NYLA Talks

Changing the Game: Why Game Workers Are Unionizing. Pt. 2

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We are continuing our exploration of working conditions in the video game industry. In part one we heard from a developer who worked 100 hours a week. Today at NYLA podcast we are sharing the interview with a union organizer fighting to end such practices.

In 2018, the game industry became bigger than film and music industries combined. Almost 70 percent of the US population plays games. Game developing companies employ millions of people around the globe, yet only recently were consumers confronted with the industry’s inner workings.

Mental health issues, divorces, unpaid crunch time and a host of other problems seem to be deeply rooted in the industry and, but little has been done to solve them.

“Games creation seems like this magical process that no one really understands. In reality, it is very close to a factory shop floor”, says Marijam Didžgalvytė, the chair of communications for Game Workers Unite (GWU), an organization that helps exploited workers and pro-union activists establish unions.

Marijam, herself a fellow Lithuanian who grew up playing videogames in local internet cafes ended up in London as an economic migrant of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2018, she started writing about the video game industry. Around the same time, GWU was starting to form in San Francisco and Marijam was quick to join their efforts.

“For me to begin to work in a space that combined my two passions – gaming and class war – just seemed like a very natural thing,” she explains.

We talked with Marijam about the importance of unionization, whether unions will change the content of the games, and how an unapologetically leftist DNA of the movement can affect its image within the gamer community.

Marijam moved to London with her family during the 2008 financial crisis. “Although things are going quite well now, moving to London wasn’t a choice.”

“Gaming is the biggest cultural outlet there is, yet no one is talking about it as a cultural space of politics” – Marijam Didžgalvytė

Marijam in 2006, fronting a local Lithuanian SKA-punk band Šlanga į gamtą

Marijam is a proud supporter of Clapton Community Football Club – a fan-owned football club in East London made up of Antifa members

Host, interviewer, photographer, writer and sound engineer: Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius
Editor: Karolis Vyšniauskas
Design: Miglė Kolinytė
Photo editor: Artūras Morozovas
Original music composed by: Martynas Gailius
Studio voice recorded and edited at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania by Aistė Baltraitytė

Further reading:

Labour Rights in Esports, by Marijam Didžgalvytė

Left Left Up, a Twitter-based video show by Marijam on the intersection of gaming, its communities and real-life events

The games industry needs unions – and these are the people trying to make it happen in the UK, by Astrid Johnson, Eurogamer.net

Videožaidimų pramonės spindesys, skurdas, profsąjungos ir gundymo politika, by Tomas Marcinkevičius, Gyvenimas per brangus

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Each week „Nyla“ podcast aims to deconstruct the social and cultural forces that shape our world. Support our work at Patreon and listen to other English episodes here:

 


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