In an interview yesterday, former Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime was asked about his thoughts on unions, which currently barely exist in the video game industry. Fils-Aime’s response was not a ringing endorsement of unions, with the former leader saying they are neither good nor bad, just a situation to be dealt with. But he added that companies should embrace unionization if their employees want it.
Unionization is in the air, as yesterday, employees of Raven Software, a studio that works on Call of Duty Warzone— went down in history when its QA staff voted to unionize, becoming the first syndicate of a major AAA video game company. This followed months of union busting from parent company Activision Blizzard. As a result, some senior video game industry officials have been asked for their opinion on unions. This includes Fils-Aime, who went on a press tour for his recently released memoir. Yesterday, he did an interview with the Washington Postin which he was asked about the upcoming Raven union vote and the industry’s growing push to organize.
In response, Fils-Aime pointed out that we are currently seeing a huge push to unionize across the country and a wide range of industries, so it’s no surprise this is happening in the gaming world as well. Fils-Aime blames covid and too many companies ignoring ‘systemic issues’ as the reasons for this big union push , adding that “unionization is a good thing”.
“As a leader, you have to look carefully,” said Fils-Aime, “And if that’s what your employees want, you have to respond to it, embrace it, and move on.”
Then, oddly, he seemed to change his mind mid-answer, saying that unionization is not a “good or bad thing.”
“I’ve worked in industries that had high levels of unionization,” says Fils-Aimé. “It’s not a good or a bad thing. It’s a situation that as a leader, as an executive, you have to deal with like any other challenge, problem or opportunity that you face.
A spokesperson for Fils-Aime contacted by Kotaku had nothing more to add.
Calls for the video game industry to unionize have only intensified as more and more stories emerge of poor working conditions, low pay and mistreatment at major studios and video game publishers.
Just last month, Kotaku reported how much Nintendo contractors felt like second-class workers and suffered a bad salary. One employee even claims he was fired after talking about unions at a meeting, which resulted in a formal complaint lodged with the National Labor Relations Board. IGN reported complaints and similar stories from Nintendo contract workers.
In response to these reports, Fils-Aime says The Washington Post it “wasn’t the Nintendo I left” and that he had always been able to foster a healthy work culture during his 13 years with the company, noting that he regularly held meetings lunch meetings with employees that contractors were free to register and attend. However, according to Kotaku’s According to some sources, these lunches took place in a building that contract workers did not have access to, and one worker explained that although he had heard of these meetings, he had never known that contract workers were allowed to participate.
In other short stories from Reggie Fils-Aime, he would like to be able to sell his animal crossing Isle through the blockchain and he didn’t like the Game Boy Micro. 2022 is a weird year, y’all.
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