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Lately I have seen several videos that discuss how important it is to have your name in the credits of the game you've worked on. And it kinda makes sense - it's a way to prove to your future employers what experience you have.

However what puzzles me is that games seem to be the only software that does it. Unless it's a small one-man project, most software - especially closed-source commercial stuff - doesn't list any credits at all. Nor does anyone expect them to. It seems that neither employees nor their (future) employers have any problem with that.

How come there is this huge difference?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please try to provide facts in the answers, and avoid starting your answers by terms such as "I think that...", "I guess that...", etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Feb 12 at 0:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hint: Movies. Games are a form of art \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Feb 12 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't state for every software program, but most of them has an 'about' tab, where the company is shown. \$\endgroup\$ – Steven Feb 12 at 7:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Steven - Yes, the company, but not all the people. \$\endgroup\$ – Vilx- Feb 12 at 7:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Excel 97 had credits: Excel 97 Easter Egg - Turn Your Spreadsheet Into a Space Sim. Let us not forget The Adventure_(Atari_2600) Easter_egg... credits were provided that way because it was against company policy. \$\endgroup\$ – Theraot Feb 12 at 12:29
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As someone who does business application development as their primary job and game development on the side, I would not want my name in publicly visible credits of the business applications I worked on.

Keeping the privacy of the developers

The reason is that while games are supposed to provide entertainment and fun, business application software is supposed to just get work done in the least intrusive way possible. We application developers do a good job when people don't realize we exist.

If an end-user contacts me because of an application I developed, then that's usually a misdirected support request. People complain that it doesn't do what it's supposed to be doing or that they don't understand it. And I really don't want those emails. Not that I am not proud of my work or refuse to admit my mistakes, but we got a support department as the primary point of contact for customer requests. End-users are not supposed to contact developers directly. They are supposed to contact the user help desk, so the developers can focus on their actual work. If it is a problem which requires developer attention, then the help desk is supposed to phrase the issue as a proper bug report or feature request, so the developers can work on it efficiently. So it's best when the end-users never know the names of the developers.

Gamers, on the other hand, are not nearly as needy. They are far more likely to ask each other for help than to expect others to solve their problems.

Proving your work history

When it comes to proving my work history to potential employers, then those credits wouldn't be useful either. Publicly available software is actually just a small niche in the world of software development. Most application software which is being developed in the world never leaves the organization it got developed for. People from other companies couldn't look at the credits of the software I claim to have written because it's unavailable to them. So having the credits in the software I wrote over the years wouldn't help my employability at all.

Credits as a measure of success

Success in the game industry is often measured in number of units sold. So the amount of people who read my name in the credits of the games I were involved in is a good measure for how successful I am as a game developer. Not so with application development. There is software which runs on just one single computer in the world and yet makes (or saves) millions each year. There is just a hand full of people who would have the access to the application to read my name in the credits (if it would have any), and yet if I was the developer of this software, that would make me a very successful software developer. Most of the people who indirectly benefit from this software would never read my name. Would you care that the invoice you just got in your mail was calculated, composed and printed by a program I wrote? So why would I care about adding credits?

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Games make a big deal about credits for the same reason movies do, and commercial software doesn't for the same reason that TV shows don't. When you work on a game or a movie, it is often for a single term of project where there is a good chance you will be out of a job and in need of proving your experience to your next employer. An obvious credits section makes proving your work history easier when odds are that you, your supervisors, and coworkers will all be scattered to the winds when the project is done.

Project based industries like game and movie development are plagued by several issues that make permanent jobs rare including an asymmetry between labor requirements as projects are being planned, produced, and released, down periods between when a product is released and when it becomes clear that a sequel is economically viable, planned over-staffing & layoffs to meet publication deadlines, and a general inability to ensure that project phases line up well enough to move staff seamlessly between projects.

In contrast, publicly available commercial software development much more typically follows the agile development model where you have a product that is in a constant cycle of patches and incremental updates. A developer could easily spend 10 years working on the same program one quite release after another. Many of the companies that make them have been around for 20+ years and are expected to still be around in another 20 years doing more or less the same things. So, when you aren't planning to jump jobs every 1-2 years, credits just don't seem all that important.

In reality, many commercial software products and TV shows do have credits too, but they are generally not given the same prominence since the developers just don't have as much reason to care.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "TV shows don't"? Most TV shows I've watched include credits, though it's common for streaming services these days to automatically skip them unless the viewer intervenes. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Feb 13 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ "there is a good chance you will be out of a job" err... So every studio shut down once a game is out? Can you come up with something to back this up? \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Feb 13 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vaillancourt Not exactly, they go through cycles of winding up and down their labor needs as part of the natural project development life cycle. I've expanded more on this in my answer. As for citations, just do a Google search for "do game studios often lay off employees after a game release". The first result "kotaku.com/why-game-developers-keep-getting-laid-off-1583192249" goes into this pretty well. \$\endgroup\$ – Nosajimiki Feb 14 at 7:23

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