One of the arguments that came up frequently in our conversations about unionization of the video game industry (about which more to come as I do some reporting this week) is that it would be impossible to organize the industry because too many people want jobs developing video games, and so folks who currently have those jobs wouldn’t risk them to stand up to management and organize. The invaluable Zack Stentz and others pointed out that a lot of people want to work in movies and television, and that hasn’t prevented those industries from staying organized, though I think it’s an interesting and related question about whether it would be possible to organize those industries today, and whether the people who work in them would think of themselves as the kind of people who belong to unions if the actors’ and writers’ guilds weren’t already so established.
With all of that in mind, I think it’s useful to consider the example of the Onion News Network, whose writers were just organized by the Writers Guild of America, East, and who have already negotiated their first collective bargaining agreement. This is exactly the kind of position that you’d think would be hard to organize — a job that’s creative, highly desirable, in a contracting industry (to be fair, the fake news industry seems to be doing better than the real news industry), and relies on talent rather than on specialized skills that would limit the applicant pool some. But it didn’t prove impossible to organize it. The video game industry is bigger and has much more, financially, at stake if its employees were to unionize, and I don’t want to minimize the idea that it would be difficult. But I don’t know that it would be impossible, if people wanted it. And these are the kinds of events that should give advocates of better treatment of video game developers hope and maybe some confidence.