What is Game Workers Unite?

Game Workers Unite is a broad-reaching organization that seeks to connect pro-union activists, exploited workers, and allies across borders and across ideologies in the name of building a unionized game industry. We are building pro-union solidarity across disciplines, classes, and countries.

How is the organization structured?

G.W.U. is a leaderless and worker-lead organization. Only workers and other non-employers (students, etc) can be involved in the decision making process of the org, but we actively encourage employers, academics, and others to engage in the community and help support the organization's direct action efforts both materially and through their visibility.

Is Game Workers Unite a Union?

We are not a union. We are a grassroots advocacy group that educates the game industry about labor, mobilizes game workers, and builds local on-the-ground chapters that are dedicated to building unions in their studios, cities, and countries.

How can I help and get involved?

You can visit https://gameworkersunite.org/get-involved and join the international Game Workers Unite organization or any of our many local chapters around the world! All it takes is filling out a simple google form!

How can I donate to your cause?

Right now you can't, but thank you for your generosity! Because we get this question a lot, we are filing for a non-profit status so that we can open an official organizational bank account. Until that is complete, we aren't comfortable taking anyone's money.

What is crunch, and how does it affect the game industry?

The New York Times has defined crunch as "a sudden spike in work hours, as many as 20 a day, that can last for days or weeks on end." Some companies have pushed crunch in upwards of several months. People have described experiencing stomach pains, memory loss, extreme anxiety, loss of family time, divorce, severe burnout, and more. Effectively, workers are trading their relationships and health so their employers can get more money. Crunch is not sustainable, nor should it be planned. If we accept crunch as "part of the process", then we accept our jobs will never get better.

What is the current state of the industry?

Because game work is a "hobby" industry, where the prevailing messaging is that you're "lucky" to be doing a job that you "love", many people are willing to do whatever it takes to get their foot in the door. This creates an overly competitive labour market, and means it's a rush to the bottom for those who freelance or contract. This situation often encourages workers sell their craft for the lowest they can, just to be in an industry they love - and business owners are the ones who benefit. Burnout is common. People frequently decide to leave the industry completely due to long hours, politics, or poor treatment. Employee churn is very high in many AAA companies, with little to no sign of stopping. In fact, most AAA companies see churn and crunch as all part of the process. Workers are encouraged to stay late, work long hours, do whatever they can to help their team through.

What would a union do for the game industry?

The main purpose of a union is to empower employees to negotiate, as a stronger collective group, about issues affecting union members and other employees. That means being involved in setting pay scales, benefits, work hours, and more during contract negotiations. A union can also help by pursuing underpayment claims, taking court action on behalf of bullied or harassed workers, and so on. A union would also give advice, legal help, negotiate consumer benefit programs for working families, lobby for funding, or have significant buying power for products that will benefit members.

Who would be covered by a union for game workers?

We strongly believe in the industrial model of unionization, meaning if you are doing any kind of job for a game company - whether that be in-house, in an agency, on contract or casual - you're a game worker. You are one of us.

I'm a content creator/streamer, how could I benefit from a union?

We understand that you are constantly dealing with opaque partnerships, ambassador programs, and one-sided contracts with companies. Many companies see you as 'hobbyists' and free labour - and with no industry standard pay, there's no way to tell if you're being compensated fairly for your time. We want to change that. With a union, you can receive legal assistance when negotiating contracts and compensation - and like independent developers, you can receive advice and information around pay standards.

I'm a pro player, how could I benefit from a union?

As a pro player, you face challenges with partnerships, sponsorships, and contracts. Often, these can be confusing or convoluted on purpose. And talk of unionising in esports isn't new! Just like content creators or streamers, the industry is largely unaware of the issues that pro players go through on a regular basis.

I’m a freelancer, does this apply to me?

It does! Joining a union helps you strengthen your position as a freelancer. A union can help you set correct rates that don’t undermine you in the long run. A union will be there when a client refuses to pay. A union can advocate for things like unemployment benefits. A union can also provide training, allowing a freelancer to continue their education. It also provides an easy way to network with other members, get advice from experienced freelancers, find out which clients are good and bad, and so on.

I'm an employer, or I'm also a worker and I have hiring/firing power. What does this mean for me?

The reality is many of us blur the line between worker and employer in this industry. We would like to work toward a future where a game worker union assists not only with workers within a standard company setup, but also with co-op setup and best practices implementation.

How can unions help small businesses?

Small businesses are overwhelmingly plagued by wage theft and exploitation, because the relationship between "boss" and "friend" can quickly become blurred. For workers in a small business, joining a union helps you recognise this exploitation and empowers you to take action to defend your rights. If you are a small business owner, it can be difficult to find accurate advice on what your workers are entitled to. A constructive dialogue with a union can help sort out these issues before they become a concern. Additionally, a unionised workforce gives you the confidence to know that your workers are invested in your business and want to be a part of it for the long term.

Don't we already have the IGDA, the ESA, GDAA, and other game industry organizations? How are they different from the GWU?

These groups do represent the interests of the industry, but with two important differences: they are focused on the business owners in the industry, not the workers in the industry; and they are not labor unions. A union under the law has powers and abilities that lobby and industry groups do not have, such as the ability to enter workplaces, represent the needs of workers, the ability to take industrial action, and other powers. GWU hopes to be able to work constructively with all of these bodies. We don't have a formal relationship with them yet, although we certainly hope to keep channels open. All of us want the same thing: for the games industry to grow. Our concern is that the people who do the work to grow that industry see their fair share of any profits, instead of all the money and rewards going to managers and CEOs.

How can I buy GWU literature, stickers, buttons, and swag?

Right now all of our literature and freebies are designed and printed for specific industry event campaigns (GDC, E3, etc) and our local chapters. However because so many people are asking how they can get some, we are looking into potential options for on-demand printing and/or an online storefront.

I work in board/card/escape room games, is GWU for me?

While a lot of our action so far has been aimed at the digital game industry, we do have several members from the physical game industry in our group! No one knows what a hypothetical game union would look like and who it could include in every country, but we certainly welcome all game workers into Game Workers Unite!


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