For gamedev, Texas is one of the most promising American states. However, it may soon cease to be so. Many experts in the gaming industry fear that the recently enacted anti-abortion law threatens both the career of developers and the work of the studios themselves.

The Game Developer portal wrote about this in its material. We share the main thing.

A little bit about game dev in Texas

Today, Texas is considered one of the fastest growing states in America in industrial terms. New game studios regularly appear here. This year, at least four major gaming companies have opened new offices here: Crystal Dynamics, Activision Blizzard, 2K and Wizards of the Coast.

According to the calculations of the investment company JLL, in 2018 there were 270 game studios and publishers in Texas. And, as the University of Texas at Austin found out, as of the beginning of 2019, 20 thousand specialists from the gaming industry worked in the state.

In part, such a large number of developers is explained by the lack of income tax in the state.

However, due to the new law, according to some experts, the state may cease to be a mecca for American teams.

What kind of law?

In May 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), a law that prohibits abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. According to lawmakers, starting from this period, you can hear the heartbeat of the fetus. In addition, the law allows you to sue those who help with abortion: doctors or, for example, relatives of a pregnant woman. You can earn up to $ 10 thousand on such a claim.

The law was repeatedly challenged in federal courts (including the Supreme Court), but on September 1 it came into force.

After that, the discussion around the law flared up even more. For example, US President Joe Biden spoke out against him.

What does game dev have to do with it?

The law was not ignored by gaming companies either. In early September, the president of Tripwire Interactive got into a scandal — he supported the adoption of the law, for which he paid with the post. At the same time, many eminent developers, in particular Cory Barlog, sharply criticized the Texas law.

Plus, according to Game Developer, ordinary developers are now increasingly talking about their unwillingness to work in Texas.

Marcie Phillips was one of the first to publicly talk about the problems she had to face because of SB 8. She is a game designer working with AI in games.

As Phillips writes in her Twitter thread, in August she decided to send a resume to the studio from Texas, although she herself lived in another state. At that moment SB 8 was not finally approved and there was hope that the law would not come into force. Over time, it became clear to the woman that the law was inevitable, so she warned the HR department of the studio that she did not want to move and agreed to work only remotely. The company did not like her reaction, so the studio refused further interviews.

“It was like I was hit on the head with a butt,” Phillips was indignant. She realized that she could not compete with men who applied for the same position and were not afraid of the anti-abortion law.

Ultimately, Phillips was still able to negotiate with the company she wanted to get a job with. The game designer explained to the studio that she does not intend to move to Texas because she worries about her rights and physical health. The company agreed to Phillips’ terms, conducted final interviews and hired her.

Another developer opposed to SB 8 decided to remain anonymous. In an interview with the Game Developer portal, he stated that he used to work in Texas, but now he will not return there either for work or for any other reason.

“It will become more difficult for [Studios] to hire women,” he said. “Keep in mind that the law applies not only to those women who have had an abortion, but also to those who have had a miscarriage. Also, those who allegedly “planned an abortion” can be sued.”

Another anonymous developer noted that he works with a considerable number of female developers who have a “gloomy” mood because of SB 8. He also pointed out that, in theory, employers can use this law as a tool to control and intimidate employees. In his opinion, such a scenario cannot be ruled out, especially bearing in mind the Activision Blizzard scandal (the company is accused of discrimination and harassment).

A female sound engineer who now works in Austin, the capital of Texas, said that it has become extremely difficult for her to live there since the adoption of the law. She added that SB 8 is especially dangerous for those women who have serious health problems — their problems can worsen during pregnancy and lead to miscarriage.

This woman also complained about the situation with gender diversity in Texas gaming companies. According to her, recently studios have finally become more willing to hire not only cisgender men. But because of SB 8, the trend may change: “Women are being bullied and told not to come here,” she concludes.

Many gaming experts say they are under attack because of criticism of the anti-abortion law. Developers are offered to pack up and leave Texas, and studios located outside the state are offered to stop cooperating with local companies.

Not everyone can follow such “advice”. For example, the sound engineer mentioned above noted that if her clients from other states refuse to work with her, she will lose her livelihood, while supporters of the law will not suffer. Not everyone can afford to move from Texas either.

What to do next

The developers with whom Game Developer spoke believe that although studios and publishers have every right not to comment on the anti—abortion law, they are the only ones who can do something within the industry.

One of the suggested options is to allow remote work.

The developers also want companies to radically improve maternity-related policies. For example, extended parental leave and other benefits were provided. So they would support employees who gave birth to children during the operation of the law.

Nevertheless, none of the solutions finally suits the specialists.