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Changing the Game: Why Game Workers Are Unionizing. Pt. 2
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We are continuing our exploration of working conditions in the video game industry. In part one we heard from a developer who worked 100 hours a week. Today at NYLA podcast we are sharing the interview with a union organizer fighting to end such practices.

In 2018, the game industry became bigger than film and music industries combined. Almost 70 percent of the US population plays games. Game developing companies employ millions of people around the globe, yet only recently were consumers confronted with the industry’s inner workings.

Mental health issues, divorces, unpaid crunch time and a host of other problems seem to be deeply rooted in the industry and, but little has been done to solve them.

“Games creation seems like this magical process that no one really understands. In reality, it is very close to a factory shop floor”, says Marijam Didžgalvytė, the chair of communications for Game Workers Unite (GWU), an organization that helps exploited workers and pro-union activists establish unions.

“Gaming is the biggest cultural outlet there is, yet no one is talking about it as a cultural space of politics” says Marijam ©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

Marijam, herself a fellow Lithuanian who grew up playing videogames in local internet cafes ended up in London as an economic migrant of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2018, she started writing about the video game industry. Around the same time, GWU was starting to form in San Francisco and Marijam was quick to join their efforts.

“For me to begin to work in a space that combined my two passions – gaming and class war – just seemed like a very natural thing.” she explains.

“For me to begin to work in a space that combined my two passions – gaming and class war – just seemed like a very natural thing”

We talked with Marijam about the importance of unionization, whether unions will change the content of the games, and how an unapologetically leftist DNA of the movement can affect its image within the gamer community.

Marijam is a proud supporter of Clapton Community Football Club – a fan-owned football club in East London made up of Antifa members. From Marijam's personal archive.
Marijam in 2006, fronting a local Lithuanian SKA-punk band Šlanga į gamtą. From Marijam's personal archive.

Marijam moved to London with her family during the 2008 financial crisis. “Although things are going quite well now, moving to London wasn’t a choice.”
©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

Further reading:

'Labour Rights in Esports', by Marijam Didžgalvytė

'Left Left Up', a video show by Marijam on the intersection of gaming, its communities and real-life events

'The games industry needs unions – and these are the people trying to make it happen in the UK', by Astrid Johnson, Eurogamer.net

'Videožaidimų pramonės spindesys, skurdas, profsąjungos ir gundymo politika', by Tomas Marcinkevičius, Gyvenimas per brangus

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Studio voice was recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

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