Dr Paolo Ruffino

University of Liverpool

This paper presents findings and observations collected while researching the nascent labour union Game Workers Unite UK (GWU UK). GWU UK was officially founded in January 2019 and is the first official national branch of the global group Game Workers Unite. GWU UK presents itself as ‘a worker-led, democratic organisation that represents and advocates for UK game workers’ rights’ (GWU UK 2019). The investigator has participated at the regional meetings of the union in the London area in 2018 and 2019, and engaged with 5 key members of the board throughout the same period by carrying a series of unstructured interviews. The paper argues that one of the major novelties of the organization consists in the techniques provided to guarantee the opacity of the worker’s identity, from the moment they join the union and during negotiations with employers. The paper concludes that GWU UK represents a significant change in how game workers perceive their own role within the game industry. It is symptomatic of a renewed attention towards the dynamics of inclusivity that are inherent in what was previously perceived as a ‘passion-driven’ industry, and of a growing scepticism towards the individualism that is often predicated as being a requirement of creative expression (O’Donnell 2014; McRobbie 2016; Harvey and Shepherd 2017). It also contributes to ongoing debates around creative labour in the contemporary digital industries by introducing novel strategies of collective organization (Woodcock 2019).

Dr Paolo Ruffino is Lecturer in Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on independent videogame development, the automation of play, and contemporary practices and technologies of gamification and quantification of the self. He is chair of DiGRA Italia and member of British DiGRA.