Is gaming unionisation on the way as some devs work a 95 hour week? | Pocket

Video Game Industry Faces Unionization Debate Following IATSE Survey

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has highlighted the absence of unions in the gaming industry compared to other creative sectors, such as acting and screenwriting. In an effort to address this issue, the IATSE has released the results of its 2023 Rates and Conditions Survey, which gathered data from hundreds of developers on topics such as pay, benefits, and working conditions. The survey provides valuable insights into the current state of the industry.

The discussion surrounding the need for unions comes on the heels of a challenging year for the gaming industry. In 2022, the revenue generated by mobile games saw a decline for the first time ever. Although the industry is gradually recovering this year, companies like EA, Embracer, and Ten Square Games have still had to implement cost-cutting measures, including staff layoffs.

The Issue of Development Crunch

According to a report by IGN, the IATSE survey, conducted between March and August of this year, revealed that over 57% of respondents had most recently worked on a Triple-A title. The average industry experience among participants was 6.9 years. Alarmingly, only 42.9% of respondents considered a career in gaming to be sustainable.

One of the most significant challenges faced by game developers is development crunch. Another recent study conducted by Sauce Labs found that 79% of developers have felt pressured to release unfinished games. The IATSE survey further substantiated these findings.

Half of the surveyed developers reported experiencing crunch within the past two years. Some participants even described working 14-hour days while being paid for only 8 hours of work, with no increase in base pay to keep up with rising living costs. The highest number of hours worked in a week was 95, and over 36% of employees had no employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Overall, survey participants identified pay as the most critical aspect requiring improvement, followed by overtime and development crunch.

However, the survey concludes that developers are unable to address these problems on their own and implies the potential value of unionization in the industry.

The IATSE intends to emphasize this idea in its future discussions. It is worth noting that some employers, such as Activision Blizzard, have previously demonstrated resistance to staff unionizing by withholding raises from union campaigners last year.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash