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

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.

Studying conditions are often appalling

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/

Content Warning: In this article, 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.

First of all, just like the video game industry, the studying conditions in video game schools and programs are very poor. While they vary from one school and program to another and from one year to the next, they come to impact every student’s education.

In terms of equipment alone, the STJV was able to identify many shortcomings: obsolete or broken computer equipment and office furniture, sometimes simply not supplied to students, accentuating the differences between students, with the more wealthy ones having access to personal equipment allowing them to work, while the poorer ones have to struggle with what little is made available to them. Some schools go so far as to lie on open house days: we have heard of schools that rent new equipment only for these days, in order to impress parents and future students. Elsewhere, facilities with high humidity, poor ventilation or no heating at all directly harm students’ health.

Although it seems to be becoming less common, many schools do not provide licences for software needed for courses. The installation of cracked (pirated) software on school computers or directly on students’ computers is a practice repeatedly addressed by the respondents. As in this testimony from a former ISART Digital student:

One of the compulsory steps before the start of the school year consisted in bringing one’s personal PC to the school’s IT department, so that the latter could install several cracked versions of software – normally not free – on it.

As reported in detail in the first articles published at Gamekult and Libération, the workload is far too high in video game and animation education, replicating the worst of the “crunch” found in the industry. The lack of teaching coordination leads to an accumulation of projects that cannot be completed and submitted under normal conditions, and the submission dates chosen (just after weekends or holidays) lead to overwork. When it is not the pedagogical management itself that pushes students to work themselves to death: we were able to consult numerous emails and messages sent to students in which they are pushed to work more and more, and where sleepless nights are presented as the norm, or even an ideal to be reached.

Expectations in terms of quality and quantity are also far too high, and exceed what would be expected of students in the midst of learning. Schools and teachers encourage them as much as possible to “produce” projects that look like finished products. The pedagogical aspect of the assignments is completely sidelined: the marketability of the projects (and thus the free work of the students) is the only thing that counts, without taking into account the consequences on studying and living conditions. Overwork is bad for one’s physical AND mental health, and is particularly dangerous at an age of social and intellectual construction.

In terms of socialisation during studies, the same major pitfalls were found in each of the schools for which we received testimonies. Sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other kinds of discrimination based on students’ identity, culture, place of living, disability, health, etc. are present everywhere, to varying degrees. Under the guise of ‘jokes’ a constant atmosphere develops in which anyone who falls outside the industry norm is reminded that they are not welcome. This sometimes leads to discrimination in school grades and promotion to the next year of school. Harassment by students, teachers, staff and/or management is not uncommon and every year leads to students dropping out of school, becoming depressed or, in rarer and more extreme cases, committing suicide. The second articles published by Libération and Gamekult address the case of sexism in more depth.

These abuses are made possible by the all-too-common lack of supervision of students. The lack of time and resources allocated to professors is partly to blame, and this situation is caused by the inaction of management, which considers all this supervision to be “secondary”, denying that student life is an integral part of the studies. Some schools go so far as to consider that everything that happens outside of projects and grades does not concern them: this has sometimes been explicitly said to teachers and students. This allows them to sweep aside reality and the direct responsibility of schools in the lives of students, be it their personal needs (disabilities, social situation, health, financial precariousness, etc.) and their relationships with other students (on social networks, between courses, at parties and events, etc.). The consequences of this lack of accountability are devastating, leading to students committing suicide when their schools’ management deliberately ignores repeated reports of harassment or attacks.

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 – publication planned 21/09/21
  4. TBA
  5. TBA
  6. TBA

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.

Performance reviews & wages at Ubisoft : We want fairness !

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 and would be happy to get in touch with workers leading similar struggles outside of France.

To our fellow workers at Ubisoft,

As you surely know, we just went through the performance reviews and wage raises period, which comes with its share of questions. Since we know this situation all too well, the STJV members who work at Ubisoft have put together their thoughts and observations, and we wish to share them with you.

Let’s start with some analysis. Compensation policy is a complex topic, and to us it seems that Ubisoft top management is counting on diffusion of responsibility to skirt criticism. The process as it is presented to us is that HQ negotiates a remuneration budget with local HR, who then attribute it to projects. Managers would then attribute raises to their teams based on all that.

This process makes it so no one can really be held accountable for the decisions. HQ can explain that local HR didn’t argue their case well, local HR can explain that HQ didn’t allocate a good enough budget, managers can explain that HR didn’t give them any leeway…At the end of the day, the buck gets passed endlessly, and an individual’s wage is presented as an established fact, as if nothing could be done about it.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, we reject the explicit link between one’s performance review and their raise. This may seem counter-intuitive: if someone makes efforts and improves their professional skills, shouldn’t they be rewarded? And yet, we believe that this causes two major problems.

  • First, this doesn’t solve the inequalities that are created at hiring level, arising from discrimination, from circumstances that make it so some local Ubisoft entities can afford to hire at a higher wage than others, or other elements that shouldn’t have such an impact.
    Raises are proportional to the current salary and only deepen existing inequalities : we want to center the debate on the value of wages.
  • Moreover, since the total amount of raises is capped, creating a zero-sum game where managers have to apply evaluation “quotas” and justify (sometimes poorly) underrated performances. As if their teams could never have globally overperformed over the past year.

It is also important to point out that even with all of the decorum surrounding performance reviews, the standards used to evaluate us aren’t always easy to track or anticipate. Evaluation criteria are vague at best, and pre-requisites for seniority or position progression never made explicit. This only serves to reinforce a feeling of arbitrariness that frustrates everyone in the company, to the notable exception of the top management that can justify any of their decisions by leveraging this vagueness.


Thus, we make the following demands :

  • Individual performance reviews should no longer be directly tied to wages. Compensation is limited by budgets which are, by definition, finite, whereas a whole team (or even a whole entity within the group) could very well have met and even exceeded expectations.
    • It follows that evaluations should no longer be limited by quotas.
    • Performance reviews should only be established by someone’s direct manager. That some of us are evaluated by their higher hierarchy, or that HR would be able to modify a manager’s assessment, is abnormal. Decorrelating wages and evaluation would allow the latter to be used for its original purpose as a tool of personal progression.
    • Finally, performance reviews should come with training opportunities, in order to allow everyone to get better at their jobs and keep sharpening their skills.
  • Seniority level progression conditions should be made explicit. This kind of acknowledgement is very important in our industry, and it is unacceptable that some may be left out on that front despite having good reviews.
    • More precisely, not only should the expected skills to obtain a given seniority level be made clear, the means through which to nurture said skills and have them acknowledged at Ubisoft should also be clearer.
    • It is certain that, once the previous need has been met, some people will find themselves with a job title that does not match their actual skills. Such discrepancies would have to be corrected through the appropriate promotions.
  • We want equal pay for equal work. This requires the following:
    • Obviously, we oppose any kind of discrimination in salary. Particularly, no one should ever be paid less for belonging to a marginalized group (as the law already forbids!).
    • Transparency in wages is vital. HR have adopted a very ambiguous stance: they pretend that there is no salary guidance grid and explain that wages are left to individual negotiations, but through opacity and rigidity make it so most of those demands are not met. Who stands to gain from this misdirection?
  • An impartial process must be created to guarantee accountability in case of dispute. We must make sure that each worker is fairly compensated for the value they create for Ubisoft (thus making it one of the leaders in the market), and that an end is put to all arbitrary and discriminatory practices.
    • Any employee should be able to request to be reevaluated by a neutral third party, based on criteria now made explicit and a transparent salary grid.
    • Outside of the control of local direction and HR.

Ubisoft is a very wealthy company, and is not shy about it. This makes any situation where employees face precariousness unacceptable. Our statement establishes our guidelines on this topic for future actions.

We invite everyone who works at Ubisoft to contact us if you want to join our efforts, or discuss this topics with us. In particular, we invite all Ubisoft employees who have noticed discrepancies or discriminations against them during the last review period to contact their union representatives or to write us directly at contact@stjv.fr. The STJV stands ready to defend anyone who needs our help within the industry, whether unionized or not. We are stronger together!

National day of action against the far-right – Saturday, 12th June 2021

Those who have been following political news closely in the past few years have been able to witness French politics’ shift toward the right. For a few years now, “anti-terrorists” laws have been piling up, using the (legitimate) fear caused by terrorist attacks to reduce everyone’s rights, attack the justice system and pave the way for an authoritarian regime. This slippery slope recently accelerated, with a government adopting the vocabulary and ideas of the far-right, appointing ministers close to royalist, antisemitic organisations and accused of rape, and answering to every social problem with the only mean left according to their policies in favor of the rich : brute force.

As a consequence, many fascist organisations are coming out in the open, multiplying violent attacks agains leftist activists and organisations, and against democratic institutions (invasion of the Occitanie regional parliament, threats against elected officials). Corporatist police “unions” are multiplying actions, most of the time illegal ones, to explicitly ask for the abolition of the constitution and the declaration of the human rights, in order to satisfy their fascist thirst for violence. Army officers, backed by politicians and newspapers, are publicly calling for a military coup explicitly targeting muslims and the politcal left. All of this is happening with no consequences for the people involved and no reaction from the french presidential cabinet, on the contrary they are getting support from political and media figures.

The role of video games in the right-wing radicalisation of society is not negligible. Video games, currently one of the main media, have notably been corrupted by their links with armies and weapon dealers since the beginning of their existence. These organisations have been financing and using games to push their nationalist propaganda, “sell” imperialist wars to the public and normalise their violence. If representation in video games is progressing the right way, although too slowly and too shyly, the messages of popular games are almost always problematic and actively contribute to discriminations and the fascist atmosphere.

The voluntary subordination, because of capitalist motives, of a part of the industry to a fringe of the online far-right stemming from the gamergate, and to authoritarian governments’ interests is still weighing heavily on our industry. As video game workers our role in the rise of the far-right is sadly not trivial, but we can act collectively to fight against it and eventually tip the scales. This will be done, in part, by taking back power over our productions, and therefore by getting more democracy at our workplaces.

The worrying political atmosphere we live in must push us to stay active, united, and to join with other leftist organisations to put a stop the the far-right. Regreting the fact that anti-racist organisations, which have been fighting police violence and islamophobia for decades, haven’t been included from the start, and disagreeing with the inclusion of a police union, the STJV nonetheless, considering the urgency of the situation, joins the call for liberty and against far-right ideas co-signed by many political organistions, unions and media. We are inviting everyone to join the protests taking place all around France on June 12th.