Unionization group Game Workers Unite withdraws call for firing ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien

    
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Update: GWU has now withdrawn its call; we’ve updated at the end of this piece. The original article follows.

If yesterday was the day for supportive Twitter hashtags, today is the day for anger and action, or so says pro-union group Game Workers Unite, which this afternoon began a Twitter campaign calling for the firing of ArenaNet President Mike O’Brien.

As we’ve been chronicling, ArenaNet – the famed MMORPG studio behind the popular Guild Wars franchise – laid off over 100 people from its 400-person headquarters yesterday in a move it said was dictated by owners at NCsoft. Workers assigned to Guild Wars 2 as well as those building the now-canceled unannounced gamers were affected, and today’s GW2 update was postponed as the studio has been closed for two days of regrouping, though the execs have suggested the core game will continue at least through its fifth season of content. We updated our list of some of the devs being let go as recently as this morning; they include some extremely well-known developers, including Gaile Gray, Josh Foreman, and Matthew Medina.

Game Workers Unite today characterized industry layoffs as “deliberate efforts by the heads of the companies to extra profits at any cost, even if it involves punishing the workforce generating those profits.”

Gamers will recall that the group also began a #firebobbykotick Twitter campaign with a petition (now nearing 10,000 signatures) in the wake of Activision-Blizzard’s move to lay off 800 employees in spite of a record financial year in 2018. ArenaNet is obviously not as large a studio as Blizzard, but it still performed relatively well last year in spite of a weak fourth quarter.

It is not entirely clear why the group did not include NCSoft West CEO Yoon Song-Yee or her husband, NCsoft CEO Kim Taek-Jin, as well, given ArenaNet’s implications that the layoff mandate came from NCsoft.

If unionization efforts aren’t your thing but you still want to support the devs, you can use the #love4arenanet hashtag on Twitter, post your messages on the official wiki, or even just show up in-game:

Source: Twitter
Update
Now the group has withdrawn the call.

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mysecretid

If you’re going to call for someone’s head, you’d better be damn sure you’ve got your facts straight first — otherwise, you don’t deserve the shot-caller’s job.

I support some sort of unionization for game developers, as I’ve seen too many abuses by upper management for too long (and no, I’m not going to argue my position with you; do as you like), but this sort of sloppy behavior makes me wonder if Game Workers Unite is the right organization to get things done?

Credibility matters in the realm of labor-management relations; you can’t call for someone’s career to end, and then just tag on a hasty apology once you’re proven wrong.

Do it right, or get out of the way for those who will do it right. This is a serious undertaking, with people’s livelihoods in the balance on both sides of the issue. There’s no room for amateur zealotry at this level.

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Fenrir Wolf

Good intentions marred by a lack of research and less than stellar execution? I’m oddly reminded of the Occupy movement for some reason, which was brought down from the inside by false-flag operations due to precisely that failing.

I do wish these organisations would have a few more autistic folks on board, or at least introverts. It’s not that hard to head on over to Google, nor is it too hard to correlate, cross-reference, and check the claims you’ve amassed, either.

I see this a lot with very gregarious, extroverted groups whose heart is definitely in the right place without really knowing how to properly act upon that. Jumping right into the fray without proper information gathering isn’t always the best idea.

I don’t doubt their intent, though.

This is where the old aphorism ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions‘ derives from. It’s when one operates entirely on wild-eyed idealism without structure. Idealism does need structure to temper it.

This has me thinking, though. The way things are looking at ArenaNet echoes many other pre-sunset states I’ve seen and that’s nagging at the back of my mind. There are MMOs where this has been ignored and not enough data was collected to successfully muster a server emulation project.

For this reason, I think I might look into what can be done to shore up these reserves of data in case of a worst case scenario. I know that GW2SE was underway in the early days of Guild Wars 2, but that’s (along with the Ophelia-Core project) fallen by the wayside, apparently.

At least, insofar as I can surmise with the available information (GW2SE popped its clogs 7 years ago, and Ophelia-Core five years ago).

And as much as I have gripes with Guild Wars 2 (the writing is so bad), I absolutely would never want to see it disappear. It deserves better.

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Arsin Halfmoon

This literally made me double take. I would not be surprised if Mike teared up every time he had to say goodbye to a colleague. On top of that, when he was temporary lead for GW2, I’m pretty sure people wanted him to stay because of how so in touch with the game he was. It’s so ridiculous someone would even think this was an issue.

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Baemir

Buncha clowns.

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Utakata

Yeah, coming in a bit late for this…

They should learn to organize first before calling heads. Even than, calling for heads isn’t exactly the agenda for unions. Rather, hopefully protecting workers from unscrupulous execs who view the labor force as conveniently expendable.

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BDJ

What a joke these guys are lol. Just another lynch mob that doesn’t know what they are doing.

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Utakata

I rather deal with them then as for mentioned unscrupulous execs and/or internet gomers. Just saying.

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Armsbend

Not if you wanted to enact real change. If you wanted to get a better deal for employees you’d meet with Kotick not some unbranded guy with a catchy twitter handle.

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Utakata

You seem to be repeating something I just said. And I am not sure why.

…to be clear though, there is no real moral equivalence to an upstart “buncha clowns” on a union drive to unscrupulous execs. As they’re not the ones wanting to destroy lives to pad a bottom line. And as demonstrated, they are much willing to learn to get that, “better deal for employees.” That is, yes they fucked up…but they’re not digging in about it.

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Arsin Halfmoon

I’m a union man, and this is the stupidest thing a union can do. Sure, they’re saying sorry now, but unions today are so demonized that it’s shit like this that puts a bad name on all of us. WE CANNOT afford these mistakes, so an apology doesn’t help. And I totally agree, this a lynch mobs. I’m honestly very hesitant to even call this a union. From STEP 1 they already fucked it up by getting people up in arms to fire some exec.

A union is built TO UNITE WORKERS and build a strong support system to draw boundaries, you know, long term goals. What we get instead is a short-sighted “Fire this exec because he fired people” movement that is just as bad as any of the anti-consumer practices that Activation and EA do. Guess what? He’ll be replaced, and chances are, he might be just as bad or have the same agenda. It’s ok to have those feelings about getting rid of the guy up top, but a union is meant to incite change.

Look at Apex legends, from what I understand, the head of that studio actually stood his ground and made the game he wanted. And we’ve got an awesome game on our hands. The union we want is one that will stand behind him not just as support, but because THEY CAN DO SOMETHING to protect the man’s job. Firing an exec DOES NOT SAVE JOBS.

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Bannex

“Hey at least we started a conversation about it!”

This is the worst kind of activism. Get your shit together before you call for action.

Furthermore, people get laid off. This industry in specific is one of the worst for that. Yes it sucks when people lose their jobs but pretending layoffs shouldn’t/couldn’t/can’t/won’t happen or can be prevented altogether is flat out lunacy.

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Armsbend

I respect what these guys are trying to do – but they are very unprofessional and frankly I think they know little about how Unions work. The gaming industry really needs to be advised from a more established group.

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cursedseishi

Personally, it feels like GWU is going after the easiest marks with their “#Fire–Insert Person–” hashtag crap. Bobby Kotick was an easy mark if there ever was one, as he’s been demonized in the media for years. Heck, apparently it’s gone on so long he even complains about how his dating life suffers because his dates look him up on google and find nothing but images of him with devil horns.

But O’Brien? He’s…. not done much to be in the news, far as I can remember. Aside from the Price incident, there really hasn’t been much in the way of negativity. But hey! People got up in a fit over the Price thing (understandably so), so why not blame him for the next negative bit of news for ArenaNet! With the prevalent thing being this was NCSoft-mandated, it’s weird to target someone decidedly not NCSoft.

Activision’s 10% layoff was done purely to make sure those big shadowy heads and Kotick at the top all continued to get more money. The layoffs before that even, forced or employee-chosen, were done to ‘pair’ down the “unnecessary” stuff like Customer Support, or spots that weren’t making money or making games for money. Jim Sterling did a good video that dug into a lot of the mess around Kotick, but simply put he deserves to be fired.

And all this talk of “unions” doesn’t cover the worst issue here. If all those low level workers decided to step down? If they decided to push back and try and unionize? These large companies, like EA and Activision, would let go of the entire work-force and either accept the thousands and thousands of eager starry-eyed college graduates who waste money attending colleges that refuse to warn them of the industry issues because they are part and parcel of the issue themselves. Or they’d outsource, which to an extent is already done.

And in the end, it has to be all or nothing. If four or five out of ten decided to strike and unionize, they’d get blacklisted from the industry immediately, and people might notice. If one or two out of ten do? It’ll be ignored, and those couple of individuals would be blacklisted. But again, even ten out of ten wouldn’t do much aside from affect things in the short term.

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John Kiser

To be fair Kotick definitely earned his reputation. He’s a “suit” if ever there was a suit. He’s famous for saying he’d never make a new IP unless he can franchise it and works for yearly releases of the same game.

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cursedseishi

Oh I know, hence why I mentioned he was as easy a mark as one could have for demanding someone gets fired! And I’m definitely of the mind he deserves it as well, as his presence has been nothing short of a blight on Activision as well as a sense of unease when they bought out Blizzard.

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Sorenthaz

Calling for the head guy of a company to be fired every time layoffs happen isn’t going to get this unionization effort taken very seriously.

Though considering ArenaNet’s overlords are over in Asia it wouldn’t be very productive to try and call for them being fired.

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Armsbend

It will get them exactly nowhere – seeing how those are the exact people that unions negioate with.

These guys are rabble rousers. The rabble has it’s place, and it is needed here, but no one is going to take them seriously.