×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

America’s Biggest Labor Federation Asks Game Developers to Unionize

A leading figure from America’s biggest labor organization penned an open letter to game developers encouraging unionization across the games industry.

AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler took to Kotaku with a post that asks workers in the games industry to fight for adequate pay, sensible work hours, and against toxic work conditions.

“We’ve heard the painful stories of those willing to come forward, including one developer who visited the emergency room three times before taking off from work,” writes Shuler. “Developers at Rockstar Games recently shared stories of crunch time that lasted for months and even years in order to satisfy outrageous demands from management, delivering a game that banked their bosses $725 million in its first three days.”

“This is a moment for change. It won’t come from CEOs. It won’t come from corporate boards. And, it won’t come from any one person. Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day.”

Shuler highlights the incongruity between current working conditions experienced by developers and the actual economic success experienced by the video game industry. “Growing by double digits, U.S. video game sales reached $43 billion in 2018, about 3.6 times greater than the film industry’s record-breaking box office,” she writes.

“While you’re fighting through exhaustion and putting your soul into a game, Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson are toasting to ‘their’ success,” she says.

“They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get? Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job.”

The AFL-CIO represents more than 12 million workers in the United States across more than 50 labor unions, including the Writers Guild of America.

Some of the biggest players in game development and publishing have fostered hostile and unforgiving environments where our favorite games are made. Co-founder and vice president of Rockstar Games Dan Houser seemingly bragged that staff were pulling 100-hour weeks to get the much-anticipated “Red Dead Redemption 2” ready for its launch last year. Similarly, companies like Telltale have laid off the majority of their staff with little to no notice or severance. Many developers took to Twitter afterwards to air their grievances and express their hopes for change under the hashtag #AsAGamesWorker.

Calls for unionization have gotten increasingly louder over these past years. Last year saw the formation of Game Workers Unite UK, the first and only legal trade union dedicated to representing game developers across the country.

Take This executive director Eve Crevoshay outlined the physical and mental effects of crunch in a white paper published last year. “These negative effects can be both short and long-term, and often coincide with declines in physical health, non-work social connections, productivity, turnover, and job satisfaction. There is, therefore, a moral imperative to removing long-term crunch from work environments,” she writes.

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Game Awards OrchestraThe Game Awards, Show,

    Game Awards 2019 to Play on 53 Cinemark Screens Alongside 'Jumanji: The Next Level'

    This year’s Game Awards, recognizing the top video games, creators and esports of 2019, is coming to the silver screen. In a three-way partnership, the Game Awards, Cinemark Theatres and Sony Pictures are teaming on a superticket program pairing the Dec. 12 live simulcast of the 2019 Game Awards in 53 Cinemark locations with a [...]

  • John Carmack John Carmack, Chief Technical

    Oculus CTO John Carmack to Step Down

    One of the driving forces behind Facebook’s virtual reality efforts is leaving his post: Oculus CTO John Carmack announced Wednesday afternoon that he was transitioning to a “consulting CTO” role this week, and devote most of his time to new challenges outside of the company. “I will still have a voice in the development work, [...]

  • Magic Leap Raising Another Funding Round

    Magic Leap Is Raising Another Big Funding Round

    Augmented reality startup Magic Leap is raising even more money. The company is currently in the process of raising its Series E round of funding, a spokesperson told Variety on Monday. Magic Leap previously raised around $2.6 billion, including $280 million from NTT Docomo in April. “Magic Leap is in the midst of a significant [...]

  • terminator vr

    VRstudios Launches 'Terminator' VR Experience at Dave & Buster's (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just in time for the launch of the new “Terminator: Dark Fate” movie, Dave & Buster’s is getting a “Terminator: Guardian of Fate” virtual reality experience, courtesy of VRstudios. The experience, which features the voice of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, is launching at 130 Dave & Buster’s locations across the U.S. Just like previous [...]

  • Death Stranding

    'Death Stranding': How PlayStation Tackled the Unique, Mysterious Marketing Campaign

    There are a few reasons why “Death Stranding” might seem like a marketing slam dunk. It’s the first game from Hideo Kojima, the video game legend behind the “Metal Gear” series, since 2015, and also the first since he reformed his Kojima Productions into an independent studio, partnered with Sony Interactive Entertainment. It boasts Hollywood [...]

  • Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Shrugs off Hong Kong Uproar, Beats Q3 Earnings Expectations

    Controversy? What controversy? As Activision Blizzard reported its fiscal Q3 earnings Thursday afternoon, there was no mention at all of a recent backlash over the company’s controversial suspension of one of its players. Instead, executives celebrated better-than-expected results, and promised to more aggressively embrace mobile gaming. The gaming company generated $1.28 billion in sales in [...]

  • Niantic developer platform

    ‘Pokemon Go’ Maker Niantic Launches Developer Program, Announces $10M Creator Fund

    Niantic, the company behind games like “Pokemon Go,” “Ingress” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” began opening up its technology to third-party developers Wednesday, allowing them to build their own location-based augmented reality (AR) games and applications on top of its platform. Niantic is kickstarting these efforts with a $10 million fund for indie developers. The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content