Twenty-one writers for Lovestruck, a mobile app that publishes visual romance novels, are on strike after asking owner Voltage Entertainment USA to recognize their demands as a collective, called Voltage Organized Workers. These Lovestruck writers, all of whom are contracted workers, have united to demand “better working conditions, greater transparency, and increased protections” for the staff. On July 15, Voltage Organized Workers posted on Twitter and Tumblr that they were going on strike after management refused to recognize the workers’ demands.
“Not only are we paid less than half the industry standard rate, we are asked to meet extremely tight deadlines and produce enormous amounts of content without protections or benefits,” the workers said in a statement. “We want to see our hard work and commitment to authentic storytelling given the value it deserves.”
Management for Voltage Entertainment USA has dismissed Voltage Organized Workers’ claims, saying that “false statements … were made in the social media posts.” The company also said in a statement published to its website on Monday that it had attempted to negotiate with writers individually, but that the workers had refused to negotiate separately. Voltage Entertainment USA also wrote that “‘Voltage Organized Workers’ is not a union.” The company has hired new writers in their place — “at the same rate increases we proposed to resolve the issue,” the company said. The company has not yet responded to Polygon’s inquiries.
The workers who are part of Voltage Organized Workers are contracted employees, meaning they work at an at-will basis and don’t collect benefits, like health insurance. As Voltage Entertainment USA said, the group is not a recognized union, so protections are not guaranteed for the workers.
Voltage Entertainment USA is a subsidiary of Japanese developer Voltage Inc. Voltage Entertainment USA operates out of an office in San Francisco, and has created a significant amount of original titles for the Lovestruck: Choose Your Romance app, which was released in 2017. There are at least 16 ongoing series of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style visual novels in Lovestruck, according to its Google Store page. The app itself is free, though certain segments and stories are placed behind paywalls.
Lovestruck is a hugely popular app with a reported 22 million users as of 2014, according to the International Business Times. In particular, it’s known for its inclusive storylines and characters — especially in queer communities. The writers themselves, according to the statement from Voltage Organized Workers, are all “members of marginalized genders and/or sexualities,” too.
The group of 21 writers are asking Lovestruck fans to send (respectful) messages to Voltage Entertainment USA asking it to recognize the workers’ demands. They also asked for players not to harass management or other workers, and to not boycott the app. Instead, the group is encouraging players to read new story routes, especially “POC or enby” ones.
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