Unions have been a hot button issue for the industry over the past year, but it is perhaps not as divisive a subject as might be assumed. The organizers of the Game Developers Conference released the results of their annual State of the Game Industry survey today, along with the finding that only 16% of developers polled are against the idea of unionization.
Of the nearly 4,000 games industry professionals polled, 47% believed that workers in games should unionize. Another 26% answered "Maybe," while 11% chose "Don't know."
(A different poll conducted by the International Game Developers Association found in 2014 that 56% would vote to form a national union for game developers in their own countries, which was up from 35% in 2009.)
However, when asked if the industry actually would unionize, the responses shifted significantly. Only 21% believed that workers would unionize, while 24% said they wouldn't. 39% answered "Maybe," while 15% went with "Don't know."
The respondents were also given space to detail their thoughts on the topic.
One believed that "companies will just do what Walmart does when they vote in a union: they close the Walmart/game studio and open a new one a mile down the road across the city limits."
Another said, "Over the decades I've seen crunch turn from a 'worst case' part of innovating into an expected part of game development. As a manager and owner, I see no pressure from studio heads or publishers in AAA to change this. When one executive can get a $20 million bonus in exchange for crunching hundreds of people, shipping before the game is ready, then laying off those people, the industry is ripe for self-correction. I would welcome our employees unionizing in the current environment."
The survey also covered one of the issues that has fed the union discussion, overtime practices. 44% said they average more than 40 hours a week working on games, with 5% hitting 51-60 hours and 3% going beyond 60 hours of work in an average week. As for where they top out, 1% said they'd worked more than 110 hours in a single week in the past year, another 1% maxed out between 101 and 110 hours, and 2% had worked 91 to 100 hours in a week.
28% of the respondents didn't think their maximum number of hours worked was excessive. For those that acknowledged working excessive hours, self-pressure was the most frequent reason given, being slightly more common than the combined answers of management pressure, peer pressure, and "I don't know, I just did."