video games work

People Make Games on Working at Valve

There have been former and current employees at Valve talking about the working conditions and the ways they work for years.

People Make Games have posted this report to YouTube based on their interviews with 16 current and former employees of Valve and it’s very interesting to learn more about the working conditions at Valve.

video games

On Microsoft’s Activi-isition

There’s a lot to be said about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard for the past months and today a Microsoft communications person, Frank X. Shaw, said this on Mastodon:

I hear Sony is briefing people in Brussels claiming Microsoft is unwilling to offer them parity for Call of Duty if we acquire Activision.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We’ve been clear we’ve offered Sony a 10 year deal to give them parity on timing, content, features, quality, playability, and any other aspect of the game.


We’ve also said we’re happy to make this enforceable through a contract, regulatory agreements, or other means. ?Sony is the console market leader and it would defy business logic for us to exclude PlayStation gamers from the Call of Duty ecosystem. ?Our goal is to bring Call of Duty and other games – as we did with Minecraft – to more people around the world so they can play them where and how they want.

None of what Shaw says is necessarily false, but taking the words that come out of any giant corporation (Sony, Microsoft, etc) at face value would be a mistake. We do not know what exactly Microsoft has offered unless we see the contracts. Similarly, this kind of compression and acquisition while not entirely bad — more games on a subscription seems great! why pay $70 a year for Call of Duty when you can pay $15/month and get access to every Call of Duty and hundreds of other games, right? — is definitely awful for both the workers at these companies and people who play games, let’s go over the ways.

  • From a labor perspective, a larger Microsoft could be a more difficult target for labor unions to organize post-acquisution. Despite Microsoft’s claims that they are friendly to labor, they are anything but and that is clear to anyone who is familiar with Microsoft’s practices with Xbox quality assurance and certification. While it’s great that workers were able to unionize in a few circumstances, recently, Microsoft has long outsourced that labor group to VMC/Volt (I worked for Microsoft through VMC/Volt in the early 2000’s) so as to offload the liability of their abuse of these workers.
  • From a player perspective, a larger Microsoft that owns more games is able to dictate and influence the terms of how we have access to games. Microsoft seems like it is friendly now, when their games are coming to Steam and other platforms in addition to Microsoft’s Xbox platforms, but the bigger any of these companies get the more they can dictate every method of access and even preservation. Game Pass seems like a great deal for players, but it has the opportunity to fully control both development of games and their distribution.
  • Microsoft may pay lip service to preservation, but a Microsoft that locks down control of Call of Duty (and other Activision Blizzard games) can go where it wants and make the only option for playing their games a subscription streaming service that cannot be preserved.
  • A stronger Microsoft, especially in a world where Xbox/PC Game Pass and their streaming services (Xbox Cloud Gaming) become dominant, can ruin first and third party game development studios just like Netflix and the corporate entity known as Warner Bros. Discovery that is boxing up shows and movies just to resolve tax liabilities and cut developers out of the money they could have earned.
  • People will drag out the Minecraft example, but Minecraft was from a different time and we have no idea what the publishing agreements for it look like on different platforms. Each one is negotiated separately and…
  • Microsoft may attempt to negotiate a contract for Call of Duty to be on PlayStation platforms that is particularly onerous for Sony, speculation has pointed towards Microsoft requiring Sony to have some version of Xbox Game Pass/Xbox Cloud Gaming, but even if that isn’t true today, it may be something Microsoft wants in the future.
  • The price of these services that Microsoft is moving towards can and will change as they become more powerful. Today’s $10 or $15 a month can easily turn into $50-$150 or more just like a cable television bill.

Sony can do much of the same, and is attempting to do so with similar services and acquisitions, even if they don’t appear to be as successful.

None of these acquisitions are good for anyone in the end, besides the billionaires and millionaires at the top of these companies who stand to profit if they’re successful at achieving their maximum control of video games.


Apple’s War Against the Poor, continued

When I wrote about Apple’s hypocrisy in quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last week, there was more to say. Few people are as accurate in preserving Dr. King’s legacy than Cornel West. Here is West talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back in 2015 for Salon:

The radical King was a democratic socialist who sided with poor and working people in the class struggle taking place in capitalist societies. This class struggle may be visible or invisible, manifest or latent. But it rages on in a fight over resources, power, and space. In the past thirty years we have witnessed a top-down, one-sided class war against poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes, and cutting spending for those who are already socially neglected and economically abandoned.

Apple has rarely sided with the poor and in my opinion Apple’s “support” of Dr. King is part of the whitewashing of Dr. King’s struggles to free us all from white supremacy and capitalism, and rebrand them as part of a modern liberalism that is perfectly OK with labor exploitation. To ignore and label Apple’s fundamental materialism as part of Dr. King’s legacy is frankly disgusting, and part of why I’ve been less excited to write about the new products Apple has made lately.

There is a deeper conversation to be had here about capitalism, Apple, and the products it makes. That the products are good or bad or just there isn’t as interesting to me today as the question of what these large technology companies do and the lack of criticism about their actions in abusing the legacy of Dr. King.

learning german

Language Learning Resources

I’ve started compiling and reviewing language learning resources to go along with my Learning German streams. You can find that list of resources right here including my thoughts on Duolingo, Memrise, and the rest of my recommendations.


Apple’s Support for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ignores Dr. King’s Support for Workers

Yesterday, on the holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S, the homepage was updated to proclaim the company’s support for Dr. on the date of January 16th, 2023 with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I cannot imagine a more hypocritical stance for Apple to take when they are so against Dr. King’s messages. Time and again, Dr. King supported labor rights.

Dr. King supported striking sanitation workers in Memphis Tennessee the day before he was assassinated. That was the same day the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech was given:

The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Apple has repeatedly worked against workers attempting to unionize. Apple gave out bogus anti-union talking points to store managers. Apple even went so far as to create a phony union to hijack the process and lead workers out of organizing for their rights.

Apple CEO Tim Cook even includes a a quote by Dr. King in his Twitter profile and quoted him yesterday.

It is absolutely absurd that Apple and Cook claim to support Dr. King this year after so much injustice is the direct result of the decisions the executive team at Apple has created.

No vigorous and positive worker action at Apple has gone unpunished.