Game Developer Unions are a Daft Idea

Some game developers would like to unionise. This is not an inherently bad idea. Unionisation is an effective way for people to improve their working conditions when there is a chronic imbalance in bargaining power between workers and management across an industry.

Such an imbalance might occur because regulation makes it hard to start or destroy companies. Or because workers cannot easily move between industries, perhaps because re-training is hard, or because a social security system ties benefits to an individual career . Or for many other real world reasons that affect many people.

Game development does not suffer from such an imbalance. Quite the opposite:

  • Companies making games generally struggle to find and retain skilled workers
  • Strong competition between companies makes capable development teams their only competitive advantage

For workers to enjoy the best working conditions, poorly performing companies must be destroyed as quickly as possible. Yes, that includes studios that we might fondly remember for being very good in the past, but are now falling behind more innovative competitors.

Fortunately, it is very easy to start and destroy game development studios. Capital costs are low, regulation is light, markets are near fully globalised, and geography is largely irrelevant. Under such circumstances, it is relatively easy for a hungry entrepreneur to pull together a motivated team and beat established players.

The best thing that game developers can do is to maintain an atmosphere of ruthless innovation: Bad companies get destroyed, good ones keep popping up. That way, talented game developers can choose from a wide array of companies, allowing demand for their talent to force competition for the acquisition of their labour.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room. If competition in games is so intense, why is pay generally low? Game development attracts lots of people who perceive it as more enjoyable work than say, finance or accounting. At the macroeconomic level, the game development labour market is heavily supplied.

If you are working in game development, someone with equal or lesser talents than you is working in a fin-tech startup earning twice as much as you while working half the hours. If you don’t like that, you need to go work in a fin-tech.

If you try to force higher pay by controlling supply of labour through a union, then the company you work for is going to go bankrupt. Someone hungrier than you is going to supply their labour elsewhere, the company they work for is going to produce an equal product at lower cost,  and customers are going to end your fantasy with their wallets.

It’s Time To Change Section 44

Ludlam, Waters, Canavan, Roberts, Joyce – The Section 44 pain train is rolling through an ever growing list of representatives and senators. It is time for this absurdity to stop. Section 44, specifically subsection (i), reflects an outmoded, irrelevant view of what it means to be an Australian citizen. It is actively harmful to our ability to grow and prosper as a nation.

Any person who –

Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power

[…]

shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

The members embroiled in the dual-citizenship fiasco hail from across the political spectrum. Regardless of our persuasions, we can surely agree that all these members are patriots, acting for the best interests of the Australian people, even if they disagree about how those interests are best served.

Australia is a diverse nation of immigrants. This is our great strength, the secret sauce that has propelled us to great wealth, peace, and prosperity. We should want our parliament to reflect our diversity, to contain bridges to the world’s peoples. Such bridges, manifesting in dual-citizenships, are tools to allow our parliament  to better act in our collective interest.

If senator Canavan’s mother signed him up to be an Italian citizen without his knowledge, if senator Waters immigrated here from Canada as an infant, we should savour and welcome and support their links to these foreign lands. We should welcome senators Canavan, Waters, and others dual-citizens as a strength, a representation in the legislature of our collection diverse, immigrant selves.

The alternative, the status quo, is to admit a great insecurity about our way of life. We suggest that a dual-citizenship, however tenuous, is sufficient corruption to be likely to sway a member to act against Australia. Forget foreign spies, bribery, infiltration, inducements. No: It is enough that an infant was born in a Canadian hospital, that infant is likely to be a traitor!

We grow stronger by embracing the ties that bind us to our fellow creatures around this Earth. We have grown wealthy, safe, strong, and prosperous through such embraces, while more insular, inward looking nations struggle with the limitations such insulation imposes.

Trade, treaties, the movement of people, the flow of finance, the exchange of ideas: An Australia more tightly bound to Canada, to Italy, or to any other nation is a stronger Australia. Members of parliament with ties to these and other lands are a source of strength, not weakness. It’s time to amend the constitution, re-write section 44(i), and embrace our own strength.