The news prompted renewed attention to Nintendo’s treatment of its employees, particularly Q.A. workers, who are often on temporary contracts and relegated to the bottom of the totem pole at development studios, causing many to feel like second-class citizens.
In a statement, Nintendo said that the employee had been fired for disclosing confidential information and that the company was “fully committed to providing a welcoming and supportive work environment.”
It all adds up to an environment in which gaming employees are more willing to speak out about perceived injustices and more curious about collective organizing than ever before, especially as they watch labor campaigns at companies like Amazon, Apple and Starbucks.
“I would frame this time as one of real experimentation, where game workers are exploring their options in what seems to be quite an open-minded way,” said Johanna Weststar, an associate professor at Western University in Ontario who studies labor in the game industry.
Professor Weststar attributed part of the interest in activism in gaming to campaigns led by unions like C.W.A., which have found the gaming industry to be a “massive, untapped market.” Monday’s vote is “low-hanging fruit” for union activity, she said, because it is affecting a small group of temporary workers who are the most likely to want to organize.
“It will be more telling or more formative when a larger studio with a more permanent and more stable work force, when they actually unionize,” Professor Weststar said.
The vote Monday comes months after employees at Raven, the Wisconsin studio that helps develop Activision’s flagship Call of Duty game, walked out of work in protest after the company ended about a dozen Raven Q.A. workers’ contracts, which the workers said was abrupt and unfair. After the workers announced their intent to unionize in January, Activision, which is being acquired by Microsoft for $70 billion, said it would not voluntarily recognize the group.