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BioWare QA workers make moves to unionize

Contractors on Dragon Age and Mass Effect want a union

Dragon Age: Inquisition key art, showing an Inquisitor holding their hand to the sky as a fantasy battle rages around them. Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Workers at Keywords Studios, which have in the past supported BioWare’s quality assurance (QA) efforts, are moving toward unionization according to paperwork filed in Canada. Polygon confirmed the filing with the Alberta Labour Relations Board Monday.

An account called KeywordsUnitedYEG posted a notice on Reddit’s Alberta forum, also on Monday, noting that workers had organized under the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401 to become the certified bargaining agent for a unit of employees of Keywords Studios B.C. That means the next Mass Effect or Dragon Age game could eventually be tested by union workers.

Keywords is a company that provides “long-term and cost-efficient video game testing solutions” for other developers, according to its website. It lists BioWare, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Google, Intel, Sony, and Square Enix as some of its partners. According to the company’s official site, it provided QA for the most recent Dragon Age and Mass Effect titles — which are BioWare’s most successful series.

This is another step forward for unionization in the games industry, as some studios look to unionize even in the face of resistance from publishers and management. Raven Software, a support QA studio that worked on the popular Call of Duty franchise, is also in the early stages of a unionization effort.

Polygon has reached out to United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401 as well as Keywords, BioWare, and Electronic Arts for additional comment.

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