Activision, one of the most evil companies in the world, seems to always be in the news these days and rarely for anything good. Be it worker compensation, predatory game design,predatory leadership, and more awfulness, it’s hard to hear this once illustrious studio’s name and not wonder “what did they do now?” Yet, today this Activision news is good news. Not for Activision themselves, but definitely for the employees. Another union has been formed by the QA testers in Activision Albany. For those who don’t know, the QA testers at Raven Studios formed the Game Workers Alliance. The effort was backed by the Communications Workers of America and was called the game industry’s highest profile union win and they hope to do it again.
Blizzard Albany, formally Vicarious Visions, seek to unionize their QA testers much the same way Raven did. Their goals, which seem like things a job should be giving you, are airily simple.
Competitive and fair compensation, addressing the gap between the leadership and those on the ground floor, clear and transparent communication, and improving the work/life balance of employees. It’s baffling that these are the demands asked of a multi-billion dollar company from its employees. Once again, the CWA is partnering with them to make this a reality.
The remarkable thing about this is that Activision has had a history of hiring union busting firms to prevent this progress. It hasn’t been working and they are now he center of a workers movement. It also bears mentioning that Microsoft, the ones trying to buy Activision Blizzard, entered a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA. All that means is that Microsoft will respect the outcomes of these growing unions. This is a good sign of things to come and I can only hope the QA testers get what they want.
Historically, QA testers have been given lower wages, hit hard with crunch, given less rights as they are more often than not seen as “freelance”, and the list not only goes on but varies from company to company. Look into how Nintendo of America treats their QA staff. In any case, we can only hope this movement continues. It’ll at least be a step toward reining in the game industry and cut down a little on its rampant neglect.