The video game industry is currently at a moment of significance, or is at the very least rapidly approaching one. Struggles tied to gender discrimination and harassment, crunch, and the disparity between executives/management and game developers are leading to a more active conversation about worker rights and unionization. With that in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising to confirm that North America’s first video game industry union has been formed.
The first studio to unionize in the North American video game industry is named Vodeo Games, forming Vodeo Workers United. Vodeo was founded in 2021 by Threes, Guildlings, and Puzzlejuice creator Asher Vollmer, with a team of thirteen according to the studio’s website. Vodeo’s focus is on “small, intimate” games that are easy to “curl up with.” Vodeo’s first game, Beast Breaker, was released on PC and Nintendo Switch in September and the team is already hard at work on its second project.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Vollmer announced that the company has voluntarily recognized the formation of the studio’s union. Vollmer says it was a “no-brainer” to step back and “proudly watch them do what no other game company in North America has.” The young studio is described by Vollmer as proudly pro-worker from its inception, with four-day workweeks, unlimited vacation days with an enforced minimum, and a fully remote studio space. Even with this progressive studio arrangement, Vollmer says that the company isn’t just open to but actively discussing options for improvement.
Vodeo designer Carolyn Jong spoke to Polygon about the team’s unionization effort, saying that the several were inspired by other union efforts in gaming. Specifically, Jong mentions Voltage Organized Workers, a group of contract writers for mobile app Lovestruck that organized to receive a significant pay increase (though isn’t officially a union), and United Paizo Workers, workers on the Pathfinder pen and paper game which was formally recognized in mid-October.
What comes next for Vodeo and Vodeo Workers United are formal contract negotiations to lock in the studio’s current benefits and language ensuring an equitable working environment. Vodeo Workers United is working with the Communications Workers of America union, which is also working with a group of Activision Blizzard developers, to ensure the unionization effort goes smoothly.
Some may try to minimize Vodeo’s accomplishment due to the age and size of the studio, but the meaning of its unionization can’t be understated. Vodeo is the first officially recognized video game industry union in North America, soon to cement some of the most progressive worker’s rights of any union in the country. It doesn’t just serve as an example of what could be to developers across the nation, but makes it a reality. Needless to say, recruitment at Vodeo is likely to see an uptick.