Video games got their first major alliance. Now what?

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A story about will be held in Madison, Wisconsin. A group of game developers have gathered in person to await the results of the National Labor Relations Board election, which will determine whether QA workers will Call of Duty developer Raven Software has the majority of the votes needed to bring together about two dozen employees under the leadership of a giant known as Activision Blizzard.

“This is a great day to unionize,” says Jessica Gonzalez. former An Activision Blizzard employee who currently works as a campaign manager for CODE-CWA, in Twitter Space stream May 23rd. “It took months,” Gonzalez notes. Now, there are only a few minutes left before they know if the employees’ efforts have been successful. “BOOM!” someone in the background shouts as Gonzalez announces the official verdict: 19 for and 3 against. “We did it! We won our union.”

The window for Activision Blizzard to contest those votes closed on May 31st. Raven Software’s election results are now official, marking a historic victory for the video game industry unions. Game Workers Alliancecreated by quality assurance professionals at a Wisconsin studio in collaboration with the nation’s largest media and communications alliance. America’s Communications Workers, is the first existing developer AAA. According to CODE-CWA senior campaign manager Emma Kinema, Raven’s success is a fundamental shift that means the industry is doing more than admitting its worst habits.

“We are entering a new phase of organization,” says Kinema. “In fact, we are making change and doing it at the very heart of corporate development.”

Despite decades of poor working conditions, including punishments for overtime, insufficient wages and sexual harassment, the video game industry is rapidly moving towards unionization. glacial pace. Discussions about unions and better working conditions have come to the fore at events such as 2018 Game Developers Conference; however, just last year, North America’s first alliance with an independent studio was forged. video games. Kinema says video game workers are in a unique position as they enter both the tech and media industries, pointing to a long cycle of burnout and loss of talent. “It has the worst performance of both of those industries.”

Activision Blizzard harassment scandal encouraging workers to join trade unions. A group of employees formed A Better ABK, which successfully implemented strikes, organized strike fundsand much more to support better working conditions. This set an example for the Raven employees who kept strike about seven weeks after a dozen quality assurance professionals were told their contracts would not be renewed.

Quality Assurance Tester Becca Aigner said during a recent Washington Post stream that GWA was able to follow the example of A Better ABK. The group settled on the name Game Workers Alliance in the hope that other gamers would rally around a common cause to improve workplace conditions. “What Raven has gone through is not unique to the industry,” Aigner said. “It’s an industry-wide problem.”

“We need a seat at the table and this is negotiation. We need a role and a representative [advocating for] best interests for what the QA needs.” Employees need job security, she continued, and recognition that QA is not a revolving door entry position.

“We want to work with leadership, period, end of the day,” Aigner said. “There’s a gap here and we want to reunite.”

Despite the unrest of Activision Blizzard workers, management is unwilling to voluntarily recognize the union. Company attempt to get the election canceled before the vote, and challenged the unit’s legitimacy, arguing that the election should require its entire studio, not the quality assurance department. “We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union,” Activision Blizzard spokesman Calvin Liu told WIRED. “We believe that a major decision that will affect the entire Raven Software studio of approximately 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

Kinema says that while a small unit is an imperfect solution to the big picture of an organization, gaining workers some semblance of power is a crucial step. “Even if we magically organized everyone, we should get what we can. We [have] you have to start somewhere.”

Activision Blizzard did not respond to direct questions about working with the union. “We are committed to doing what is best for the studio and all of our employees, and we are carefully considering the next steps,” Liu told WIRED. Its upcoming merger with Microsoft could make this a moot point. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer recently said the company will “fully support [an] organization of employees that exists” after the closing of the transaction. “We think it’s an employee right and something that can be part of the relationship between the company and the people who work for the company.”

Raven’s success is a precedent-setting victory that actually set the blueprint for other unions. Kinema says Raven workers, unlike previous unions, are “at the heart of the development of large enterprise games.” And if it worked out there, then it can be achieved everywhere.

“It’s not worth fighting a story arc,” she says. “And this industry will be organized one way or another.”

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