The International Game Developers Association announced on Monday that it is launching a health care program through an alliance with Association Health Programs, a service reserved for members – and one of the goals founder Ernest Adams dreamt of way back when he created the organization, only to be (along with a bevy of subsequent leaders) thwarted by the global nature of the organization and the immense legal complexities involved.
While details of the program are still unknown, this is kind of a big deal.
For years the IGDA has been criticized (by me as well as others) that it doesn’t provide sufficient services to really justify membership. At $48 a year, the cost to be an IGDA member isn’t really that big a deal, but professional organizations, be they unions, guilds, or simply associations, have a certain responsibility to provide something. Otherwise, why join, except to promote a sense of solidarity?
Well, the solidarity was good enough for many, as the IGDA has over 15,000 members; and it’s unfair to say that the Association doesn’t do anything for people. Actually the IGDA does a ton: sponsors events, publishes books, provides advocacy, oversees 500 chapters globally, organizes special interest groups, and much more. But you didn’t actually have to be a member to get access to most of that stuff. Plus, as great as those things are, they all fall into the category of “stuff that should be free.”
Game development is a really rough business, particularly for developers themselves, who exist in an industry dominated by big-money publishers and are often employed at the whim of an executive who knows nothing about games and cares nothing about the importance of the medium as an entertainment art form. And since developers often get into the business out of passion rather than true savvy, they often make mistakes or need guidance. Arguably, the role of the IGDA should be to help developers avoid mistakes, and to provide guidance and support. And so the addition of this health care program, however limited, is a huge step in the right direction.
Is this health care program going to be better than the one a developer gets at his or her company? Probably not. But it’ll be cheaper than COBRA, and the idea of being unemployed and uninsured is pretty terrifying to most people. For the simple cost of a membership, American IGDA card-carriers are granted some peace of mind through the rise of this program.
American. Yes, that’s a clincher. The program is (currently) only available in the United States, a fact that some have already started bitching about, in a tone similar to those people who complained about Left 4 Dead 2; emitting outraged squawks as though Valve owed anyone anything. Of course, the IGDA does owe members something, and it’s giving it to them. Let’s bear in mind that a huge majority of IGDA members live in North America, and that nothing about the program precludes expansion into other territories, or alliances with other providers. Plus health coverage in the rest of the world isn’t quite as barbaric as it is in the United States, so arguably America’s the country that needs it most.
To be perfectly honest, health care wouldn’t have been the first new service I’d have launched if I was in charge, but I’m not complaining. The knowledge that I’ll still have access to some form of health coverage, however minimal (and we don’t know how comprehensive or not the program will be yet), if my day job falls through, well, lemme tell you, that’s a relief I never even knew I needed until I got it. Three cheers for the IGDA as it begins a long journey toward being the kind of organization that developers can depend on for more than just my brilliant monthly meanderings.