Ariel Costas

Amazon's draconian Personal Games policy

By Ariel Costas - August 12, 2021

Back in July 2021, a man getting ready to work at Amazon disclosed the company’s Personal Games Policy on a now deleted tweet (which can be seen thanks to the Web Archive). Let’s discuss one by one the points of this policy, why some of them can make sense but others are pure evil.

Not disclosing confidential information

This first point can make sense, as confidential information is confidential, also it wouldn’t make sense to include that things ON A GAME.

Not incorporating Amazon resources or information

As far as Amazon resources such as networks, source code from their internal products or creative content like pictures, it makes total sense.

All work will be performed outside working hours

I don’t know why this is included, obviously work time is to work and free time is used to do whatever the f**k you want.

Makes sense by itself, but it will get weird if we take into account what is added later.

I will make my Personal Game available via Amazon wherever possible

This is not fair: if Amazon is not liable for your personal games, and only you are, you should be able to distribute it however you want. Your company has nothing to say on how you distribute your work done ON YOUR FREE TIME.

I will use Amazon’s publicly available products and services

So, you have your game made by yourself in your free time. But your employer forces you to do what they want with YOUR game. They force you to run all servers on their computers (aka. “cloud”), identify your users through their Cognito identification service and give feedback on those products.

However, even while forcing you to use their services, you must run with the costs by your own. That’s not fair, and shouldn’t be permitted. If they force you to use a certain service, you should not have to pay for using that service even if you didn’t want to use it in the first place.

I will own my Personal Game… BUT

As we said before, Amazon is not responsible in any way of your game (even though they force you to distribute it via them and to run servers via them).

Also, they force you to grant a royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid-up, perpetual, transferrable license to all your “Intellectual property” (which doesn’t exist onto itself, but it’s a conjunction of many other laws).

Basically, they can do whatever they want with your game, but you assume all the costs and problems derived from it. Basically, you’re building a game for free, for Amazon.

I won’t work on Personal Games with anyone else

So, Amazon also decides who you program with IN YOUR FREE TIME. You can only collaborate in Personal Games with other Amazon employees that have accepted this unjust contract, or minor dependents in my household.

I wonder what would happen if you release your game under a Free Software license, either permissive (Apache or MIT/Expat) or strong like the GNU GPL. Then anyone could study the source, modify it and share those changes. Would that be trying to compete with Amazon Games Studio?

And this is it. On August 12, Bloomberg reported Amazon dropped this policy, with the excuse “we had a lot less information and experience than we do today”.

So, their dumb excuse is they didn’t know what they were doing so they purposely made this draconian “agreement” (I’d rather call it imposement) to make sure their employees don’t own the games they do in their free time while working at Amazon.

Please, always read what you sign. Work time is for your company. Free time is for you. What you do in your free time is your own business, not your company’s. Happy hacking!