International Solidarity Between Game Workers in the Global North and Global South: Reflections on The Challenges Posed by Labor Aristocracy




Unionization, unions, labor, labor conditions, production studies, political economy, games, games industry, imperialism, labor aristocracy, game development, game developer, workers, gamevironments


This article advances the research on unionization and collective organizing in the games industry by highlighting potential future challenges of international solidarity as identified by the Marxist concept of labor aristocracy. While much of organizing and unionization in the games industry are in their nascent stages by focusing primarily on the national question and the nature of work in the games industry, the nature of global supply chains, and free flow of capital emphasizes the importance of global perspectives on how game workers can organize. Primarily, this article is concerned with the material effects of 21st century imperialism on collective organization, where the Marxist concept of labor aristocracy identifies the privileged strata of game workers in imperialist countries who benefit from exploitative international relations between core and periphery economies through higher wages, positions of power, and affordable access to commodities. As a result, these groups of game workers should, according to the implications of labor aristocracy, hold a material investment into maintaining the exploitation of game workers in the periphery. This means that the current social movements to organize and unionize in the games industry potentially encounters the challenge of international solidarity with workers whose exploitation those in the imperialist countries benefit from. This article identifies such challenges through interviews and an online survey with game workers, organizers, union representatives, and leaders of international organizations. The findings reveal the international character of game work and the challenges of national legislation; the importance and challenge of building solidarity between game workers in the core and periphery; and finally, the potential strategies for unions and organizers to cultivate international solidarity. Thus, the article clears a forward path for both production research in game studies and labor organizing in the Western games industry through a global perspective on international material relations and historical materialism.

Author Biography

  • Emil Lundedal Hammar, Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at Tampere University

    Dr. Emil Lundedal Hammar is a postdoctoral researcher at the Game Research Lab and at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at Tampere University. His research expertise intersects between game studies, political economy, critical race theory, and cultural memory studies, where his doctoral thesis addressed how digital games, race, colonialism, and political economy intertwine to reinforce dominant hegemonic understandings of the past. His current research focuses on labor conditions in the Nordic game industries.






Peer-reviewed Articles