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Topic: Why no unions in gaming?

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Sean_Aaron

21. Posted:

What you would need is a wildcat strike that threatened delivery of a product by a large producer and was supported by peers throughout the industry. It would need to be a watershed event. And before anyone says this isn't possible remember that modern unions emerged on the strength of workers who were under threat of actual violence, including death. I'm frankly shocked to see folk in this thread saying they're no longer necessary and can only assume people saying so either don't have families to support or work under more favourable conditions than some of these workers. Just because the economy is bad doesn't mean people don't deserve a voice in their workplace.

I for one am very thankful to live in a country where employment laws mean that my job is secure in the event my company changes hands, where I cannot be compelled to work more than a 48-hour week and where, if I provide 24/7 standby cover - and I do - I'm entitled to eight hours uninterrupted sleep before returning to work the next day. On top of that by law I get a minimum of 20 days paid leave per year - not including public holidays. Aside from health care that justified emigration from the USA right there. I cannot see why anyone would accept any less and I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to just because they made games for a living. Getting the next Call of Duty out on time isn't going to replace time with your kids for heavens sake!

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Bankai

22. Posted:

Sean_Aaron wrote:

What you would need is a wildcat strike that threatened delivery of a product by a large producer and was supported by peers throughout the industry. It would need to be a watershed event. And before anyone says this isn't possible remember that modern unions emerged on the strength of workers who were under threat of actual violence, including death. I'm frankly shocked to see folk in this thread saying they're no longer necessary and can only assume people saying so either don't have families to support or work under more favourable conditions than some of these workers. Just because the economy is bad doesn't mean people don't deserve a voice in their workplace.

I for one am very thankful to live in a country where employment laws mean that my job is secure in the event my company changes hands, where I cannot be compelled to work more than a 48-hour week and where, if I provide 24/7 standby cover - and I do - I'm entitled to eight hours uninterrupted sleep before returning to work the next day. On top of that by law I get a minimum of 20 days paid leave per year - not including public holidays. Aside from health care that justified emigration from the USA right there. I cannot see why anyone would accept any less and I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to just because they made games for a living. Getting the next Call of Duty out on time isn't going to replace time with your kids for heavens sake!

I work in a career that has crunches as significant deadlines approach. Mostly around delivering print products. Failing to deliver would cost me my job - not for being fired or anything like that. But because if we under deliver advertisers would pull out and the entire company would go under.

I'm not part of a union and have no interest in joining one. I don't think a journalist union exists here anyway. I prefer having a job and managing occasional crunches than not having a job. I'm well enough compensated for my work.

Obviously the games industry is a different working environment, but we in the west live in an environment where our rights as workers are protected quite reasonably with or without a union. Even assuming there are crunches, people are free to move jobs (enterprise software developers have a different lifestyle, I'm given to understand), and we get good compensation for our work.

Given that there are now emerging countries that are developing games - Thailand, China, even Kenya, the last thing I would think game developers to want was to lose their jobs for their companies going bust, and losing their work to cheaper countries that don't have the same respect for worker's rights. Or maybe they do want game development to go the way of manufacturing. Who knows.

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Sean_Aaron

23. Posted:

Other kinds of software development have been getting outsourced for years. I don't see why games would be any different. IT outsourcing generally isn't terribly clever, however as some recent high-profile feck-ups have shown. Of course the possibility that a screw up could tank your company and the lack of direct oversight that comes with off-shoring also mitigate against that. If EA wanted to bet the farm on TCS or Wipro developing Madden, I'd say "good luck with that."

I don't have any use for a union myself, however I have worked in places where the only reason that probably wasn't the case was because the company did things to discourage it like give workers right of refusal to any overtime request and overtime time pay minimum at double-rate. Public sector IT workers are very commonly unionised and it can be a pain to terminate a troublesome employee, but on balance I'd say unions are a positive thing. What we really need to see are more global unions to better balance against the international divide-and-conquer strategies of multinationals.

In the gaming world we seem to be entering an era where small developers can stand on a level playing field with the big boys. If Nintendo allows bedroom programmers access to the eShop that would be brilliant. I look forward to the day when large outfits like Activison and EA are no longer dominant.

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Bankai

24. Posted:

Sean_Aaron wrote:

Other kinds of software development have been getting outsourced for years. I don't see why games would be any different. IT outsourcing generally isn't terribly clever, however as some recent high-profile feck-ups have shown. Of course the possibility that a screw up could tank your company and the lack of direct oversight that comes with off-shoring also mitigate against that. If EA wanted to bet the farm on TCS or Wipro developing Madden, I'd say "good luck with that."

I don't have any use for a union myself, however I have worked in places where the only reason that probably wasn't the case was because the company did things to discourage it like give workers right of refusal to any overtime request and overtime time pay minimum at double-rate. Public sector IT workers are very commonly unionised and it can be a pain to terminate a troublesome employee, but on balance I'd say unions are a positive thing. What we really need to see are more global unions to better balance against the international divide-and-conquer strategies of multinationals.

In the gaming world we seem to be entering an era where small developers can stand on a level playing field with the big boys. If Nintendo allows bedroom programmers access to the eShop that would be brilliant. I look forward to the day when large outfits like Activison and EA are no longer dominant.

I think if you look at the number of small indie startups that have failed compared to the ones that succeed you would rethink your last statement.

Furthermore, as someone who has done a startup project, and who has worked for a small organisation, and who has worked for a multinational I can guarantee you the work hours required for a startup or small corporation are far more excessive than a large organisation. Especially if you're in a position where you need to compete with the large organisations. There's no unions "protecting" those little guys either, so you' essentially hoping the entire industry jumps out of the frying pan and into a deep vat of flaming oil.

People who work for large organisations really don't realise how good they have it, even if they have the occasional crunch.

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Sean_Aaron

25. Posted:

Putting in the hours for your own business is a little bit different than getting pressured into working long hours by your boss for ultimately little or no reward - I'm talking the infamously Team Bondi situation which is by no means unique. The latter are the folk who would benefit from unions, obviously.

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SMEXIZELDAMAN

26. Posted:

Unions suck. If any of my workers try to form a union I fire them. I told Iwata not to even think about it.

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Gamesake

27. Posted:

There are unions in Fire Emblem. Holy unions.

...in my pants.

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Bankai

28. Posted:

Sean_Aaron wrote:

Putting in the hours for your own business is a little bit different than getting pressured into working long hours by your boss for ultimately little or no reward - I'm talking the infamously Team Bondi situation which is by no means unique. The latter are the folk who would benefit from unions, obviously.

Team Bondi would not have existed if there was a union.

Game developers larger than iOS size in Australia already face a near-impossible market thanks to the dollar and existing workplace laws. Throw a union in and LA Noire would never have happened and those people would not have found work.

Again, it's not like the games industry is like working for the government with easy hours and a protected 9-5 working day. There are crunches and there are times where the work these people do seems positively unfair.

I'm pretty sure they would rather have a job than be unemployed though, and it's a little shortsighted to assume that game developers and publishers are in any position to absorb the additional costs that a union would bring into the industry, given that one is shutting down every week at the moment.

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Sean_Aaron

29. Posted:

Bankai wrote:

Team Bondi would not have existed if there was a union.

And frankly after reading that story I think most of the employees would have been better off if it hadn't.

If your attitude is that a crap job is better than no job, then you're pretty much one degree away from accepting indentured servitude. If treating workers properly causes the games industry to collapse, then it probably should. Treating workers with respect isn't incompatible with success.

Edited on by Sean_Aaron

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Bankai

30. Posted:

Sean_Aaron wrote:

Bankai wrote:

Team Bondi would not have existed if there was a union.

And frankly after reading that story I think most of the employees would have been better off if it hadn't.

If your attitude is that a crap job is better than no job, then you're pretty much one degree away from accepting indentured servitude. If treating workers properly causes the games industry to collapse, then it probably should. Treating workers with respect isn't incompatible with success.

Oh please. Any professional in Australia that complains about the work they're doing is first world problems. Australian law, even without a union, is remarkably employee friendly, and I say this as a dude who has had to try and figure out how to fire a non-unionised employee and a dude who has worked for every kind of organisation of every size that exists.

It's amazing how people will listen to the exaggerations of a random dude on the Internet and accept it as gospel, and yet fail to understand the overall business culture that that dude works within.

But hey, perhaps those people would prefer to not work and just accept welfare since no corporation would be able to match their work requirements. I would hate to think how these people would get on in Japan, Korea or China, where they really do have to earn their wages.

Good to know there are people out there that seem to think they're entitled to earn a wage well beyond what the majority of the world offers, and work less hours to boot. And good to know that the unions out there fighting for workers rights are happy to see all the businesses in their industry go bankrupt than make compromises.

Keep fighting da man, folks. I'm sure everyone out there is capable of making a living as a startup :)

Also, for the record, the people working at Team Bondi were earning well above unemployment handouts, and without Team Bondi... Well, the choices are either relocate overseas or take a gamble as an iOS developer. Which is what has happened after Team Bondi imploded.

Better to have no job at all than work for an employer like Team Bondi? Yeah no.

Edited on by Bankai

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Sean_Aaron

31. Posted:

Right, the old "you've never had it so good" line which happily justifies bullying your employees: always a classic. I don't live in China or India, so no, I expect to be well-treated for my well-above-median salary. And yes, I have lived a blessed life despite the odd ups and downs. I could quite easily say "what are these people complaining about" and dismiss their moaning out of hand, but I happen to think the law should stand behind workers better than it does.

People in the States are in a pretty poor situation with crap holiday entitlement being so normal that when I tell people we get a minimum of four weeks (which you can start using right away - none of this "earning" paid leave in advance B.S.) they're stunned. They really seem to have no idea how much they're being played by their employers, because by-and-large the law entitles them to do as they please with only rampant litigation acting as a hedge to give employers pause.

The answer isn't to tolerate conditions just shy of third-world in your home country but to elevate conditions in those countries to parity. Given that there was no rebuttle to the Bondi story I read and a website created to credit people who worked on their lone title that were stripped of it, I have no problem believing it sucked or that similar stories are equally valid.

Edited on by theblackdragon

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Rensch

32. Posted:

If you look at Valve, a company which operates under a kind of anarchist structure, it actually can work if you let your employees decide for themselves what they want to do, as it encourages creativity, which is important in an industry like this. Exploitation or labour disputes are virtually nonexistant at Valve. Heck, salaries for both management and workers or major business decisions are democratically decided by all the people who work there. Everyone is at the same level. If you can make it work like Valve does, I guess unions are not needed.

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Bankai

33. Posted:

Sean_Aaron wrote:

Right, the old "you've never had it so good" line which happily justifies bullying your employees: always a classic. I don't live in China or India, so no, I expect to be well-treated for my well-above-median salary. And yes, I have lived a blessed life despite the odd ups and downs. I could quite easily say "what are these people complaining about" and dismiss their moaning out of hand, but I happen to think the law should stand behind workers better than it does.

People in the States are in a pretty poor situation with crap holiday entitlement being so normal that when I tell people we get a minimum of four weeks (which you can start using right away - none of this "earning" paid leave in advance B.S.) they're stunned. They really seem to have no idea how much they're being played by their employers, because by-and-large the law entitles them to do as they please with only rampant litigation acting as a hedge to give employers pause.

The answer isn't to tolerate conditions just shy of third-world in your home country but to elevate conditions in those countries to parity. Given that there was no rebuttle to the Bondi story I read and a website created to credit people who worked on their lone title that were stripped of it, I have no problem believing it sucked or that similar stories are equally valid.

Yes because unions in Australia, the UK or the US are going to have SO MUCH of an impact on Chinese and Thailand working conditions. Hah.

You're basically one of those guys that I know has never held an executive position with a large company. I know this because you clearly don't understand the genuine pressure large corporations fact to remain afloat. Believe it or not, it is not a good market right now for anyone. Even the worst tabloids in the world are on to something when they say "the economy sucks."

And here's the problem with unions. They're a BRILLIANT idea in theory, just like communism. Everyone gets to enjoy an easy 9-5 job and get paid well above minimum wage and all that. The problem is that the unions can't exactly do much once administrators and liquidators are called in because companies are going bankrupt.

You would have thought people picked up on this. After all, the people working in manufacturing that lost their jobs to China and Thailand didn't exactly find it easy to find new work, let alone work they wanted to do. But, no, of course the workers in the world continue to think they're hard done by. Never mind that they're able to clothe, feed and shelter a family at a time when the world is half a breath short of a Great Depression. Never mind that people who have jobs in the west are actually protected somewhat even without belonging to a union. Oh no. That's not good enough because those people have to work back until 10pm to actually get the work that their employers barely make margin on done on time.

I hate to break this to you, but the people running the companies that you seem to think treat their employees like crap aren't exactly having a good time right now. Life sucks across the board, and pulling in unions and bankrupting companies isn't a solution to the problem. If unions got involved in the games industry, especially in the UK and Australia, where conditions are similar, the ONLY effect will be to add a couple thousand developers either to the unemployment ranks, or lose them to other fields, like enterprise software development.

Neither is good for the games industry. If you want to make a change, don't ask for unions to get involved. Instead, tell people to stop "boycotting" developers for dumb reasons. The only way conditions in the games industry is going to improve is if there is more money in the games industry. Otherwise, get used to playing Chinese games. I'm sure we'll all have a grand time with games of the quality that Circle Entertainment produces. Especially after Nintendo declares bankruptcy.

Edited on by theblackdragon

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6ch6ris6

34. Posted:

CanisWolfred wrote:

I don't know...and I really hope that doesn't change, myself. I like developers and all, but unions cause more problems than they solve...

great attitude !
people should shut up and work for the bosses

/end of irony

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Bankai

35. Posted:

6ch6ris6 wrote:

CanisWolfred wrote:

I don't know...and I really hope that doesn't change, myself. I like developers and all, but unions cause more problems than they solve...

great attitude !
people should shut up and work for the bosses

/end of irony

Even better attitude!

Rather than be a functioning, tax-paying member of society, people should stick it to da man, and live off tax-payer's welfare.

Bankrupting a country is far better than having to work the occasional weekend when there's a deadline for your above average wage professional job, after all!

/end of irony.

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Bankai

36. Posted:

I wonder how game developers in Greece are going right now.

What, with that 42% youth unemployment rate (or is it higher now?) must be a great time to be looking for a job, or doing the bare minimum to hold on to your job. I bet Greek game developers are living the dream right now - after all, the union's got their back!

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Reala

37. Posted:

The unions also caused the plague, the banking crisis and the deterioration of the Simpsons.

there's nothing that's certain... of that you can be certain

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CanisWolfred

38. Posted:

6ch6ris6 wrote:

CanisWolfred wrote:

I don't know...and I really hope that doesn't change, myself. I like developers and all, but unions cause more problems than they solve...

great attitude !
people should shut up and work for the bosses

/end of irony

How is that irony? That's life, man, we all have to do that. :/

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Sean_Aaron

39. Posted:

Bankai wrote:

Instead, tell people to stop "boycotting" developers for dumb reasons.

Outside of indies we don't generally buy games from developers but publishers. And I'd say if Ubisoft is on the brink then maybe they shouldn't be pissing off people who might otherwise give them money. Absolutely the wrong example to use here.

In any event I expect we'll all need to get used to having less variety in entertainment if the economy continues to tank. If salaries depress further, yes, people will be spending less on games so maybe these bloated dinosaur games publishers should stop spending so much to make games if they want to remain profitable. By the way, you often get better results from happy workers - just a thought. Valve sounds like it might be a nice place to work, so clearly it's not necessary to beat up your staff to keep things ticking over.

As far as the rest, no I'm not an executive and based upon the decisions I've seen made by various companies I've worked for over the years I'd say I'm a little too intelligent to be one.

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Treverend

40. Posted:

Unions are bad. They made a lot of paper mills and other jobs around here go out of business. And I'm a free market economist.

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