Game Workers Unite

Layoffs and forced unpaid leave is ‘hell’ for some industry staff says Game Workers Unite

Game Workers Unite International has published a statement on the industry’s response the COVID-19 crisis, detailing what it says is a “huge disparity” between different roles across different parts of the world. 

Adding that some staff were “going through hell right now”, the statement intimates that whilst “most devs and artists are safe”, other positions such as QA testers and event organisers are experiencing layoffs and forced unpaid leave.

“Yes, video games are and will be a crucial source of joy and entertainment for millions of people right now, during this difficult time,” the organisation wrote in a statement shared on social media. “Yes, we encourage that, we support that – games are there to release pain, inspire cooperation, increase bonding between different generations, or sometimes, and that’s okay, just to pass time.

“And yet – there’s a huge disparity of job security between different roles, between different parts of the world. Even if most devs and artists are safe, the people that are making the games’ production and release happen are going through hell right now – QA testers, event organisers, hardcopy packaging and retailer staff, workers maintaining servers or shipping of the games, let alone the incredible carers of our office spaces – cleaners, caterers etc. We are hearing stories of layoffs and forced unpaid leave in these sectors and want to encourage everyone to use their voices to call out the companies and regions that are doing this.

“After this crisis, nothing will be the same – for all workers we must demand: flexible working hours, universal health service for all, fair sick pay, rent freezes and a more sustainable way of making games and games’ hardware too.”

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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