Game Workers Unite (Photo: screenshot, Game Workers Unite, Twitter)
The gaming industry is changing these days before our eyes.
For years we have been hearing about many cases from a variety of development and distribution companies of harsh employment conditions, long hours and employee burnout, low salaries, and in exceptional cases even a hostile work environment.
And the workers are basically fed up with the situation.
It's true that working in the gaming industry brings with it a certain kind of prestige, but that doesn't mean they have to put up with the situation and conditions just because they're doing what they love.
And so with every news or scandal that pops up about a development or distribution company that erodes and harms social conditions and their employees, we also receive countless news and statements about intentions to unionize, establish workers' unions, and fight for their rights.
And as you can guess, the big companies are not exactly happy with this whole situation.
At least not all of them.
One of the prominent examples is the gaming giant
, which grabbed the headlines last year when the Department of Fair Employment in California decided to file serious charges against it.
In the same indictment, many testimonies were given by employees who claimed that there was a constant atmosphere in the company that encouraged sexual harassment.
Senior executives of the company were accused of not only knowing about the harassment, they also sexually harassed themselves.
These accusations reached the highest levels, and
an indictment was also filed against the company's CEO,
. This class action opened the door to further lawsuits and protests from the company's employees. Since then, three QA teams (quality testers) of some of the company's giant brands such as Diablo, World of Warcraft, and even Call of Duty, have started workers' unions to fight for their rights. All have claimed low wages, unstable contractor contracts, and overtime. Activision-Blizzard, for its part, has not recognized these unions.
She did everything she could to stall and stall.
For example, when the QA employees of Raven Software (one of the keys to Call of Duty) expressed a desire to unionize, Activision-Blizzard was willing to change its organizational structure just to make these moves more difficult.
It didn't help her.
The insistence of the employees and the many complaints submitted by a variety of parties took their toll, and last April Activision-Blizzard upgraded the contracts of 1,100 employees.
At Activision-Blizzard, three significant testing teams have established working committees: Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Diablo (photo: official website, Activision-Blizzard)
These days, Microsoft expects to receive the approval of regulators around the world regarding the purchase of Activision-Blizzard.
If it is approved, Microsoft has promised that it will respect the established committees and the company's employees.
There is a lot of expectation that its corporate culture will bring order to the company, which until today has suffered countless scandals and failures in the industry.
Also in the Zenimax corporation, which is owned by Microsoft and includes the distributor Bethseda, about 300 QA employees decided to unionize and formed a committee.
Microsoft recognized him as well, and promised that it would not interfere or prevent its employees from unionizing.
It probably does not want to be seen by the regulators as the predatory and powerful monopoly that both buys the industry and tramples the rights of its employees along the way.
Do you know the social card game
Cards Against Humanity?
The employees of the company that develops the computer game of the card title decided to unionize and complained about a toxic, sexist and racist work environment that comes with encouragement from one of the co-founders of the company,
Since the affair exploded in the summer of 2020 and the accusations began to float in the social networks, he left the company, and the remaining management promised to respect and negotiate with the new board that was established.
By the way, this is one of the first cases that we heard in the industry about employees who united and formed a committee.
The developers of the online version of Cards Against Humanity were among the first in the industry to unite and establish a committee (photo: official website, Cards Against Humanity)
Another notable case is that of Paizo, the distribution giant responsible for the mega-popular RPG based on Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder.
Employees of the company complained about unequal pay, harassment and improper management.
Paizo did not try to put sticks in the wheels, and she went straight to the negotiating table with the committee that emerged.
A similar story was with the indie developer Tender Claws, where the management accepted the committee without any sabotage attempt.
And this change doesn't just happen in the state of California, it goes beyond the US to neighboring Canada as well. For example, Keyword Studios is a third-party company that provides external QA services to various parties in the industry. These days, it's helping developer Bioware (owned by EA) with Dreadwolf, the title The newest in the Dragon Age series. Their 16 quality testers also decided to form a committee and complained about low pay, and lack of sick or vacation pay. There's also Vancouver-based developer Anemone Hug, who is responsible for titles like Hardspace: Shipbreaker and Crossfire Legion. Her employees formed this year and a committee after a majority vote These two committees are recognized in Canada by all official bodies that give them legitimacy.
So what does all this mean?
There is no attempt here to denigrate the industry and paint it as absolute evil.
But as long as the main strategy is profit and money, the mindset of cutting where possible will always guide the senior echelon.
And many times it comes at the expense of workers' rights.
These committees are not an external entity.
They are the people who create and work hard on all the games that provide us with hours of enjoyment.
Designers, programmers, developers, writers, testers, hardware and software developers (and any other role I forgot) - they are the real heart of all these products.
And they deserve fair and equal treatment.
The big problem is that the industry is in no hurry to change its ways unless serious pressure is applied (by: Activision-Blizzard). And there is another problem that all these committees face. Unlike Hollywood, for example, they do not have the Guild of Writers, Actors or Directors One body that actually takes care of the rights of all workers in the various fields in Hollywood. In the gaming industry, the sectors are a bit more private. For example, a committee that was established at Activision-Blizzard cannot influence what will happen at EA. This is a situation where each company sets its own rules.
In In 2018, the attempt to establish the body that would bring about the revolution, the
Game Workers Unite group, arose
Founded by the Communications Workers of the USA, they carved a goal on their banner: to unite the workers in the industry into a significant force. When the sexual harassment cases at Activision-Blizzard and Riot Games exploded, they were there to lead campaigns against the management and to support the workers and workers who were affected. They also fight quite a bit for workers' rights and fair and equal employment contracts.
The British branch of the group has been officially recognized as the Independent Trade Union of England, and the Canadian and Australian branches are on their way to official approvals from the relevant authorities. But will they really be able to unite and bring about a change in the conditions of the workers in the industry and their treatment In the industry? It is still too early to determine what the end will be, but all the signs in the last decade point to a process that is at its beginning, and only continues to grow stronger.
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