The results of the first analysis gave an overview of a mostly diverse and supportive atmosphere in the Finnish game industry. According to the results, 89% of respondents agreed that their game studio or school accepts persons from diverse and marginalised backgrounds. For example, 82 % of the respondents said that if someone at their workplace or school came out as transgender, non-binary or similar, they would be supported and welcomed, and people would use their new name and pronouns. 76 % of the respondents agreed with the statement, “At my studio, workplace, or school, men and non-men are treated equally”.
Dispersion appeared when the answers from male respondents, non-male respondents and responses of those identifying in marginalised groups were analysed separately. While the majority of non-male respondents and people from marginalised groups still agreed with the statements, the number of people disagreeing about acceptance and support increased. For the full results of the first analysis, please read the article “Diversity, inclusion and equal treatment in the Finnish game industry”.
This time the focus is on the respondents’ personal experiences of their game industry workplaces in Finland. In the survey, we asked how typical it is to encounter negative experiences in Finnish game industry workplaces; for this part of the analysis, I examined these experiences from the perspectives of a marginalised position, gender or years in the industry. The major findings are summarised below, followed by broader insights into those topics. If you wish to read how the analysis was conducted, please jump to the Material collection and analysis section.
Harassment and unfair treatment in the Finnish game industry
- 38 % of all respondents had no negative experiences from their game industry workplaces in Finland. These people did not form one homogeneous group; the group included people from different gender identities, people from both marginalised and non-marginalised groups and people with varying career lengths in the game industry. However, identifying as a man, not belonging to a marginalised group or having a career over 10 years in the industry seemed to protect most from encountering negative experiences at work.
- 62 % of respondents had experienced harassment or unfair treatment in their game industry workplace. Belonging to a marginalised group significantly added more harassment experiences. Women and people belonging to gender minorities experienced harassment and unfair treatment more commonly, and their experiences were more severe.
- The number of years in the industry does not fully correlate with negative experiences. The least negative experiences were among those who had been in the industry for more than ten years or with the industry experience from several months to two years.
- People who had left the industry had experienced more negative issues in their previous game industry workplaces than those who still worked in the industry.
Harassment and unfair treatment at work are prohibited by law in Finland but still commonly experienced in the Finnish games industry
The good news from the survey is that 38 % of respondents hadn’t experienced unfair treatment or harassment at their game industry workplaces. These people did not form one single group; they were from different gender identities, representing both marginalised and non-marginalised groups, and the years of experience in the industry varied in the given timeframes, from months to over ten years.
However, over half, 62 % of the respondents, had experienced some form of unfair treatment or harassment at their game industry workplaces. It is important to note that almost all options listed in the survey fall under harassment and unfair treatment at work and are prohibited in Finland by several laws. The most important law in this context is the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act. According to that act, every employer has the duty to take action to prevent harassment at work. Read more from the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which supervises this act. They also offer guides about pay, working hours and holidays for foreign employees working in Finland in 15 different languages.
The Equality Act forbids discrimination and unfair treatment based on gender, gender identity and gender expression in Finland. This act is supervised by the Ombudsman for Equality. Age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics are grounds for discrimination prohibited by the Non-discrimination Act, supervised by The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. Also binding in the work-related context is the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life.
Some cases listed in the survey, such as rape and cases of sexual harassment, fall under the Criminal Code in Finland. Chapter 20 of the Criminal Code is related to sexual crimes and was reformed at the beginning of 2023. Now, for example, sex without consent is now defined as rape in Finland. Finally, according to the Constitution no one shall be treated differently on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason. Read more about these topics on the yhdenvertaisuus.fi website provided by the Finnish Ministry of Justice.
Marginalisation increases harassment experiences
The likelihood of negative experiences in game industry workplaces grows remarkably if the person belongs to a marginalised group based on their sexual or gender identity, religion, disability, chronic illness, being a person of colour, holding immigration status or some other factors.
Of the respondents who had been working or worked in the games industry, 33 % belonged to a marginalised groups. 56 % identify as non-marginalised. This question was not compulsory, but all respondents analysed for this article answered this question. It was also possible to mark “not sure” for an answer, as 10 % of respondents analysed here did. This group’s answers are not presented separately here, but their experiences followed the responses from the people belonging to marginalised groups.
Negative experiences of people belonging to marginalised groups were overall higher than those who did not identify as marginalised. Of the persons not belonging to the marginalised groups, 53 % had no negative experiences. Of the persons belonging to marginalised groups, only 18 % had remained free from negative experiences.
The most remarkable difference between marginalised and non-marginalised people was in the experiences of someone underestimating their professional skills. 51 % of people belonging to marginalised groups had experienced underestimation, whereas only 27 % of non-marginalised people shared the experience of being underestimated. People belonging to the marginalised groups had experienced more negative experiences overall, such as pressure to adhere to gender norms, experiences of bullying or being left out, or feeling singled out. They also more frequently experienced inappropriate questions in job interviews: 23 %, compared to 6 % of the non-marginalised group.
These results speak to the problems of creating an inclusive workplace culture in the game industry. Without a work culture that accepts and embraces diversity and supports belonging, some work community members will likely feel alienated. That can cause detachment from the work community, and even from the game industry.
It is important to note that this questionnaire did not specify whether these experiences happened recently or years ago. We in Games Finland’s next survey, which will be conducted later in 2023, will gather more detail on the questions of progression or regression related to discussed issues.
Women and gender minorities experience harassment more frequently in their game industry workplaces
This study provided an opportunity to examine the respondents’ gender identities in relation to their experiences in workplaces in the game industry. Of the respondents analysed for this article, 40 % identified as men, 47 % women and 13 % belonged to different gender minorities. For analysis purposes and to protect respondents’ privacy, gender minorities in this article include non-binary persons, gender-fluid persons, agender persons, transgender males, transgender females and the respondents who selected the options “prefer not to say” and “not sure”.
Based on this survey, men do not encounter negative experiences in their games industry workplaces that often. 64 % of male respondents said they had not experienced anything negative in their game industry workplaces. Men’s most typical negative experiences were related to being always expected to work overtime or weekends on demand (17 % of male respondents) and getting paid less than co-workers for the same job (15 % of male respondents).
Of the female respondents, nearly one-quarter (24 %) had not experienced anything negative. A vast number, 60 % of women respondents, had encountered someone underestimating their skills in their game industry workplaces. To compare, 11 % of male respondents had similar experiences of underestimation. Fairly common among women respondents were also experiences of feeling pressured to adhere to gender norms, occurrences of unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, stories, remarks or gestures, experiences of bullying or being left out and, similar to men, getting paid less than co-workers.
I specifically want to highlight that there were some negative experiences experienced by women respondents at their game industry workplaces that were not that common, but they were severe: reports of actual or attempted rape or sexual assault. Without question, this is an act against the Criminal Code of Finland and should not happen under any circumstances but most definitely not in a work environment. From 2023 onwards, sexual comments about clothing, anatomy or looks – experienced by 20 % of women respondents – and unwanted messaging, phone calls or pressuring for sex in the work environment – experienced by 9 % of women respondents – may fall under the Criminal code as a consequence of a reform of Chapter 20 of the criminal law on sexual crimes.
The highest number of people with negative experiences in the Finnish games industry were gender minorities. Only 13 % of people belonging to gender minorities had not experienced anything negative in their games industry workplaces in Finland. This means that 87 % had negative experiences in their games industry workplaces. Gender minorities more frequently experienced unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, stories, remarks or gestures, underestimation of their skills, pressure to adhere to gender norms, and getting paid less than co-workers for the same job.
Somewhat worrying was the result that gender minorities face consistently inappropriate questions in a job interview related to gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or appearance: 33 % of gender minority respondents reported this in the survey. Questions about sexual orientation, religion, medical records, children, childcare arrangements, age, military service, relationship status, marriage and ethnic origins are the questions employers should not ask in a job interview without compelling reasons for how these matters are related to the position; this is set out in the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life.
Years in the industry do not fully correlate with negative experiences
As the global game industry has constantly been in the news for misogyny and sexism, it would be reasonable to assume that harassment experiences correlate with the number of years in the industry. However, this is not the case. 55 % of respondents who have had a long – ten or more years – career in the games industry marked that they had not experienced anything negative. Respondents represented all genders: 59 % identified men, 36 % women and 5 % belonged to gender minorities.
Another group with a low number of negative experiences was those with five or fewer years of a career in games. For people with a few months to two years of experience, 40 % had no negative experience, and for those with 2‒5 years’ experience, 37 % said the same. People with 5‒7 or 8‒10 years of a career in the game industry had the highest number of negative experiences in game industry workplaces in Finland.
The volume of this study does not allow further conclusions to be drawn based on these results, but several factors might affect these results. People with over 10 years of experience in the industry most likely hold senior or managerial positions in the industry, and these positions most likely help to minimise negative experiences in the workplace. On the other hand, people with only a few years of experience started work during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is likely that they had mostly been working remotely from home. Remote work does not fully exclude the probability of experiencing negative experiences, but it can raise the threshold. It would also be tempting to think that the work that games industry organisations in Finland have done to prevent harassment and unfair treatment in their workplaces has made the industry better for newcomers. This issue about the differences in the experiences of different games industry generations is worth studying forward.
Negative experiences at work make you leave the entire industry
This study proves the hypothesis that negative experiences at work will cause employees to leave the entire industry. When comparing people currently working in the industry to those who have left the industry, 41 % of those still working in the industry had no negative experiences, but only 24 % of those who had left the industry had not experienced harassment on unfair treatment. Here, I would like to note that the percentages of respondents are not fully comparable, as 100 people were still working in the industry compared to 17 respondents who had left.
People who had already left the games industry had more frequently experienced being bullied or left out, being pressured to adhere to gender norms or stereotypes, being mocked or ignored, always being expected to work overtime or weekends on demand, as well as experiencing inappropriate questions in job interviews, feelings of being singled out, sexual comments and having their disability trivialised.
Based on the previous results, it is evident that factors like gender could provide an even more specific understanding of the reasons why people are leaving the industry, but that was not concluded here since the number of respondents was too low in some subgroups.
Since the games industry is constantly struggling to bring enough educated workforce into the industry, it is futile if negative experiences make educated, professional and knowledgeable employees leave the industry altogether. With new talent, it always takes time to become familiar with work routines, so it is cost efficient to ensure that everyone in the workplace feels safe in the work environment.
Future: Better workplaces for everyone
First and foremost: the company top management should ensure that company HR personnel and other management personnel are aware of the work legislation in Finland. This includes, for example, that all required documents are taken care of, the company has processes for handling harassment cases, and recruitment is done according to the law. For example, all workplaces that employ 30 or more people are obligated to have an equity plan.
This article has highlighted issues that most likely will leave a negative imprint on game industry employees, and showed that persons belonging to marginalised groups, women, and gender minorities encounter negative experiences more typically. When reading these results, there are two misinterpretations to avoid: first, not all people belonging to marginalised groups or genders encounter harassment. While something is typical for a certain group of people, it still does not mean it happens to everyone belonging to that group. The assumption that everyone belonging to a certain group has had negative experiences can be harmful and derogatory at an individual level.
The second misinterpretation is to think these groups are vulnerable and need extra protection. These people need – and every single person in any workplace deserves – is transparent and clear processes related to employment issues, and the trust that there will be consequences if someone is found guilty of inappropriate behaviour. There should always be an option to raise a voice about unequal treatment without jeopardising one’s job or mental health.
It is a fairly heavy way for any company to operate if there is a constant need to recruit and educate new personnel. A more solid solution would be to build HR practices so that the talent of each employee is supported. Occupational health care also provides many options to support personnel’s well-being.
Although most of the above are related to management, overall well-being at work is not only the responsibility of management. Everyone at work can, and should, raise their voice about missing practices, unequal actions and actions that break the law, even if it is not directly related to their own person. Identifying unequal practices and showing that those practices are not accepted can be of great importance to the person affected by the matter.
These suggestions, as well as the results, do not only apply to game industry companies but to every company in Finland. There is no company or industry that is fully diverse, inclusive, equal or accessible, but there are many companies that are already taking steps towards a better work environment – also in the Finnish game industry. It is also worth noting that the work for a safer and more equal working environment is already taking place in other arenas too, for example, at schools and by We in Games Finland.
Material collection and analysis
The results are based on We in Games Finland’s and IGDA Finland’s Experience Survey conducted in 2021. The survey was about the experiences of working in the Finnish games industry. Questions varied from personal experiences to opinions about inclusivity at workplaces, schools and events. The final survey was compiled by Licia Prehn. From We in Games Finland, the following people were involved in the preparation of the survey from 2020 onwards: Anu Tukeva, Jenni Ahlapuro, Taina Myöhänen, Emilia Machuca, Laura Aaltonen, Barbara Leal, Leena Viitanen and Essi Jukkala.
The survey was an online survey created in Google Forms. It was open from January 21st to February 7th, 2021. The survey was shared through We in Games Finland’s member newsletters, IGDA Finland’s newsletters, and several posts on social media targeted for game industry professionals in Finland, such as the Facebook group Play Finland. A total of 178 answers were received, of which 176 were used. Two replies that were dismissed were a test answer and a provocative fake answer.
For this article, where the focus was on experiences of working in the industry, only answers from people who were working or had worked in the game industry were selected – altogether, 117 answers. The selection was made based on answers about respondents’ connections to the Finnish game industry. For this study, the answers “I currently work in the Finnish game industry” or “I have previously worked in the Finnish game industry but currently do not” were selected.
This article was based on a question related to workplace experiences. The question was, “Have you ever experienced any of these issues at your games industry workplace, current or past, in Finland? Click all that apply”. There was a list of pre-given options, and it was possible to check all the options that applied. The last option, “Other”, allowed respondents to add their own experience to the list. The list of pre-given options is included in the following order:
- Inappropriate questions in a job interview related to gender / age / ethnicity/ sexuality / disability/ appearance
- Bullying or being left out because of gender / age / ethnicity / sexuality /disability / appearance
- Feeling pressured to adhere gender norms, e.g. making coffee, decorating, organising parties, dressing a certain way
- Feeling singled out (negatively) due to being the only non-male in a company, team, or project
- Feeling singled out (negatively) due to being the only non-Finn in a company, team, or project
- Feeling singled out (negatively) due to being the only LGBT person in a company, team, or project
- Having your disability trivialized, mocked, or ignored by co-workers’ or team mates
- Someone underestimating your skills because of gender / age / ethnicity / sexuality / disability / appearance
- Intentionally being referred to as the wrong gender or pronoun
- Someone making a racist joke about your native language or culture
- Being made to feel less intelligent for not understanding a specific language
- Feeling pressured to adhere to stereotypes based on your sexuality or ethnicity
- Being made to feel bad, inferior, or left out based on your economic status
- Getting paid less than coworkers for the same job
- Being expected to always work overtime or weekends on-demand
- Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, stories, remarks, or gestures
- Unwanted messaging, phone calls, or pressure for non-work related dates and chat
- Someone asking about, or spreading rumors about, your sexual fantasies, sexual life or sexual history
- Someone making sexual comments about you clothing, anatomy, or looks
- Unwanted deliberate touching (for example leaning over, cornering, hugging or pinching)
- Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault
- I have not experienced anything negative
- I have never/yet worked in the games industry
The following background factors were established in the study and used for this article: gender, connection to the Finnish game industry, years of experience in the Finnish game industry, whether the respondent belongs to a marginalised group on the basis of sexual or gender identity, religion, being a person of colour, disability, chronic illness, immigration status or other factors. Answers to these questions were examined using the background information provided in the study. The total number of people in each subgroup was compared to those who selected one answer in that subgroup.
For this analysis, the gender identities of non-binary, gender-fluid, agender, transgender male, transgender female and the options “prefer not to say” and “not sure” were grouped as one group called “gender minorities”. There were some noteworthy differences when analysing the results based on gender, but to protect the privacy of respondents, the number of respondents in each aforementioned category was too low to present. Combining the results allowed for presenting some typical issues that gender minorities face in the Finnish games industry, but a further study from each individual group is definitely needed.
Sincere thanks to Essi Jukkala, Susi Nousiainen and Felicia Prehn for comments and notes on this article.