Many suggested solutions to the issues of video game studies are dead ends or lies

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/

While schools are often the first to blame for these problems, they are hardly the last to attempt to solve them. Well aware of the economic risks of a loss of public reputation – or for members of the administration, the risks to their careers – they have found means of protecting themselves.

The first one, which we discussed in the first part of this report, is of course repressive measures. The “best” way to protect one’s reputation is to prevent the expression of any fact or opinion that might damage it. Intimidation of students, notably via school rules that violate basic freedoms, unlawful dismissals of people considered a nuisance, the use of crisis communication agencies to counter-attack and bury information, SLAPP suits … the range of options in this regard is unfortunately wide and heavily used.

These issues are those against which workers’ and students’ organisations, such as the STJV, are fighting on a daily basis through their actions: our goals are to prevent companies (and therefore schools) from abusing their power, to create a counter-power benefiting all workers, present and future, protecting whistleblowers, and, in the long run, to hand all power over to the workers.

Among the external actors of private education monitoring, we also find the state. Through schools’ subsidies mechanisms but also, and above all, through its system of degree certification via the Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles (RNCP). These certifications are very important, because a degree that is not recognised by the state “does not count” administratively, which has many repercussions:

  • Without ECTS credits, it is very difficult to obtain equivalences in order to continue one’s studies elsewhere, whether in the public sector or abroad;
  • some state subsidies are conditioned by the validation of a recognised education level;
  • some CNC grants for independent video game creators and studios require a recognised degree from a small subset of schools;
  • obtaining visas, whether in France to immigrate there, or abroad to emigrate, is often conditioned by the education level and therefore the recognition of the degrees achieved;
  • professional status and all that goes with it (salary, pension, holidays, etc.) may also be linked to the recognised education level.

If the monitoring of education by a public authority external to private education companies is useful and even necessary, these certifications are not without flaws, and schools are constantly seeking to hijack or circumvent them. Degree designations are sometimes misleading, for example the term “Mastère” which, unlike the term “Master”, is not an official designation and therefore does not guarantee the quality or recognition of the degree. The certifications given may not correspond to the classes taught, as is the case in a Parisian school where the Game Designer diploma delivered has an RNCP certification of “interactive designer”. But they may also have expired, despite being highlighted in schools’ advertising, leaving students at risk of obtaining a diploma that is not certified upon graduation.

As employers’ lobbies want to limit state intervention in their business, they often pretend to be ahead of legislation to show a positive image and negotiate the deregulation of their sector, in the name of some imaginary “self-regulation”. One example in the video game industry is the game rating and age recommendation systems, whose management by these lobbies is partly responsible for the uncontrolled emergence of gambling mechanics in recent games. This exposes children in particular to a practice that is normally highly controlled. As far as video game studies in France are concerned, this strategy takes the form of various labels, mainly the Réseau des Formations aux Métiers du Jeu Vidéo (RFMJV, formerly REJV, Réseau des Écoles du Jeu Vidéo).

But, like all private labels, this one is only a front for communication. It is impossible to trust it, and the people and organisations behind it know this very well, even going so far as to reject the title of “label” and any responsibility that goes with it when confronted about it. In an article in Libération in April 2021, the journalists recall that “admission conditions [to the RFMJV] do not imply any control over the content of classes, and the Syndicat National du Jeu Vidéo insists on the fact that this network is not a label“.

The shortcomings of labels are not only caused by the organisations behind them. Ensuring sufficient quality in educational programmes is a colossal task, beyond the reach of private actors, which in any case would only allow for a posteriori evaluations. It is simply impossible to guarantee that data is up to date, true or complete. This is why, rather than relying on necessarily imperfect communication tools, we prefer the implementation of systems that prevent schools from being judge and jury, and ensure that the problems and lies we are talking about do not occur in the first place.

January 27, 2022 strikes for wages, pensions and benefits: call for strikes in the video game industry

Since the beginning of 2021 inflation, in France and in the rest of Europe, is dangerously rising, and with it the cost of living, especially this year energy costs. Wages, social benefits, pensions, allowances, etc. are not keeping up with this inflation, leading to a general loss of purchasing power. The job market is stagnating, the implementation of the latest elements of the unemployment insurance reform keeps impoverishing hundreds of thousands of people.

In this context of growing poverty, the latest annual report of the Secours Catholique explains, for example, that one in 10 people living in France has asked for food aid, and that among these more than a quarter (i‧e. nearly 2 million people!) regularly spend a whole day without eating. These numbers are rising for the first time in a while, and have particularly increased among young people under 25.

The campaign for the next elections, presidential and parliamentary, will see a majority of candidates calling for a reduction in state welfare. Rather than wasting time analysing manifestos to see who will be willing to leave scraps for precarious and young people, pensioners and workers, we must take the lead and impose clear demands.

While, since 2021, victorious local struggles for better wages are multiplying, an intersyndicale has called for a national demonstration on January 27, to demand higher wages for both the private and public sectors, higher allowances for young people in training and looking for work, and higher pensions for retirees.

In the video game industry, there is a high degree of precariousness for people at the beginning of their careers, for freelancers, for jobs that employers consider expendable (QA, CM, etc.) and, in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic, for people working in companies that receive visitors. Most of us know or have known the hardships caused by low wages, unemployment, the fear of not finding a (new) job.

The Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo (STJV) is thus joining the movement by calling for a strike on January 27, 2022, and is calling on video game workers, unemployed people, retirees and students to organise themselves in their companies, in general assemblies and in the demonstrations that will take place throughout France. The STJV will be officially present in several demonstrations in France.

This call covers the STJV’s field of action in the private sector, and therefore applies to any person 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, PC, mobile, serious games, VR/AR experiences, game engines, marketing services, game consoles, streaming, etc. ), as well as all the teachers working in private schools in 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 just have to not come to work on the days you want to strike.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

New epidemic wave, same solutions: remote work, self-isolation, vaccines

In a previous communiqué, we reminded everyone of the threat posed by the French government’s political choices and misleading communication around the « covid pass » and the vaccines against Covid-19, which are not the infallible panacea they tried to sell us.

Discussions on the pandemic and public health are virtually absent from all media, which are more interested in spinning the latest far-right moral panic and campaigning for fascists. After nearly two years in a pandemic situation, a new variant emerges, the epidemic rises to unprecedented levels, and the government is still pursuing its criminal policy of inaction. It is as if Covid had not already caused more than 100,000 deaths in France, the majority of which could have been avoided by taking more deliberate measures rather than touting miracle solutions to benefit the capitalist agenda at every stage.

The new and particularly worrying variant, Omicron, could make the situation even worse, like Delta before it. It should be remembered that the higher the circulation of the virus, the more likely it is that these mutations will appear, kill more people and prolong the epidemic. The flaws in public health policies directly favour their emergence. This is why it is absolutely necessary to lift patents on vaccines in order to ensure equitable and global access to vaccination and to stop the pandemic.

At this very moment, many video game companies are trying to formalise their remote working policies, generally doing their best not to make it too widespread, and to maintain their control over their employees. Some have even forced a full return to the office for several months already. We demand the massive implementation of remote working in the video game industry, so that all voluntary workers can avoid risking their health at work and while commuting.

This demand is neither absurd nor complicated, as previous waves have shown that it is feasible. Companies had massively implemented remote work, which remains a practical, efficient and proven solution after more than a year of pandemic. Video games jobs are generally very well fitting to this kind of work, and so there are no longer any valid excuses for not reducing workers’, and their close relatives, exposition to the virus – and more importantly, for not reducing the industry’s workers contribution to virus circulation within the population as a whole.

If physical presence in the office is really necessary, the application of sanitary measures (disinfection and ventilation of the premises, physical distancing, protection by wearing a mask throughout the working day) is indispensable and compulsory. It should also be reminded that technical devices exist, and must be adopted in addition to individual measures: CO2 sensors (in french) can detect a lack of ventilation (this of course requires that the necessary measures are taken in case of insufficient ventilation !), and air filtration devices (HEPA standard) are a suitable solution for places where ventilation is not possible. These are not comfort measures, but necessary conditions for any work in shared spaces!

For workers, the benefits (significant reduction of risks for oneself (in french) and others (in french), and ultimately participation in the eradication of the virus) of vaccination are immense and undeniable but, contrary to the lies peddled by some ministers, it does not protect 100% and does not completely prevent infecting oneself or others. Vaccination is therefore not an individual but a collective solution.

It is important that as many of us as possible take advantage of having access to a booster dose (third for most people) to get vaccinated, not to blindly follow the government but for the health of us all. Let’s remember that the law passed last July by the French Parliament includes, in its article 17 (in french), the right for employees to go and get vaccinated during working hours, without any penalty to their salary or holiday rights. There is therefore no longer any excuse on that front, and we will be uncompromising with any company that opposes the exercise of this right.

From the beginning, the government’s vaccination campaign has disproportionately favoured the wealthy, like all its policies. Let’s act autonomously to build a vaccination coverage capable of protecting all workers!

To build the solidarity and mutual aid necessary to face the pandemic, let us continue together to :

  • get vaccinated and get the necessary booster shots;
  • encourage our relatives to get vaccinated;
  • help people who suffer from the discriminatory nature of access to vaccination appointments to get them;
  • remind and demand the strict application of sanitary measures in our everyday life and at work;
  • isolate ourselves and get tested whenever possible, at the onset of symptoms or if any doubt arises.

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.


Studying conditions lead to the reproduction of the industry’s problems

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/

The absence of questioning of the industry’s methods and the lack of a development of a critical perspective, combined with the high porosity between teachers and the industry, leads to the reproduction of the industry’s problems in schools. Many of them even come to consider them as normal for the industry and encourage their students to adopt them in their work organisation and social behaviour. These students will then join the video game industry and act in the same way, thus ensuring the reproduction of everything that is wrong with it.

The first articles in Libération and Gamekult discuss at length the practice of crunch in schools, and for good reason. Even in schools that make great efforts to limit workloads, students are expected to work 60-hour weeks or more. And that is without counting “pools”, very intensive work periods with various names such as workshop, intensive week, project week, etc., or project submissions, which result in very busy work periods with no special working time arrangements. The deadlines for these projects very often fall just after weekends and holidays, with the implicit idea that these breaks will in fact be used to do very long days (and nights) of work until the last minute before the deadline. It is not uncommon for educational departments to value all-nighters and projects with scopes far greater than what is manageable by students, as we have witnessed on numerous occasions in emails and messages sent to students. This unacceptably high workload has, as everywhere else, serious consequences for health and social life. Many students are already burnt out by the time they leave school, even before they have worked in a company.

The multiplication of working hours is also often encouraged, indirectly, by the opening hours of the school facilities. It is not uncommon for school buildings to be open to students until very late in the evening and on weekends and, in extreme cases, to never close. If access to the facilities is important for students to be able to use the school’s equipment, especially for those who cannot afford to buy expensive equipment by themselves, the resulting abuses are unacceptable. Systematic open hours, keys to the buildings provided to students, educational directors present on the premises to encourage project groups: when a school explains that it is possible to work at night in their facilities, they are normalising an abnormal practice, which the students integrate into their work process.

Discriminations of all kinds are also widespread in video game schools. Sexism, racism, ableism, LGBTI-phobia, and all other forms of discrimination are commonplace, reflecting the present of the video game industry, and shaping its future. Numerous testimonies we received speak of discrimination and harassment suffered during the course of studies, going so far as to push students to quit their studies or, worse, to end their lives. The second articles published in Libération and Gamekult go back through numerous testimonies about these discriminations and about the failure of schools to react, when they are not themselves at the origin of these discriminations.

Indeed, schools have a lot to do to stop discriminating against students. And this starts with the admission process, as it has been reported to us on several occasions that some schools have deliberately sidelined applications from disabled and/or LGBT people, considering that integrating them into the school would be “too complicated” and that “it causes problems”. This intolerable and of course illegal practice shows that the problems start before the actual studies begin, but of course they do not end there. People with disabilities, chronic illnesses or, in general, who need special accommodations to their studying environment and rhythm, either temporarily or permanently, virtually always run into a brick wall: schools expect them to fit in or leave the school. Those who try to report discriminations to the administrations are at best ignored, and at worst their voice is belittled and questioned, and their future within the school is jeopardised.

Speaking out alone is not always without consequences. Too often, the perpetrators of discrimination (teachers, administrators, students) are protected by the educational management, which does not sanction them, sidelines the victims instead of protecting them, etc. Many educational departments actively participate in discrimination in this way, but also by being a direct actor in it. Testimonies of educational directors telling women that they do not belong in video games, or disabled people that they must adapt to the industry and not the other way around are not so rare, and some schools even refuse to pass a year without any real justification other than pure discrimination. Cases of favouritism at the expense of marginalised people and/or those who speak out about the schools’ problems are also legion.

There is also a great deal of sexism in schools from men teachers towards women students. All too often, teachers use the leverage that the student/teacher relationship gives them to make unwelcome comments or engage in asymmetrical and abusive sexual or romantic relationships with women students, and face no consequences. These predatory behaviours towards younger women who are more vulnerable due to their hierarchical position are reminiscent of behaviours that can be seen in companies and in the social circles of video game workers. In schools they are facilitated, among other things, by the lack of preparation and training of teachers, who are sometimes not even aware of the potential dangers of this student/teacher relationship, and think that they can behave with students as if they were friends.

Students also often follow the toxic examples of their teachers, and engage in forms of discrimination and harassment that are common in socially homogeneous environments, such as the video game industry. This happens at school, but also on social networks and students communication channels such as Slack and Discord servers, etc., which very often exist in students spheres and which schools pretend to ignore in order to absolve themselves. For example, in a testimony we received, a student suffers “increasingly frequent humiliations on the school’s Discord”: transphobic, sexist attacks, to which the school’s management responded “that they could not do anything about it because it was not happening at school”.

Degraded working conditions for teachers

These conclusions on the student side are accompanied, with no surprise when one is familiar with the working conditions in video games and in higher education, by similar conclusions on the teacher side: schools can be a hell for students but ALSO for teachers and lecturers. Precarious contracts, very low salaries, lack of time to prepare lessons and to mark assignments, little or no educational coordination, hierarchical pressure, illegal lay-offs: the working conditions are excessively bad.

Even more disproportionately than in game studios and other video game sub-sectors, the teachers of the various video game disciplines are largely employed via precarious contracts. Fixed-term contracts covering only one semester, hours of teaching paid a posteriori as freelancers, etc. : for many, it is impossible to project themselves on their teaching and their students’ future, and even less on their own finances or career development. This precariousness also hinders teachers who would like to improve the curricula, since schools can simply opt not to renew the contracts of people who might stand up to them.

This precariousness thus serves to pressure workers into accepting intolerable working conditions. Video game schools often offer lower salaries than in other sectors, which already pay very poorly, even if you only take into account the class hours. For one hour of class, there are also hours of preparation, course editing, marking of assignments, discussions with students, but also commuting and hours of waiting between classes (without access to a workstation). Compared to the actual number of hours worked, the salaries are so low that they are not enough to live on.

« Whatever the experience and qualifications of the teacher, if they do not agree with their working conditions, they can simply leave at the end of their fixed-term contract and be replaced by a younger teacher who will accept the job and its working conditions. (…) I was almost always made to sign my contracts after the classes had started. Signing contracts very late is also a means of pressure for HR. The teachers are up against the wall. »

When these conditions are not accepted by the teachers, the schools put even more pressure on them, for example by resorting to emotional blackmail by blaming them for abandoning the students. And if they do not give in, they are replaced. When they express concern about the school’s problems or bring up students’ problems to their managers, their concerns and even their suggestions beneficial to the students are at best ignored by the school management, and at worst suppressed with harassment and illegal firings. Our findings show that the latter is particularly true in cases of discrimination, making schools direct accomplices to it.

While these working conditions do not excuse the misconduct that some teachers may exhibit, they can explain some of it, and show how the whole system is a vector of discrimination and abuse. They also partly explain the low quality of teaching, since they do not allow professors and lecturers to stay for a long time, to gain experience and to follow students from one year to the next. Again, one may notice a loop: the low wages of the industry encourage young workers to accept precarious contracts in schools to supplement their income, regardless of the conditions (sometimes, ironically, to pay off the loan taken out for that same school).

Schools do not make students ready for entering the labour market at all

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/

Project-based learning is often an excuse to “build up students’ portfolios” with no further guidance from the schools as to what this means, or a way to learn to work “just like in the industry” without any educational oversight, and thus without any feedback on how their training matches the reality of the industry. This situation, which is very widespread in video game schools, can be explained in a relatively simple way: video game schools do not prepare students to enter the labour market.

It starts with the inadequacy between the number of students and the number of existing jobs. We feel it is important to stress that video games courses train more people than there are available positions. If it is true in almost all disciplines, it is even more so in certain fields such as game design, or in faculties that exploit the appeal of emerging disciplines, such as narrative design at the moment.

In particular, most of the year groups are very unbalanced in terms of the majors offered, often being composed of 50% of game designers and other design majors. However, there are relatively few jobs to be filled in these specialities in the French industry and internationally. These inconsistencies with the job market force students to over-specialise, to acquire a double expertise by their own means, or even to change direction completely or to give up the idea of working in video games in order to be able to find a job.

Because even at the finest of schools, there is no guarantee that students will find a job in the video game industry, if they even want to after surviving the conditions of their years in school. Many former students have made this observation themselves:

“Today, out of a class of 35, there are maybe 7 or 8 of us still in the video game industry.”

The 2019 Video Game barometer published by the SNJV, a French employers’ lobbying organisation that also includes schools, tells us that 57% of students find a job in the video game industry within a year of finishing their studies, which is a far cry from the 80-90% job placement rate claimed by the vast majority of schools. These employment figures for the first year or two after graduation, when there are any available, are purposely distorted by school managements to impress: they include former students who have been pushed to take up a freelance status without worrying about whether they can make a living out of it (which is rarely the case), and the jobs of former students who have moved on to other industries.

Some schools even introduce job blackmail right from the start of training, encouraging students to accept exploitative internships and/or to take internships without an internship agreement, insinuating that you have to accept everything without question to make video games. It even happens that some of them provide students with forged documents, in particular to satisfy the (illegal) demands of companies.

As a reminder, in France an internship is not an employment contract, it is not supposed to replace a job. A member of the teaching staff is responsible for overseeing the internship, with an interview with students during the course of the internship, to ensure that it is going well (for example, checking that the student has a mentor, that the company provides him/her with the necessary equipment and that he/she is in the right conditions to work). Internships are very much regulated by law, this fact sheet from the Ministère du Travail gathers important information.

Schools regularly give very bad “advice” to their students, encouraging them to enter the industry by accepting very precarious, unpaid or underpaid jobs. Among the comments we received were these chilling words from a member of the teaching staff to an entire class:

“To be hired for sure, you take an auto-entrepreneur (freelance) status and you ask for half the minimum wage for a full time job.”

The lies, whether explicit or of omission, of private schools are playing on the cool image of the video game industry. They sell dreams by talking about a rich, growing industry where creativity is limitless, while students will discover after graduation that salaries are low, the jobs they fantasized about are rare, opportunities for career advancement are limited, and most jobs are in companies that are peripheral to mainstream game production.

Many of these students will have taken out loans to cover the ridiculous cost of their studies, which they will then have trouble paying back because of the precariousness of the industry, low salaries, or simply because they will not have found a job.The few who manage to get a job in the video game industry will, after a few years, reorient themselves towards industries with more interesting conditions and salaries, leaving room for students from schools who will in turn flood the market… Thus, the loop is completed.

Our presentations in schools, and our discussions with students and professors, have revealed that students are almost never aware of the basics of internship and labour laws when they start looking for a job, sometimes not even really knowing the difference between a salaried and a freelance status. These gaps show a lack of teaching, as students should be prepared to be able to defend themselves when they leave school, if only to enable them to know the different employment statuses and to identify an abusive contract… It is essential that labour laws and economic concepts related to wages be an integral part of the training of any higher education institution.

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.