The video game industry has existed for over 40 years, but it is only in the last decade that the spotlight has turned to the way games are made, and the treatment of those who create them. As it has become simpler for tiny studios to craft big hits, there has been a rapid expansion at the top end of the industry, with flagship titles now employing a staff of thousands.
This has led to widespread examples of unethical employment practices, with Red Dead Redemption developer Rockstar’s boast of 100-hour work weeks during the game’s two year development cycle being only the most well-known example.
While the film and television industries are heavily unionised, gaming – the world’s largest creative industry – is a new frontier, and unions have made slow progress. Part of the problem is the transient nature of employment, with employees regularly moving from company to company when a project ends, providing a constantly moving pool of employees which serves to frustrate organising.
As distaste with conditions in the modern industry grows, the goal of a new, better way of doing business can make its mark most keenly felt. Game development co-operatives remain a minority way of organising studios along more egalitarian lines, but are making a growing impact.