The North American video game industry made a significant step toward improved labor conditions with the recognition of its first employee union, at the small indie developer Vodeo Games.
Vodeo, formed by Threes creator Asher Vollmer earlier this year, voluntarily recognized the employee union, which covers both full-time employees and more than half of the 13-person staff, who are independent contractors. The studio is entirely remote and includes employees and contractors in the U.S. and Canada.
The union, Vodeo Workers United, is represented by the Communications Workers of America, which has over the past few years spearheaded efforts to help game studios organize. Earlier this year, CWA helped Paizo, a maker of popular tabletop games, form the first North American union in the tabletop industry.
Many of these organizing efforts have been galvanized by growing outcry in the video game industry over sexist, discriminatory and exploitative workplace conditions at studios large and small. Over the past few months, there has been a major focus on larger companies such as Call of Duty developer Activision Blizzard and Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft, both of which are now facing growing labor movements amid investigations and lawsuits.
Vodeo Workers United said in a press release it plans to begin a contract negotiation process shortly to bargain over workplace conditions. Vodeo is also one of a growling number of game makers that has established a four-day workweek, which is one of the benefits the union hopes to preserve.
“All workers deserve a union and a say in how their workplace is run, no matter where they work, what their employment status is, or what kind of conditions they work under," Vodeo producer Myriame Lachapelle said in a statement. "We have been inspired by the growing worker organizing within the gaming industry and hope we can set a new precedent for industry-wide standards that will better our shared working conditions and inspire others to do the same."
Vodeo released its first game, Beast Breaker, for Mac, PC and the Nintendo Switch in September. The studio is now working on a second, unannounced title.