Game Workers Unite
In the lead-up to the 2018 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, the program announced a round-table in the Advocacy Track called "Unions Now? - Pros, Cons and Consequences of Unionization" and moderated by IGDA Executive Director Jen MacLean. This event seemed to galvanize a group of activists who had been communicating online about their desire for a game industry union.
The group descended on GDC as Game Workers Unite with a cross-platform pro-union campaign. They distributed leaflets, buttons, stickers and newsletters at the conference, were active across social media and gained considerable press. A first hand account by a game developer from Argentina who was attending GDC for the first time and joined the GWU movement demonstrates the grassroots development.
Over 100 people attended the panel. After an introduction MacLean gave the floor to two representatives from IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) who independently attended the panel after hearing it might be anti-union. Members of the French game developer union STJV also participated. This was followed by many attendees sharing their stories of negative working conditions and pro-union sentiment. MacLean's views, some which she publicly shared in interviews with USGamer and Kotaku, were considerably more conservative (see more below in GWU and the IGDA).
Chapters have popped up all over the US and around the world.
March 20, 2018: Bree Royce on Massively Overpowered: GDC 2018: GAME DEVELOPERS PUSH FOR UNIONIZATION IN GAME WORKERS UNITE
March 21, 2018: Allegra Frank on Polygon: This is the group using GDC to bolster game studio unionization efforts
March 21, 2018: Katherine Cross on Gamasutra: Game Workers Unite to Jen MacLean: 'We want to work with you'
March 21, 2018: Matt Kim on US Gamer:
Pro-Union Advocates Show Up in Full Force at GDC Union Roundtable Discussion
March 22, 2018: Kyle Orland on Ars Technica: Game developers push for unionization amid insecure positions, excessive OT
March 22, 2018: Jason Schreier on Kotaku: It’s Time For Game Developers To Unionize
March 22, 2018: Allegra Frank on Polygon: Pro-union voices speak out at heated GDC roundtable
March 22, 2018: Bree Royce on Massively Overpowered: GAME INDUSTRY UNIONIZATION: GAME WORKERS UNITE, IGDA, AND GDC
March 23, 2018: Ian Williams on Waypoint Vice: After Destroying Lives For Decades, Gaming Is Finally Talking Unionization
March 23, 2018: Nick Statt on The Verge: Game developers look to unions to fix the industry’s exploitative workplace culture
March 23, 2018: Adam Smith on Rock, Paper, Shotgun: The game industry needs to change and it begins now
March 23, 2018: Chloi Rad on IGN: GDC 2018: PRO-UNION GAME DEVELOPERS ARE READY TO FIGHT FOR CHANGE
March 24, 2018: Dustin Bailey on PCGames: Game makers at GDC look to unionisation to help fight crunch and workplace harassment
March 25, 2018: Marykate Jasper on The Mary Sue: Will Game Developers Unionize?
March 30, 2018: Holly Green on Paste: The State of the Union: GDC, Jen MacLean, and Game Workers Unite
Hacker News: Game Workers Unite
GWU and the IGDA
At GDC 2018, GWU representatives expressed their desire for a specific game industry union. This desire for their own representative body, rather than being an affiliate or subsidiary of another union, is similar to the sentiments expressed by the founders of the STJV in France. However, Game Workers Unite is not opposed to working with other groups to improve the work experiences for game developers - this includes other unions in cognate industries and also the IGDA. Jen MacLean, Executive Director of the IGDA, received criticism following the Unions Now? round table and her interviews with Kotaku and US Gamer (see above). Many perceived her comments as unsupportive or hostile to unions and the manner in which she moderated the round table as deliberately silencing, belittling and deflecting pro-union sentiment. Michelle Ehrhardt’s account on Unwinnable provides this perspective. In the face of this criticism, MacLean clarified her position and that of the IGDA in an interview with ReadySet the day following the panel. Here, MacLean reiterated that the IGDA is not a union and will not become one, but that it does wish to foster dialogue about how to best support game developers. She acknowledged that this includes discussions about unionization. MacLean expressed that the IGDA and a game union could co-exist.
More GWU Actions and News
August 8, 2018: Astrid Johnson on Eurogamer: The games industry needs unions - and these are the people trying to make it happen in the UK
GWU at E3 in Los Angeles
June 15, 2018: KGNOW YouTube: Game Workers Unite Growing Rapidly at E3 Los Angeles 2018 GET PAID OVERTIME FOR CRUNCH
GWU on ArenaNet
July 10, 2018: Game Workers Unite: Statement on the ArenaNet Firings
July 12, 2018: Astrid Johnson on Game Revolution: Game Workers Unite Slams ArenaNet for ‘Inciting Further Harassment’ of Employees