LOS ANGELES, CA — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) unveiled the findings of their 2023 Gameworkers.org Rates and Conditions Survey, Friday. The findings reveal the gaming industry is suspended in a parallel reality compared to other sectors of entertainment where union representation is more common.
Most game workers reported that their game career is either unsustainable or they’re unsure whether it is sustainable, and less than half make it to their seventh year working in the industry. Unfair pay disparities within singular job titles, lack of retirement security, pressure to work unpaid overtime, low wages, burnout, and exhaustion were widespread and commonly reported. Ultimately, two in three respondents indicated they did not believe they were in a position to negotiate viable solutions to these problems on their own, highlighting an environment where unionization and collective bargaining could be a viable alternative to the status quo. Some additional highlights include:
- Overall, respondents ranked pay as the most urgent priority to change within the business, with overtime/crunch ranking second, safety/anti-harassment ranking third, health insurance improvements ranking fourth, and work life balance ranking fifth.
- While workers’ workweeks averaged a surprisingly low forty hours per week, the overriding concern was ‘crunch’ – acute periods near deadlines which demand extreme long hours with no additional pay. 50% reported having experienced it in the past two years.
- Retirement security remains generally elusive, as 36.7% of respondents reported lacking any employer-sponsored retirement plan whatsoever, and less than 1% had a pension, a stark contrast to their counterparts in unionized sectors of the entertainment industry.
As the games industry booming and on pace to recording $187.7 billion in global revenue in 2023 alone, and that number expected to balloon to a projected $212.4 billion in annual revenue by 2026, the findings unveil a startling underbelly of dissatisfaction and insecurity behind the scenes of an industry otherwise celebrated for its creativity, fun, and growth.
Matthew D. Loeb, IATSE International President, commented, “The rise of the gaming industry is undeniable. Yet, this report underscores the urgent need to ensure that everyone working in entertainment, whether you are in film, television, live events, gaming, or any other medium, you deserve a robust union that champions your rights and priorities and codifies solutions into a collective contract. Our colleagues in gaming deserve nothing less than their peers in other sectors of the entertainment world.”
IATSE has been moving decisively to organize video game workers as part of the growing demand for representation across all sectors of the entertainment industry. Just a week prior to this announcement of the survey results, IATSE announced a supermajority of workers at Workinman Interactive joined together and filed for an election to become the first game worker union under IATSE in the United States. Earlier this month, workers at Gladius Studios across animation, Visual Effects (VFX), and video game classifications voted unanimously to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839. And finally, IATSE recently made a high-profile announcement that Marvel Studios VFX Workers similarly filed for an unprecedented union election, marking the first time a unit of VFX professionals joined together to demand the same rights and protections as their unionized colleagues in the film industry since VFX was pioneered in the 1970s.
With the 2023 Gameworker.org Rates and Conditions Survey results now released as a public resource, organizers will look to use the study and insights gained to accelerate this momentum. Workinman Interactive Project Manager Matthew Vimislik believes the union will bring together the diverse range of disciplines within the industry, stating, “Game production is a cacophony of different jobs and disciplines pitted against each other for smaller and smaller pieces of a big pie. I believe IATSE’s experiences representing wide swathes of the entertainment industry gives us the best chance of navigating the various needs of our workers, and create a sense of solidarity for artists, programmers, producers, and engineers.”