Game Developers Should Unionize

Time was, I worked at Walmart.  I stocked shelves at night.  It was, hands-down, the worst job I’ve ever had.  Nothing else even comes close.  During training, we had a whole day devoted to the group I was hired with getting a big education in why unions are bad, and those who work for unions are bad, and how we are so much better off because we don’t have a union.  Orwellian as fuck, but that’s how it goes at Walmart.  The corporation is pure evil, so what else did you expect?  Not sad that I lost that job.

Story after story is coming out about how AAA-game publishers are forcing those who work for them into some of the worst working conditions I’ve ever heard.  From the 100-hour work weeks that was uncovered at Rockstar, to the Bioware nightmare while Anthem was in development.  Activision Blizzard treating testers in a way that is subhuman.  EA as well, but EA is so evil that it defies comprehension.

While we’re on that, did you hear the thing about the guy at EA who is just absolutely baffled, for 25 years, why people think that EA is full of “bad guys”?  That just blows my mind.  This dude has seen how the company treats their employees.  He’s seen how they will lay people off when the money isn’t coming in enough instead of treating their employees like they care.  Or how EA treats their consumers as nothing more than cash machines instead of actually trying to give them a quality product.  How about the thing where they try and defend lootboxes as “surprise mechanics” and make a point about how they are part of the pioneering spirit of EA?  This dude can see all that, but is totally baffled as to why people think that EA is full of scum-fucks.  Maybe this dude is so out of touch, but I refuse to buy it.

Apologies for the digression, but that was too good not to talk about.  EA is one of the most evil companies ever.  It hurts me inside that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks so good.  Part of me is wondering how EA is going to secretly screw everyone over.  They said no lootboxes, but maybe there is some other “surprise mechanics” in the game.  Fuck EA.

Even CD Projekt Red isn’t immune from this.  There was an expose published about the development of The Witcher 3 and what hell it was for those who were involved.  The company has promised that that kind of thing is not going to happen again.  We’ll see.  I’m always skeptical.  Blame the fact that these companies have a reputation for being liars and treating people like crap.

Which is why I genuinely do believe that game developers, testers, all of those groups should unionize.  It’s LONG since time that they did so.  As we have seen with the lootboxes fiasco, these companies won’t learn from the horrible things they do and will just make excuses.  Hell, there was an article where one head of a company was laughing at the idea of them unionizing.  Since these companies can’t be trusted to do the right thing on their own, it’s time for those who are stuck in this nightmare to step up and band together.

Naturally, there’s the thought about what companies would do if this were to actually happen.  The answer is pretty obvious – not hire anyone associated with the union.  They’d outright tell people that if they unionize, they’ll just fire them and never hire them again.  They know how many people are desperate for a job and would accept their ultimatum of staying out of the union to keep their job.  Gotta love a profession where people live under a constant threat of having no income if they don’t tow the corporate line.  Or with the testers, being treated less than human and paid virtually nothing.

The only way this would work is if enough developers/testers were to get together all at once and make this happen.  It can’t just be a couple of people.  It has to be a large effort.  But it needs to happen.  It should have happened so many years ago.  With gaming getting bigger and bigger, employees need the protection a union brings.  That way these companies can’t pull the bullshit that they do.  There are so many stories of the work environments, the stress levels, the burnout, even suicides in connection to how awful it is.  It’s high time for those in this profession to band together and actually look out for one-another.

What would this mean for gamers?  Several things.  For starters, yearly releases would be a thing of the past.  Less crunch would mean that things would have to be paced out.  Games would be on CDPR time – coming out when they’re done.  Given how unfathomably impatient gamers are (I admit that I am an impatient man myself.  But I accept when there are delays because I want things to come out perfect), this could have a lot of people bitching and moaning about the delays.  They’d have to suck it up and deal.

Because we never see the people who makes games, it’s hard for people to understand the human cost.  In this age of apathy, plenty of people probably don’t care.  It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for people to rationalize not caring about what happens to other people.  With homeless people, it’s just fantastic.  Part of me wants America to just ditch the pretense of empathy and just kill the homeless.  It’s painfully obvious how little people care.  I had to overhear two coworkers talking about how awful it is that they are everywhere.  What would they prefer?  The way I see it, nobody cares, so let’s stop pretending.

Sorry, another digression.  AAA gaming needs to change.  It needed to change years ago, but now more than ever, it’s time for the people being exploited by corporations who treat them like cattle to band together and step up to them.  They would fight tooth and nail against them.  They’d fire, threaten, and make life hell for those who do this.  But in the end, they could succeed.

Part of me is hoping that AAA gaming is gonna have a collapse.  EA is a company that I would LOVE to see brought to heel.  People lament the idea of EA collapsing.  Not me.  I think it’s a great idea.  Maybe one or two of these companies need to topple in order for the rest to learn that they can’t keep being as greedy and scum-sucking as they are in order to survive.  A man can hope.

Until next time, a quote,

“It’s been a day of firsts.” – Lt. Richard Winters, Band of Brothers

Peace out,

Maverick

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