Studying conditions are often appalling

This article is a sub-section of a large report on French video game studies published by the STJV. You will find the table of contents of this dossier, and links to all its parts, here : https://www.stjv.fr/en/2021/09/report-on-french-video-game-studies/

Content Warning: In this article, we will discuss situations of abuse, harassment, assault, suicide, etc. which may be violent to read for those who have been subjected to such situations.

First of all, just like the video game industry, the studying conditions in video game schools and programs are very poor. While they vary from one school and program to another and from one year to the next, they come to impact every student’s education.

In terms of equipment alone, the STJV was able to identify many shortcomings: obsolete or broken computer equipment and office furniture, sometimes simply not supplied to students, accentuating the differences between students, with the more wealthy ones having access to personal equipment allowing them to work, while the poorer ones have to struggle with what little is made available to them. Some schools go so far as to lie on open house days: we have heard of schools that rent new equipment only for these days, in order to impress parents and future students. Elsewhere, facilities with high humidity, poor ventilation or no heating at all directly harm students’ health.

Although it seems to be becoming less common, many schools do not provide licences for software needed for courses. The installation of cracked (pirated) software on school computers or directly on students’ computers is a practice repeatedly addressed by the respondents. As in this testimony from a former ISART Digital student:

One of the compulsory steps before the start of the school year consisted in bringing one’s personal PC to the school’s IT department, so that the latter could install several cracked versions of software – normally not free – on it.

As reported in detail in the first articles published at Gamekult and Libération, the workload is far too high in video game and animation education, replicating the worst of the “crunch” found in the industry. The lack of teaching coordination leads to an accumulation of projects that cannot be completed and submitted under normal conditions, and the submission dates chosen (just after weekends or holidays) lead to overwork. When it is not the pedagogical management itself that pushes students to work themselves to death: we were able to consult numerous emails and messages sent to students in which they are pushed to work more and more, and where sleepless nights are presented as the norm, or even an ideal to be reached.

Expectations in terms of quality and quantity are also far too high, and exceed what would be expected of students in the midst of learning. Schools and teachers encourage them as much as possible to “produce” projects that look like finished products. The pedagogical aspect of the assignments is completely sidelined: the marketability of the projects (and thus the free work of the students) is the only thing that counts, without taking into account the consequences on studying and living conditions. Overwork is bad for one’s physical AND mental health, and is particularly dangerous at an age of social and intellectual construction.

In terms of socialisation during studies, the same major pitfalls were found in each of the schools for which we received testimonies. Sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other kinds of discrimination based on students’ identity, culture, place of living, disability, health, etc. are present everywhere, to varying degrees. Under the guise of ‘jokes’ a constant atmosphere develops in which anyone who falls outside the industry norm is reminded that they are not welcome. This sometimes leads to discrimination in school grades and promotion to the next year of school. Harassment by students, teachers, staff and/or management is not uncommon and every year leads to students dropping out of school, becoming depressed or, in rarer and more extreme cases, committing suicide. The second articles published by Libération and Gamekult address the case of sexism in more depth.

These abuses are made possible by the all-too-common lack of supervision of students. The lack of time and resources allocated to professors is partly to blame, and this situation is caused by the inaction of management, which considers all this supervision to be “secondary”, denying that student life is an integral part of the studies. Some schools go so far as to consider that everything that happens outside of projects and grades does not concern them: this has sometimes been explicitly said to teachers and students. This allows them to sweep aside reality and the direct responsibility of schools in the lives of students, be it their personal needs (disabilities, social situation, health, financial precariousness, etc.) and their relationships with other students (on social networks, between courses, at parties and events, etc.). The consequences of this lack of accountability are devastating, leading to students committing suicide when their schools’ management deliberately ignores repeated reports of harassment or attacks.

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