“Marginalized game workers will have a say in their working conditions and benefit from their own labour, ending their exploitation in the game industry so that they can focus on projects that excite and appeal to them and have better living conditions.”
One of the first things Soft Chaos did as a cooperative was to participate in two incubators, one of which was Damage Labs, an incubator aimed at the creation of diverse social impact game studios. The quote above is the ultimate outcome statement Soft Chaos wrote as part of the program. It is the biggest vision for Soft Chaos’s social impact on the world: what we want to do as people, and as a cooperative.
We also had to make smaller, short-term outcomes that we will work to achieve more immediately. For us those include "Game developers are better informed about their rights as workers" and "There is more awareness of worker coops as a viable option for game studios."
Even as a freshly formed studio that is still learning, we feel like we’ve been able to take steps towards these goals. Most recently, with the support of Game Workers Unite, we were able to write an article titled “Why we created a worker cooperative, and why you might want to as well” that will be distributed to students in game development programs. We’d like to share an excerpt from that article with you.
Why form a worker cooperative instead of a corporation?
- We want control over our working conditions (mitigating exploitation and burnout)
Realistically, starting a new business takes a lot of work. In a worker-cooperative, we get the direct benefit of that work, as well as being allowed to focus on goals and priorities that we decide together -- including to prioritize our health and wellbeing over profit.
- We want the flexibility to create a structure that works for us
Many of the trappings of a traditional workplace can feel like just that -- a bit of a trap. From the broken forty-hour workweek to expectations around being tied to phones and inboxes, there are a lot of things to dislike about traditional work structures. As people with diverse needs and working styles, we're working on ways to create flexibility and structures that reflect us. Our work structure is able to reflect our needs, not those of disconnected owners.
- Unionization can only go so far
Unions are an amazing tool for better working conditions, but until the workers are the ones who control and profit entirely from their labor the goals of management and the goals of workers will be in conflict. Cooperatives can eliminate this conflict completely. That being said, unions and cooperatives can support each other and some worker cooperatives even unionize!
- We don't want to have bosses or be bosses
Even the "best" bosses rely on the exploitation of worker labour in order to generate a profit. No, thank you!
- We don’t want to be beholden to outside shareholders
The thing people want the most when they purchase shares in your company is profit, and when the people making the decisions about profit are not the workers (as is the case in many businesses) this profit often comes at their expense. While cooperatives can be profit-driven and offer dividends to people who are not workers there is an important distinction: the decisions about the cooperative are made by the workers.
- We want to work within a degrowth paradigm
This is tied closely to our ability to work independently of shareholders as described above. Shareholders who control the direction of a corporation often have the sole purpose of profit.* They want to see how quickly and aggressively you can grow. We, in contrast, want to grow slowly and sustainably, if at all. With control over the direction of the corporation, this is a call we can make.
*These days, there are social finance models emerging that seek benefits and returns on investment that are not solely monetary gain.
- We want to normalize cooperatives
One of the largest problems we’ve faced is the general lack of knowledge about cooperatives and their structure. Business investors, arts organizations, government grants, and social impact funds alike often have never worked with a cooperative before. When this happens they are likely to default to the structure being “ineligible” for support or funding. We have become experts in articulating exactly how our structure works, and also have found many allies in the cooperative community, like the Réseau Coop, whose mission is to normalize the understanding of cooperatives. By forming a cooperative ourselves, we are furthering the understanding for every cooperative.
We hope that gives some insight into why Soft Chaos exists in the form that it does, and some of what you can expect to guide our actions as a cooperative. Thanks for supporting us if you already do, and if you don't yet but think that you might want to, we hope this helps you decide to!