation as Untold Entertainment.

Disavow All Knowledge

A prospective client, a broadcaster, contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to bid on a project. i came back with a very competetive price, but one of my stipulations was that i wanted to link to the finished project from my website, and to host a video of gameplay on my site in case the client’s link ever went down. The prospective client adamantly refused to allow this. “Media Conglomorate X is a self-contained, self-sufficient entity that does NOT outsource work to vendors (even though we do).” The issue was a sticking point for me, and i declined the contract.

Still another teevee client made it a make-or-break condition of a contract on a six-month job that we didn’t link to or mention the project on our website. We could talk about the project in any medium other than web, including (presumably) film, teevee, physical sell-sheets, and interpretive dance. They allowed for these, knowing that the only place we promote our work is on our website.

i have taken work from teevee clients who have revealed to me that they’re no longer hiring a colleague of mine, because he has started asking for credit on final projects.

The Credit Double Standard

This all leads me to believe that while those of us who have been involved in video games all our lives see it as a legitimate medium, the Old Guard – particularly teevee people, and especially Canadian broadcasters – don’t. Everyone who works on a film, down to the seemingly most insignificant person who holds the lunch platter (the “sandwich grip”), gets credited by name at the end of the movie. And in cases where animated movies or special effects-heavy flicks outsource shots to other production companies, you see those production companies listed by name, with all of their employees individually credited.

Ever read the liner notes on a music album? The guy who played the triangle gets a credit.

Pig playing a triangle

i don’t mean to knock it – it’s a beautiful instrument.

Ever watch the credit roll at the end of a teevee show? The Executive Producer on the broadcaster side who had nothing to do with the conception or production of the show gets a credit – usually top-billing.

But what do they give a web game developer who handles the art, animation, programming, writing, voice-over, sound effects, music composition and performance, bug testing and sandwich holding? Bupkiss. No credit. And worse – the threat of a lost contract to anyone who dares ask for credit.

Bear bending over

This picture comes up in a Google Image Search for “bupkiss”. No idea why it does, but the image seems appropriate.

Disgrace

i know many of the posts i write here are rife with griping, ranting and finger-pointing, but in this event it’s justified. Old Guard teevee types who pack a show’s credit list with names, but who refuse to acknowledge that a single soul (and in my case, ONLY a single soul) worked on a video game supporting that show, should be publicly shamed. So here i am, publicly shaming them.

For shame!! The people who work on a project must be credited for their work on that project. Vendors must be permitted to showcase that work on their own sites, so that they can successfully contract more work. And the medium of video games – web games included – must be treated as a significant one. The creators of web games are worthy to be recognized to the same degree as producers of film, teevee, music, and radio.

9 thoughts on “Gimme Some Credit

  1. Andrew

    That’s nuts– I didn’t know that was so ridiculous. Now that you’ve spoken, will the metaphorical enforcer break your metaphorical kneecaps?

    Reply
  2. Fiz

    I totally 100% agree with you.

    Unfortunately, even though web games have been around since the early days of web, I think they have only recently started being taken seriously in the realm of professional media. In the 6 years I have been creating Flash games (the last 2 or so of which have been full-time professional years), I can say that I have been fortunate enough to receive credit for most of the work I have done.

    That’s mainly because I have only spent 6 or 7 consecutive months developing games for a client-vendor based company – the rest of the time I have either been making Indie games or worked for companies that develop first party Flash games.

    Still, Flash game developers still don’t get taken as seriously as they should, and this is considering that the casual gaming market is just as big (if not bigger – I haven’t seen any recent numbers) than the hardcore gaming market.

    With the advent of games such as Farmville (more than 60 million players) and other successful social media games, web games are getting more and more recognition as successful entities in media, and hopefully this will help change the way some developers are sometimes taken advantage of such as the case you have mentioned above.

    Kudos to you for bringing up the subject!

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Thanks, Fiz. Casual gaming is big, but i think the console market still takes the lion’s share of the pie chart. i’m interested to know how much credit you’ve received during your 7-month stint at the new place.

      Take a look at the games on Canadian broadcasters’ sites in particular: CBC Kids, Family, YTV, Treehouse TV, TVO Kids. My experience is heavily rooted in kids entertainment, but i’m sure the same goes for adult content. i found a few games with credits on Family, but they were clearly an anomaly.

      Reply
  3. John

    Whilst you can’t insist on having your name in the credits, linking to and mentioning your own work on your own site is a completely different matter.

    If clients, agencies, account managers, legal departments etc. have to give an answer and they aren’t 100% sure, they will say no, every time. They are always free to ASK YOU to remove a link IF THEY SEE IT, and IF they feel strongly enough about it to be bothered.

    I have linked to every piece of work I have ever done at some point, even going to the length of hosting flash games when they have been taken offline by the original client.

    I have never asked for permission, and I have never been asked to remove anything. Ever.

    NDAs that cover current projects and pre-launch work are obviously an exception here.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      John – a web game developer can’t insist on having his name in the credits, yet everyone who works on a film, teevee show, radio program, Conservatory piano recital and a Christmas contata can.

      i might be getting a raw deal here, but i’ve had a client forbid me from promoting my work on a project before i’d ever mentioned it in contract negotiations. i’ve had a company nearly ask me to remove some work when they discovered it on my site, because it was geo-blocked in Canada and could only (technically) be viewed in the UK and Australia. i’ve had a teevee broadcaster send me a Cease and Desist letter demanding that i never refer to them by name on my site, never link to their sites, their clients’ sites or their affiliates’ sites, and to remove any such links that i presently maintained. (i declined.)

      i realized while writing this piece that most of my credit woes seem to originate with the same Canadian broadcaster. Perhaps the secret is just to steer clear of that broadcaster altogether?

      Reply
  4. John

    Ryan, It does depend on the context.

    So much of my work has been for the ad industry, and ads/microsites never have credits anyway so I’ve never been bothered about it, so long as I can link to my work.

    If your work is it’s own product, and not just a promotion, then I guess it’s a different matter. I don’t think i’d let another company white label my work like that and pass it off as their own. that’s just cheeky.

    Sounds like you should steer clear. I guess it depends on how much work you have on. If you can be a chooser not a beggar, tell them where to stick it.

    Reply
  5. Aditya

    * Ouch * as delicate as this topic is.As ave come across this i cannot help but wonder where is the rest of “Our Team” on “http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/our-team/”

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Aditya – we’re only a two-man shop at present. i asked our game developer Jeff for a headshot, but he doesn’t have anything decent. His name is Jeff Gold, so i’ve been using a picture of a gold bar in place of his headshot for funding applications, etc. i credit Jeff all the time in blog posts – he’s the muscle behind Interrupting Cow Trivia, which shows off his programming chops.

      i’ll be enhancing the site over the coming weeks – thanks for pointing out that Jeff’s still missing from that section!

      Reply

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