Episode 532 - Happy New Year, Here's a Peasant Uprising

We’re emerging from our holiday cocoons! Join Patrick, Ren, and Cado as they talk through the holidays and the things they did (or wished they did). Then, a special interview from Rob: last time Josh Sawyer was on to talk Pentiment, Rob found out they had the same college professor. Now, we’ve invited that professor, Dr. Edmund Kern, alongside Dr. Winston Black, Josh’s classmate who consulted on Pentiment. They talk about applying their knowledge to consulting on the game, how medieval peasants are just like us, and the ways people figured out how to talk about “heretical” subjects without getting got.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://shows.acast.com/vicegamingsnewpodcast/episodes/episode-532-happy-new-year-heres-a-peasant-uprising

This was such a wonderful interview. 10/10, Vice needs to give Rob as much freedom as he wants to pursue these stories.

The discussion about the pace and (slow) spread of medical advances was interesting because this not remotely a “medieval” problem. The pipeline from medical/scientific discovery to implementation in the operating room or GP’s office is long and leaky. Good doctors spend a tremendous amount of time reading medical journals to find the latest best practices for patient care. Bad doctors, of which there are disturbingly many, spend their entire careers repeating the same ossified practices they learned in medical school 40 years ago. Or worse, they become quacks like Dr. Oz who think their MD is license to just make shit up (or sell their reputation to the highest bidder).

One of the frontlines of this problem is trans healthcare, which Philosophy Tube did a great video on recently:

(don’t watch if you don’t want to get really really mad tonight and punch a wall)

It’s not that care of trans people hasn’t advanced, it’s that physicians and health service administrators resist implementation of those advances. Sometimes it’s because of active bigotry, sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s institutional inertia, but it always results in worse health outcomes via dereliction of Hippocratic oath. At least medieval physicians had the excuse that communication and dissemination of information was worse back then.


Listening to this episode and specifically the part about the QA worker union at Zenimax/Microsoft has brought up this question for me. I apologise if it’s not the best place to ask it.

Most countries I’ve been to have the concept of trade unions, that is unions formed for a specific trade (or sometimes multiple trades), which are independent, not formed in the context of a specific company. Whereas in the US, it sounds to me like when workers unionise, they do it at or in the context of a specific company (e.g. Vice Union, or the aforementioned union of QA workers at Microsoft). Listening to the podcast, it sounds like in some cases unions are even specific to an office or location, e.g. Starbucks workers having to organise at each store (if i understood that correctly).

Does the concept of independent trade unions like in Europe, Australia etc. not exist in the US, or is it just not popular? I find this all a bit confusing.

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The simple answer is that organising a union is hard. Trade unions do exist, even federations of unions. Railroad Workers United, the National Education Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the Teamsters are ones you might have heard of. The problem is that getting the necessary portion of workers across an entire industry to sign on is harder than organising locally.

You can see something similar in the game companies who have insisted that the entire studio should have to vote for unionisation, rather than just the QA workers. As noted on the pod, it’s not because management wants solidarity between all their workers.

Also, the aim generally is to expand the unions into something more sustainable. For instance, the union formed by the Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island is the Amazon Labor Union, not just the Amazon New York Union or something.

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My understanding of the broader systems is limited — but my graduate student union just won our NLRB election (woot woot!), and part of that involved affiliating with an existing independent union (in our case it was United Electrical Workers). So in a way it’s both; to my knowledge, most unions formed in the context of a specific company in the US affiliate with a larger federation or trade union as a part of that process.


Thank you both for your answers, that gave me a bit more understanding.

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This was an amazing interview. I loved their response to the romanticization of peasant life, laughed real hard!