“I’m not anti-union, but I don’t really think we need them, right?” said Double Fine head Tim Schafer while hosting yesterday evening’s Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco. “We’re all great here and in this show. No one here is union and...” Then the stage lights went out.
“Oh, right,” said Schafer after the lights went out. “Except for the lighting crew. I forgot they’re all union.”
Then the show producers gave him a tiny, nearly inaudible chipmunk voice and changed the teleprompter so it just read, “UNION!” repeatedly, except in one place where it conspicuously said “ONION!”
“I hear you,” said Schafer after the shenanigans concluded. “This is a union show. We’re better for it.”
It was all a staged bit, of course, but one that illustrates that the calls for game developers to unionize are getting louder, and reaching the eyes and ears of its biggest names. The gaming industry’s most visible pro-union organization, Game Workers Unite, is out in force at this year’s GDC, handing out zines and even running multiple conference sessions. With the inescapable shadow of layoffs looming heavier than ever and crunch culture chewing up developers and spitting them out, more and more developers have embraced the idea of unionization. After just one year, GWU has chapters in cities across the world. That said, no triple-A video game companies have unionized yet.