Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently called on video game developers to unionize.
Sanders took to Twitter and shared an article from Time Magazine titled “Video Games Creators Are Burned Out and Desperate for Change.”
Along with the article, Sanders stated, “The video game industry made $43 billion in revenue last year. The workers responsible for that profit deserve to collectively bargain as part of a union. I’m glad to see unions like IATSE and the broader Game Workers movement organizing such workers.”
The video game industry made $43 billion in revenue last year. The workers responsible for that profit deserve to collectively bargain as part of a union. I’m glad to see unions like @IATSE and the broader @GameWorkers movement organizing such workers. https://t.co/Ia5gMG2v0w
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 18, 2019
Senator Bernie Sanders’ relationship with the video game industry hasn’t been the rosiest. Back in 2015 Sanders responded to a shooting in Oregon by saying, “We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.”
You blamed video games (and movies and TV) for mass shootings. https://t.co/jy2vkIzDxj
— Brad Glasgow (@Brad_Glasgow) June 18, 2019
In 2012, Sanders noted that he was “appalled” by the violence seen in video games and attempted to connect it to mass shootings.
“If you look at these video games. If you look at some of the movies out there, some stuff that is on TV, there is so much gratuitous violence and I can’t help but think that just desensitizes children and people in general to what it is about. When you have films where people are spraying guns and killing people, it desensitizes you to death and killing.”
You can see Bernie’s statements at around the 23:40 mark below.
Professor Christopher Ferguson refuted the idea that video games are connected to gun violence in February of 2018. He wrote in The Conversation:
“But, speaking as a researcher who has studied violent video games for almost 15 years, I can state that there is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected.”
In fact, Ferguson notes the Supreme Court rejected the idea that gun violence was connected to violent media in 2011.
“As far back as 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Criminologists who study mass shootings specifically refer to those sorts of connections as a “myth.”
Senator Sanders hasn’t been the only major political figure to push for unionization in video games. In February of this year the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler published an open letter on Kotaku which called upon developers to unionize by asking a simple question:
“My question is this: what have you gotten in return? While you’re putting in crunch time, your bosses are ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. While you’re creating some of the most groundbreaking products of our time, they’re pocketing billions. While you’re fighting through exhaustion and putting your soul into a game, Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson are toasting to “their” success.”
The call for the video game industry to unionize comes off a number of reports that claim major video game developers are allegedly pushing their employees to the limit.
Rockstar Games, who recently debuted Red Dead Redemption 2, came under fire after Rockstar’s Dan Houser told Vulture some people within the company were working “100-hour weeks.” Houser would later clarify in a statement to Variety that he was referring to himself and a team of three others. He also noted the company does not expect other employees to work that way.
A similar report about NetherRealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat and Injustice franchises would make the rounds in April. PC Gamer reported Isaac Torres, a QA tester for Injustice, told them, “I crunched for about 4 months straight… I was regularly doing 90-100 hour weeks and worked every single day.”
The call to unionize the gaming industry is not only spurred by reports of long hours. Activision Blizzard’s recent actions also saw websites like Kotaku and Polygon promote unions for the gaming industry. Activision Blizzard recently touted they had a “record results” in 2018. In fact, the company announced they had record revenue with net revenue at $7.5 billion and net income of $1.8 billion.
The announcement of the record revenue was coupled with an announcement of firing around 800 employees and a plan to make more cuts. Those who were laid off did receive a “severance package that include[d] additional pay, benefits continuation, and career and recruiting support to help them find their next opportunity.”
What do you make of Bernie Sanders’ call to unionize the video game industry? Do you think video game developers should take advice from a man who has repeatedly demonized their industry?