Game Developer Unions




This thread went to places… and back.


9 women can make 9 babies in 9 months, but 9 women can’t make a baby in a month.
I haven’t read MMM, but I still see it referenced all the time. At least the insight that adding more people usually doesn’t speed a project still applies.


Its true for game development. In fact the bigger the team the slower it goes. Obvious I know but major publishers & developers still seemed surprised by it each year.


These companies with crunch periods, do they pay overtime work?


And the only way you keep senior people is to not continue abusing them.

If they’re in the United States, of course not.


Seems something worth fighting for. Is not outlandish, “no work without compensation”.


Pointed out in the other thread (I can’t confirm if it’s true) that the “everything is fine here” devs who are speaking out are from Rockstar Scotland, where there are protections against long hours.


The Verge and other articles about it directly link to tweets by (mostly) people who say in their twitter profiles they work at Rockstar North in Scotland.


One thing I find interesting is that there is probably NO consumer backlash against excessive working hours e.g. towards Rockstar. It is like everybody is saying “I don’t care if people do 100 hours week with no overtime pay, just hurry the fuck up and give me RDR2” rather than “I would rather you guys do 40 hours week and take your sweet time to give us the best game ever”. It is like sugar boycott against American south, or even boycott against sweatshop garments nowadays. If we consumers don’t act with our wallets, developers have no reason to stop exploiting workers where they can.

Unionisation is the other option to bring about change. Changing the employment laws in US is another. Consumer activism IMO is and should be another way.


Consumer activism is a much less practical or effective method, though it doesn’t hurt or anything, and getting employment laws changed is helpful but much easier to achieve with political action from strong unions. Just saying.


Well how much do you think consumers can do, sitting at our desks using electronics created by individuals with minimally safe working conditions, piss poor wages, and ridiculously long hours? Even in our country, a lot of push for safe working conditions, better wages, better… everything came from the workers, often unions. And when prices went up, consumers kept buying, for the most part. It’s more of a passive approval than an active one. If Rockstar or any other game took longer to make their games, I wouldn’t stop buying those games or anyone else’s that took longer. Look around. We have games coming out of the walls… we don’t need games to get released more quickly. What we need are investors and owners with more realistic expectations on their returns, which might be a hard ask because the risk seems high too


When the working conditions are good enough in a country the industries that need many workers and limited profit margins move to poorer countries. This is a good thing has it extend good living conditions and may one day cover the entire world. Maybe.


@Soma was obviously inspired by this thread and set up NZ’s first tech union:


If only I could set up a union in a couple of weeks…

There are lots of reports of worker exploitation by fibre installing subcontractors. Those are skilled people we don’t have enough locally so we have to import from e.g. India and China, but they are not well paid enough and don’t know about employment laws so that they are readily exploited, e.g. paid below minimum wage. These are the people whom a tech worker union can protect, in additional to labour inspectors.

So I say good for them.



Things might be moving on the North American front, too.


In case this wasn’t seen in the other business thread. The Activision Blizzard situation caught the attention of the AFL-CIO:


Yep, unionizing is the obvious answer. Game devs work longer hours for less money than elsewhere in IT. That should change.


One of our execs joked about lack of union representation once. Someone didn’t like a change, didn’t get a chance to make their voice heard… and our exec makes this joke about everyone getting into a union so they can have a voice… not a single person laughed. 100s of people in person and on the phone, not even a chuckle. They laugh and say it was a joke guys… still no sympathy laughs.

It’s not all sun and roses here but there’s a reason unions are not a laughing matters. They can get some serious pull. I feel like this call though happens after every one of these big events, and there is no real change. These execs, they don’t fear it.