State of Game Development Industry 2023: Mental Health and Workplace Culture

Explore 80lv Research report about the Mental Health State of the Industry where our team contacted 500+ gaming industry professionals, and conducted interviews with experts to learn about employees’ loyalty, combatting burnout, and companies’ efforts to support mental health.

The 80 Level Research team conducted a global survey among 500+ gaming industry professionals to receive valuable insights about workplace culture and different methods of supporting employees’ mental health in gaming companies. Industry professionals from 56 countries share their experiences on topics such as emotional well-being at work, burnout prevention, leadership, hiring process, and layoffs.

Explore our new State of the Industry report with:

  • An extensive examination of workplace culture, mental health, and HR trends;
  • The latest data from 56 countries sourced through surveys and interviews;
  • Insights from 500+ professionals, including students, freelancers, employees, and CEOs.

Image credit: Joran Vergoessen

Beyond Exhaustion: Mental Health and Burnout in the Workplace

“In the game development industry where people work for really long hours, where a lack of managerial skill and the toxic idea that our passion is what keeps us employed, all make it harder to maintain ones’ well-being.” — From the podcast with Eve Crevoshay, Executive Director at Take This

In order to maintain employees’ mental health, the majority of companies offer flexible schedules and remote work options (63%) and strive to create an inclusive work culture (41%). However, not a lot of studios provide a 4-day work week (7%) or train their managers to support employees’ mental health (13%). Surprisingly, 19% of respondents said their companies don’t take any measures to improve the work environment and mental health.

According to respondents’ opinions, work culture, managers’ professionalism, and the ability to plan play a big role in employees’ mental health. Even the most well-drafted programs and good working conditions may not bring success without a proper managerial approach:

“Without the responsibility of top managers about project decisions, clear planning, and the ability to spread the workload efficiently, no health hours or massage sessions could compensate for stress.” — Survey respondent

“I have witnessed firsthand the negative effects of not respecting personal time. I believe it is a selfish approach because if my staff members are working, I should also be working... Just as I respect their time, I expect the same in return. They should have time for themselves, whether it's spending time with friends, and family, reading a book, or playing games. It is important to show that we value their time, and in return, they will value what we are building together. — From the interview with Shahrizar Roslan, CEO at Kaigan Games.

Many companies just create the appearance of caring about employees’ mental health. One of the respondents сalled it: “band-aids for unaddressed crunch culture.” In addition, taking into account the specifics of the gaming industry, employees are forced to overwork in order to meet deadlines:

“The reality of the workload that needs to be completed fast and cheap at a AAA level makes it really hard to get away from the maelstrom of stress. In other words, it's more a problem that arises from business practices in today's society than a problem solely with this studio.” — Survey respondent

Consequently, it’s important to provide employees with basic mental health support, like psychological assistance or establishing a schedule that’s convenient for them, and also promote employee growth and development:

“Encouraging growth and understanding that even mistakes at work have a solution is fundamental. Working in fear of making mistakes and being reprimanded is detrimental and devastating.” — Survey respondent

"A trust relationship thrives on reciprocal communication. It hinges on respecting and actively supporting individuals in their career journeys. Cultivating such respect fosters an environment where candid and meaningful conversations can flourish." — From the interview with Joshua Axner, CEO at Gimbal Zen. The interview was conducted at the IGDX Conference (Indonesia Game Developer eXchange).

“It is crucial to be cautious when identifying signs of distress among employees. Creating an open and supportive workplace culture can help in this regard. As an organization, it is our responsibility to provide tools and resources to support these individuals, such as benefits, paid time off, mental health days, and sabbatical leaves.'' — From the interview with Mufizal Mokhtar, General Manager at Virtuos Kuala Lumpur

Remote Work Is Here To Stay

After the pandemic, about half of respondents continue to work fully remotely (47%). 33% of specialists use a hybrid work format, and only 15% of respondents work fully in a physical office. 

“We have implemented flexible working arrangements, allowing employees to work in the office or remotely. This has greatly impacted our ability to attract talented individuals, especially when setting up studios in locations like Singapore or Indonesia, where finding experienced professionals can be challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the trend of remote work in the industry, and we have focused on building a strong sense of community. We organize virtual team lunches, and coffee chats over video calls, and engage in virtual events and multiplayer games to foster bonding and connection.” — From the interview with Matthew Quek, Co-Founder & CEO at The Iterative Collective.

The majority of respondents would prefer working from home in order to take care of family and be able to save money on childcare and commuting. This applies especially to new employees who started their careers after the pandemic; professionals feel a sense of unfairness because those who worked for the company before the pandemic remained remote. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

One of the other efforts that is valued by employees is a company’s attention to diversity and inclusion. It’s worth noting that more than 50% of companies don’t take any actions to support diversity, equity, and inclusion among workers (52%). As for other studios, a quarter of them often use inclusive hiring practices (26%), and 18% implement training courses for employees. Besides that, not many industry players set up diversity and inclusion goals or conduct surveys among employees to monitor and assess the environment in the company. 

“It’s important to bring successful practices from different sectors into a community with diverse demographics and aspirations. This requires active listening and going into the field to understand the unique dynamics and needs. The foundation of these efforts lies in effective communication and respect, fostering an environment of continuous change and adaptation.” — From the interview with Dr. Tan Chin Ike, Head of School & Associate Professor at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU / APIIT).

Adopting a Mindful Leader Mindset

As managers’ culture and attitudes towards workers are very significant aspects of mental health, survey specialists assessed their managers’ activities in this area. The estimated score is good, in terms of creating an inclusive work environment, acting ethically, and recognizing employees’ contributions. 

“Creating a safe and supportive environment encourages open communication. It is important for leaders to have an open-door policy and actively listen to their team members' challenges and concerns. By providing a safe space for expression, employees feel appreciated and valued. This applies to all levels of the organization, including managers and artists. It is crucial to foster a culture where it is acceptable to discuss both achievements and mistakes and to find solutions together.“ — From the interview with Elvis Chew, Head of Production at Anima.

Four Ultimate Components of Employees’ Loyalty

Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is considered to be an important metric for measuring

employees’ loyalty to the company. The concept is widely popular and adopted in several established and emerging industries. 80 Level has executed factor and regression analysis aimed at spotting the factors influencing the eNPS of a company and the score rating from individuals.

Our survey revealed a negative eNPS score (-19%) that demonstrates a certain level of disloyalty among most professionals, from an emotional point of view. Respondents aren’t willing to recommend their companies to job seekers.

  • All 5 of the test scores load onto the first factor (Managers’ Mindfulness), being integral for the eNPS score. All 5 of the manager component scores are higher than 0.85;
  • The second factor (Company’s Care for Employees Wellbeing) also indicates that these 3 factors have a communal effect in determining the eNPS score. The component scores of 0.6 and higher among these 3 questions are included in the factor;
  • The third factor (Remote Work Support) showed high component scores with the satisfaction of remote work policies with a component score of 0.725 and a negative component factor of 0.915 — the pandemic’s influence on remote work policy contributing to the overall eNPS;
  • Last but not least, “The Experience” is one of the other major factors contributing to the eNPS score, with the compound score close to 1–0.758. This factor included 3 sub-factors, such as the level of specialty, number of years working at the company, and number of years in the video game industry in general.

“While loyalty to a company is valued, it is also important to ensure job satisfaction in the long term. Employees may choose to switch companies despite their loyalty. However, more personal reasons such as aligning with a company's principles and being passionate about its products can contribute to longer tenures. For example, I remained with a company for a decade because I believed in its mission and the product we created. It was the product itself that made the company stand out to me, apart from just the perks or culture.” — From the interview with Mufizal Mokhtar, General Manager at Virtuos Kuala Lumpur

Furthermore, the research team ran a regression analysis in order to help determine the impact of independent variables (the factors above) on the dependent variable (eNPS) and to make predictions or draw conclusions based on the observed data. The independent variables included the experience of the individuals, the management style/mindfulness, the remote work policy, and the level of care provided by the employers for employees' mental health. Independent variables collectively explain approximately 60% of the variability observed in the eNPS. This is indicated by the standard R square value of 0.6, which represents the proportion of the variance in the eNPS that can be accounted for by the independent variables. 

How to Make Employees Happy and Increase eNPS? Practical Tips

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“When you're managing a team or leading an organization, at the root, this is a group of individuals, and they will give you the best work they can do when you respect them, make them feel safe, and are transparent and open with them about how this is working and what's going on in the organization.” — From the podcast with Eve Crevoshay, Executive Director at Take This


The game development industry needs improvement. More than 70% of professionals are dissatisfied with the workplace environment at their current companies. Unpaid overwork, layoffs, and the lack of managers’ support have a negative effect on employees’ mental health.

To enhance employees’ willingness to endorse their company as a place to work, it’s crucial for businesses to prioritize the cultivation of mindful managers. This involves focusing on key aspects such as emotional intelligence, and empathy towards the team, fostering a positive and inclusive work environment, supporting professional development and growth opportunities, and serving as role models for their teams.

Want to explore more? Check out the 80lv talk on Gamescom Asia 2023 where our Lead of Market Research Viktoria Steshina summarises key insights from the research and navigates the challenges of the game development industry, addressing the pressing issue of workplace culture's impact on mental health.

We at 80 Level can understand the challenges you face, so we can’t end this report without giving you some practical tools that can help you solve these problems.

80 Level Talent is a premium job‑matching service catering to all creative industries. We offer highly effective ways to hire and be hired; 

  • As a specialist: sign up to our platform, publish your portfolio, get your works promoted on our website and social media, and browse our job openings. It’s free!
  • As a company: sign up to search our database of pre-screened, job-ready, high-level candidates; post job openings; and promote your organization to a growing audience of video game professionals.

In this report, we tried not to just describe the current state of workplace culture in the game industry, but also to give businesses practical tips on how to improve it. We hope you found it useful. Every company is different, and you may face some unique challenges that need to be addressed. Our team can help you with that.

We do quantitative and qualitative research, tailored to your company’s needs, to help you get valuable market insights to drive business success. Learn more about 80 Level Research and request research tailored to your needs.

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