Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

September 5, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

An open letter from former IGDA board member Darius Kazemi explains why he quit the IGDA with three days remaining in his term after GDC 2013 in March. According to Kazemi, a questionable GDC party sponsored by the IGDA that saw the resignation of Loot Drop's Brenda Romero as co-chair of the IGDA Women in Games SIG, was certainly part of it, but there were other factors. He also cites "fiduciary responsibility" and the "status quo" as other reasons for departing the group dedicated to game developers throughout the world.

He claims that this fiduciary responsibility often put the main goals of the organization - supporting developers - in the back seat and had the organization in a perpetual state of "austerity."

"By continuously repeating that fiduciary responsibility is the primary responsibility of a board member (rather than doing things that are on-mission for the org), the IGDA Board lives in a state of internally-enforced austerity. Even when we have extra money, that money is either saved rather than spent, or it is spent on maintaining the status quo. Financial stability is always chosen over the material interests of the individual developers the IGDA is supposed to represent."

Kazemi goes on to apologize for not being able to enact much change while being a board member:

"I’m sorry that I was unable to enact much change during my tenure. I found it exhausting to go up against the refrain of austerity again and again. By the end of the second year of my term I was basically checked out. I should have resigned right then. I actually tried to resign on a couple occasions, but on each occasion another Board member convinced me that I could do some good by staying on the Board. Then I’d put some effort in, hit the same brick wall, feel like shit, and mentally check out again. I truly wish I’d been stronger."

In a public response to Kazemi, IGDA Chairman Dustin Clingman said that, while they appreciate his public engagement of the organization and always welcome feedback, the primary function of a board member is not fiscal responsibility, but to advocate on behalf of game developers "to ensure quality of life, the perpetuation of our craft and help prepare the next generation of developers." He also acknowledges that board members do have a fiduciary duty to members to spend their money in pursuit of the aforementioned goals, not the organization's survival.

Clingman mentions a few examples of how the IGDA has fought for developers and the industry in the past, and says that Kazemi's public comments "diminishes them and their hard efforts." Clingman closes by saying that giving up is not the best way to exact positive change:

"It is easy to became disenchanted with the behind the scenes running of a non-profit. Advocating for game developers is hard, thankless, and often controversial work. But the board doesn’t think disengaging or giving up is ever the answer. We are committed to continue working with anyone willing to donate their time to make our industry a better environment for everyone involved – a cause to which we as an organization are still deeply committed."

You can read Kazemi's post here and the IGDA's response here.


Re: Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

The first thing they can start with is the website re-design.  Trying to navigate it in it's current form is pretty bad.  I can see why the Chairman might feel things weren't getting done.  Filing an amicus brief and speaking out agains Amazon marketplace terms is all good, but how long does that really take and how many people does it require?  I always go back to, if it's a priority and you actually care about it, you'll get it done fast.

They also have a membership fee, which is all well and good, but for a non-profit like this I'm not sure how relevant that makes them.

Re: Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

Not really sure what you are saying in regards to the membership fee, but I agree with much of what you say. The IGDA is pretty slow to respond to many pertinent issues. They are alienating many of the game development community. They are doing a pretty poor job for what they say their mission is.

I want the IGDA to be a success, but maybe it is time for another organization to rise up in its place.

Re: Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

Mostly just that as a non-profit, having a membership fee seems odd.  If they were an industry leading lobbyist for developers you'd think companies would donate to keep them afloat rather than requiring membership fees.  

As a prospective developer, I can't even begin to understand what benefits they'd offer that I wouldn't be able to get elsewhere and for free.  If they don't provide personal benefits, and they are mostly just a lobbying force, then I go back to my point about charging member fees being irrelevant.  

For example, browsing or seems wholly more constructive than even taking a small look at who the IGDA is and trying to get in contact with a SIG.

Re: Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

I don't see an issue with charging a membership fee. The ECA does it too and it is a non-profit. 

While the benefits of being an IGDA member are not the most extravagant, they do offer group rates for health insurance, which is something that a lot of game developers need these days. I would love it if they would offer a lot more, and it is a shame that they don't.

Re: Former IGDA Board Member Speaks Out, IGDA Responds

So basically they're trying to be a Union?

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