The Daily Grind: Should video game developers unionize?

    
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Whooops.

The New York Times ran an op-ed from Kotaku editor Jason Schreier last week outlining the perils of game industry “crunch”: 80-to-100-hour weeks, often not properly compensated, as a studio works its developers into a mad frenzy trying to release a game (or patch, or whatever). As the Grey Lady reports, some developers become sick from working so much — we’ve seen multiple deaths in the MMORPG industry over crunch — not to mention the fact that talented devs burn out or flee the industry. And Schreier doesn’t even touch on how crunch-like policies limit the labor pool to young men without families.

Let’s be clear: The studios, not the developers, are to blame here. And in declaring the current situation unsustainable, Schreier asserts that “game developers need to insist – to their bosses and, most important, to themselves – that health comes first.” But signing pledges is clearly not enough, and it doesn’t seem likely that after many decades of this that the problem is going to solve itself or that studios will voluntarily self-correct. It seems to me that devs need to band together more formally, to unionize like the film industry Schreier gives a nod and like the voice actors who said much the same during their long strike.

Is it time for game developers to unionize?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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kofteburger
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kofteburger

Everybody should unionize.

Reader
Leontes

Yes. It’s way past time.

( Darn it – I’m way too late for the “union”-frenzy… ;) )

Reader
Ian Wells

I.T. (which game development is considered) is an exempt industry and many federal and state labor laws simply do not apply to it. As such, unionizing may prove difficult as the very moment any attempt at organization is seen, studios are well with in their legal rights to fire everyone. Given that many enter the games industry as naive early 20 somethings and there is a guaranteed wave of new potential hires every year, with a few hardcore vets who are in it come hell or high water at this point, the option to unionize is honestly not really on the table.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Working in the video game industry sounds insane, not sure why anyone would work there unless you REALLY love what you do or are VERY good at your job.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

I work with some ex-video game industry people … they said “If you work in video games, you don’t enjoy your life. Hands down.”

Vexia
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Vexia

I’ve thought that something should be done to improve game developers’ working conditions for a long time. If studios and other parties aren’t going to help them, unionizing seems to be nearly the only thing they can do. Aside from mere livelihoods, people’s entire lives are at stake with this unhealthy crunch culture, to say the very least. Making the games they love is not enough for these people; they need something concrete! Love for your job’s not going to help you afford a house, put food on the table, or take care of you when you’re sick. The job’s gotta love you back.

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Ket Viliano

I think there is a mistake being made in how we speak about the labor being done.

No one really “develops” a game.

Game Designers design the rules of the game. They are the only ones really trapped in the game industry, their only alternative to video games is board games or card games, or to get a new career.

Digital Artists have a few options, to seek work in the Film industry at the very least. Like most art jobs, the top skilled people are in huge demand, everyone else, not so much.

Software Engineers have the most flexibility, by far. Why work for a crunch time game company when you can get an ownership stake in a start up for the same crunch? Or just get a normal software job, which is a field in high demand with a normal work environment.

And yes, a job has to pay well, and be a livable experience, or why bother.

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Fervor Bliss

How would you punish a non union game?
Illegal emulators have taught us, people do not care what is legal or moral, they want to play the game.

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Bryan Gregory

Emulators themselves are not illegal (or immoral). Any emulator project that is illegal is so because they are using copyrighted code or are distributing the client themselves.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yes, because it seems like they are in need of things that unions have delivered to working people in America:

1. No child labor;
2. 40 hour workweek;
3. Overtime;
4. Sick time and then Sick pay;
5. Vacation time and then Vacation pay;
6. Holidays;
7. Raises;
8. Guarantee pay for work done (as in a regular pay check);
9. Details of withholding;
and the really, really big one:
10. Healthcare.

America works more hours and has less leisure time than any other industrialized nation. The media revolution has brought about an incredible disregard for people’s lives, their health and general well-being.

Reader
Ssiard

Wiki disagrees with you. USA is 13th and Mexico is #1 and works 26% more than the USA!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_time

Reader
Sally Bowls

I can’t see how getting rid of crunch time is worth the handicaps to workers and companies of unionization.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Yup. This thread blowed up good, blowed up real good.

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starbuck1771

Yup it sure did as expected as soon as you say the word union as part of a job description your talking politics.

Reader
Bryan Turner

To all these people calling Unions legalized extortion and being bad for employees let me give you my personal observations.

I work at a Hospital where every one doesn’t have a union except the Nurses.

Last week raises went out, I didn’t get a raise, none of my fellow CNAs got raises, no one in House Keeping, no one in maintenance, no one in Security.

Guess who got a a raise though,

All of the FUCKING Nurses.

Sure wish I had a union.

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rafael12104

Ah, but I’m sure you also know there is a shortage of nurses. A serious shortage, nationwide too. So, how do you deal with that as a hospital? Of course, pay them more.

Not excusing it, but I have some interest in the medical field and right now, the way to go, is becoming a nurse.

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Bryan Turner

You need CNAs as well. they had to had out raises to CNAs last years because no one was applying, we still have staffing holes. My wife and I are applying at other hospitals that pay more which is basically all of them.

I tried contacting a Union because I know for a fact that Vassar Brothers Hospital has a Union for it’s CNAs and got blown off, perhaps if I go back and speak in my ass hole voice I’ll get some where.

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starbuck1771

As a personal care attendant I got yearly raises and bonuses without needing a union. I have been in two unions only because the jobs I did at the time required me to be in a union. One was a carpenters union, the other was during my ten years as a volunteer zookeeper. Despite paying yearly dues they did squat for me.