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February 6, 2024
4 Min Read
Image via IGN Creators Guild.
At a Glance
- Workers at IGN are joining the growing ranks of unionized employees in the media and technology industries.
- IGN workers need "more support than they're currently getting," according to senior reporter Rebekah Valentine.
- This news comes as more game developers are considering the prospect of unionization for themselves.
Over 80 editorial and creative workers at IGN have announced the formation of IGN Creators Guild: a unionized workforce organized under the umbrella of national union NewsGuild-CWA.
This is the latest in a steady series of union drives taking place across video game media and the world of game development. IGN's decision to unionize is notable to the game development community because its editorial strategy involves working closely with developers on key programs like "IGN First Look." Developers working closely with the outlet on such pushes will now work directly with unionized counterparts.
In a statement, union organizers told Game Developer that 85 percent of eligible members have already signed union authorization cards declaring their support for the organization, and that as a result it "expects" IGN owner Ziff Davis to voluntarily recognize the guild.
"Of our many goals, we first and foremost want to see IGN grow and thrive as digital media continues to become more and more tumultuous," union members wrote in a mission statement. "We have been an institution for over 25 years, and the creators of IGN want to see it continue for 25 more and beyond. But to do so, we need support."
That support includes a demand for "fair and competitive" pay for employees, especially those required to live and work in American cities with the highest cost of living. The union is also fighting for more affordable health insurance and steps to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at the media outlet.
IGN's union hopes to head off trends that would lead to layoffs
Unions cannot fully prevent layoffs, but they play a key role in negotiating improved conditions for terminated workers. In recent weeks game development unions like Communication Workers of America have successfully fought to protect organized workers from the worst impact of layoffs. Sega of America's union successfully negotiated to reduce the number of terminated employees in the company's California office, and unionized workers were completely spared during Microsoft's widespread cuts in late January.
Signees of the IGN Creators Guild's statement indicated they hope to go even further and take steps to protect themselves and the business against the conditions driving layoffs across the media, entertainment, and game development industries.
"The last year and a half is as clear an indicator as you could get for why unionizing is so important," said IGN executive reviews editor Tom Marks in an exchange with Game Developer. "[A union] does give workers a seat at the table to have a say over both their futures and their working conditions, especially as economic conditions change or years-long bets set by studio heads potentially don't pan out."
This topic was addressed more broadly by the newly-formed union in its mission statement. "We need clear paths for career growth, including management training to ensure our team leaders are both supportive and effective," the statement reads. "We must avoid future mismanaged pivots and [reorganizations], as well as address the ethical editorial concerns that have grown with the acquisition of sponsorship-focused subsidiaries."
These comments stand out to any reader familiar with how the wide swath of digital news organizations have faced crushing losses as digital advertising revenue continues to decline. Employees of battered outlets like G/O Media's sports publication Deadspin have pointed out how executive mismanagement has laid waste to traffic gains like those spotlighted in the Guild's announcement.
The demand for proper managerial training also speaks to an issue raised by former Bungie general counsel Don McGowan, who recently explained Game Developer about how corporations are incentivized to promote employees to management level for the wrong reasons. Such promotions may make employees ineligible to join a union like the Creator's Guild, and are made more enticing by being the only method workers can secure a meaningful pay raise after years of work.
Readers would be justified in asking what a unionization success at a digital media outlet means for game development. Marks pointed out that games media and game development are both "industries built around an exceptionally young medium."
"The gaming world has grown so fast that I think we forget how young it is sometimes, and all you have to do is look to creative fields that have been around a lot longer (be that film, theater, or print media) to realize that unionizing shouldn't be some controversial thing," he continued. "It should be the next normal step as this medium continues to mature."
The hope for unionization of course is that opens up a path to improvement in the workplace when workers band together, a message hammered home by the Guild in the closing lines of its mission statement. "We stand together in solidarity with one another in a fight for better wages, earned comp time that is supported and enforced, reasonable protections against layoffs, and fair compensation when they cannot be avoided," the statement reads.
"The future of IGN is bright if we fight for it. Let us do so together."
About the Author(s)
Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com
Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.
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