Unionization supported by almost half of game developers, survey reports

The GDC’s State of the Games Industry 2019 survey has found that 47 percent of the respondents support the prospect of a game developer union, with only 16 percent of game developers against the motion. The survey also demonstrates “crunch” working hours far exceeding normal working hours, contributing to an ongoing discussion over working conditions for developers in the games industry, which spurred the founding of the Game Workers Unite UK union.

Of almost 4,000 game developers that were surveyed total, a further 26 percent responded “Maybe” to the proposition, with the remaining 11 percent submitting “Don’t know.” According to the survey, 44 percent of the respondents stated that they spend more than 40 hours a week working on games, while the most common average work week was found to be 36-40 hours. However, maximum hours in a week reached more than 110 hours, said 1.4 percent of respondents, which equates to more than 15 hours a day on average.

These details confirm fears over crunch time expectations that came to light before the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, when Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser tweeted that the team had been working “100-hour weeks” in the run up to release. Houser later stated that this tweet did not reflect working conditions at Rockstar, and represented the work of his own efforts towards the game’s release. However, a QA Tester at Rockstar Lincoln then reported that “standard” crunch overtime was not optional, and often unpaid, with “true” crunch working overtime every weekday and four weekend shifts per month.

Following these revelations, Sega revealed their commitment to reducing developer crunch, as part of an initiative originally founded in 2013. Since then, Sega reports that they have reducing “long overtime hours” of more than 80 hours a month by 80-90 percent. However, this is by no means countering the industry-wide problem, and the State of the Games Industry 2019 survey demonstrates the popular support for countering these issues with unionization.