Workers at Vodeo Games, the development studio behind Beast Breaker, have unionized, forming the first video game studio union in North America. Management at the studio has already voluntarily recognized the union, which, in a major win for labor, includes both full-time and contract employees.
"We were really inspired by what a lot of our colleagues were doing in the game industry and the tech industry and beyond — Voltage Organized Workers, United Paizo Workers... there was a lot going on," said Codeo designer Carolyn Jong in an interview with Polygon. "It felt like a natural next step for us to be talking about, 'Hey, maybe we should be unionizing,' and help set a positive precedent for the digital games industry as well."
Asher Vollmer founded Vodeo earlier this year, and the studio released Beast Breaker, its first game, in September. The studio plans to release one game each year that mixes intimate scale and complex systems, and its entire 13-employee staff is composed of remote workers across the United States and Canada. Its union, Vodeo Workers United, represents all the eligible employees at the company.
Vodeo Workers United will begin negotiations with management to establish a contract that protects workers' rights and benefits, including the four-day work week employees already enjoy at Vodeo.
"Vodeo Games has been a proud pro-worker studio from its very inception," Vollmer said in a statement. "We have always had four day workweeks, unlimited vacation days (with an enforced minimum), and a fully remote studio before it became standard practice — and we are always discussing other possible improvements!"
Not all company leadership teams are as pro-union as Vodeo's, and labor organizers have found it particularly difficult to find a foothold in the video game industry. But momentum continues to grow across the globe, from the establishment of Game Workers Australia to increased organizing at Paradox Interactive in Sweden. Public controversies such as those at Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard appear to have advanced the process somewhat, with union vote cards being distributed at Blizzard's Irvine, Calif. campus during a recent walkout, and a strike currently ongoing at the company.
Vodeo Workers United has partnered with the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, a part of the Communications Workers of America, which supports organizing efforts in the games and tech industries. CODE-CWA is also involved in unionization efforts at Activision Blizzard among other companies.