Indie dev forms first video game union in North America

Studio behind pinball RPG Beast Breaker recognized the union.

A screenshot of Beast Breaker
Vodeo Games

Vodeo Games, the studio that released the pinball-inspired RPG Beast Breaker earlier this year, is now home to the first video game studio union in North America. As announced on Polygon, the studio's management recognized the union, which includes both full-time employees and contract workers.

Vodeo is the brainchild of Threes developer Asher Vollmer — if you aren't familiar, you may know it better as the game that 2048 ripped off — and consists of 13 employees, all of whom are remote across North America. The union is called Vodeo Workers United. Designer Carolyn Jong told Polygon that the union was inspired in part by successful moves across the games industry, including at tabletop RPG studio Paizo.

A step forward — Because founder Vollmer is choosing to voluntarily recognize the union, there will be no formal unionization vote with the National Labor Review Board. Developers at the company have already begun negotiating on their first contract to solidify salaries and benefits that workers already enjoy, such as a four-day work week.

Though video game unions have existed for years in more labor-friendly climes like France and Sweden, Vodeo Workers United is the first union of its kind in the United States. Australia got its first video game union recently as well. For example, Paradox Interactive has a trade agreement with its developers, though many of those workers reported "mistreatment" on a survey a few months ago.

What comes next — While Vodeo's union is certainly a positive development for video game labor in North America, workers have begun similar efforts at massive game developers like Activision Blizzard. Unsurprisingly, Activision Blizzard has begun soft union-busting efforts to try to stymy the move, including a transparently negative email authored by a former Donald Trump employee.

The Call of Duty publisher has been at the center of whirling controversies since the company's culture of sexual harassment and misconduct became more visible last year. Most recently, subsidiary Raven Software laid off dozens of QA staff without warning, which triggered this recent wave of action from groups like ABK Workers Alliance.