Motion Twin The Devs Behind Dead Cells Are An Anarcho-Syndicalist Workers Cooperative


#1

As a syndicalist myself this is extremely relevant to my interests. I very much look forward to supporting a developer like this and the game (apparently) being very good is just a bonus at this point.


#2

Holy fuck.

I don’t have a take

just

fucking yes

immediate edit: okay actually I do have a take: hey maybe how amazing this game was to critics even in early early access and how it’s been able to consistently build since then… shows that democratized labour is productive as hell? Maybe crunch (and capitalism) is a pointlessly exploitative traumatizing nightmare that’s actually harmful to both people and production more often than not? I dunno just anecdotal conjecture but I feel there’s a connection here.

And I will corroborate that Dead Cells was fuckin on-point the moment it hit EA, I’ve been meaning to get back into it because I can’t imagine what they could have done with another two-odd years of healthy development.

This being a Kotaku headliner is super important too god fuck this is exciting aaa


#3

I was going to write a longer reply, but yes, all of what you said.


#4

That’s nice, I’m glad it’s working out. Surprised to hear them being around this long but haven’t made a single other game I’ve heard of. I assumed they were some indie-startup thing when Dead Cells showed up.


#5

Also, heads up: don’t read the comments to the article. There was nothing offensive but I didn’t get far because of the whole lot of “how can you be real socialists if you exist in a capitalist society derp derp”.


#6

There’s also quite a lot of people not really understanding anarcho-syndicalism (or, really syndicalism in general) - assuming that “everything is decided by committee” and so on. I guess this is what happens when people are brought up in an educational context where the “opposite” of capitalism is some kind of parody of communism…


#7

Epistemic injustice is a real asshole to far-left ideals, as it turns out.

If I may offer some optimism, though: even if there’s initially a lot of that tired pushback, this article has still brought positive & empathetic attention to almost entirely unrepresented far-left ideas. I’ve been watching a lot of Peter Coffin lately and I don’t want to just parrot them verbatim, but attention really is currency in the marketplace of ideas we’re all forced to participate in right now.

Anarcho-syndicalism isn’t a footnote, aside or punchline of this article, either; it’s the header, it’s the body of the text, the practical/material idea that explicit “anarcho-syndical” organization works in real modern-ass life is the corroborated & non-combative thesis statement here. While the comment section is exhausting right now, and we won’t see immediately-changed minds, I think it’ll turn some heads for the better in time.

I mean, this is publicity for a term that even reactionaries rarely bring up, and it shows a long-running highly-acclaimed successful indie game being maintained under these explicit conditions while tensions around crunch culture & games industry unionization (finally) mount, not to mention a lot of long-exploited AAA labourers splintering off to form smaller/indie studios in the hopes of founding better working conditions. It won’t spark a revolution, but it’s still got a lot of power by its nature.

Anarcho-syndicalism is in a lot of people’s brains where it straight-up wasn’t before, including all the people currently espousing the same ol’ shit down in those comments. That excites me no matter how many lattes-and-iphones comments we still gotta trudge through on the reg.


#8

I will always take every opportunity in my life to plug Ursula Le Guin books - this seems like a good time to mention The Dispossessed, easily my #1 book, which is a sci-fi novel entirely about a society of anarcho-syndicalists on the moon, and it’s dope as all hell and people should go read that book, especially if this article makes you intrigued about the subject.


#9

Wasn’t interested in playing this gane but will totally buy a copy to support such an organization.


#10

I am currently reading that book and it should be a crime that it took me this long to get to it.


#11

Dead Cells is coming to the Switch, yeah?

I’d love to give these devs my support.


#12

August 7th as far as I know.


#13

I would have liked to hear more about the process of the company getting smaller. I wonder how that worked in a consensus-system. Did they break off into another studio that still has ties and sometimes collaborates with Motion Twin? Or did they just get fired? Or were profits just so low that they could no longer afford to work there?


#14

Not to hate: but isn’t this system exactly what Valve was supposed to be? Then the results were a hyper capitalist company that is so laissez-faire it won’t even curate its own store for Nazi games? (Or even make real games anymore?)

Maybe this system only works in a small scale but becomes horrible and exploitative when a company reaches a certain size?


#15

Really happy to hear this, and to see it get visibility at a large publication, other game studios need to pay attention.
BĂ©nard does mention running into some issues as the studio grew, but develop a solid structure and I believe you can do this for larger studios as well.
To me it’s something to aspire towards, I’m glad there’s an example of it working well for a studio.


#16

I’m not sure that’s completely fair given that you’ve cited one example (and one that I doubt entirely aligns with anarcho-syndicalism; I’ll leave others more informed about Valve to point out the disparities).


#17

I’m wondering if the proper way to scale up an anarcho-syndacalist system is to keep individual studios small, but then have these studios collaborate together on larger projects (i.e. one studio handles music, the other handles gameplay, etc.). Not saying that is the only way of going about it, but maybe larger studios concentrate too much risk for them to be viable in this sort of environment?


#18

Really something that all indies (and AAA) should get behind. I can’t tell you how many informal game dev teams online have broken apart because of resenting that the programmer got paid more than the artist, or the artist didn’t get paid unless the game got put on Steam, or the musician only got paid per song and they asked for fewer songs than promised, etc.


#19

I don’t know much about how Valve is run but left libertarian tendencies like syndicalism and anarcho-communism are not laissez-faire.


#20

From what I remember of a lot of internal stories (peeps can correct me if i’m wrong on this), Valve’s pretense of horizontal structure is predicated on still having a formal boss, as well as opaque shit like anonymous judgement from other employees on performance and “innovation”, and inequal pay based on that opaquely judged and arbitrary performance evaluation. This arbitrary system of judgement is also why they stopped making games and lack focus on anything for first party products now, though again i’m basing this off of a half-year-old memory of another WP thread and I don’t remember which one, so take it with a grain of salt.

They also run a platform that spawned from and for a perpetual & toxic consumer identity culture, while Motion Twin’s just made a bunch of their own web games as well as DC. Not to say MT isn’t influenced by gamer culture or isn’t capitalist in the end, we all gotta engage with the system somehow, it’s just that their concerns lay more with the collective labor of their own work while they extract value from the audience to support that labor, while Valve is a lot more Silicon Valley & right-libertarian ideals of extracting value from as many sources as possible without purpose nor end, and how that’s the truest freedom or some shit.

Still, we shouldn’t get complacent. Motion Twin’s statements are bold for more than one reason, and they should be held accountable to their words. @Clyde brings up a good point that their downsizing isn’t explained and leaves a bit of a gap in the whole thing. The article’s important, the idea’s important, the mark’s been made, but we know how easy it is to fall into uncritical idolization (especially when our socially neglected ideals or identities are represented) and how dangerous that can be. Motion Twin seems to be acting in good faith, but always be prepared for entities like that not to be when they’ve still got some opacity by their nature.