Raven Software QA Votes to Become First Major Video Game Union in the United States

A huge event in the crunch-prone video game industry, which has long resisted organized labor.
A screen shot from the video game Call of Duty Warzone
Screen shot courtesy of Activision Blizzard

The quality assurance team at Raven Software, a studio owned by Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard that contributes to the mega popular Call of Duty Warzone, has officially voted to unionize. The vote was 19 in favor, three against.

In video games, the quality assurance department helps identify bugs and glitches, and is often underpaid and understaffed. The union is called the Game Workers Alliance.

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“Now that we’ve won our election, it is our duty to protect these foundational values on which our union stands,” said members of the Game Workers Alliance in a statement released after the vote. “Our biggest hope is that our union serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us. We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.”

While it is not the first video game union in the United States, it is by far the most high-profile, and the vote comes amid Activision Blizzard being acquired by Microsoft and a broader inquiry into sexual harassment and assault at Activision Blizzard. 

“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union,” said an Activision Blizzard spokesperson in a statement. “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

One major reason this vote happened was poor treatment of the workers by Activision Blizzard in 2021, prompting a strike that lasted weeks and ended following a decision to hold a vote about forming a union and entering negotiations with Activision Blizzard over a contract. All the while, Activision Blizzard was dealing with the fallout from the state of California filing a lawsuit against the company after investigating its toxic workplace culture.

If you work in the video game industry and your team is talking about unionization, or hearing about unionization from your bosses, I want to hear what those conversations are like. My secure email is patrick.klepek@protonmail.com and my Signal number is 224-707-1561.

In recent months, Raven Software workers accused the publisher of curiously shifting staff around to thwart organizing, and just today, Bloomberg reported that US labor board prosecutors “determined Activision Blizzard illegally threatened staff and enforced a social media policy that conflicts with workers’ collective action rights.” An Activision spokesperson told Bloomberg the “the allegations are false.”

This historic vote follows polling that suggests game developers are more interested in unionizing than ever before. The question has been what studio would take the first step.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).