Unionization supported by almost half of game developers, survey reports

GDC survey shows support for a game developer union, with 47 percent of respondents saying they support unionization, and a further 26 percent answering "maybe."

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Fist4achin918d ago

This can be a good thing considering how hard development teams are pushed sometimes by the executives. Execs don't care about quality so much as their money to be made and rushing out unfinished and buggy products.

Eonjay917d ago

Considering some of the crazy stories we get they probably need it more than we realize.

rainslacker916d ago (Edited 916d ago )

More likely it just means that more people will be hired on as contractors. Union shops and non union shops would make it difficult for contractors to work between them, limiting their choices during the inevitable lay offs, and studios can't employs a full compliment of developers over the whole development process withing the cost of production going up.

On top of that, game developers can want this if they want, but the studio would have to recognize the union as a party working on behalf of the employees for them to mean anything. Strikes can force this, but if they're contractors, it means they can be sent on their way, with no actual financial harm to the company, since they won't have to pay unemployment on those they let go.

What is most interesting though is that given the nature of the workforce now, that they would even need a union. There is a severe shortage of qualified labor in the game industry. It's pretty much a employees market right now, and it's easy to negotiate a better salary. A union would make things more standardized on that front, which means it's likely that the overall average salary will go down, because dev houses aren't going to pay more than they have to, or more than they feel someone is worth.

I often wonder if people really realize that a union in the gaming industry isn't going to help them that much. If anything, it's going to make it worse, because deadlines still have to be met to get those bonuses or next phases of money to pay the devs themselves. Unions can slow things down, and if that happens, it means devs can be forced to shut down because they underperform. It's a dangerous situation to be in, because unionization would effectively shut down much of the industry, and in the process of working out the kinks, quite a few devs would be in danger of failing.

Unions will not improve the quality of games. Better management will do that. But even the best managed studios have a lot of wasted time and sometimes harsh hours. But I think much of the bad stuff is overblown, or anecdotal, as poorly managed studios where this is most a problem, tend to go under anyways.

bluefox755917d ago

Good luck with that, they'll just fire them and hire a new batch that are willing to work without a union. Unless they're in one of those states that doesn't let people choose to opt out. Unions these days often do very little for the employees outside of lining the pockets of the union bosses.

Mulletino917d ago

And funding the DNC. These journalists will also get to write about the long development times and increased prices. Win win.

Smokehouse917d ago

That 47% are the easily replaceable. Just sayin..

Eonjay917d ago

Do you really believe that it is easy to replace half of your workforce?

Smokehouse917d ago (Edited 917d ago )

Depends on the job. It costs a lot more to train and hire but if what you have isn’t working sometimes you don’t have a choice. Yes it’s done all of the time, the turn around in my job would make your head spin. I have been at my job 5 years and I’m veteran status lol.

rainslacker916d ago

I wouldn't say easily. There is a severe shortage of qualified labor in the game industry. Good devs can draw good people in, but they usually pay more because they have to, and generally, working conditions are better anyways.

It'd mean there would be more contract labor, and that would pretty much kill the unions, because the contractor would have to decide if they want to join the union to work in a union shop, but that would mean they couldn't work in a non-union shop, or the union fines the member. Stupid I know, but that's how it works. If the studio hires a non-union worker, the union fines the business, or makes such a fuss, that it becomes annoying. Stupid, but that's how it works.

Unions would be extremely disruptive to the industry. While I can see why some developers feel it would improve their work life, it probably wouldn't. Game production and funding is based on meeting milestones. Unions would likely slow down the game development process, which means more money would be required at each milestone because the milestone would have to be extended, or you'd need to hire more workers(which may not get things done quicker).

Smokehouse916d ago

Well said. It’s the same in most industries.

doritos917d ago

Haha, you go right on ahead with that, and let us know how it works out.

Cobra951917d ago

It should really be a guild, like the writer's guild in Hollywood. Regular workers are easily replaced. True talent is not. Once a guild takes hold, it ideally can extend down the ranks. That way, the workers can negotiate with the big companies on more equitable terms, as one bloc.

As a veteran of software and game-tech development, I can confirm that the abuses are real. The only way to curb them going forward is to give those affected a greater say in their fate. Clearly, government isn't going to step in to help.

Mulletino917d ago

“Clearly, government isn't going to step in to help.”

Which is why I love this country. Everything outside of defense that the government touches turns to crap. People need to quit relying on authoritative power so much. Produce a more attractive alternative and make a few bucks.

TK-55917d ago

"Which is why I love this country. Everything outside of defense that the government touches turns to crap. People need to quit relying on authoritative power so much. Produce a more attractive alternative and make a few bucks."

I think that's far too broad a statement. There are times government is necessary and times where it should have minimal influence. To give an example one of the only things that can protect net neutrality is government influence.

The US is ranked number 28th in mobile internet speeds which is kinda depressing once you see that Greece, Kenya and Indonesia are all ranked higher.

Smokehouse917d ago

The talent can negotiate for themselves. I have always lived in a right to work state so I’m used to the cutthroat nature of it I guess.

If some lazy asshole negotiated his way to my pay through a union while I work my ass off I would be pissed. I would quit and what are you left with? Overpaid lazy assholes who will run your business into the dirt. The talent will always go where they are appreciated. Game quality will take the hit and then everyone is out of a job.

TK-55917d ago (Edited 917d ago )

I know you're in the US but in the UK I used to work at a supermarket and the union fee was £2.50 a month. Hardly a lot to pay to have my holiday entitlement and pay protected, and legal representation should I need it.

Smokehouse917d ago

We have labor laws that take care of that stuff. I shouldn’t be charged for basic workers rights. If a company screws me all I have to do is call the better business bureau and see what my options are. I have no problem paying for a good lawyer if I have a solid case. Most of them will just take a percentage of the settlement.

In my experience the business doesn’t screw people though. If they try it doesn’t last long lol. I get 20 days vacation a year and they wouldn’t try to screw me out of it. I’m not a slave and I have resume that allows me to move freely. I can pack up my shit and say “see ya” anytime I want, especially now in this economy. You don’t screw your workers if you want to keep them, only dumb business does that.

rainslacker916d ago


My understanding of the UK, and the EU, that most of those things are protected through labor laws.

That said, the 2.50 a month is a pittance compared to what some unions charge here in the US. My cousin got a factory job a few years ago for a car manufacturer in Ohio, and he had to pay $100 a month. It was the kind of job he was just there and would eventually get paid off, but for where he lived, you take what you can get. The unions weren't going to protect his job any more than the state could, because the labor laws in the US can be hit or miss depending on state, and it doesn't usually cover lay offs anyways. He worked there for 8 months, then was laid expected. Union got him a one week severance package, which was about what he paid into the union to begin with. Except he had to pay taxes on that money.

Unions can be good, but a lot of times, they aren't. There are times where there is real abuse, but a lot of times now, unions just slow things down, and make it more expensive to make products, which is one reason a lot of companies are going overseas. For a $20/hr factory worker, they likely could find people to do it for $10-12, but the union won't allow that. But the unions act like they are in charge, because there is this mentality that the worker is in charge. That isn't usually the case, because the worker only has control over themselves, and choice should dictate the market. In a place where labor can be hard to find, wages are going to be higher. Where he lives, they're higher because of the unions, not because its hard to find people. It'd be harder to find people if they didn't pay as much, so they'd naturally adjust.

This isn't like the 60's or before, where companies played more off the depression era ideas that any money is good. It's the age where people have to make a living wage, but the markets don't want to pay more for their products, so as the union and workers demand things which don't line up with the market, it makes it harder for these companies to compete.

With gaming, there are a slew of issues that will come along with unions, and for the way games are financed, it could mean the death sentence of a studio if the union decides to start flexing its muscle, because they're going to do this when the studio is the most vulnerable, which is going to be right around milestones, which is when new funding gets added to actually pay the workers. Then you have the whole union/non-union shop issues which make it more difficult for contractors. Since game makers tend to be well paid, dues are likely to be higher, so effectively, they have to pay the workers more to get the same, so the only one's really coming out ahead are the unions themselves.


While business shouldn't screw their employees, as the employees are vitally important to a company, many companies also know that there is an available work force if some people decide they don't want to work there.

The labor force across all the gaming industry is in a situation where they have more control because there is an extreme shortage. That pretty much removes the need for unions, as bad developers are going to lose people mid-production and attrition should take care of itself. For most people in the gaming industry, it's more about just deciding to move on, and I find the people that are most unhappy with their jobs, they tend to be unwilling to do better for themselves.

FalconofLucis98917d ago

but writing in Hollywood is fucking trash, clearly this isnt even working

rainslacker916d ago (Edited 916d ago )

I've seen abuses, but I think they're overblown by the media.

That said, it's pretty easy to negotiate one's terms of employment in the industry right now. Anyone accepting the first offer is doing it wrong. The first offer is low, because studios expect you to negotiate. Unions would likely try to standardize pay scales, which just isn't reasonable given the huge disparity of talent and experience within the industry itself.

As far as the rest of the working conditions go, what can they negotiate? A job has to be done, and milestones have to be met to get the next phase of funding, which goes towards salaries and other things needed to make the game. Without that funding, production stops, and without money, people aren't getting paid. It's the choice between working to get things done so one can get paid, or arguing over working, while also still not getting paid. Investors aren't going to keep funneling money into a project because the workers are negotiating terms halfway through production, and threatening to strike if agreements can't be made.

Unions would effectively slow down the production process, and likely cause many developers to shut down, because I can't see how its sustainable within the game industry. I know unions want in, because there is a lot of money to be made, but I think that the people who say they want a union, or are willing to have one, don't realize it just isn't going to work the way they hope. They're basing it on emotional decisions drawn from how annoying it can be right now, but don't really think it through to its logical conclusion.

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