In an interview yesterday, former Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime was asked about his thoughts on unions, which currently barely exist in the video game industry. Fils-Aime’s answer was not a ringing endorsement of unions, with the former exec saying they aren’t good or bad, just a situation to be dealt with. But he did add that companies should embrace unionization if their employees want it.
Unionization is in the air, as yesterday, employees at Raven Software—a studio that works on Call of Duty Warzone—made history when its QA staff voted to unionize, becoming the first union at a large-scale, AAA video game company. This followed months of union-busting from parent company Activision Blizzard. As a result, some high-ranking video game industry folks have been getting asked their thoughts on unions. This includes Fils-Aime, who has been out on a press tour for his recently released memoir. Yesterday, he did an interview with The Washington Post, in which he was asked about the then-upcoming Raven union vote and the industry’s growing push to organize.
In response, Fils-Aime pointed out that we are currently seeing a huge push to unionize across the entire country and a wide spectrum of industries, so it’s not surprising that this is happening in the world of gaming, too. Fils-Aime blames covid and too many companies ignoring “systemic issues” as the reasons behind this big union push, adding that “unionization is a good thing.”
“As a leader, you need to look hard,” said Fils-Aime, “And if this is what your employees want, you need to address that and embrace it, and move forward.”
Then, oddly, he seemed to shift his opinion mid-answer, saying that unionization isn’t a “good or bad thing.”
“I’ve worked in industries that have had high levels of unionization,” explained Fils-Aimé. “This is not a good or bad thing. It is a situation that as a leader, as an executive, you need to manage just like any other challenge, issue, or opportunity that you face.”
A spokesperson for Fils-Aime reached by Kotaku had nothing further to add.
The calls for the video game industry to unionize have only grown louder as more and more stories emerge about poor working conditions, low pay, and mistreatment at major video game studios and publishers.
Just last month, Kotaku reported on how many contract workers at Nintendo felt like second-class workers and suffered bad pay. One employee even claims they were fired after speaking about unions in a meeting, leading to a formal complaint being filed with the National Labor Relations Board. IGN reported on similar complaints and stories from contract workers at Nintendo.
In response to these reports, Fils-Aime told The Washington Post that “wasn’t the Nintendo I left” and that he’d always been able to foster a healthy work culture during his 13-year tenure at the company, pointing out that he held regular lunch meetings with employees that contract workers were free to sign up for and attend. However, according to Kotaku’s sources, these lunches were held in a building that contract workers lacked access to, and one worker explained that while they had heard of these meetings, they never knew of any contract workers being allowed to join.
In other Reggie Fils-Aime news, he wishes he could sell his Animal Crossing island via the blockchain and he didn’t like the Game Boy Micro. 2022 is a weird year, y’all.