GAME staff share fears of staying open amid coronavirus pandemic

Staff employed at UK high street retailer GAME have spoken out about concerns that the stores remain open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talking to Eurogamer, staff from across the company’s 300 stores have said they face an “impossible decision: stay at home and lose money, or go to work and risk catching COVID-19 – or spreading it”.

The company remains open to manage the launch of two highly-anticipated games; Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The former went on sale from yesterday – ahead of its street date – whilst the latest Animal Crossing title goes on sale from tomorrow.

Whilst the company is avoiding its usual midnight launches, one GAME manager who feared sharing their name due to reprisal said: “This is having a huge human impact.”

“Staff are being put under immense stress as we are all worried about loss of earnings,” they added. “Obviously we don’t want to spread the virus if anyone comes down with symptoms but we are equally worried about how we are going to get by. We want to share our passion for some great releases but we’re worried about what that could mean for our health.”

Eurogamer also reports staff are concerned about pay, with one employee stating that they “expect GAME to offer either statutory sick pay or company sick pay, which amounts to one week’s worth of contracted hours for every year of service. But this would not come close to matching the pay staff expect in a standard week” as most employees work and are paid beyond their contracted hours. If sick pay were to be calculated on contracted hours, this would typically be much, much lower than most employees’ take-home salary.

“Many are having to grapple with the idea of staying at home and losing all income or coming in with symptoms and risking spreading the virus because they can’t afford to self-isolate,” one staff member said.

“If the government can find £330bn to deal with this crisis it can put some of that money to protecting jobs and livelihoods,” added another. 

Eurogamer also reports it has seen GAME’s new cleaning regime, which includes advice to clean controllers and pads to be before each use, whilst doorframes only need to be wiped down every 72 hours. 

“With no extra hours to cater for the increased workload many of the managers aren’t even implementing the cleaning rotas because they’re completely illogical,” one employee said.

“We’re meant to clean door handles every three hours but if we’re handling money, trading in games, consoles and phones all the cleaning is relatively futile as it only limits exposure between staff. It doesn’t reduce the likelihood of customers transmitting the virus to staff which is going to be where the majority of the issue is going to come from.”

At the time of writing, GAME had yet to respond to press requests for a statement.

A week ago, organisers of E3 – the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) – insisted it was continuing to “plan for a safe and successful” show later this year whilst “actively assessing” the coronavirus outbreak. Now E3 2020 has been cancelled, as has EGX Rezzed, GDC, and both Mojang and Electronic Arts have cancelled scheduled live events

Develop:Brighton 2020, however, is still planning to go ahead in June, as is Gamescom. BAFTA has confirmed it’s revising the format on its upcoming Games Awards in light of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), too.

Bungie, EA, Nintendo and now Rockstar have all implemented homeworking to minimise staff exposure to the virus whilst Pokémon Go developer Niantic has made changes to the game to enable players to continue participating even whilst in self-isolation. The increase in people working from home and/or self-isolating, however, has put a strain on online services like Xbox Live and Nintendo Switch Online

A number of publishers have teamed up to create GDC Relief Fund to assist indie devs who may have lost money on paying in advance for the now-cancelled GDC.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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