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Elements of games industry "fundamentally broken" says IGDA president

Round table discussion on unions highlights employee grievances

International Game Developers Association president Jen MacLean has described elements of the industry as "fundamentally broken".

Her comments come following a roundtable discussion yesterday at GDC entitled 'Union Now?' featuring two panelists from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Steve Kaplan and Katie Ryan.

It didn't take long for attendees to turn the discussion towards their workplace grievances. According to Glixel, one audience member described the "insane mandatory crunch", highlighting abuse of overworked employees.

Another audience member said: "It's not about requiring a union to sign-off on a project or deciding who's being employed. It's about employers talking to employees. It's about this being a conversation. It's about a discussion."

Workplace harassment, lack of overtime pay, employee intimidation, unpaid internships, and lack of protection for marginalised employees all featured among the grievances of the attendees. The industry practice of hiring staff to finish shipping a game, only to fire most of them once the project is complete, was also highlighted.

"The IDGA's priority is to make sure our members have access to good information," MacLean told Glixel following the discssion. "I think it was great to have Steve and Katie there because they were able to give a lot of good factual information.

"I think it was good to have that discussion because there are elements of the game industry that are fundamentally broken that we need to fix. We can't move forward in any shape without that discussion."

However, Kaplan said the discussion was billed as an anti-union talk, much to the detriment of IGDA.

"I know that's how it was presented to me and why I flew up on a Wednesday morning to be here," he said. "I came here to answer that. I came here to say, 'If you're going to have an anti-union discussion you're going to have it with a union rep in the room.'"

While there is currently no formalised union for the games industry, Kaplan noted that recent voice actor strike resonated with many developers who were already angry.

"They need to understand what can be achieved," he said. "They need to understand what the steps to unionisation are. They need to decide amongst themselves who they are going to align with or are they going to start their own organization."

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