WELCOME TO THE IGDA SWITZERLAND CHAPTER
The IGDA Switzerland Chapter is committed to helping local developers foster connections with the international game development community—particularly through the organization of nationwide “microtalk” events around topical themes as well as guest workshops. We value inclusion and diversity and advocate on behalf of all individuals in the #swissgames community. Connect with us on social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
What is an IGDA Chapter?
An IGDA chapter is a local component of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and is one of the primary ways that the IGDA supports the global game development community. Run by volunteer leaders and supported by the IGDA’s international headquarters, a chapter represents the IGDA locally and advances the organization’s mission in its designated region.
The IGDA affiliation helps IGDA Switzerland to attract members, fundraising, bring in speakers for events, and creating alliances with other organizations or the regional government. Additionally, we have access to the international IGDA community, so that Chapter events and programs can be broadcast to IGDA members and promoted by other IGDA Chapters and Special Interest Groups around the world.
What We Do
The IGDA Switzerland has three main initiatives: campaigning for sustainable business practises, promoting #swissgames abroad, and connecting the #swissgames community through microtalk events and workshops.
The IGDA Switzerland Chapter wishes to tackle the challenging topics of systematic crunch, harassment and discrimination. Building on the IGDA Code of Ethics, and Policy for Responding to Harassment Complaints, our aim is to shift the cultural landscape around game development so that everybody understands the negative consequences surrounding these topics and is less tolerant when they occur. For more information, please visit the Sustainable Business Practises section below.
Our microtalk events serve as platforms for postmortems, lectures, play-testing, and general discussion about the business of studying, making and publishing games. In the past we have hosted microtalk events around game music, death and consequence, empathy, and diversity in game design, featuring remote presentations by distinguished developers like Masaya Matsuura (PaRappa the Rapper, Vib-Ribbon, et al.), Jenova Chen (Flower, Journey, et al.), We Are Müesli (Venti Mesi, SIHEYU4N, et al.), Mike Laidlaw (Dragon Age series) and Josh Larson (That Dragon, Cancer). We have also hosted guest workshops, including pitching training and publishing by the likes of James Schall, VP of of Digital Distribution at SEGA Europe, and game development with Assassin’s Creed founding members Andréane Meunier and Stephane Assadourian.
Our speaker line-up for the Empathy and Diversity micro-talk event featuring speakers based in the U.S., Italy, Mexico and Switzerland.
Everybody is welcome to our events—from curious individuals, students, academics, to seasoned game developers—for the opportunity to hang out, meet old friends and make new ones. Our events are kindly supported by the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia. You can follow Pro Helvetia’s game industry channel on Twitter. We also collaborate with Geneva Game Developers Meetup, Game Developers Suisse Romande meetup in Lausanne, the Swiss Game Center in Fribourg, and the Swiss Game Developers Association (SGDA).
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PRACTISE
The IGDA Switzerland Chapter wishes to tackle the challenging topics of (1) systematic crunch, whether self-inflicted or imposed, (2) harassment and (3) discrimination. Building on the IGDA Code of Ethics, and Policy for Responding to Harassment Complaints, our aim is to shift the cultural landscape around game development so that everybody understands the negative consequences surrounding these topics and is less tolerant when they occur. We therefore wish to lead the way in a positive light and encourage individuals and communities to speak up and report related incidents, thus putting pressure on offenders and giving them reason to reflect on their actions.
If you followed the backlash against Rockstar’s work practises regarding ‘Red Dead Redemption 2,’ toxic work culture at Riot Games and Telltale Games, and the #metoo movement, you’ll be aware of the disastrous short and long-term effects that abusive behaviour can inflict on companies and individuals, which include studio closures, burnout and depression. Turning a blind-eye to such issues means that offenders gain confidence and misdemeanours continue unchecked.
The #swissgames industry is young and thriving, so please join us in ensuring that we experience a long and positive future.
We go by the assumption that you alone are best equipped to know whether you are a victim of either points 1-3, whether you need to take action, and that your judgment and needs take priority when dealing with your own experience. You’re nonetheless welcome to contact the IGDA Switzerland Chapter board in strict confidence for general advice and support. The Chapter is backed by the wider International Game Developers Association, which has far-reaching experience and is always at hand to help.
Best Practise Guidelines
The following are guidelines for sustainable business practises were authored by Chris Solarski and Zoe Bell. You can download the White Paper in PDF format here.
Promoting sustainable business practises is a key issue for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which aims to help foster a healthy game development industry and the respectful treatment of staff. Sustainable business practise guidelines tend to be framed in very broad, high-level terms. This white paper aims to provide practical tips for sustainable management—featuring a series of points that have immediately actionable value.
The following points are warning signs for studios conducting unsustainable business practises, and serve as a first line of protection for employees against abusive working conditions. Each point includes a tip (highlighted in italics) on how to improve management processes.
1. Diversity and inclusivity
We spend the majority of our time at work so the workplace should be a trusting environment where Individuals feel comfortable being themselves—irrespective of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, and religion. Team members should feel comfortable and empowered to have complex, and sometimes difficult, discussions about diversity and inclusion. This courtesy should be extended to the community level with proactive support of individuals in misrepresented and overlooked groups on forums, conference panels, social media, etc. Inclusive teams and communities perform better because they feel their values are shared and, as a result, have a greater sense of purpose and potential to engage wider audiences. Management at sustainable, diverse, and inclusive studios has an open door policy that makes any member of the team comfortable talking openly.
2. Juniors filling key team roles
It is perhaps inevitable that some studio’s will employ recent graduates and juniors to fill key roles. This has positive advantages such as, giving industry newcomers opportunities to further their career as well as reducing base running costs (compared to employing a seasoned industry veteran). However, it must be noted that projects should consequently be allocated significantly more time to compensate for an individual’s lack of experience. Individuals assigned tasks outside their core specialisation should be given even more time to allow them to familiarize with the work. To ease juniors into their roles it is recommended to have a mentoring system in place where one or several experienced developers give due support to newcomers for a minimum of one year.
3. Team-defined schedules
Management should consult team members before milestones are finalised. Scheduling must remain an explicit agreement between the two parties. We suggest the following process, which has proven to be highly effective for calculating schedules, strengthening teamwork and reducing meeting times:
a) Every team member is invited to review a project’s task-list in a shared online document—adding new tasks if any have been overlooked.
b) Once the list is complete, each team member works independently to assign a personal time estimate to each task—including those outside their area of expertise—and submitting their estimates to the group document when complete.
c) Task estimates are compared and those with a consensus are automatically confirmed, while those that have drastically different timeframes must be negotiated. It is common that the average figure is eventually agreed upon.
Nobody can overcome the Fast/Cheap/Good project management triangle (image via purechat.com)
Once the team supplies the schedule estimates, only then can management set outward facing schedules to avoid undue pressure on the team. Physical and mental fatigue will undoubtedly occur if management is in the habit of dictating task timeframes without acknowledging the team’s needs to perform their work correctly.
4. Respect the medium
Iteration on gameplay is key to development. Not only is gameplay and interaction the essence of the art form, iterating quickly with “grey-box/white-box” prototypes BEFORE implementing art assets is an industry standard because prioritising production quality art and assets over gameplay creates top-heavy projects, where adjusting the underlying gameplay becomes increasingly difficult. The project may appear cheaper upfront but will ultimately suffer delays and team conflict due to the subordination of game design and the inherent development complications created by this approach.
5. Systematic crunch
Overtime that occurs on a regular basis (systematic crunch) is a telltale sign of disconnect between management expectations and time allocated for specific tasks—as described in point (3). Management should make it a priority to avoid team members having to work outside of normal work hours to ensure a healthy work/life balance. Game development is an unpredictable business due to the multidisciplinary nature of the medium so, in addition to collaborative scheduling, a minimum 30% buffer should be added to every project estimate, by default. Eliminating crunch ensures healthier, happier teams and higher turnover in the long-term.
6. Project reviews
Project reviews are a good opportunity for both management and team members to express what went right and what could be improved. Management should be open to criticism to demonstrate camaraderie and learn from its mistakes. Management should conduct regular project reviews timed to coincide with the end of sprints or milestones. Project reviews should be used to self-assess and see if there is anything different that management could be doing to ensure the team’s success. Honest self-assessment by both management and the team will result in better processes, a stronger team, and better games. Above all else, tension is unavoidable in any business but it should never become the normal mode of operation.
7. Lack of gratitude towards team members
This is a characteristic of management or team members that work independently, in isolation of the team and the development process. When not working alongside team members, individuals will tend to develop unrealistic expectations that are often the result of points (2-4), in particular. A team that doesn’t receive gratitude and celebration of its achievements will lose moral and become less effective. Management should find ways to celebrate the success of the team through team outings, awards rewarding exceptional performance, and calling out wins publicly to the team. If the team experiences development issues—which is inevitable in any business—management should take responsibility and frame the discussion as a positive opportunity to learn and improve.
Burnout can occur to individuals of all ages with points (2-7) being major contributing factors. Management should remain vigilant for symptoms of physical and mental exhaustion. Symptoms of burnout include chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention, physical symptoms, increased illness, loss of appetite, anxiety and depression. If any of these symptoms occur in the workplace, management should be supportive and review whether stress at work is a contributing factor and act accordingly, if so.
9. Staff retention
High staff retention is indicative of a healthy business. The benefits of staff retention include a strong team dynamic and retention of specialist skills and knowledge. It’s also a sure sign that staff enjoy working at a particular studio. When team members leave after 1 month, 4 months or a year then these benefits are lost and significant time and energy must be invested to recruit and integrate replacement team members. Such a business model wrongly assumes that there is an endless pool of developers to replace the leavers, and ignores the fact that the studio’s reputation will eventually stifle its ability to recruit talented developers or developers at any level. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a median annual turnover rate of 15%, and states that the cost to replace an employee can be 6-12 months of their annual salary (or more, depending on the role). The IGDA’s 2017 Developer Satisfaction Survey suggests an annual turnover for the game development industry with survey participants reporting an average of 2.2 employers—significantly higher than the norm [please note that the survey does not distinguish between voluntary turnover (quitting a job by choice) and involuntary turnover (being laid off or fired].
If a studio exhibits a few or all of the above symptoms, team members are encouraged to print a copy of the Business Sustainability: Best Practise Guidelines white paper and invite their manager(s) or studio head(s) to discuss company policy during a discreet meeting. It is occasionally advisable to invite a neutral third person to the meeting as a silent observer to encourage a balanced and fair discussion. Your request should not be met with hostility or trivialised since everybody’s opinion is valuable and sustainability is in the studio’s best interests. In the unfortunate event that management is unresponsive or hostile, the next step is to raise the issue with IGDA Switzerland Chapter or IGDA HQ. Members of the community should feel confident approaching the IGDA for advice and be guaranteed support wherever necessary without the threat of negative repercussions.
WHO WE ARE
The IGDA Switzerland Chapter is proud to have a diverse and nationwide team. We work to a flat management structure, where everybody has an equal say and equal opportunity. However our formal titles are as follows:
Martina Hugentobler (Zurich) @MaHugentobler
Lene Amrein (Olten/Bern) @LeneStrange
Cem Köker (Geneva) @GenevaGameDevs
Stefan Schmidlin (Zurich) @stefonair
Nathan Ornick (Basel) @subradar
Chris Solarski (Zurich/Winterthur) @SolarskiStudio
IGDA board members must have valid IGDA membership. In exchange for their contribution to the organisation, they are given support to attend international events as ambassadors of the Swiss Chapter and #swissgames.
Members of the board have the following primary responsibilities:
- Campaign against systematic crunch (whether self-inflicted or imposed), harassment and discrimination
- Organize nationwide microtalk events and workshops around topical themes with the support of Pro Helvetia and local sponsors
- Encourage local developers to become IGDA members
- Events should consist of local developers and international guests speaking remotely; especially encouraged are collaborations with with regional IGDA Chapters
- Events should be recorded and distributed on Discord wherever possible, to increase the viewership beyond those who could physically attend
- Reach out to local game-related events to secure discounts for the IGDA community in exchange for promotion
- Organize an IGDA booth at local game-related events, where a cycling roster of games by IGDA members from around the world can be hosted
The IGDA Switzerland Chapter promotes and addresses the needs of individual game developers in their day-to-day practise. The following are initiatives that the Chapter is currently supporting, which are based on the IGDA’s global initiative and the needs of local developers:
- Building a nationwide team of board members and volunteers—representing all corners of Switzerland
- Promoting diversity and inclusivity in game development as well as actively challenging cases of abusive management practises and sexism
- Sustainability of #swissgames, including pitch training, business management and global marketing
- Promoting #swissgames by broadening relations between local develoeprs and the international community
Fundamentally, Chapters exist for the good of the IGDA Membership and the local game development community. Therefore, Chapters are required to hold elections. Elections allow IGDA members to have a voice in their chapter’s leadership. Being elected (or re-elected) by your IGDA peers affirms that the community believes in your impact and leadership and in the Board’s direction of the Chapter.
Voting is scheduled to occur on the 25th May (or the nearest convenient date) each year. To ensure a fair election system, voting will be conducted via an online system to ensure that 100% of IGDA members have an opportunity to vote—irrespective of their location and their ability to pay for the high costs of travel in Switzerland.
THE #SWISSGAMES INDUSTRY
The Swiss game development industry is comparatively small alongside the U.K. and France, for instance, which are home to some of the biggest studios like Rockstar and Ubisoft. This can partially be attributed to Switzerland’s small size and its late start in the field. The semblance of an actual community is arguably 8 years old, dating back to 2010 and Pro Helvetia’s Game Cultureprogram, which was instrumental in coordinating all the individuals with Swiss connections working in and around games at home and abroad. Since then Switzerland has experienced tremendous success.
Anybody following @gameculture_ch on Twitter—Pro Helvetia’s game news channel—will witness a constant stream of successes from prize winning indie games at the prestigious GDC Best in Play awards, to game-related technology being bought by the likes of Steven Spielberg, and Apple. It’s why companies like Facebook, Disney, and Magic Leap recognise the excellence of Swiss research in visual computing and have set-up offices in Switzerland. For a small country we’ve managed to make a big impact on the international scene.
Around 80 startups in Switzerland are involved in the development of video games. The industry had an estimated turnover of 50 million Swiss francs in 2017. Studios are mainly concentrated in Zurich, Lausanne and Geneva. Notable game development studios and game-related technology providers include: GIANTS Software, Opticale, apelab, EverdreamSoft, Disney Research, Artanim, and CtrlMovie. Game development bachelor’s programs are run at University of Lausanne GameLab (UNIL GameLab), HEAD Media in Geneva, EPAC in Saxon, SAE Geneva and SAE Zurich, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), the University of Luzern, and the Game Technology Center at ETH. However, a wider network of academics and game-related studies exists with a full list available on request. Organisations like Pro Helvetia, Alp ICT and swissnex continue to offer significant support to help the local game development community create a sustainable industry—offering business and publishing workshops, development grants, international promotion and national events like the Ludicious Zurich Game Festival, gameZfestival, and Zurich Game Show.
However, with some exceptions, video games are still seen as somewhat of a hobby industry by the Swiss press and government, which hinders the country’s ability to build a strong infrastructure to complement the creative and technical talent that already exists. What’s missing is a complete gaming ecosystem that includes a comprehensive network of game publishers, game-orientated collaboration spaces and pro-gaming investors and press. A home-grown game development ecosystem would mean that Swiss developers become less reliant on international business connections, while increasing their ability to attract the best talent from around the world.
The Swiss Game Developers Association (SGDA) is the Swiss gaming industry’s political representative with a focus on facilitating pro-video game legislation and government funding. But it’s an ongoing, concerted effort that demands the community works together—including the IGDA Switzerland Chapter, and grassroots meet-ups like Game Developers Suisse Romande, and Gamespace, to name just a few. In March 2018, the Swiss Federal Council acknowledged the game industries cultural value, promising new initiatives and funding opportunities. Swiss publisher, Ibex Games, has also been formed with the promise of addressing the specific needs of #swissgames developers.
BECOME AN IGDA MEMBER
Becoming an IGDA member, comes with local and international benefits, including:
- The opportunity to leverage a global network over 150 IGDA Chapters and Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
- Access to exclusive IGDA knowledge
- Career help via the IGDA Career Center and events like the IGDA Mentor Café
- Discounts that include 25% on Unity Plus and 10% on Unity Pro; 10-30% on passes to major industry events around the world such as Nordic Game, Casual Connect, GDC, and DICE, to name a few; and 10% on the GDC Vault
Click here to become a member. To join this Switzerland Chapter group you must be a registered IGDA member and signed into the site. Click “Sign In” in the upper right corner next to the search bar and login to continue. Then return to this page and click the “join” icon above the header image.
ABOUT THE IGDA
The IGDA is the world’s largest membership association for game developers. Our mission is to make game development a sustainable, fulfilling career for anyone with the desire and aptitude to pursue it. We have Chapters on six continents and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) led by developers around the world, all dedicated to supporting game developers at every stages of their career.
From aspirational game developer to veteran, hobbyist to expert, we work to help game developers worldwide by advocating for the interests of game developers, promoting constant improvement of the craft of game development, and, most importantly, connecting our members with their peers. We work to empower every game developer to impact their career and the industry, and Chapters and SIGs are some of the most important resources available to IGDA members and the game development community at large.
The IGDA is a non-profit membership organization, registered as a 501(c)6 entity in the United States. Learn more about the IGDA at www.igda.org/about.
IGDA Code of Ethics and Zero Tolerance Policy
The IGDA wishes to promote respect in the gaming community at large. Please inform us if something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter how minor it seems. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments or attitudes related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, and religion. In particular, if there are ever any aspects of our events including our communication, artwork, performances, game selection, event partners which you feel are offensive or makes you uncomfortable. The complete IGDA Code of Ethics is located here.
Use this form to contact the Switzerland Chapter.