Nintendo Labor Complaint Worker Shares Their Story

Published: September 29, 2022 9:55 AM /


The top of Mario's head as he looks upwards against a red background

A Nintendo worker who submitted a labor complaint against the company earlier this year has given an interview in which they share their story. Mackenzie Clifton says they're speaking out in order to get people "thinking about how the games industry works".

In an interview with Axios, Clifton says that Nintendo fired them in February, prompting them to submit a labor complaint to the NLRB. Clifton says they were fired because of a question they asked Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser about unions during a Q&A for testers. According to Clifton, that question was as follows: “What does NoA think about the unionization trend in QA in the games industry as of late?”.

Bowser didn't answer the question, but Clifton was subsequently contacted by talent management firm Aston Carter, which works alongside Nintendo. A rep from Aston Carter said the question was a "downer question" and recommended Clifton direct those enquiries to Aston Carter rather than Nintendo. Less than a month after this, Clifton was fired from their position.

Mario throwing his hat at an enemy in Super Mario Odyssey
Mackenzie Clifton says they're hoping to get people to think of Nintendo as more than just "providers of fun entertainment".

When we asked Nintendo about Clifton's labor complaint back in April, we were told that they were fired due to "disclosure of confidential information". In the Axios interview, however, Clifton says that when they pressed Nintendo for proof of that disclosure, they were shown a February tweet in which they said the following: “in today’s build someone somewhere must have deleted every other texture in the game bc everything is now red. Just like, pure red. it’s very silly". Clifton points out that the tweet doesn't describe the game they're talking about, nor do they provide any other information about the project. 

Clifton says things at Nintendo were "very good initially", noting an early promotion and a payrise, as well as working on Super Smash Bros Ultimate, as highlights of their time at Nintendo. However, after putting in countless hours of work on the game, Clifton and their fellow testers were not added to Smash Bros Ultimate's credits, which Clifton says left them in a state of "suicidal ideation". They also became frustrated with forced breaks in contracts, as well as the lack of agency that being a temporary employee meant for them.

The aftermath of Clifton's NLRB complaint against Nintendo

Following Clifton's firing in February, they submitted their NLRB complaint, which they say they did to show the world that a Nintendo union would be "not only beneficial but maybe even necessary" in future. They stipulated that in order to settle, they wanted a letter of apology signed by Bowser himself (that's Doug, not Mario's nemesis). Nintendo reportedly countered with an "offer to speak to HR", according to the Axios interview, followed by a "neutral letter of reference". The NLRB told Clifton that a letter "wasn't required" as part of a settlement.

One thing's for sure in all this: no matter what happens with Clifton's specific NLRB complaint, it's not the only one Nintendo is currently facing. In August this year, another Nintendo employee (who is, at time of writing, anonymous) submitted an NLRB complaint along similar lines to Clifton's, alleging anti-union activitiy and "coercive statements" on Nintendo's part.

Four characters from the upcoming Fire Emblem Engage
Nintendo employees allege that working on the company's projects is not always rosy.

It's not just labor complaints, either. Earlier this year, a Nintendo tester came forward with sadly all-too-familiar stories about a toxic workplace environment and her "frat house" experiences at the gaming giant. It's a similar story to the one being told by Ubisoft employees, as well as Activision workers and many other people within the gaming industry right now. Here's hoping that the growing number of people voicing their disapproval with Nintendo prompts some kind of change in the company.


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