Game developers have taken to Twitter to share more information about Game Industry Salaries, following the #GameDevPaidMe hashtag on Twitter.
Similarly, Skillsearch also published their own findings, showing average game industry salaries, allowing a good yard stick for many of the developer testimonies.
Artists are arguably the most visible part of the game development team, creating assets like every widely popular character, to tiny details like an incredibly satisfying health bar. The field itself has its own sub-specializations, such as Character Artists (making characters), UI Artists (Making UI elements) and VFX artists (Making effects and simulations).
According to Skillsearch’s study, graduate-level artists were making 23,319 pounds a year, or roughly 11 pounds an hour. This is about 4 pounds more than the UK’s minimum wage. Meanwhile, a Lead or managerial position would net you on average 51,624 pounds, or roughly 24.82 pounds an hour.
#GameDevPaidMe 31yo, 9yrs exp, POC woman, immigrant
£18k – 2D Artist, northeast
£21k – UI Artist, east
£35k – UI Designer, London
£40k – Lead UI/UX Designer, London
Keeping current salary undisclosed for negotiation reasons. At 21k that was the min for a visa, 35k for residency
— Anisa Sanusi (@studioanisa) May 7, 2021
Does the evidence stack up? UI Designer and The Brave Room guest Anisa Sanusi shared that when she was a 2D artist, she was getting paid 18,000 pounds a year, although she didn’t specifically mention when or where this happened. This is still above today’s standards for minimum wage, but not by much.
Programmers have much better prospects on a graduate level, with Skillsearch reporting the average salaries for Programmers sitting at 28,000 pounds a year. This is almost double the UK’s minimum wage at 13.46 pounds per hour. However an important thing to note with average salaries is that a decent average salary only means that an equal number of unacceptably low and ridiculously high salaries exist, since the average doesn’t account for discrepancies between the two.
#GameDevPaidMe, a UK-based white cis male –
£22.5k – junior programmer at Tt*
£22.5k – junior designer at Tt**
£24.3k – designer at Tt
£24.5-26k – level designer at Ubisoft Leamington***
— jacob mills (@JacobWMills) June 7, 2020
Jacob Mills, a Senior Designer at Roll7, opened up about his wages back when he was starting out in programming at Tt Games. According to Mills, his salary at the time was 22,500 pounds, lower than the average graduate artist.
One under-represented part of game development is QA, or Quality Assurance. These less-represented parts of the game development process play through games checking for bugs, giving feedback to developers to make sure their games don’t become synonymous with being broken at launch. Skillsearch didn’t have any data on average QA salaries, but the QA staff on Twitter certainly did.
$12/hr QA (Full time)
$15/hr QA Lead (FT)
$15/hr Dev tools QA (FT)
$10/hr QA (Contract)#gamedevpaidme
Top 3 are Bay Area, last was in Portland
They're a little dated though, 2014 – 2016 https://t.co/KEeUE42nSO
— Travis Q Goodwin (@_Qlone) May 6, 2021
US-based QA Engineer Travis Goodwin opened up about his time in QA, where he says at full time he was earning 12 USD an hour, or 8.49 pounds. Annually that translates to 17k pounds, putting it way below even the graduate-level artists’ average. As a Lead QA, he was earning 15 USD an hour, or 10.62 pounds. This translated to 22,000 pounds, which is once again under an entry-level position for what is supposed to be a senior role.
Travis was quick to clarify that his data may be a little outdated, seeing as the data was from circa 2016. Diana Flindt, a Junior Content Developer at Jagex opened up about her time in QA circa 2019, where the numbers weren’t all that much better.
I really dithered about this but pay transparency is something the industry needs to work on, so here's my #GameDevPaidMe :
2019 (jr QA) – £17k
2020 (jr QA) – £18k
2020 (full QA) – £19.5k
2021 (jr dev) – £28k https://t.co/noMqhsUmHz
— Diana (@diana_flindt) May 7, 2021
According to Diana, a junior QA position only came in at 17k pounds a year, or roughly 8 pounds per hour. When she transitioned to a more senior role her pay was only bumped up to 19.5k, or roughly 9 pounds per hour.
Considering QA engineers jobs is to make sure a game is actually playable before it hits store shelves, the trend that even senior level QA, who by virtue of their work should have a very specific skillset, are getting paid less than entry-level artists is something to be up in arms about.
It’s been widely spread that salary transparency is a bad thing, or impolite at best. GameDevPaidMe is seeking to reverse that, by allowing for more open discussion about salaries in the Games industry. The idea is that if everyone knows that they’re not getting paid enough, they can work together to negotiate for better rates, or promote studios that are already paying them.
While we used the minimum wage in the UK as a yardstick for salaries, being above the minimum wage isn’t really good enough. It’s called the minimum wage for a reason, and is really just the legal limit on how low you can pay your employees. A salary should have room for personal growth, meaning at no point should something like having a kid suddenly put a strain on your finances.
Studio AC Director Adam Campbell also advised game developers that they should look to salary databases like Glassdoor, which would have a broader database of average salaries in the games industry.
On the topic of #GameDevPaidMe one of the regular pieces of advice I give people is to use salary databases to benchmark. The likes of Glassdoor, PayScale and more have 100s of thousands of entries. Benchmark within the tech sector and compare with your years of experience (1/3)
— Adam (GetUrVax) Campbell (@AC_Revolution) May 8, 2021