Why it matters: A seasoned game tester says Nintendo and contract firm Aston Carter fired them in February because they asked Nintendo executives a question about relationships.
- The complaint alleged that employers interfered with Clifton’s federally protected rights to discuss unionization without fear of retaliation.
What they say: “I hope sharing this story can make more and more people think about how the gaming industry works and how the companies everyone has come to know and love as entertainment providers are so much more,” says Clifton Axios.
Details: Clifton is tracking their release from the January online companies meeting for hundreds of Nintendo testers.
- During a question and answer section with Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, Clifton asked, “What does NoA think about the trade unionization trend in the gaming industry QA?” they told Axios. (The incident, without specifics or names, was first reported by the Kotaku gaming website.)
- Clifton’s question was not raised at the meeting. But later that day, Clifton said, they were called by their Aston Carter supervisor, saying it was a “depressing question” and advising them to direct such inquiries to the contracting company rather than Nintendo.
- Clifton was “amazed and a little angry.” Less than a month later, Clifton was released.
Nintendo has denied it that the unions had something to do with Clifton’s firing, instead saying the subject was released for the public disclosure of “inside information”.
- Clifton tells Axios that they pressed their superiors for evidence of the violation and were shown a tweet they posted on Feb. 16, which stated: “In today’s version, someone had to remove every other texture in the game somewhere, because everything is red now. Just like pure red. it’s very stupid. ”
- Clifton says it’s a mistake noting that the tweet is unclear. It doesn’t make it clear what Clifton was working on.
- Nintendo and Aston Carter did not respond to requests for comment on Clifton’s account. The NLRB declined to comment on the status of the complaint.
Big picture: Current and former Nintendo of America contractors said Nintendo treats them as “second-class citizens.”
- After Clifton’s NLRB complaint hit the headlines, dozens have made headlines on social media and the press, saying Nintendo is sending hundreds of key employees in its game testing, customer service, and even game writing teams to precarious and stressful interim contracts. Even some top sellers say full-time conversions are rare.
- Among these comments were accusations of workplace misconduct, which Nintendo told its employees internally that it was serious, but neither Nintendo nor its contractors have made any public statements about the company’s widespread use of contractors.
- Two former contractors previously told Axios that in mid-2014, a nascent effort by some Nintendo customer service contractors to unionize ended in a fiasco after their management company caught the wind (neither Nintendo nor the company commented on the matter when were asked to do so).
Clifton got his first contract concert for Nintendo in 2018.
- “Things were going very well at first,” they said, citing an early promotion and raise. Best of all, after a manager noticed their skills were destroying colleagues in a Smash Bros. brawl. During breaks, Clifton was moved to test the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
- Clifton worked on Smash for most of the next two years as the game received new content upon release. Colleagues remembered Clifton as one of the best testers on the team, with a keen eye capable of spotting mistakes that others might have overlooked.
Working on Smash Bros. she was specialsaid Clifton, partly because of their relationship to the game.
- They’ve had bouts of severe depression since college and said the Smash Bros. on campus they kept them alive.
- But at Nintendo, they were frustrated by the forced breaks in their contracts and the lack of an agency as a temporary worker.
Clifton hoped thousands of hours of work could do it and their fellow testers added Smash Bros. Ultimate. When they heard in 2021 that somewhere at the top of the chain such efforts had been denied, Clifton was “completely crushed.” “It led me to thoughts of suicide,” they said.
- “If all the work I’ve done over the years meant nothing to these people that they couldn’t just modify a text document, why bother?” remember thinking. Citing a medical emergency, they told their bosses they needed to stop coming to the office.
- After their departure, the in-game inscriptions were finally updated with their name. And in January 2022, they started a new contract with Nintendo before their release in February.
Clifton’s decision make a complaint against Nintendo and Aston Carter was “more to show the world and to show my former associates that something like a relationship would not only be beneficial, but maybe even necessary in the years to come.”
- As the investigation and talks about a possible settlement began, Clifton made it a condition: they wanted a letter of apology signed by NoA president Bowser.
- Nintendo responded, Clifton said, proposing to speak to the HR department, then offered a neutral letter of recommendation.
- The NLRB, which is still dealing with the complaint, told them the letter was not required as part of the settlement.
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