Former ArenaNet Founder Encourages Current Employees To Start A Union, Endorses Industry-Wide Unionization

QuintLyn Bowers
By QuintLyn Bowers, News Editor August 2, 2021
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Here's some good news out of the latest Blizzard drama. Well, it's good news if you're a game development employee. It's probably not all that great if you're a company desperately trying to keep your employees in line while you do whatever you can to keep being able to do what got you into this situation in the first place.

Of course, in order to continue being cartoon villains, companies need to make sure their employees have few options and support for fighting back. That means things like doing everything in your power to prevent them from unionizing. The good news is that apparently not all video game company executives want to maintain the status quo. In fact, Undead Labs Founder Jeff Strain, who at one time worked for Blizzard and another time co-founded ArenaNet, feels it's time for the video game industry to follow in the footsteps of other creative industries – such as film and television – and implement industry-wide unionization.

In fact, Strain recently penned a letter to his staff (which he later shared with IGN) addressing the recent Blizzard news and encouraging the staff at Undead Labs to form a union. In the letter, titled “It’s Time”, he addressed his time at Blizzard in earlier years, and how both he and his wife left following a meeting with one of the founders (who remains unnamed in the letter) where they objected to “dismembered and impaled female body parts in the beta version of Diablo”. The letter also goes on to discuss how his time at Blizzard and the behavior that he saw there influenced his approach in his projects since. He doesn’t just mention the allegations in the current lawsuit, but also how the “hardcore gamer” mentality, along with a focus on exceptionalism, fosters and protects negative behavior.

He ends the letter, saying, “I welcome my employees to unionize, and I’m giving my full endorsement and support to an industry wide adoption of unions. I also encourage the leadership of game-industry companies, large and small, corporate and independent, to join me in endorsing and advocating for unionization as a concrete, actionable step toward improving our industry."

With an industry like this, which is so similar to and even employs talent from the film and TV industry, it seems appropriate that an industry-wide union similar to the Screen Actors Guild should be implemented. Much like SAG, it could benefit all game developers as they move from project to project in the same way that actors move from show to show, and hopefully ensure equal treatment across the board. Of course, SAG isn’t perfect, we’ve seen that, but you do have to start somewhere.

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In this article: Blizzard, Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet, Diablo.

About the Author

QuintLyn Bowers
QuintLyn Bowers, News Editor
QuintLyn is a long-time lover of all things video game related will happily talk about them to anyone that will listen. She began writing about games for various hobby sites a little over ten years ago and has taken on various roles in the games community.

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