Anti-crunch solidarity work

#1

it’s 2019. we all know crunch is evil, exploitative, and violent. we know it destroys lives. what can we do about it?

i want to see some sort of pledge from major games websites to stop covering games and game studios which use crunch. at the very least, i want to see info about how crunch affected the lives of the people who worked on it front and centre on any coverage these games get, before anything else, in the first paragraph, as a HTML5 warning which scrolls alongside the article as you go. i want the first thing we talk about when we consider red dead redemption, apex legends, mortal kombat, fortnite, all the rest, to be how the workers who made it are fucking suffering.

i want folks to pledge to avoid any game from a major studio where the studio crunched to make it happen. i want to see games unions working with games media to create some type of industry standard certification which shows that the devs worked decent hours and were compensated properly without having to crunch. i want the media to stop doing that little solemn intake of breath on a podcast before saying “well, of course, it was made under horrible conditions. full solidarity to the workers there.” before launching into anecdotes about how beautiful the scenery is. i’m sick of this.

i know that consumer boycotts and self-regulation are a fucking fool’s errand under capitalism, but we need to start building solidarity on this very basic labour issue. it’s so frustrating! i’m steamed as hell about this!

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#2
  1. True, but this is not exactly what you are proposing, is it? You are looking for the media to get involved, to block out coverage and advertising for their games based on labour practices, both of which hit the capitalist in the wallet harder than a simple consumer boycott.
  2. Even if such a move does not, in the grand scheme of things, do much more than be fuel in the wider workers’ rights movement in video games, it is still worth it.

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#3

hell yeah! agreed!

please take the No Crunch Promise today, to try to eliminate one of the thirteen games discourses for good.

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#4

This is just flat out never going to happen because that includes the majority of game studios.

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#5

Good. Lol.

Maybe all major games sites should just drop out of the PR hype cycle and do retrospective work about old games until developers/publishers fix their labor practices.

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#6

I don’t see individual coverage boycotts working as long as all major game media outlets are websites that depend on the traffic from covering major releases to survive. Online writing is on a cliff’s edge already; any given website has way more to lose from a boycott than the publishers it would be boycotting. The only way it could be effective is as collective action among every major outlet. Which is… a lot. Not to say it isn’t worth talking about, but damn. I’d also worry about the results of leaving coverage (and traffic) for high-profile crunched releases to only those outlets who, say, “leave politics out of video games.”

You’re absolutely right on your main point, though. It’s frustrating that after decades of crunch stories we’ve gone from the norm being breathless hype to breathless hype sometimes preceded by a disclaimer platitude.

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#7

“You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

… and your job
… and your medical coverage if you have that
… and your car because you can no longer afford it
… and your house, etc

These are all valid concerns that fall within the parameters of this discussion but uhh

At what point do we take the risks we actually need to take?

I’m growing increasingly wary and tired of the whole “we live under capitalism so we must make concessions to capitalism” arguments I’m always seeing because it doesn’t seem like we’re getting anywhere by doing that? Like at all?

I’d honestly love to see game journalists black list publishers and developers who treat their workers poorly, but because we all have these “what if” concerns with regards to the consequences… how do we get there?

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#8

This is a much more eloquent version of what I was trying to say. Not covering AAA games for most sites is basically the same as going out of business. I’m also not convinced that collective action by every major outlet would be enough, that traffic would end up going somewhere else because the demand for coverage about major game studios isn’t going to just evaporate over night.

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#9

I wish I had a good answer to this because I often feel powerless to create the change I want to see in the games industry.

But one thing that does help me to an extent is putting this into a broader perspective. In my country (the USA), the conversation around labor is laregly ignored by our government. We need to establish a culture that understands laborers deserve to be treated well, compensated well, and need to have a seat at the table when it comes to desicions that affect them or their workplace (ie. unions, worker cooperatives, etc). Putting my individual issues with the shitiness of the games industry into the broader context of shitiness of the state of labor rights in my country helps me identify some steps I can take to change that culture. I can support organizations like the DSA with my time and financial help, I can make sure I use my privilege to vote (and I say privilege here because the US has a ton of voter suppression problems) to vote for candidates who I believe will give laborers more power and fight to abolish the systems in place that keep laborers without the power they deserve. I can support other socialist policies and talk to my friends, family and others about them (this is also not a good idea for everyone though and in some situations could put folks in danger). I can protest companies that follow poor labor practices (to the extent that capitalism will allow me). Putting these issues into little things I can do to try and manifest the change I desire gives me some hope at least.

The problem with this broader approach is it’s baby steps in cases where I want leaps. As we slowly push the world at large to concern itself with laborers rights, people continue to suffer, and it fucking sucks.

I will also say that I do feel there is responsibility for those with public influence in games to put a spotlight on crunch. Especially considering they have more direct an ability to influence the culture around games and how we talk about labor in the industry. And like others in this thread, I’m a tad frustruated by the current state of small disclaimers before a discussion on a podcast or some paragraphs at the end of a review or article, but I don’t know what the solution looks like. I just wish it was more.

Feel free to let me know if I am missing something.

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#10

Well, here’s a suggestion, albiet a very small one, what if we tried to draft some kind of definitive statement that would preface discussion of any and all games compromised by unethical labor practices? One that included links to where people could go to pledge support, and possibly donate to fund, greater unionization in the industry?

I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here, but I know there are game critics, both professional and otherwise, who browse these forums and I think it would be useful to have some kind of direct, unified, message for us employ. I know I’d definitely appreciate that as someone who is both loving Mortal Kombat 11 and would also like to see employees at NRS treated like humans and afforded basic respect

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#11

if we want to talk baby steps, the obvious one (to me) is the joint media / union accreditation which says “this game was made crunch-free”, along with the opposite black mark for crunch games. all it takes is a couple of pointed questions which you do in every interview, a little support from the IGW, and a website to co-ordinate, and you’ve got a searchable database. this is the perfect one for the media to do, since they have the contacts and the reach already. slam dunk imo.

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#12

It’s a very broad net as well. I read the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey producer’s interview on crunch and while they were avoiding crunch. One of the things that would come up for the team was that they wanted some focused time because they would hit a flow of work and breaking concentration because it’s quitting time (If you do creative projects this is sounding familiar). So they came to a team decision to do a “Focused period” of spending a little longer at work on the game which was immediately followed by a “slow down week” where work was significantly slowed down. Workers were allowed clock off early to spend time with family and production was just taking stock of where they were at. That was the only crunch they did, which considering how utterly massive that game is, is pretty outstanding.

At the same time, I had heard about Injustice 2 being a death march back last year but I’m still feeling a little bummed playing MK 11 knowing it might not have been made under the best conditions (Scorpion says: “Workers Rights Get Over Here also Ed Boon stop going to the studio at 5am cause you’re a workaholic”). It’s hard to come to grips with. I always keep thinking of Dave Lang’s tweets about the issue, like how they work hard to keep a studio that’s a “Ghost Town” at 7pm and respects their workers even in one of the worst places for workers rights in America.

I don’t want to sound like a bootlicker and it’s hard when talking about workers rights and we do need better Unionisation. But the media as a whole should spend a bit of time talking about studios that get it right even if it goes against the trends of what hardcore want. Even if EA Bad. That they can ethically put out FIFA and Battlefield with minimal to no crunch is worth a conversation (Especially since what Bioware went through was pretty shocking as EA didn’t want to interfere in Studio culture but it ended up completely killing Bioware’s morale and legit hurting their employees mentally. There was a case where they should have actually came in and said “No this is not acceptable”). If anything, we should be pushing unionisation, stability and security. Ubisoft announcing in the last financial quarter that they see mass layoffs as a huge industry issue and a waste of talent and money so they would be investing more in people went under reported (Especially when it turned out Acti Blizz had to backpedal and say the layoffs didn’t save them any money, at all). Workers rights should be a priority but when a publisher does good. Maybe give them an “Attaboy” and move on along with highlighting bad actor publishers.

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#13

I actually like the idea of spotlighting games that have good practices. Seeing the articles about how Motion Twin was a worker cooperative is what influenced me to buy the game on PC and switch and play the game, as I want to directly support those practices.

Getting media conglomerates to work together on this (or really a database), despite any potential desires from folks within to do so would be a massive endeavor and likely lawyered out of existence before it was even started.

This is to say I don’t know if this specific part would be a project for a bunch of media companies to work on, but it is the sort of thing one Glorgu does have some interest in tinkering with (as I’m trying to learn better webdev and SQL skills). I’m not saying I can garuntee making anything, but I am curious enough to try some things out.

My thinking is this best formatted as a wiki, with a page with a queriable chart, or something else entirely?

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#14

My thoughts on this are complicated. I do think it’s something that should be brought up more in conversation but I also think asking gaming journalists and publications to bare the burrden of being the driving factor by boycotting games or souring relations with a company is not a good idea for their well being. Progress can’t be made if in the end the publications left standing are ones run by people who do not care about issues like this.

I strongly encourage anyone in any industry to use sites like Glassdoor to talk anonymously about what working at their company is like so people considering joining know what they are in for and can avoid.

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#15

this is maybe a basic question, but:

what is the worst that can happen to an outlet if they run a lot of coverage critical of a studio/publisher’s work conditions? is it mostly access to review codes and press events? is it that people just wont click on that? not that those aren’t valid concerns in the hell that is online media, of course. but if/when it does happen that a major outlet decides to put labor front and center of all of its coverage of a big game, how much leverage does that studio/publisher actually have?

#16

Almost all of it, having a review up day and date with everyone else is very important for traffic numbers and you can’t do that if you don’t get a code early. Austin talked about this on a recent podcast (I want to say waypoint radio?) but the reason they switched to marking things as “reviews” when they just used to have pieces is that even just by framing it as a review there was a sizeable jump in traffic. The media outlets kind of either play ball and can push back a tiny here and there, but Bethesda famously blacklisted kotaku and just refused to talk about it when they reported on a leak and F76 aside their games sell like hotcakes. Especially now when you can fly out some influencer/gamechanger/youtuber to give you nothing but positive coverage while mostly hitting the same audience publishers face very little risk from taking their ball and going home.

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#17

that makes a lot of sense, thanks for the explanation. ugh.

#18

i always understand journos and the media’s tenuous position given the difficult market they exist in but like, no guts no glory

i was going to post a paragraph more detail and explain it in detail but that sums it up way more succinctly, i reckon. no fuckin guts, no fuckin glory.

#19

This isn’t about crunch, but it looks like Riot is still being shit.

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#20

We know how that ends though, and it’s all the guts and still no glory. How much was RDR2 hurt by those crunch pieces? It made shitloads of money. Expecting a bunch of video game websites to be able to put up a fight against billion dollar businesses that effectively have control over their revenue stream is just not going to go the way you want it.

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