Moving in the right direction.
Earlier this week, game developer Paradox Interactive announced that they have signed a collective bargaining agreement with two Swedish unions, and in doing so have set an example that the industry as a whole will hopefully follow.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Paradox interactive announced that it would be signing a collective bargaining agreement with Swedish labour unions, Unionen and SACO, in an effort to better empower their workers. The agreement will allow employees at Paradox to have better access to means of "influencing their pay, benefits, responsibilities, and more". The agreement also seeks to ensure that the needs of Paradox employees are met, whether it be regarding salary expectations, benefits or career growth. The company's growth in recent years appears to be another key factor in the signing of the agreement:
"In the 20-plus years we’ve been in operation, Paradox has always been a growing company, but that growth has been especially dramatic in the last few years,"
Marina Hedman, who is Chief Human Resources Officer at Paradox, added to this statement, saying:
“An organization of our size has different needs, and we must ensure that our employees continue to feel valued and empowered to shape our company, even as our structure shifts towards larger teams and projects."
Paradox Interactive also stated how proud they are as a member of the games industry, to be another voice in in the growing support for unionization, feeling that their efforts to make this agreement a reality has resulted in, "meaningful change", and they hope that in signing this agreement, they will inspire others in the gaming industry to organise within the workplace.
While this only applies to Paradox Interactive's studios in Sweden, the company has stated that they are "very much open" to signing similar agreements regarding their studios elsewhere, according to site, Polygon.
With the growing discussion around poor working conditions and the need for greater unionization within the games industry, a big statement like this couldn't have come at a better time. Paradox are now one of the biggest companies in the industry to have signed a union agreement, and establish themselves as an advocate for games industry unionization, however they are not alone. Those within both smaller indie developers and larger corporate developers, have voiced their support for unionization and better working conditions within the industry, and that support continues to grow.
At the start of the year, American union the Communications Workers of America (CWA), announced that they were launching a new campaign to help unionise the games development industry. The campaign seeks to unite both the CWA and union, Game Workers Unite (GWU) under one banner, believing that together they can better unionize the industry and tackle issues such as crunch culture and pay.
The issue is particularly prevalent in larger studios, from employees being laid off, shuffled from one studio to another, or even having their full development studio shut down, leaving an entire team of talented game developers out of work. Developer and publisher Electronic Arts (EA), has been notorious for acquiring and subsequently closing many development studios. In 2017, renowned developer Bioware, along with their parent company EA, were met with stark criticism following the release of videogame, Mass Effect: Andromeda, which resulted in the Bioware Montreal studio being shut down, with staff moving to another studio, EA Motive.
More recently, well-known developer Rockstar Games, known best as the creators of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, came under fire in 2018 regarding the working conditions within their studio. Website Kotaku, helped bring issues within the company to the forefront of industry news, with a variety of small and large news outlets reporting on the poor treatment of employees within the company and the insecurity many Rockstar employees felt in their job. Former writer for Kotaku, Jason Schreier, wrote an article on the matter, discussing the "crunch culture" within Rockstar, where last minute changes and the pressure of looming release dates reportedly resulted in some employees working brutal and stressful amounts hours a week, with some going reportedly unpaid for working overtime and weekends. Others detailed that their relationships had suffered because of crunch, and that it took a toll on their mental health as well. Since then, Rockstar has reportedly set about improving working conditions within the company following the controversy.
While they're only a couple of the companies to come under fire, both the case of Rockstar Games and EA, show that great change is needed within the gaming industry regarding the conditions and safeguarding of workers; and this is why this news from both Paradox and the CWA is so important to the industry, as they are not only keeping the topic in discussion, but also showing that more companies within the industry need to better support their staff, and that it is important to do so.