In creative industries labour exploitation can happen because employers can get away with leaning into the passion creative workers bring to their field. The video game industry may be a young industry, but the tricks of getting free labour from workers are old ones. As a result, movements like Game Workers Unite have popped up to help video game workers get the respect they deserve.
Recently workers at Activision created the largest video game union and in Canada a union has been formed at a game service company. This is the beginning of a larger movement in the industry which is great to see. Professor Johanna Weststar has looked into why this is happening now:
We can trace the history of game worker resistance to see some of these fluctuations. Examples include the Easter Egg planted by programmer Warren Robinett in Atari’s Adventure, the brief formation of a virtual union called UbiFree in France in 1998 and the infamous EA Spouse affair in 2004.
The shine is coming off the rhetoric of “passion” that reinforces individualism, valorizes heroic efforts for the sake of the game and promotes worker alignment with employer interests.
Thanks to Roger!