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Unions Stole The Show At Last Night’s GDC Awards

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Unions Stole The Show At Last Night’s GDC Awards

Nathan Grayson

“I’m not anti-union, but I don’t really think we need them, right?” said Double Fine head Tim Schafer while hosting yesterday evening’s Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco. “We’re all great here and in this show. No one here is union and…” Then the stage lights went out.

“Oh, right,” said Schafer after the lights went out. “Except for the lighting crew. I forgot they’re all union.”Outstream Video

Then the show producers gave him a tiny, nearly inaudible chipmunk voice and changed the teleprompter so it just read, “UNION!” repeatedly, except in one place where it conspicuously said “ONION!”

“I hear you,” said Schafer after the shenanigans concluded. “This is a union show. We’re better for it.”

It was all a staged bit, of course, but one that illustrates that the calls for game developers to unionize are getting louder, and reaching the eyes and ears of its biggest names. The gaming industry’s most visible pro-union organization, Game Workers Unite, is out in force at this year’s GDC, handing out zines and even running multiple conference sessions. With the inescapable shadow of layoffs looming heavier than ever and crunch culture chewing up developers and spitting them out, more and more developers have embraced the idea of unionization. After just one year, GWU has chapters in cities across the world. That said, no triple-A video game companies have unionized yet.

The lights-out bit was neither the first nor the last reference to unionization At the end of the show, after the developers of God of War had taken the stage to accept the award for game of the year, Schafer returned to the stage, his suit covered over with a T-shirt baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the union whose workers were putting on the GDC Awards show, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 16. In his closing remarks, he also thanked Local 16 by name.

Earlier in the night, Independent Games Festival awards host and narrative designer Meg Jayanth, sporting a pin that read “UNION NOW,” made a more straightforward appeal in favor of unionization.

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