Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

If You Don’t Like the Game, Change the Rules


In the fast-paced world of video-game development, grueling crunch and toxic work environments have long been a problem. If You Don’t Like the Game, Change the Rules: Alternative Modes of Videogame Production is a research project facilitated by Game Arts International Network that studies how worker co-ops, unions, and other alternative working arrangements have emerged in response to labour issues in the Canadian Game industry. The project consists of two main outputs:


  • A comic, written and illustrated by Marie LeBlanc Flanagan, which discusses game industry labour issues in a story-based format. It revolves around three friends who decide to start a worker co-op together.
  • A white paper, on which I was the lead author, which summarises the findings of our research and contextualises them in ongoing industry and scholarly debates.

Research for this project was completed between 2022-2023 and involved surveys with 50+ game developers and interviews with 30+ active worker co-op members, game developers in the process of starting a co-op, and traditional game studios that possessed co-op values. To help put together our questions and contextualise our research, we also spoke with game union organisers, labour experts, and industry veterans with unique insights on labour.

The cover page for a book that reads "If you don't like the game, change the rules: alternative modes of videogame production" and features an illustration of a montreal apartment.

The games industry is rife with burnout and infamous for churning through workers. Despite being systems designers by trade—who spend their careers rethinking everything from economies to entire worlds—most professional game creators recreate traditional, hierarchical working environments. In the context of increasing labour woes and mass industry layoffs, finding healthy and sustainable work environments is crucial.

After successful launches in Toronto and Montreal, If You Don’t Like the Game, Change the Rules is hitting the road for events in 2023 and 2024. Please get in touch if you’re interested in talking about the project!

Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer