Video Game Industry is Mobilizing to Unionize for Protection Against AI

In this post:

  • Professionals from the video game industry are looking to establish their own union.
  • The purpose of the union will be to protect their jobs against AI.
  • SAG-AFTRA is a good example and can possibly cover video game developers and artists.

Video game developers across the board are trying to form unions against the troubles of automation, especially generative artificial intelligence, in order to protect their jobs.

Game developers, voice artists, and animators are coming together for the protection of their roles during the wave of massive layoffs and for the improvement of their working conditions in the midst of encroaching AI. 

Just recently, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood artists and professionals, secured a deal with record labels for making consent and compensation a must, this provides a good example for video game developers, and SAG-AFTRA can also expand its coverage to include the gaming industry.

The supporters of artificial intelligence use in the gaming sector have different views, basing their argument on the basis of lower production costs, which are possible with smaller teams. According to them, AI enables them to do things that were not possible without it.

Game developers trying to unionize

The gaming industry is severely under the influence of AI as they assess the approaches to utilizing AI to upgrade the sector. It started with the launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI back in 2022, which triggered a tsunami of AI, and the market realized its transformative potential.

People working in the industry are fearing massive job losses because of automation, and they are feeling the need to unionize for their protection. As big companies in the gaming industry are looking for ways to integrate the AI tech for their benefit, including Square Enix and Tencent, which is a Chinese gaming giant and owns the rights to the famous games League of Legends and also Final Fantasy. 

Along with other reasons, AI is the sole factor of the widespread fears due to its automation abilities. Chrissy Fellmeth from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), while speaking to the Independent, highlighted that people must have consent over their employment decisions as the layoffs have alerted them. She also said that changes by employers are usually made without the consent of the employees, and they are working out solutions. In an interview at the developers conference, she said,

“AI is a huge concern to people working in the games industry, especially to more creative parts like concept artists, animators, writers.”

Source: Independent.

SAG-AFTRA can provide an umbrella

Workers across the gaming industry held conversations and roundtables to find the best approaches for their unionization as they looked for any possible solution at the Gamers Development Conference, which was held last month in San Francisco. 

This movement of unionization is led by performers and voice actors who are already represented by SAG-AFTRA of Hollywood, according to the Independent’s report. Last year, TV and film studios were pressured to agree on restrictions regarding artificial intelligence due to a 118 day long record strike by artists and related media workers.

According to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, their union is feeling the need to cover the video game industry workers under the deal. And to make the deal, the union can go on another strike if things do not work out soon. He said,

“The companies have a very simple decision to make: either treat all of your performers fairly and give them equal AI protections, or don’t. And if they’re committed to not doing that, there’s no reason why we should wait.”

Source: Independent.

According to Crabtree-Ireland, they are also asked to sign agreements with all encompassing rights to replicate their voices with the present and future technologies without any compensation, which is not fair.

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