Unionization and Striking

Given the poor working conditions discussed in other archive posts on this site, it is perhaps no surprise that people are beginning to talk about unionization of the game industry.  Debates have arisen about whether unionization is necessary or not, about the methods of actually making unionization happen, and also about the potential terms or mandate of a game developer's union. This post serves as a summary of the arguments that have been made on both sides, as well as an account of the experiences that some game industry workers have had with other unions. We've also archived some forum discussions about this issue, as it is a contested topic and often well-argued on both sides.

An excellent primer to the subject is Paul Hyman's 2005 Gamasutra article entitled Unionization now?. It is perhaps salient to note that, nearly a decade after this article, the same discussions are still happening and the games industry is not much closer to reaching a solution.

We've summarized some of our own research towards this topic, including some of the quality-of-life issues facing the industry and possible solutions to them, in a 4-part post featured on Gamasutra on January 9, 2013: Are game developers standing up for their rights?

In addition, the 2009 IGDA Quality of Life survey and the 2014 IGDA Developer Satisfaction Survey contained questions about unionization.  We helped to analyze this data and write the summary reports.  They are available on our website homepage.  The short story is that over 1/3 of the people surveyed felt favourably toward a game industry union.

General Opinions on Unions

Forum Discussions

Video Game Voice Actors' Union Considers Striking

SAG-AFTRA, the union that supports video game voice and motion capture actors, voted by October 1, 2015 on whether or not to strike in an effort to obtain better working conditions for their members. Support on Twitter can be found under the hashtags #PerformanceMatters and #Iamonboard2015.  This section houses articles concerning these ongoing events.

Official SAG-AFTRA Union Communication

Video Game Companies' Proposal

Responses from the video game community

General Coverage

SAG-AFTRA announces 'interactive strike'

On October 16th, 2016 the SAG-AFTRA union announced it will be going on strike on October 21st, 2016.

Research and Journal Articles

American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Controversy

While this incident does not involve the prospect of a game developers union, it represents a clash between the games industry and another union, with a worker caught in the middle. Various major game companies and the AFM had been unable to to reach an agreement for the payment of AFM members doing work for games since 2012, charging members who did choose to do videogame work - most notably Austin Wintory, composer of Journey - tens-of-thousands of dollars as punishment.  This issue remains unresolved, but advances towards a new agreement seem to be moving forward. The AFM incident highlights a challenge that many entertainment unions and various employers have faced with the rapid emergence and growth of interactive media forms, including video games.  In many cases the contracts between unions and employers did not and/or do not adequately capture the nature of the work in new media forms and need to be carefully revisited and revised to adequately protect all parties.  As an example the Alliance of Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has negotiated with various employers to respond to the increased digital distribution and reproduction of actors' work.