People over Profit/Product in the Video Game Industry

People over Profit/Product in the Video Game Industry

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C. Spina started this petition to Sony Interactive Entertainment (President and CEO Jim Ryan/Head of Worldwide Studios Herman Hulst) and

The video game industry is broken.

In 2020 it raked in $180 billion of revenue, making it bigger than the film industry and North American sports combined, with 2.7 billion players worldwide, and countless developers - over 6,000 at Nintendo alone.

But you wouldn’t be able to see its success reflected in the way it treats its workers.

Executives can cut their salaries in half and still take home exponentially more than the average workerLayoffs and studio closures are abundant, not because of a lack of profitability but because of the need to massively increase shareholder value year over year.

For the developers who do get to keep their jobs, they are forced - or heavily ‘encouraged’ - to work overtime for months if not years to get a project out the door in time for the publisher’s fiscal year end.

Rarely is this extra time paid like normal overtime in other industries; and if it is, it often comes in the form of a post-release/profit sharing bonus based on the success of the project. Like in the case of Cyberpunk 2077 which, after a long period of crunch and a disastrous release, afforded five board members bonuses totaling $28 million, while the bonuses of the remaining 865 CD Projekt employees totaled $29.5 million - further exacerbating the wage inequality the industry is known for.

Yet people continue to work in game development because of their passion for the medium and the projects that they could produce, despite knowing this passion is being exploited by their managers and executives.

The human cost of this overwork and volatility in the industry is burnout - only one third of developers remain in the industry for 10 years or longer.

Lack of decent compensation and job insecurity mean that developers must make housing and life choices to accommodate for this volatile industry. This, coupled with crunch culture, leads to many choosing to leave the industry entirely.

An unfortunate result of burnout and the subsequent departure of many developers is a lack of senior talent and accumulated experience being built up in a studio, perpetuating the cycle of unhealthy working conditions over time.

A recent study has also found a blatant lack of diversity in the gaming industry, with most of the workforce being made up of heterosexual, cis, white men; this is reflected in the majority of video game characters as well.

This lack of diverse representation has also contributed to a culture of sexism and discrimination within numerous studios, sometimes culminating in sexual harassment and misconduct. Without accountability, these issues continue to be systemic.

The most recent example of this male dominated malaise is the disturbing events that have come to light about the publisher Activision-Blizzard, which now faces a lawsuit from a state agency in California for discrimination based on gender, sexual harassment, and unequal pay.  Since the news broke, the employees have staged a walkout and created a list of demands for upper management, the head of Blizzard and the head of its HR department have stepped down, and the industry at-large is ablaze with support for industry-wide changes.

It comes down to this: workers in the video game industry lack protections and a voice at the table.  Unionization is one avenue for workers to make gains in all the areas affecting their working conditions discussed above, and as Jeff Strain, former Blizzard developer and founder of Undead Labs acknowledges: it’s time. Unfortunately, executive efforts to stall, discourage, and prevent unionization from happening have made this a difficult goal to achieve.

So, as the gaming public, let’s make sure companies and executives know we care about the people who make the games we love and that we stand with them.

For now, here is what we call upon companies and executives to do for their workers to make the gaming industry a more equitable and just field to work in.


1. Reduce income inequality throughout the industry by implementing wage caps on CEO & executive salaries and benefits based on a reasonable ratio compared to their lowest-paid employees.

2. Ensure fair and rewarding compensation for overtime hours.

3. Prioritize working conditions above profits by waiting to announce games until closer to release and delaying games as necessary to avoid crunch and burnout.

4. Implement remote work policies, allowing employees to work from home post-pandemic.

5. Do not stand in the way of unionization or organizing efforts of employees.

6. Increase diversity through equitable hiring practices, retention efforts, and advancement opportunities for marginalized groups in the gaming industry.

7. Ensure equal pay for equal work and implement pay transparency policies when negotiating worker salaries.

8. Implement robust discrimination, harassment, and violence prevention policies and effective complaint procedures that protect all workers free of reprisal.


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Artwork by Luke Daccord

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