When looking for work in a creative field, who’s gotten some variation of “We’re offering you an opportunity to get better exposure” or “There’s no pay, but you’ll be getting experience”?
All of us, right?
It’s not at all a new approach, but one that’s become increasingly entrenched in the current economy, particularly in creative jobs where employers literally bank on your passion as a way of not having to pay you.
“We have this narrative that somehow art that comes from poverty or from suffering is more valuable, and that’s bulls#!t – just a way that we justify exploiting artists,” indie game creator and author Anna Anthropy tells Gamasutra in a recent interview about her work, and a recent decision to begin charging for games that she’d been previously releasing for free.
Her latest, “a very very VERY scary house” is being offered in a gaming landscape where independent developers can craft a success story around a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign based on their small-scale version of game in a proven genre. But when it comes to far less mainstream efforts (a John Waters pic versus a Adam McKay movie, if you’d prefer a film comparison), creators in the lower-budget bracket face criticism for seeking money for what are ostensibly passion projects.
Anthropy believes that gender and class enter into it as more mainstream creators put their hands out for games based on existing formulas: “I see this pattern where white dudes’ success at making money is celebrated, is the subject of movies… not unsurprisingly, these games are kind of conservative — graphically-polished Super Mario Bros [-style] games.” By contrast, she says many women game creators she knows are leery of asking for money to develop their games, saying that “they face a lot of hostility,” or the free game work they do.
This line of thinking is deeply embedded — across both genders, really — based on the old saw “As long as you’re doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” We’ve somehow internalized that as a culture to mean that if you’re passionate about something, you should be willing to do it for free. Admiration and respect and the reward of creating the work should be, well, the reward. This discounts the fact that as artists, as creatives, this isn’t just a passion or some lofty pursuit — in most cases, it’s our career, the way we want to live and make a living.
[Header image: “a very very VERY scary house” art]
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