Vodeo Workers United has become the first videogame industry union in North America. Management of indie studio Vodeo Games has voluntarily recognised the union, which represents the developer’s dozen worker, including a combination of full-time employees and contractors, spread across the United States and Canada.
Emma Kinema of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees of the Communications Workers of America, which partnered with Vodeo Workers United in this effort, tells Polygon that “we’ve been in a phase the past several years of groundwork building, laying the educational and narrative work around why folks should organize, and why game workers are just like anyone else. All workers deserve a union.”
Vodeo was founded earlier this year by Asher Vollmer, the developer behind the excellent mobile puzzle game, Threes. (The concept of Threes was later picked up by the unrelated developers of the megahit 2048.) Vodeo’s first game as a studio, Beast Breaker, launched on PC and Switch earlier this year.
Game industry unions have already organised in other regions, including Paradox Interactive in 2020. Union proponents have been pushing for unionisation in the game industry for years, as crunch, sexual harassment, and other types of exploitation have continued to be issues at many major studios.
The ABK Workers Alliance has served as an organising force for discontent Activision Blizzard employees, but it is not a formal union. Some workers are currently striking in response to the layoffs of QA contractors at Raven Software. Following that action, chief administrative officer sent an email to employees asking them to “consider the consequences” of signing a union authorisation card, which could lead to a formal vote on uninionisation across the company.