Game Workers Unite, a grassroots movement and organization formed during GDC 2018, helps connect game workers from all trades who are interested in or curious about unionizing their workplace with knowledge and resources about the process.
The tweet also linked to a Time feature from earlier this month, which details the consequences of crunch, burnout, job instability, and low wages in the game industry – just a handful of factors pro-union advocates cite as reasons game developers need to organize.
The conversation around game industry unionization has ramped up in the past couple years. In late 2018, Telltale Games abruptly shut down, with no warning and no severance packages for the approximately 250 employees laid off, according to The Verge. One month later, an interview with Rockstar co-founder Dan House stirred up controversy due to Houser’s comments on working “100-hour weeks.” Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard laid off roughly 800 employees. Meanwhile, the controversy at Riot Games continues to develop ever since Kotaku reported on a “culture of sexism” among management. The ensuing lawsuits and Riot’s use of forced arbitration all lead up to the recent employee walkout at the company’s Los Angeles campus.
Critics of unionization argue that unions won’t prevent layoffs, while supporters say the point is to empower workers to negotiate better working conditions and ensure they are fairly compensated even in the face of restructuring and closures.
In addition to unions, game developers have also been exploring alternative company structures. In March, the creators of Night in the Woods announced The Glory Society, a worker-owned studio, and last year, Dead Cells developer Motion Twin told Kotaku that all 11 of its employees receive equal pay regardless of position, describing themselves as an “anarcho-syndical workers cooperative.”
Chloi Rad is a writer and streamer. Follow on Twitter for bad posts.