De-walling Union Rhetoric in Video Game Production


‘Surviving’ videogame production is tenuous as is, but when considering workers’ experiences with a number of moderating problems, especially loneliness and isolation, suddenly, ‘surviving’ production isn’t just about getting through the long hours: it’s about finding kindred spirits and likeminded confidants. In this project, I examine how the use of institutional ethnography (Smith, 2005) and feminist ethnography (Visweswaran, 1994) can facilitate new ways of understanding the situated, embodied experiences of workers in the videogame industry. In recounting their stories, I position this project as the beginning of a ‘de-walling’ in videogame production. I interviewed 6 current videogame production workers situated in triple-A production spaces about their experience with unionization: who they see (or don’t see) pushing for unionization, inclusive/exclusive language choices, and their thoughts on the process altogether. Unlike union initiatives in the past, videogame production has yet to thoroughly define itself, and its representative bounds. Until that work is done, it will be impossible to imagine a unionization effort that is not omitting certain sectors of the production process, and the bodies labouring in those sectors. This project borrows work from my dissertation to assist in that definitional process. Once this work is done, the situated, embodied experiences my informants have shared with me can be used as proverbial lights in the dark for workers who share my informants’ experiences with loneliness, isolation, and feeling left out of unionization talks.


Digital Frontiers Session: Rhetoric and Resistance
Annotated PowerPoint (.pptx) available for download.


institutional ethnography, feminist ethnography, videogame industry, unionization


Jackson, J. (2019). De-walling union rhetoric in video game production. [Conference presentation]. Digital Frontiers Annual Conference, Austin, TX, United States.


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