ESA wants to stay out of developer union discussions

ESA wants to stay out of developer union discussions

American video games trade body The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) isn't looking to engage in discussions about developer unionisation.

Speaking to Gamasutra, acting CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis (pictured) said that game makers clubbing together for collective bargaining is an issue for individual companies rather than the trade body.

This interview - conducted at DICE - follows a year where the treatment of video game developers came into the spotlight once again. Last week also saw mass layoffs at Activision Blizzard, resulting in more calls for stronger rights and better treatment for developers.

“I know that our members and our industry wants the best place possible for the creation games,” he said.

“And that means creating the workforce in a very respectful way. At the same time, [each company’s workforce] needs to make its own independent judgment about issues related to unionisation. That’s not something ESA really engages on.”

Pressed on the mass desire for unionisation in the development community, he continued: “We’re trying to amplify the positive of what the industry does. I think that answers your question.”

Ah yes, because putting your hands over your ears and shouting: 'La la la I can't hear you' in the face of massive issues facing a large part of the games development workforce is a brilliant idea.

In the past, former CEO and president Michael Gallagher said that unionisation "wasn't a significant issue"

The ESA's strategy of only discussing the positive sides of our industry is likely why the trade body has repeatedly refuted the notion that video games might be addictive

The acting CEO was also asked about the ESA's meeting with US president Donald Trump last year to discuss the role of video games in escalating gun crime and school shootings. This follows the American commander-in-chief calling for age ratings on video games, something the US has had since 1994 thanks to the ESRB. 

“Our takeaway was…we were able to express the importance of video games writ large,” Pierre-Louis said.

“We were also able to look at the evidence that’s out there about what happens when people play the same games in the United States, vs. other countries.

“The same games are distributed worldwide, but you don’t have the same violence issues in other countries that you have here, which says that there’s something else going on—it’s not video games. I think that had a really big impact on discussions.”

An American Government report into the role of violent media in school gun violence had little to say about video games.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.