Hi friends! It’s Joan again for your regularly scheduled roundup of labor news in the video games industry. And while it is still decidedly bleak out here, I am NOT actually going to be focusing on layoffs this month! That’s not to say they aren’t still a huge issue with thousands of games workers losing their jobs every week (see all these articles), but there are bigger stories that let me conveniently spend only part of today’s intro talking about them for a change! We’ve got stories about the new largest union in the games industry, updates on the potential video game actors strike from SAG-AFTRA, and racist gamers are making conspiracies to be mad at again.

As other GYGOs have mentioned, remember to support Palestine and Palestinian people however you can during this ongoing crisis. The team over at People Make Games, one of the only large voices in the games industry openly supporting Palestine, has a great video outlining why we can’t afford to be silent. If you’re in the United States, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights has a great toolkit to help get you involved if you’re not sure where to start.

600 Activision QA Workers Unionize, Largest Union to Date

Last Friday, Activision Quality Assurance United officially voted to unionize with the Communication Workers of America, as reported by Polygon. With around 600 workers covered across three states, Activision’s QA union is now the largest recognized union in the games industry in North America, just ahead of the 300 QA workers at Zenimax Media who unionized last January.

The Activision (and Zenimax) QA unions are not encountering any interference from parent company Microsoft, thanks to an agreement signed with CWA in 2022 which requires Microsoft to stay neutral in union talks. However, both the Activision and Zenimax unions are still in negotiations with Microsoft, and neither union has yet ratified their first contract. In fact, only one developers’ union in the US is currently working under a ratified contract. Now, from one large union to another…

Video Game Actors Strike “More Likely” in the Next Few Weeks

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator for the performers’ union SAG-AFTRA, spoke at SXSW last weekend about the chance of another actors’ strike, this time by video game performers over contract talks with large video game companies. Crabtree-Ireland is quoted as saying the chances are “50-50, or more likely than that we will go on strike in the next four to six weeks because of our inability to get past these issues.” SAG-AFTRA’s Interactive Media Agreement in place with 13 video game companies has been getting temporarily extended since 2020, with negotiations running since 2022 and a heavily supported strike authorization vote in September of last year.

 

Racist, Conspiratorial Gamers Want to Rage Against Sweet Baby Inc.

I hate that I have to write about this, but: a small narrative design studio, Sweet Baby Inc. is at the center of a massive hate campaign. Having worked on some absolute bangers like Alan Wake 2 and God of War: Ragnarök, Sweet Baby Inc. also does DEI consulting work, which narrative design studios have done for decades, but the current abysmal climate of the games industry at large has fed into an extremist narrative that has presented this small consulting studio as a target for people claiming everything is too “woke.”

When you have devs on Alan Wake 2, Spider-Man 2, and other titles going out of their way to have to push for what Sweet Baby Inc. actually did on these games to combat hate campaigns, you know it’s gotten really bad! I don’t have nearly enough space or time for all the counter-arguments against this racist, misogynist hate mob that’s sprouted up against the narrative studio in the past few weeks, and gaming journalists far more qualified than me have weighed in on this exact topic. I bring this up as a labor issue to highlight the amazing work that Sweet Baby Inc has been doing and to serve as another voice countering the misinformation campaigns spreading online right now.

In other news…

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about layoffs BUT the news coming out of Disco Elysium developer ZA/UM is hard to ignore: the studio laid off the last original writer last month.

Adult Swim games are getting delisted en masse in another part of the massive restructuring effort at Warner Bros Discovery, which apparently doubles as an effort to piss off as many people as possible.

Dragon Ball mangaka Akira Toriyami, who passed away earlier this month, is being rightfully recognized for some of his amazing contributions to the video game industry.

Nintendo has a bad habit of not crediting their developers in their press. Their latest strike is a bizarre refusal to name the studio who made Princess Peach Showtime.

The IGN Creators Guild union has been formally recognized by parent-company Ziff-Davis, a welcome sight in an increasingly perilous landscape for video games and journalism alike.

It’s not all sunshine this GYGO, but I did ask for positive stories last month and the industry delivered! Now to keep my fingers crossed for something actually unobtainable, like Hollow Knight: Silksong.