Giving Workers Equal Power Isn't Radical. This Studio's Done It For Years.

KO_OP describes itself as an “an artist run game studio,” and is your quintessentially quirky modern video game developer, having worked on everything from experimental soundscape projects like Skipping Stones, to the monster face puzzle solver GNOG, and even expansion packs for the Tomb Raider mobile spin-off, Lara Croft GO. Despite this, it’s not what makes KO_OP stand out. It’s the way KO_OP, as a developer, is structured; KO_OP is also a co-op.

Under the new rule of socialist empress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, maybe you’ve heard of the term in passing. Maybe, like me, it’s mostly in the context of the neighborhood grocery store you’re told is owned by a group of people, but, well, what’s that even mean? The notion of a co-op, in which a business is explicitly owned by the workers operating it, runs counter to ingrained notions of capitalism and the business/employee relationship; it shifts the power dynamic. The worker being the owner means no distance between the fruits of one’s labor.

“A lot of people don't realize in the discourse around capitalism how ingrained the propaganda elements are from a very young age,” said KO_OP co-founder and studio director Saleem Dabbous during an interview. “When you're told something is the way it is from a very young age and it's repeated in every single piece of media and through the work and through the school system and everything you consume, it's hard to see beyond that.”

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