The issue of credits

If you follow video games at all, you probably are aware that who goes where in credits can often become A Big Deal. And while having your name scroll by after a game completes is, indeed, an awesome ego boost, it’s more than that: it’s an official record of years of work.

In May, I moved over from 2K Games to Trion Worlds, leaving my position as Senior Manager of Interactive Marketing to become Director of Community. In doing so, I left behind two projects that I had been working on for years: Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. (I’d had my hands in a number of further off projects, but those were the two proverbial babies I had to let go before I saw them through to the end. If you’ve worked in games, you probably can understand how rough this can be.)

I’m proud of my work at 2K Games. I founded their community team in 2006 and grew it to what it was when I left and I think that with me we made some badass stuff, Borderlands 2’s social and community campaign included. (I also want to call out Gearbox’s CM, Chris Faylor, and 2K’s CMs David Eggers, Greg Laabs, and after I left Sasha de Guzman – we make up the team that made that campaign possible.)

So you can imagine that when I sat down on launch week and played Borderlands 2 (which includes rolling the credits because it was a huge trip down memory lane) I was hurt, disappointed, and a bit insulted that I was not only missing from the credit list for 2K Games publishing, I only made it as the very last name in their special thanks section.

We all know that folks leave games before they are complete sometimes, but that doesn’t negate the months and often years of work they put into a title. I worked on Borderlands 2 since it was conceived and left just over three months before it shipped. As such, I am officially not recognized as ever having worked on the title.

In the past few years, I’ve seen complaints over this in the past and always found it to be bollocks, but I suppose I never thought it would happen to me, and certainly not with the company I still regard as family and who I worked with for six years.

Stripping people out of credits is wrong. Our industry lives and dies by official records. Whether you are a designer, a programmer, or a marketing person, if you have worked on a game for the vast majority of it’s production, you should be titled in the game as the role you served during the vast majority of development. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it.

I’m lucky, I guess: Enough people know me that people will believe I worked on those games, but I won’t be mentioned in MobyGames and so in a truly official capacity, those titles are essentially removed from my resume. I can only imagine what it’s like for a less public person who has this happen to them.

I’m still super psyched to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown the day it comes out. Watching today’s interactive trailer filled my heart with glee – I didn’t get to see that video be produced, because I wasn’t at 2K Games anymore, but it’s just as glorious as our first brainstorming session hoped it would be. And I’m sure I’ll feel that exact same pride and joy when I boot up the game for the first time on October 8th – I just probably won’t watch the credits so I can keep that feeling alive.

In closing: the point of this blog post is not just to lament the fact I was taken out of the credits of a game I worked on for years. It’s to shed light on the fact that in the gaming industry, it’s standard practice to do this, and that has real and permanent effects on employee resumes and possibly people’s futures. That, in short, is wrong and shameful.

Keep the names of team members who work on a project for the majority of its development, whether or not they stay until ship date. It’s the decent thing to do.

Edit: An awesome Twitter follower just sent me a link to this Game Crediting Guide although I'm not sure how many grains of salt this thing should be taken with.

Second edit: Thanks to the Good Samaritan Kotaku reader who was touched by Owen's talk of bylines, it's come to my attention that it seems that my blog posts have been stripped from the 2K Games blog. Most likely an error (I was at the top of the list with over 60 posts) but hopefully something that can be retrieved. I might not win a Pulitzer, but some of those articles had good content!

Also: I always tell my devs before they post publicly "never post anything unless you are okay seeing it on the front page of Kotaku. You never know." Sage words to live by, it seems!

6 Comments on "The issue of credits"

Jon H:
Sep 29, 2012 at 8:11pm
As someone who worked for 3.5 years as a game tester, and was never credited once, I can feel your pain. QA gets the short end of the stick constantly, as if devs forget how important they are. While I don't expect much to change, all people who worked on a game should be credited in some capacity. Thanks for bringing this to people's attention.
Sep 29, 2012 at 10:45pm
Most people on Kotaku seem to be against you on this issue. I'm surprised you have so few comments on your blog about it. It seems like people would migrate her to speak their negative opinions directly. Schmucks.
Sep 29, 2012 at 10:49pm
Jay - I think there are some interesting conversations going on in terms of who should be credited in games, overall. I've seen several opinions that only the dev team should be in credits. I hope the conversation opens up a larger discussion into formalizing the process since it does seem to vary wildly between teams and companies and that makes things confusing and complicated.
Sep 30, 2012 at 3:32pm
My thoughts on this are that it won't matter for your next employer. Just because your name isn't listed with your title, doesn't mean you didn't work there. You've got tax records that show you did, and any HR department worth half a damn, will call your former employer to determine if you worked there, not check the credits. It sucks on a personal level to not see your name and the role you played on the product, but professionally, it really won't hurt anyone.
Oct 02, 2012 at 7:42am
This is surprising, especially after Gearbox went through so much trouble to credit people in DNF.
Oct 02, 2012 at 6:52pm
Mike - I realize that credits are a bit unclear, but Gearbox and 2K are two different entities. I actually very much like how Gearbox did their portion of the credits and talked to one of the folks there briefly when I posted this blog. 2K and Gearbox submit credits separately, and I was part of the 2K grouping. :)

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