FAQ

Below are some common questions about the industry and the GWU. If you have a question not answered here, please let us know.

What is crunch, and how does it affect the industry?
The New York Times has defined crunch as "a sudden spike in work hours, as many as 20 a day, that can last for days or weeks on end." Some companies have pushed crunch in upwards of several months.

People have described experiencing stomach pains, memory loss, extreme anxiety, loss of family time, divorce, severe burnout, and more. Effectively, workers are trading their relationships and health so their employers can get more money. Crunch is not sustainable, nor should it be planned.

If we accept crunch as "part of the process", then we accept our jobs will never get better.
What is the current state of the industry?
Because game work is a "hobby" industry, where the prevailing messaging is that you're "lucky" to be doing a job that you "love", many people are willing to do whatever it takes to get their foot in the door.

This creates an overly competitive labour market, and means it's a rush to the bottom for those who freelance or contract. This situation often encourages workers sell their craft for the lowest they can, just to be in an industry they love - and business owners are the ones who benefit.

Burnout is common. People frequently decide to leave the industry completely due to long hours, politics, or poor treatment. Employee churn is very high in many AAA companies, with little to no sign of stopping. In fact, most AAA companies see churn and crunch as all part of the process. Workers are encouraged to stay late, work long hours, do whatever they can to help their team through.

Importantly, Australia now has no industry-wide rules for game workers. Because it is not recognised as an industry by the government in Australia, there aren't any official Awards, Enterprise Agreements, or even protection against mass layoffs.

This is something GWU Australia is committed to changing.
What would a union do for the game industry?
A union for game workers would be the same as a union for any other workers. The main purpose of a union is to empower employees to negotiate, as a stronger collective group, about issues affecting union members and other employees.

That means being involved in setting Awards, representing workers during negotiations for Enterprise Agreements, pursuing underpayment claims, taking court action on behalf of bullied or harassed workers, and so on.

A union would also give advice, legal help, negotiate consumer benefit programs for working families, lobby for funding, or have significant buying power for products that will benefit members.
Who would be covered by a union for game workers?
If you are doing any kind of job for a video game company - whether that be in-house, in an agency, on contract or casual - you're a game worker. You're one of us.
I'm a content creator/streamer, how could I benefit from a union?
We understand that you are constantly dealing with opaque partnerships, ambassador programs, and one-sided contracts with companies. Many companies see you as 'hobbyists' and free labour - and with no industry standard pay, there's no way to tell if you're being compensated fairly for your time. We want to change that.

With a union, you can receive legal assistance when negotiating contracts and compensation - and like independent developers, you can receive advice and information around pay standards. There's also a plethora of things that you go through that we might not even understand yet as an industry - so please take our survey. The more we understand, the better equipped we will be to help you, and the more ground we will break.
I'm a pro player, how could I benefit from a union?
As a pro player, you face challenges with partnerships, sponsorships, and contracts. Often, these can be confusing or convoluted on purpose. And talk of unionising in esports isn't new! Just like content creators or streamers, the industry is largely unaware of the issues that pro players go through on a regular basis.

Please make sure to take our survey so that we can grasp those issues and form plans to deal with them. This industry needs you, and you are just as much a part of it as a journalist, a marketing person, or a coder.
I’m a freelancer, does this apply to me?
It does! Joining a union is helps you strengthen your position as a freelancer. A union can help you set correct rates that don’t undermine you in the long run. A union will be there when a client refuses to pay. A union can advocate for things like unemployment benefits. A union can also provide training, allowing a freelancer to continue their education. It also provides an easy way to network with other members, get advice from experienced freelancers, find out which clients are good and bad, and so on.
I'm an employer, or I'm also a worker and I have hiring/firing power. What does this mean for me?
The reality is many of us blur the line between worker and employer in this industry. We would like to work toward a future where the union assists not only with workers within a standard company setup, but also with co-op setup and best practices implementation.
How can unions help small businesses?
Small businesses are overwhelmingly plagued by wage theft and exploitation, because the relationship between "boss" and "friend" can quickly become blurred. For workers in a small business, joining a union helps you recognise this exploitation and empowers you to take action to defend your rights.

If you are a small business owner, it can be difficult to find accurate advice on what your workers are entitled to. A constructive dialogue with a union can help sort out these issues before they become a concern. Additionally, a unionised workforce gives you the confidence to know that your workers are invested in your business and want to be a part of it for the long term.
Don't we already have the IGDA, the GDAA, or the IGEA? How are they different from the GWU?
These groups do represent the interests of the industry, but with two important differences: they are focused on the business owners in the industry, not the workers in the industry; and they are not a trade union as defined by Australian law.

A union under the law has powers and abilities that lobby and industry groups do not have, such as the ability to enter workplaces, the ability to take industrial action, and other powers.

GWU Australia hopes to be able to work constructively with all of these bodies. We don't have a formal relationship with them yet, although we certainly hope to keep channels open. All of us want the same thing: for the games industry in Australia to grow. Our concern is that the people who do the work to grow that industry see their fair share of any profits, instead of all the money and rewards going to managers and CEOs.
Wait, are you working with the MEAA?
We have a working relationship with the MEAA - their executive director and some organisers came to our talk at FreePlay at the end of May. The MEAA are very interested in helping game workers organise into a union, and their constitution would allow them to cover us. Game work has overlap with a lot of existing unions but the MEAA is best positioned. We speak to them quite regularly and some of their organisers are in our Discord.

Technically, to be clear, GWU Australia is not officially or formally affiliated with any existing union - but MEAA are very keen and talkative.
Who is involved in the GWU?
Right now, Tim Colwill and Felicia Anne are working to get information and statistics together. This is done in their spare time on top of their current jobs. As GWU Australia expands, we hope more people will want to become involved in an organisational capacity.
What is our information being used for?
The statistics gathered by our survey will give us useful, concrete information on the challenges and issues faced by game workers, as well as the different salaries on offer to different disciplines of game work.

All of this information will be necessary as we campaign for Australia’s existing trade unions to extend coverage to game workers.