Schools are serving the industry, not their students

This article is a sub-section of a large report on French video game studies published by the STJV. You will find the table of contents of this dossier, and links to all its parts, here : https://www.stjv.fr/en/2021/09/report-on-french-video-game-studies/

As a consequence of the problems cited, video game studies accustom students to working in poor conditions, being overloaded with work and having to organize and find solutions to problems alone, without support. This goes against the primary mission of schools: teaching. They also expose them to sexist atmospheres (often categorised by the term “boys’ club”) and harassment, while indulging in favouritism towards people with harmful or even dangerous behaviour. Finally, by promising them wonderful careers in an exciting environment, and dispossessing them of their work and knowingly ignoring labour laws, they push them into precariousness.

Taken together, these problems combine to reveal the true function of higher education as conceived in the video game (and many other) industry: schools serve the industry and companies, not their “clients,” i‧e. the students. Whether this function is conscious or not among school administrations does not matter, because the result remains the same regardless of the intention.

The first result of this submission to the industry consists in studies that ensure a pre-selection of future workers for the companies. While this occurs from the admission process, as previously stated, the material costs and studying conditions finalise the elimination of weakened, marginalised and disabled people. The “non-conforming” persons who manage to enter video game studies are under continuous pressure during their school years, pushing them to drop out. Among the few figures available on the French video game industry, there are two that speak volumes in the SNJV’s annual survey and expose the extent of the problem for women, one of the categories of people discriminated against, among so many others: for 2019, it indicates a percentage of 26% women in video game schools, but only 14% of women in the industry’s companies. This reflects discrimination in hiring, but also the large number of women who drop out during their studies.

This pre-selection allows companies to ensure that the majority of the people they recruit will be “fitted” to the industry, or “docile” enough to suffer in silence, and that they will therefore not need to adapt their offices, methods and work organisations, thus saving them money. It also has the effect of homogenising the industry: socially, by keeping a majority of employees from middle and upper classes, and culturally, by ensuring that the ideas, themes and intentions brought by workers do not go too far outside the current industry framework. Efforts to push students to create “marketable” games, and the consequent favouritism towards students who fit into the industry’s mould, play a huge part in this cultural standardisation. This is despite the fact that the industry would benefit from leaving more room for the exploration of new themes and mechanics.

In addition to this social selection, the schools also participate very actively in formatting students, pushing them to accept degraded working conditions in studios. Classes are mostly technical, to meet the requirements of job offers, and do not care much about the socialisation and well-being of students at work. Courses addressing labour law, corporate relations and the problems one encounters there are rare. But in a way this is understandable, since these same problems are present in schools (as evidenced by the number of them that do not respect labour laws). In the few schools that do offer them, they are particularly focused on entrepreneurship, which has multiple uses for the employers:

  • to make students dream of setting up their own studio;
  • to make them think like bosses;
  • to push them towards precarious situations such as self-employment;
  • to divert them from the legal recourses to which they have access.

« to get hired for sure, you should take on an auto-entrepreneur (freelance) status and ask for half the minimum wage for a full time job »

Statement from a manager at école Bellecour

« During a “contract and law” class, it was explained to us that if we had a problem, going to the labour courts meant taking the risk of being “flagged” as a troublemaker »

Former student at a video game school

Schools do not only offer talks by professionals and companies wishing to share their knowledge. They also invite professionals who simply come to advertise their products, production processes or studio like sales representatives, as well as employers’ lobbies (of which the schools are often members). It is thus almost impossible to escape from decontextualised business propaganda during one’s studies, the purpose of which being to teach students to love the degraded working conditions of the industry.«

« [We had] interventions from video game “professionals” to teach us how to crunch properly. […] We were conditioned to enjoy it. In our heads it was fantastic. »

Former student at a video game school

These professionals are now coming to select students directly in schools. This is done mainly through project juries, which are often treated by students and jury members as similar to job interviews, especially since these moments are presented by the schools as opportunities for companies to seek potential candidates. Typically, these juries are composed of professionals who volunteered after an announcement or proposal from the schools, sometimes relayed and approved internally by companies. What passes for a commendable initiative at first glance, is once again akin to free labour to the benefit of the schools, with many perverse effects. Indeed, these volunteers are almost never qualified to review student work, and their presence can be motivated by a wide variety of very personal and sometimes dangerous motives, with some seeing it as an opportunity to smear students’ work or even to harass them. Their presence also contributes to the reproduction and standardisation of the industry’s products, by favouring projects close to their personal tastes and to what they themselves produce.

« The school *** is looking for pros for its end of year jury. […] It’s the perfect opportunity to go and encourage the kids and/or to go take it out on them »

Internal mail from a French studio

The direct presence, at all levels, of professionals and representatives of the industry blurs the boundary between the latter and schools, particularly by ensuring the promotion of the industry to the detriment of informing students about its much less pleasant realities. Whether this is conscious and/or admitted or not, the purpose of schools remains to provide productive machines to companies, not to prepare people to live their work in the best conditions. The STJV’s interventions in schools, which we have been doing for several years and during which we introduce students to internship and labour laws and to the realities of the industry, are an attempt at compensating for their shortcomings and at counterbalancing the presence of employer lobbies within them. We will continue our efforts in this direction and remain available, with the aim of doing so in as many schools as possible. Do not hesitate to contact us.

Harassment: Ubisoft chooses delaying tactics and communication campaigns instead of protecting employees

This statement was written by French Ubisoft employees, including the STJV sections at Ubisoft Annecy, Ubisoft Montpellier and Ubisoft Paris, and adresses the situations we face in our day-to-day lives. While our conclusions may not apply to everyone within the company (due to legal differences between countries, for example), we believe that the principles described here remain valid everywhere and would be happy to get in touch with workers leading similar struggles outside of France.

NB: Throughout this article, we’ll refer to « CSEs ». A CSE (Comité Social Économique, aka Economic and Social Committee) is a workers council that’s mandatory by French law in any company over 11 employees. Its members are elected by the company’s workers, and they are protected from unjustified firing by their employer. A CSE is tasked with protecting the company’s workers by advising them on their rights, giving feedback to the company’s management on the problems they observe and making sure that the company respects the law.


A little over a year ago, Ubisoft faced an unprecedented wave of testimonies about numerous cases of harassment and aggressions taking place within the group. These reports implicated many people, including some high up in the group’s hierarchy, and revealed a corporate structure that felt no remorse ignoring the many alerts issued about its members, and drove victims to resign.

Our analysis of the situation has not changed since then. More than ever, it is necessary that workers (through their representatives, unions or other local structures) are fully involved in the decision-making processes to address these issues. As such, the members of our sections within Ubisoft who are also members of the CSEs, and in particular our section representatives, have worked hard to ensure that this is the case.

This exhausting work (see the timeline at the end of this article), engaging with a management structure that used any trick at its disposal to buy time, is now blocked by a brutal and completely out-of-touch response from the group’s management, which outright refuses our demands. Once again, they cannot in any way claim to be wiping the slate clean by replacing only one or two well-known « figureheads » in order to conjure up a cleaner image.

By refusing to include employees in the feedback and decision-making process on harassment, Ubisoft management shows that it never had any intention to do more than communicate to « save face ».


Another recent element illustrates this: the introduction of a sixth evaluation attribute (in addition to the five existing ones). This sixth attribute, « Act as a role model », would apply to everyone working at Ubisoft, and would not only impact their remuneration like the rest of the evaluation (see link below), but it would also be used as a multiplier for the production bonus in case of a game release. There are huge problems with this attribute, as it is given overwhelming importance, while its definition is extremely vague: « showing empathy », « being inclusive », « having a constructive approach »…

Ubisoft’s evaluation system is already deeply flawed and unfair, as we pointed out last June. This system is a factor of psycho-social risks, and adding a device that is highly likely to increase these risk factors rather than fundamentally reforming the evaluation and remuneration systems in place is simply irresponsible.

This addition is purely about public image: it will allow management to boast that it is fighting against harassment via a salary impact, while completely ignoring the fact that it is a tool that only intervenes after the fact (since it is used at the time of the evaluation), and that it is riddled with critical flaws: the predominant role of the manager in a situation where problems often come from these hierarchical superiors, possible discrimination against people who do not « fit in », etc. Therefore, this attribute could effectively become another harassment and discrimination tool available to the group’s management, rather than one used to fight against it.

This was not lost on our members from marginalised groups who immediately saw how these measures would exacerbate rather than reduce the discrimination they face:

  • There is a real risk that their marginalisation will be highlighted in the evaluations: in the event of a positive evaluation, the person will be considered « privileged » by nature, reinforcing potential accusations of favouritism, or of being a « token ».
  • A person who defends themselves against inappropriate remarks or misbehaviour may be evaluated negatively for their « non-constructive » approach or « difficulty in integrating with the team » even more than at present.
  • This attribute does not help to reveal or regulate harassment problems within teams: it can instead be an additional means of repression, and in all likelihood a harasser will not be « punished » at the evaluation if they have not already been subjected to disciplinary actions.
  • It should also be remembered that this attribute does not help to improve the evaluation process, since this process is dependent on the budget allocated for salary increases (see our previous article above).
  • It should also be remembered that marginalised people are already most often penalised with lower salaries. They are therefore particularly likely to be harmed if their manager abuses this sixth attribute.
  • People with neuroatypical empathic functioning could be blamed and punished in the name of this supposedly inclusive attribute.

The conclusion of this frightening, yet non-exhaustive, list is that this sixth attribute would rather encourage the people it is supposed to protect to remain silent so as not to be discriminated against further – or worse, that it encourages dangerous people to amplify their violence towards victims to silence them.

The STJV, on behalf of its members working in the Ubisoft group, is therefore demanding that the sixth attribute draft proposition be withdrawn altogether, as well as the integration of workers at all levels of the harassment reporting process, and not just downstream, after management has been able to water down or even cover up certain cases.


Educational standards are highly questionable

This article is a sub-section of a large report on French video game studies published by the STJV. You will find the table of contents of this dossier, and links to all its parts, here : https://www.stjv.fr/en/2021/09/report-on-french-video-game-studies/

If students feel guilty about promoting their schools, it is not only because of the poor studying conditions and the exploitation, but also because the education they receive is often of poor quality. It is difficult to praise the merits of a school whose pedagogy is unreliable or even non-existent, and whose relevance fades with each passing year. All the more so when the schools’ brochures often boast of course hours far in excess of those actually provided, with classes that are outright missing from the curriculum.

The classes taught, which are mostly technical at the expense of other forms of knowledge, very often teach students technologies and processes that are outdated in the industry and, in most cases, do not have any educational structure. This is because the vast majority of schools simply do not allocate any, or only very few, resources to academic consistency and monitoring. This lack of resources leads to a lack of communication between teachers, the absence of a stable curriculum, and a lack of consistency between disciplines. Classes that would benefit from being taught simultaneously are not, and the number of projects multiplies because each class requires a specific one, instead of grouping different works into a single project, thus contributing to the overwork of students.

Some teachers have told us that they have been hired and then sent in front of classes without any kind of syllabus, training or even basic tips from the educational department they report to. The high turnover of teachers and pedagogical staff prevents any continuity from one year to the next and leads to absurd situations where the same lectures are given two years in a row, to the same class, with two different speakers. To compensate for these shortcomings, students or teachers sometimes take on the task of pedagogical coordination in place of their school, but they are neither trained nor paid for this additional work. And the pedagogical departments do not facilitate this work: they are described as opaque, hardly communicating with either students or teachers. “Getting answers to our emails is a real obstacle course”, students in many schools tell us.

As if to drive the point home, these problems get worse as the years go by. With each passing year, schools are moving more and more towards a so-called ‘project-based learning’ approach, which allows them to leave students to fend for themselves without a teacher, sometimes to the point where Masters years are effectively completed without any classes. The mass adoption of this mode of non-teaching, apart from saving schools money by making the expense of monitoring training unnecessary, has no educational quality, drives students to burnout, increases inequalities, and gives rise to many of the problems outlined in the previous sections.

National day of action on October 5, 2021: call for a strike in the video game industry

While it may have seemed to be put on pause during the Covid-19 epidemic, the government has never abandoned its policy of destroying the French healthcare system and the welfare infrastructure which helps the majority of workers and unemployed people, whether they are looking for a job or have retired. On the contrary, the pandemic has become a convenient excuse for upcoming austerity policies resuming and continuing this destructive policy.

The enforcement of the last elements of the unemployment benefits reform will continue to impoverish hundreds of thousands of people, while state benefits are being further reduced, especially direct benefits for young people. If the lines of people in precarious situations looking for food still exist, the state aids to feed them have disappeared.

The comeback of the pension reform, defeated at the beginning of 2020 by a large social movement in which the STJV had actively participated, has already been announced.
With their desire to constantly raise the retirement age, bosses show once again that they have no problem with seeing workers die at work or live in misery in their old age and that, on the contrary, they consider these to be collateral effects necessary to develop their own capital.

There is no doubt that the government will use these counter-reforms to serve its presidential ambitions. The upcoming campaign and the 2022 election will see our rights and freedoms debated and negotiated, with a majority of candidates having only one wish: to reduce them. Rather than waiting to analyse the programmes to see who will be willing to leave breadcrumbs for the precarious, the young, retirees and workers, we must take the lead and impose clear demands.

This is why we demand more social justice, a real campaign against poverty and an improvement of public services. We share the demands expressed by the CGT- FO – FSU – Solidaires – FIDL – MNL – UNEF – UNL inter-union organisation:

  • an increase in salaries ;
  • the definitive withdrawal of the pensions and unemployment benefits counter-reforms ;
  • a real job with a real salary for everyone, and professional equality between men and women ;
  • the conditioning of public grants according to social and environmental standards allowing the preservation and creation of jobs ;
  • a ban on layoffs and an end to exemptions from the Labour Code and collective agreements ;
  • a stop to the increasing precariousness of employment and the instability of young people and students, and an ambitious reform of scholarships ;
  • an end to the closure of public services, job cuts, dismantling and privatisation in the public and civil service, and an increase in their resources ;
  • the reinstatement of all civil rights and freedoms for young people and workers.

The Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo thus joins these organisations in calling for a strike on October 5, 2021, and calls on video game workers, jobseekers, retirees and students to rally at their companies, in general assemblies and at demonstrations across France.

We would like to remind everyone that this call to strike applies to the STJV’s area of action in the private sector, and therefore includes anyone employed by a company that publishes, distributes, provides services and/or creates video games or video game equipment, whatever their position or status and whatever the type of production of their company (console games, PC, mobile, serious games, VR/AR experiences, game engines, marketing services, game consoles, streaming services, etc.), as well as all the teachers working in private schools on courses related to video game production. For all these people, and since this is a national call to strike, no action is necessary to go on strike: you can just not come to work on the days you want to strike.

Students are being exploited for the benefit of schools’ image

This article is a sub-section of a large report on French video game studies published by the STJV. You will find the table of contents of this dossier, and links to all its parts, here : https://www.stjv.fr/en/2021/09/report-on-french-video-game-studies/

These poor studying conditions are made even more difficult to identify when schools actively fight against their disclosure, instead of fighting against the problems themselves, and try to cover up any issue. Even if this makes the situation worse for victims and leads them to drop out of their school. The articles on discrimination and harassment published in Libération and Gamekult illustrate well the attitude of schools when they are faced with such problems. Since the publication of these articles, internal reports from several schools indicate that educational departments have remained silent about their content. The publication of an article and our press release, mentioned in the introduction to this report, on the suicide of a student at LISAA, had already led to a suppression of speech in this school.

This unacceptable repression is due to a number of reasons, but, at the systemic level, the main one is surely the dependence of these schools to their public image. Because their profitability depends on their reputation among people wishing to be enrolled there, and among companies, so as to be able to ‘place’ the students graduating from them (and thus use these placements as arguments with future students, closing the loop). This pushes school administrations to exploit students for their own profit.

In particular, we will see schools giving priority to students who are able to boost their reputation, and therefore to those considered ‘gifted’ in the current economic framework. In addition to deepening inequalities, as resources are redirected towards the students who need them least, to the detriment of those who need them most, this contributes to the degradation of relations between students, some of them causing harm to others out of a sense of competition, or jealousy. All of this takes place under the gaze of school managements, who even go so far as to protect abusers in order to uphold the reputation of their school. We received reports of students who had sexually assaulted and/or harassed others and were not punished because this could have ‘damaged the quality’ of their end of studies projects.

In fact, these student projects are used as marketing materials, serving to promote the school above all else. The theft of students work by their education institutions is a common practice: copying the video game industry, the schools’ contracts include copyright assignment clauses in their favour. Although always illegal, since it is absolutely impossible to assign rights to future works, which do not yet exist, in France, the existence of these clauses will allow schools to exercise leverage over students to claim the use of their work for their own publicity. As an example: the french Pégases awards, which grant an award (already problematic in itself) for student projects, attributes the authorship of these projects not to the students themselves, but to the school from which they come. Students are not considered the authors of these projects.

As if this were not enough, students are often forced, or in the best cases ‘very strongly invited’, to work to promote the school at open days and other trade shows. This unpaid work allows schools to fake transparency with visitors, allowing them to talk ‘freely’ with people currently studying at the school. In reality, students are often present to earn bonus points or because the school’s promotion counts as a required teaching unit. Schools provide them with talking points and monitor what they say, with several accounts reporting the discomfort and guilt felt by students forced to lie to convince high school students to enrol in a school where they themselves feel bad.

Ultimately, the exploitation of students can be extremely literal when schools use them as cheap, expendable labour. Because even when students work for their school within a legal framework, which is rarely the case, the double worker/student subordination relationship with the company allows schools to use the student status to put pressure on working conditions and salaries, with no possibility of external control.

Thanks to the testimonies collected, we were able to notice that schools exploit students to replace teaching units, by making them work for example on assignments for private companies “to prepare them for the professional world”, or even as “teachers” by entrusting lab sessions or first year lectures to students from higher years. Cases of illegal employment of students, without a contract and with variable “payment methods” (gift vouchers, discount on their tuition, etc.), are also not rare. Among other things, we were told of schools that use students as watchmen to keep the school premises open at night and on weekends, without any supervision, or as a replacement for the IT department by putting them in charge of maintaining the school’s computers and installing pirated versions of software.

French video games should not be a platform for the far-right

A few days ago, the French game publisher Microids, which produces many licensed games such as the upcoming new entry in the Syberia series, announced a partnership with the Puy du Fou to produce a video game about this theme park. We denounce this partnership and oppose the existence of such a game, which we think would set a dangerous precedent in our industry by normalising the presence of a brand with strong links to the far right and which actively participates in nationalist propaganda.

While the park presents a good-natured, family-friendly image, it is important to look at the content of its shows. Based on the concept of the national narrative, which postulates that the history of a country has been a continuous line for thousands of years, as if it had always existed, they praise and magnify pre-revolutionary, monarchist and feudal “France”. Their principal and most famous show, the Cinescénie, presents a uniform vision of history, erasing religious minorities and completely obscuring the relationships of economic and social domination between nobles and peasants. Their Manichean vision of history reaches its climax when they evoke the French Revolution, presented in a pure revisionist manner as a totalitarian and barbaric event against which the royalist Vendéens bravely defended themselves.

This backward-looking vision, which opposes monarchy and feudalism, presented as a happy and naive period of history, and the French Revolution, presented as dark and as the cause of a “French decline”, is dangerous. Through its counter-revolutionary discourse, it propagates nationalist ideas that run counter to social achievements and liberties, and promotes an unequal society.

These criticisms do not come from a vacuum, and are based on the work and denunciations of numerous historians and political figures. For those who want to go further, we can cite (all subsequent links are in French) Jean-Clément Martin and Charles Suaud, Michel Vovelle or this article by Guillaume Mazeau.

This situation is less surprising when one looks at the family that created and runs the Puy du Fou. The park is the brainchild of Philippe de Villiers, a far-right political figure close to Catholic fundamentalist circles, who himself acknowledged the park’s militant significance in an interview for the now-defunct magazine France, a far-right publication created by Damien Rieu (a right-wing Identitaire figure and a candidate for the Rassemblement National): “Through my books or my Puy du Fou, I have passed on many more ideas than by remaining the umpteenth crayfish in the basin “ [remarks reported by Libération here] .

His links with the international far right have led him to try to open similar parks in Russia and occupied Crimea, with the personal support of Vladimir Putin and Konstantin Malofeev, a royalist and religious fundamentalist activist close to the Russian president who is accused of having personally funded pro-Russia armed groups in Ukraine. If this were not enough, the Puy du Fou also houses an off-contract school with a traditionalist and militarist organisation, and finances an anti-abortion foundation linked to the anti-LGBT organisation “Manif pour tous”.

We can only deplore the association of Microids with such an organisation, which in our opinion would only help the Puy du Fou to extend its media presence, allowing it to spread its propaganda more widely. The planned release of the game in the spring of 2022 would also make the game’s communication campaign coincide with the campaign for the French presidential elections, which does not help. We ask Microids to reconsider this partnership.

Quantic Dream vs Le Monde and Médiapart : behind the theatrics, facts

Details added after the publication of our article: the judgement dismissed all Quantic Dream’s claims, against Médiapart AND against Le Monde, acknowledging the quality of the journalists’ work in both publications. Guillaume de Fondaumière and David de Gruttola (known as David Cage) lost against Médiapart and won, as individuals, against Le Monde, because the newspaper did not produce the testimonies it had in order to protect victims.

Last June, the STJV testified in court in favor of journalists from Médiapart and Le Monde, against accusations of libel from Quantic Dream. Our presence met with several of our interests. First, to help journalists whose job to keep the public informed about, and make visible, the problems of our industries and our society in general, was threatened by what we consider to be a SLAPP suit. Second, to defend workers’ freedom to speak about their working conditions, which is vital.

Today, September 9th 2021, we learned, with great pleasure, that Médiapart won against Quantic Dream, the court having dismissed their libel accusations. The French justice system recognised the seriousness and the good faith of the journalists’ work. However Quantic Dream, in its violent initiative to clean-up its public image, has sadly managed to get the court to recognise a case of libel by Le Monde against them. We do not yet know how the court motivated that decision, but it diminishes the freedom of speech and voices of victims of sexism, sexual harassment and, in general, awful working conditions, to the benefit of bosses who use all their resources to silence all accusation.

We want to share our analyses on what came up during the trial, and on its outcome. These feedbacks come from our representative in court, and from the minutes of the hearings.

Hyperpersonalisation of problems

We notice that most of Quantic Dream’s arguments actually fall back to personal matters (“I never saw any shocking photomontage before the affair”, “I don’t understand these articles, everything is fine to me”, “I’m struggling to forgive”, “I barely know Canard PC, this is why we don’t sue them”, “I only have to answer to justice, the tax authorities [and other insitutions]”, …), in particular when the studio’s bosses fiercely persist in thinking the only reason a journalist would want to write an article accusing them of maintaining a toxic work culture would be a personal enmity.

Although personal sympathies can contribute to problems inside companies, it goes without saying that not everything has to do with it. Someone fighting to enforce their rights doesn’t necessarily hold a personal grudge against their boss. Before anything else, it is about enforcing unfulfilled commitments. Likewise, the STJV, as a union, doesn’t hold personal grudges : when we defend someone against their employer, we do it because the respect of everyone’s rights is a collective matter.

The appalling ignorance of bosses about everything which falls out of their realm

One of the outstanding moments of the trial was when Quantic Dream’s lawyer asked our representative : « Did you do any work for Médiapart [by explaining journalists the situation of the industry, and giving them contacts] ? ». We don’t have to shy away from it : the answer is yes. We constantly provide work, made possible by pooling the resources of volunteer workers, for video game workers. We do not need journalists to be complacent, we only need to tell them about the realities in our field, which we know quite well.

Conspiracy theories are not always where we think they are

From this hyperpersonalisation and ignorance to third-rate conspiracy theories, there is only a short step, crossed with ease here. Quantic Dream’s obsession with talking about the alleged damages caused by these articles reveals an out-of-touch vision of the world, where everything is owed to David de Gruttola and Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière. And the term conspiracy is not misused here: it is indeed the same mechanism of rejection of reality that leads these wealthy and extremely privileged people to look for fictional tormentors, or to try to erase all criticism, even legitimate and sourced

Lessons from the judgment

The court recognised the good faith and seriousness of the work done by the Médiapart’s journalists. Let’s remind right away that in this case, justice does not pronounce on the veracity of the content of the articles, in one way or the other. Quantic Dream’s management would therefore do well to avoid claiming to be cleared of all suspicions, even though its claims have been dismissed. This ruling confirms that the work of the journalists in this case was legitimate, and carried out under all the conditions of professionalism and prudence required. It should also be noted that this judgment recognises the absence of personal animosity, which was central to the accusation brought by Quantic Dream. It is now high time for Quantic Dream’s management to put an end to its communication and intimidation campaign.

We are shocked by Le Monde’s conviction, about which we will need more information to understand the judgment, as the accusations of personal grudges ringed very hollow to us. We will communicate further abouth this judgment at a later date.

In this case, as in the vast majority of those in which we assist workers in court, testimonies and public statements are not actions taken lightly. In this case, as in so many others, it is simply the last resort for people who have been ignored or silenced. Now more than ever, the STJV is determined to reduce the imbalance of resources inherent in conflicts between employees and employers, by supporting those who have to defend themselves against companies that use all their wealth to hide their wrongdoings rather than to solve existing problems, by talking to journalists who are conducting these comprehensive and detailed investigations, and by defending the rights of each and every one of us by testifying in court.

Report on French video game studies

Content Warning: In the articles presented here, we will discuss situations of abuse, harassment, assault, suicide, etc. which may be violent to read for those who have been subjected to such situations.

The experiences of our STJV comrades, the testimonies and feedback that the union has received directly, through alumni networks and our teacher colleagues, make it clear that the video game education sector, as a whole and in a systemic way, is harmful and destroys lives.

A public call for testimonies on students conditions (article in French) the STJV launched in early 2020 allowed us to confirm that the problem is much more widespread and, above all, much more serious than we originally thought. At the time of publication, we have collected around sixty testimonies concerning more than 30 schools, including the best known schools in France.

The suicide of a student at LISAA in December 2020 (article in French), followed by an internal repression by the school to cover up the event, had pushed us to accelerate our efforts to inform the public about this situation, and in particular to contact journalists to alert them to these issues. Thanks to our contact and based first on the corpus of testimonies at our disposal, they were able to launch their own investigations to confirm our information and then publish a series of articles on video game schools in Libération and Gamekult (links at the end of the press release) mid-April 2021.

The cool aspect of video game production, which industry companies already use to keep salaries and working conditions down, is also exploited by schools who take advantage of it to attract more and more young people ready to pay huge sums of money to try to make it their profession.

As everywhere else, as in the rest of the video game industry, mechanisms of economic, hierarchical, sexist, racist and ableist domination, as well as active repression from school managements, tend to prevent any improvement of the situation and to reduce (at least in appearance) the capacity for action of those who want this improvement.

These mechanisms also contribute to emphasizing inequalities and discriminations throughout the industry. Starting at the admission to schools with discriminatory selection processes and prohibitive prices, this only becomes more pronounced during the course of studies with every possible means: the near impossibility of having a job alongside classes due to the heavy workload, the scarcity and mismanagement of work-study programs, the unequal access to equipment, the pressure to do internships in any given city, without pay, etc. The diversity problems of the video game industry begin directly during studies.

The vast majority of the problems we have seen are caused by the commodification of education and students. Private schools remain above all businesses: they are therefore subject to profitability imperatives. This profitability has more or less importance depending on who owns the school, with in the worst cases groups or investment funds that treat schools only as cash cows whose profitability must always increase at the expense of workers and students. Even the best intentioned managements (when they are!) cannot escape this reality imposed by the capitalist organisation of the economy.

After nearly 2 years of work within the STJV, we come back in this lengthy report to the problems found in video game schools, the things to watch out for when it comes to studying video games, and what we can do and demand to prevent entire generations of people interested in our industry from continuing to be bled dry every year. We will only talk about video game schools here because that’s our sector and that’s where we have the most information, but with few exceptions, all of this applies to all of private higher education.

The size of this dossier means that we have to publish it in segments. We will publish sub-sections regularly, which will be accessible via the links below.

Part 1 – State of play

  1. Studying conditions are often appalling
  2. Students are being exploited for the benefit of schools’ image
  3. Educational standards are highly questionable
  4. Schools do not make students ready for entering the labour market at all
  5. These conditions lead to the reproduction of the industry’s problems
  6. Schools are serving the industry, not their students

Part 2 –

  1. TBA
  2. TBA
  3. TBA

The report will be made available as a .pdf and .epub once fully published.

The Libération and Gamekult articles we were talking about in the introduction are available, in French, here :

Health measures: finding safety in the collective, despite the government

Others have laid down very clearly the basic problems posed by the government’s implementation of the “health pass”: see in particular this article (🇫🇷) , or the communiqués of the CGT (🇫🇷) , the Union Solidaires (🇫🇷) and the Union Communiste Libertaire (🇫🇷) . Beyond the measures themselves, this is yet another example of an unacceptable method of governance which consists in announcing new rules without debate, in making MPs vote without negotiation and in imposing measures without justification, destroying one of the foundations of democracy: separation of powers.

It would be a good idea for the government to review its justifications because, behind its reassuring speeches on the health situation, there are real problems and even profound inconsistencies. Its eagerness to return to “normalcy”, driven as it often is by electoral ambitions, leads it to lie by implying that the vaccine is some kind of magic wand that will put an end to the epidemic for vaccinated people.

While the benefits of vaccination (significant reduction of risks for oneself (🇫🇷) and others (🇫🇷) , and ultimately participation in the eradication of the virus) are immense and indisputable, it does not provide 100% protection and does not entirely prevent people from infecting themselves or others. The vaccine is therefore not an individual solution, but a collective one.

This is why it is important that as many of us as possible get vaccinated, not to follow the government in its individualistic ideology but for the sake of everyone’s health. The government’s campaign is full of lies and disproportionately favours the wealthy, like all its policies. Let us act autonomously to build a vaccine coverage capable of protecting all workers!

Let us not forget either that behind this calamitous management of the pandemic and the vaccination campaign, the government intends to relaunch reforms just as harmful for workers, in particular on the topic of unemployment benefits and pensions. It is out of the question that after having done less than the bare minimum in managing the pandemic, Emmanuel Macron should impose these unfair, unjustified and massively rejected reforms.

Faced with the government’s lack of clarity (for example, when it was announced with great fanfare that employees without a health pass could be dismissed (🇫🇷) , although this has fortunately been withdrawn from the law that has been passed), the STJV will continue to help and protect workers who need it.

In the current context, this means sticking to the following facts (in addition to what we already said at the beginning of the summer):

  • Remote work remains a practical and effective solution, proven by more than a year of health crisis. The video game industry as a whole is very conducive to working from home. Video game companies must continue to use it until the health situation really allows for a relaxation of the measures taken.
  • The application of preventive measures (disinfecting and ventilating offices, social distancing, wearing chirurgical masks at all time during working hours) is vital and mandatory whenever being present at the office is necessary. Minimum air renewal can be measured (with CO2 sensors) and, in poorly or not ventilated spaces, air filtering devices (HEPA norm) can be installed and regularly changed to lower the risk of transmission.
  • The possibility for companies to suspend a contract for being unable to present a “health pass” for workers in a place where it is required (and therefore NOT in companies producing video games!) is an aberration, all the more so as the current vaccination rate does not allow everyone to be vaccinated on the day the health pass comes into force. We will firmly oppose any employer attempting to use this measure, especially when other solutions exist. The suspension of salaries is a brutal and unacceptable sanction, and should simply be banned.
  • The parliament has finally ratified, in article 17 of the voted law (🇫🇷), the right for employees to go and get vaccinated during working hours, without any deduction from salaries or payed holidays. There is therefore no longer any excuse for this, and we will be uncompromising with any company trying to oppose the exercise of this right.

In any case, the STJV will continue to monitor the implementation of government measures and the general attitude of companies in the sector. We are always available to those who need our help or have questions about their situation or that of their company. Please do not hesitate to contact us at contact@stjv.fr

Neglected animation students: a shameful platform for LISAA

A few months ago, we raised awareness about the suicide of a student in the Animation section of the Institut Supérieur d’Art Appliqué (LISAA) in Paris. Pheanith Hannuna had taken his own life after being the victim of harassment by other students of his year. LISAA’s management not only failed to protect him, despite being alerted by his family, but even ended up suggesting, shortly before his death, that he was at fault for his own harassment. In the aftermath, the school unlawfully fired a teacher who sought to find solutions to the students’ problems to avoid a repetition of this kind of situation, and even went so far as to prevent students and teachers from discussing recent articles about the school. More information in our press release (in French).

It is therefore with shock, and a very strong disgust, that we discovered that Catherine Constant-Grisolet, director of the Animation and Video Games sections of LISAA, and therefore one of the people who was responsible for Pheanith’s safety, had been chosen to moderate a panel on “the efforts” of the Réseau des Écoles du Cinéma d’Animation (RECA) to fight against student unhappiness as part of the International Animation Film Market at the Annecy festival. She was singled out in several testimonies from LISAA students and teachers as one of those responsible for the bad studying conditions in this school.

There is little doubt about her lack of consideration for the students, as can be seen in testimonies relayed by Gamekult in their article Sexisme, harcèlement et « bro culture » au sein des écoles de jeu vidéo : « Moi, je me fais pas diriger par une fille »:

“We received an abject statement from the director: it lacked empathy and was really badly written. (…) After the somewhat clumsy management of the school on this subject, I noticed that we had not received any instructions from the educational leadership to ensure the well-being of the students in such a situation and on what to tell them, quite simply.”

“The director of studies gathered all the Game classes before receiving the official press release from the school, the teaching staff was not invited (…) When we found out, we were all very shocked at what happened, but the worst part was the director’s surreal communication, it looked like a friendly Twitch stream with jokes. In particular, she imitated the sound of the silencer, as in the film “Les Tontons Flingueurs”, by referring to the fact of shooting oneself in the head. That’s when several people left, it was extremely disrespectful. She even laughed in front of the camera. “

This article from French magazine Capital also points out LISAA’s choice to completely ignore the grieving family:

Neither of the education officials came forward to offer condolences to the family.

No LISAA representative was present at the funeral.

The presence of Catherine Constant-Grisolet as moderator of this panel, combined with internal repression, and the silence of the school following the publication of the articles and our press release, demonstrates LISAA’s desire to cover up the suicide of one of its students… Even though there are 2 ongoing legal proceedings (1 before the conseil de prud’hommes [employee claims court], 1 in criminal court).

In this context, her participation questions the sincerity of RECA’s efforts, since either they weren’t aware of what happened at LISAA (which would be quite worrying), or they were and knowingly chose to ignore this state of affairs to become complicit in the management of this school.

While it is more important than ever to talk about studying conditions issues in animation, video games and beyond, it is unacceptable that these discussions would be led by the people responsible for these issues. This kind of discussion must involve current and past students, as is the case here in all fairness, and people representing and defending them (unions, associations, etc.). School officials are part of the problem, they can’t expect to be welcomed with open arms

The STJV, which has been working since December with various actors and victims at LISAA, denounces the presence of Catherine Constant-Grisolet at this panel. It is a slap in the face of any student who’s suffering from the conditions of their studies and the inaction of their leadership. We’re asking organizers of the Annecy festival to correct what we hope was a mistake made in good faith, for the sake of the Animation students of RECA.