Game Industry Article: Unionization Now?


#1

Gamasutra has an article up regarding the unionization of the game industry.
http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20050322/hyman_01.shtml

It’s a few days old but I haven’t seen it mentioned yet.

Thoughts?


#2

dear god, no.

the last thing the industry needs is more whining and primadonnas.


#3

The game industry would collapse. It doesn’t work like that.

Look at Japan, as far as I know, there are no unions over there, and they produce 70% of all quality AAA-games out there.


#4

Well nobody wants it, but EA is ‘asking’ for it in the way they behave. I think only EA employees should have a union, just because the company is so big.


#5

Unions are not saviors. They can end up bieng more opressive and tryanical than the employers they were organized against. At the very least it is one more authority you have to answer to in the workplace. Check out this site: http://www.nrtw.org/ and ask yourself if you want to risk the game industry to face the kinds of issues workers on that site are facing.


#6

I agree here, but what’s so bad about a Union though? Even for small gaming houses?

-M


#7

Yeah, slavedriving is much much better.


#8

is that meant to be ironic?

anyway…personally i think unions are a double edged sword, they fill up the vacuum left by poor or loose employment legislation but in the end the only thing that becomes empowered is the union itself and power all to easily corrupts.

In London in the late 70s unions were black booking studios, if you didnt join they pressured their union shops not to give you work…it didnt matter if you were for the union or even if your employees were for or against the union, they wanted your subs and vote and didnt care how they were going to get it or what they did with it.

In the end a lot of the unions were smashed when it was basically shown they were obstructing progress into changing and developing markets.

There does need to be good employee regulation in the industry…those who say its whining are normally the ones who are willing to do anything in order to keep their place…part of the problem in the first place, the insecure and willingly exploited.

Ask yourself this, why is it often that the games industry is the lowest paid, longest hours and has a lowest talent threshold compared to other creative industries?


#9

It seems there are too few people on this forum that believe unionization is the way to go. Let me ask you guys? What kind of knowledge do you have of labor history? Were your parents or grandparents union workers?

Labor unions are often very corrupt, racist, and inefficient. Here in NYC, much of the organized-labor in the construction field is mob run. But these problems don’t exist because of the idea of unionization. They exist because the corruption is often rooted in the fact that the labor leaders sell their fellow workers out and side with management.

From what I understand (and as stated above), the teamsters in the film industry are corrupt. But they work in a field in which producers won’t make a film unless they are guarenteed a HUGE profit, the directors are constantly catered to, and the actors and actressed need to have someone wipe their asses for them. In otherwords, corruption runs very deep in Hollywood. Does that make teamster corruption okay? Of course not. But if anything, they are at the bottom of the barrel.

Unions have given a voice to workers and have allowed them to negotiate a fair wage and working conditions. The gaming industry (and the CG and design industry in general) would benifit from this.


#10

in my honest personal opinion, unions would just add more complaint and pretention to an industy in which it is already abundant…overflowing even…

we already have employers and employees dishing out both whine and pomp, why add a third party for an even greater headache?

whine x3
pomp x3


no thanks


#11

Well, you have to remember, not everyone is as fortunate as you are, working for a company that treats you well. Also, not everyone has the guts to stand up to employee abuse–most just take it in order to get that paycheck and stay employed in the game industry–particularly true of fresh blood that dreamed of working in games since they were kids. Some companies are more than happy to exploit fresh blood like that.


#12

right, so now we have the flippant remark stage over and we’re discussing the issue…:slight_smile:

you say there’s a lot of moaning, well, people will moan yes, but if a lot of people are moaning about the same thing then surely theres a slim possibility that their complaint is legitimate. Also, I’ll bet you that despite the level of complaint that you see, hear or read the amount the employer receives directly is tiny. …people tend to bitch to their collegues, friends and associates a lot more than they will directly to their employer, sometimes because their complaint isn’t entirely well founded and other times because they are scared of losing their job. Unions can give a barrier of representation of employee gripes without having to point the finger at who made the complaint.


#13

For slave driving you need 2 things:

#1 a slave driver
#2 a slave being driven

I argue that in both these cases you are there yourself making the choice, either working for a slave driver or allowing yourself to be driven as a slave : both are in fact choices.

Stop acting like a victim. If you are not happy with your situation: act! You have the freedom of choice.

E.


#14

You should send a mass-email over to EA. :wink:


#15

In my work, we have union representation. I can tell you from experience that a union is basically a political entity with it’s own motives. Don’t automatically assume that by having one, they’ll go out and solve all one’s work problems. They have their own agenda.

Also, the statement that complaining to a union may provide anonymity(sp?) may not be correct. There is always a record on who files a greivance. And, from my experience, our bosses will look out to see who the problem childs are. Fortunately for us, I work as a civil servant, so we can’t be canned very easily. Dunno how this’ll apply to the corporate world, but I’m very interested to see how this all develops, since I’m hoping to one day switch over.

cW


#16

Interesting that you put it this way. There is a thread over in General about film industry vs. gaming industry work environments.

I tend to agree, I think as a whole film industry employees get paid more and work less.

-M


#17

So basically you think that an employee that complains about working more than 10 hours/day is whining? Or someone who works under the pretention that they can work N hours and only get paid for K hours (where N > K)?

-M


#18

I think Unions would serve as a double edged sword for 3 reasons:

  1. Unions have the potential to raise wages and living conditions in an industry that still struggles with fairness. Example, EA emplyees would begin to see the fruits of their labor as EA’s revenues FAR outway their costs in terms of Art Development and QA (the redheaded step children of the industry). Artists could benefit form an organization much like the ones Graphic Designers enjoy, the AIGA.

  2. The down side would be that Unions would most definitely lower job opportunities as wages become garaunteed because gaming houses (and maybe VFX as well) would want to offset production costs by outsourcing their development - just look at the competition in places like France, Eastern Europe, Thailand, New Zealand etc… can you honestly tell me that a garunteed minimum wage of even 35K a year wouldn’t result in at least a marginal amount of outsourcing?

  3. Quality Control - quality could also see a drop if a Union seriously persued Aritists’ job security. Look at education in CA as an example (having grown up here, I think I know a thig or two about this). Having moved from Minnesota to Marin County (a rich county) I didn’t have to learn anything new for 2 years… 2 YEARS! In 8th grade in MN, I knew more about History, Algebra, Spanish, and Grammar than a Sophomore in Highschool because the quality of teaching was horrendous. I see the same thing happening, over an extended period of time, in the gaming industry. What entry level Artist is going to care about quality if they won’t get fired anyway…? Just a thought.

In sum, the ide aof a Union is a nice idea. But seeing as the profit motive for the CEOs of these companies far outways the needs of the workforce. CEOs now make on average of 100x what the lowest paid employee makes, if a Union were to address issues like that, I’d be all for it. But if the Union’s sole purpose would be to garauntee wages and ensure fair business practices I think that gaming houses would rather hire the guy in Romania who doesn’t gripe and is satisfied with $500 a month.

:shrug: Just a thought
Geoff


#19

thats fine if there is a choice, but there are situations where people have been in a perfectly good situation only to have it ruined by an employment aspect (like a new bad manager) and the alternatives are either narrow or worse due to cirumstance. Opportunity and choice favours the young, but people with families can’t be expect to jump around the lands just to find a job that doesn’t exploit them. Your right, you do have a choice, but sometimes the alternative is to stop working in games…funnily enough its a choice that a lot of people take, look around your studio…where do you see all the ground level staff in 10-15…are there enough positions higher up to support them? if not, are they expected to work the same hours for the same pay for the next decade?

I dont like unions much either, I think there needs to be better legislation…an illustration of this in the UK is that if an employer breaks their existing contract with you, changes it without your approval to make you work under conditions that you dont agree with or are unworkable then by continuing working you are deemed to accept the new conditions…you actually have to resign and then sue for forced resignation compensation to get anywhere.

So, if you get told that, even though you’ve just been given a contract saying you would be working 40 hours, you will be working 80 with no extra benefits you have to leave (therefore removing your entitlement to state benefits), and sue (off your own back and pocket) the company (which maybe the only one in town) to get back the money you lost by leaving your job (which you can no longer work for), meanwhile the company can fight it hire some keen muppet to do the job.
Even if they lose there are limits to the compensation and its argued sometimes that the compensation can be outwieghed by the benefits the company can receive in making their staff work under conditions more favourable to the company.

Yeh, you always have a choice…so does the company…


#20

whine and pomp defined:

when i mentioned that there is enough whine and pomp on both sides of the fence in this industry it comes from the folllowing observations.

employees in general bitch among themselves and rarely to thier employer. whining till your gums bleed is not the way to get things done or initiate change. boost morale with your peers by being more proactive about the situation. unions on the other hand could help alleviate a little bit of this but more often than not the union is just as whiny and not as proactive about the situation than the actual employee can be who is witnessing the trauma first hand. unions too deal with legal matters that take up more time and effort than personal conversations directly with your employer. employees that whine just because it is fashionable make me ill. be proactive.

as for employee pomp, more and more we are seeing employees think they are worth more in thier own eyes than the eyes of the company. they think they deserve huge amounts of extras and special treatment. sometimes they do. however, they do not deserve to be overworked.

employer whining stems from profits and power tripping. they like to whine in the press and to thier people to try and generate sympatahy screens while they do evil things in the background. employer whining has no spec of true emotion behind it. it is simply a ruse and a thread to pull along the issue long enough that it either gets forgott.en or given up. adding a union as another antagonist of the employer could make things worse. it could create more contention between employers and workers because now instead of one enemy employers have two. employers get ugly when they feel outnumbered.

employer pomp is the biggest misfortune to the industry. employers stand behind thier profits and fame foretting one key item - it is the people around you that make you great. if you treat your employees like crap and make them feel like your are mightier than them, there will be dissent and your community will start to erode. god complexes are too frequent among employers and among heads of unions. when the two gods collide prepare for an epic battle of mules where neither will budge. events like that put the workers right in the line of fire and fires of hate. not a favourable position to be in…

all in all I am for workers standing up for thier rights, but IMO a union is not always the answer.

have some self respect and stand up for yourself.
stop whispering to your neigbour and start yelling to the sky…