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Nintendo worker behind labor complaint says they were fired for discussing unionization

Former Nintendo of America tester Mackenzie Clifton claims they were fired for asking a question about unionization during a company Q&A.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

September 29, 2022

3 Min Read
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The employee who filed a complaint against Nintendo of America and staffing partner Aston Carter earlier this year has spoken in greater detail about the company's alleged union busting practices and workplace culture.

In April 2022, an anonymous worker who has since stepped forward as Mackenzie Clifton accused Nintendo of America and global recruiter Aston Carter of taking "concerted" and "coercive" steps to disrupt potential unionization efforts. That complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Now, in a wide-ranging interview with Axios, Clifton claims they were fired because they asked Nintendo management questions about unionization.

Notably, Clifton suggests their dismissal is directly linked to a question they asked Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser during a Q&A session in a bid to find out what the company thinks "about the unizionation trend in QA in the games industry as of late."

Clifton claims their question wasn't addressed in the meeting, but that later on in the day they were told by an Aston Carter supervisor the query was a "downer question." Aston Carter also reportedly told Clifton to send any similar questions its way, as opposed to asking Nintendo directly.

Clifton said they were "baffled and kind of angry" at the response, and that, less than a month later, they were fired.

For its part, Nintendo says Clifton was fired for publicly disclosing confidential information rather than raising the issue of unionization, which has been a hot topic of late as more and more teams in the game industry -- specifically those working in QA -- seek to organize.

Clifton disputes that claim, and after asking their supervisors for more information about that apparent leak was reportedly shown a tweet they posted on February 16 that reads "in today’s build someone somewhere must have deleted every other texture in the game bc everything is now red. Just like, pure red. it’s very silly."

What's more, Clifton adds that after filing the NLRB complaint they requested an apology from Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser as part of a proposed settlement. Nintendo instead countered with an offer to speak with HR.

Speaking more broadly about the culture at Nintendo, Clifton waxed lyrical about their early days at the company, noting that "things were actually very good initially." During their time at the studio, Clifton was tasked with testing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ahead of launch, and stuck with the project for two years as the title was supported with post-launch content such as DLC fighters.

Although they enjoyed working on Ultimate, Clifton says testers had to fight to be credited on the project, with an initial request being refused by management only for that decision to be overturned later on.

"If all of this work I had done for all of these years meant nothing to these people, that they couldn’t even just modify a text document, why bother?" asked Clifton, who says they were "utterly crushed" by Nintendo's initial refusal to credit their work on the game.

Once testers' names had been added to the credits, however, Clifton signed a new contract in January 2022 -- only to be fired weeks later. Explaining why they ultimately decided to file a complaint and come forward, Clifton says they hope to "show the world and show my former coworkers that something like a union would be not only beneficial but maybe even necessary in the coming years."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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