#AsAGamesWorker


#1

It feels like, in a post-Telltale layoffs world, the conversation around labour in games, at least online, is starting to shift. It may be too early to tell if this is just a temporary bend in the river or if this may be a moment of change, but I read through my Twitter timeline and see more discussion today than I did last month and its hard to overlook that as a positive step.

One item of this discussion has been the hashtag #AsAGamesWorker that I’ve seen floating around today, with contributions from many folks I hadn’t been familiar with talking about what they want to see in their industry. I’ll quote a few here before continuing (quotation is, as ever, not endorsement, although the sentiments below are hard to disagree with):

I think it can be easy to read these and think of them as simply, well, talk. However, Scheurle’s last tweet does do good in drawing together the fact that this year has seen, across the sector, a number of stories that impact on the labour of game workers, which underlie the weakness and precarity of conditions that people are working in.

Many of us would agree with the podcast title of last week’s Waypoint Radio –it’s time to radically remake the games industry. Perhaps a useful, and constructive, first step is discussion like this that helps us to put into language what we want this space to look like. Once that is done, we can start looking into how we can construct that, which (as I’ve seen elsewhere in the forums) is not an issue with a clear and obvious solution, although many of us have our feelings about what that solution might look like.

Based on that, I turn to you and ask: are there any stories you find particularly insightful? Do you have any experiences of your own, as a games worker, you might want to share? What do our next steps look like once we know what we’re aiming for?


#2

Just wanted to post this into here.

There is a serious danger, in my opinion, that due to RDR 2’s guaranteed overwhelming success, AAA studios will seek to replicate their formula, as they have done before - and for them the formula will be “throw even more money/labour into our worlds, making them even deeper”.

Given the current labour conditions within the industry, it will result in more exploitation, undoubtedly. I’m not saying people shouldn’t buy RDR 2, but that we should keep talking about working conditions when we reference how incredibly detailed and rich this game looks to be. GWU chapters have been working on a lot of things this year and we need to boost their efforts because from where I am sitting only unionisation, or a legitimate threat of unionisation, can force positive change for labour practices in the industry.


#3

Completely hit the nail on the head. I was worried about Rockstars practices but they’ve more or less came right out and said it. 100 hour weeks!? that’s shocking.

You’re completely right, without unionisation, the industry is going to see an increase in exploitation


#4

Unionization is incredibly important, and will greatly improve conditions for workers here in the States, but I wonder if that is enough. These huge AAA games use quite a bit of contract work. In Horizon Zero Dawn, for example, nearly a third of the robot enemies were contracted out to a company in China. They also relied on work from Eastern Europe and Brazil. If the industry unionizes here, will that just mean more work is offloaded onto exploited laborers in other countries?

I guess what I’m trying to ask is when will we draw the line? When will we start boycotting these games? I have been excited for RDR2 for months, but, honestly, this feels like the line for me. I know this isn’t the first game that was made with 100 hour work weeks, and I know it won’t be the last, but I don’t think I can feel good about buying this game.

p.s. here’s a link to the article about contract work on Horizon Zero dawn, and other games: https://theoutline.com/post/3087/outsourcing-blockbuster-video-games-made-in-china-horizon-zero-dawn?zd=1&zi=lbldvhth

It’s an important and interesting read to say the least.


#5

Yes! For sure! That is why I am so excited at the possibilities that Game Workers Unite can bring, given that they are a truly international movement.

The internationalisation of the industry is inevitable and already widespread, and has both positives and negatives, one of the latter being, like you said a way of overcoming potential labour issues within a given country. In a perfect world unionisation can combat this by leveraging collective bargaining - workers of a specific company working on different projects threatening strikes, for instance, in case the company threatens to move production of an existing project outside of the country where it is originally taking place. Of course, this requires an active and widespread union membership, which does not yet exist.

Similarly, unionisation will help combat contract labour because a large union can leverage collective bargaining to minimise the amount of contract labour, or more precisely to re-engineer the way contract labour is used - rather than being a replacement for actual employment, becoming a complementary, smaller feature of the labour market.

The problem is getting there - that is much easier said than done.


#6

Hey, folks! Forum user @GoldenJoel has made a topic specifically on the Rockstar crunch topic, so gonna encourage folks to post there instead of here about that topic, just to keep a great discussion all in one place: Gameindustry.biz - Rockstar has been “working 100-hour weeks” on Red Dead Redemption 2


#7

So my concern with this is that I feel like, over the past year or so, we’ve constantly seen heads to this issue. Things like the CDPR gaffe or the voice actor strike have drawn attention to the labor that goes into games. But we still hear these stories constantly from games workers.

Maybe it’s because it’s too early to see the change happening, maybe it’s because I don’t use Twitter, or maybe I’m just too cynical, but I feel like, although there might be a positive shift in the discourse surrounding labor in games, it might not be directly translating into praxis in the way we hope it might.