You probably know Unity as a popular game engine, but Unity Technologies, the company behind the tool, doesn’t just make money from aspiring and established game developers. It also contracts work with various entities outside of gaming, including the government and, crucially, the Department of Defense. According to a lengthy Vice report published today, some employees aren’t looped into the full scope of that work. Some aren’t even made aware that their own efforts go toward those contracts.
Imagine thinking that you’re just helping video games get made, only to discover that your labor is also getting funneled into war.
If you’ve played video games, you’ve probably come across Unity at some point, seeing as its primary product has been used to create everything from Cities: Skylines to Fall Guys to Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. The company, which was founded in 2005, went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year, and is currently valued at $33 billion. Earlier this month, Unity purchased Parsec, the game-streaming platform, for $320 million.
Speaking to three former and current Unity employees, all of whom were granted anonymity for fear of reprisal, Vice learned that much of the company’s contracting is to do with artificial intelligence (AI) programming. Much of this is officially conducted under Unity’s “GovTech” department, but since some of the company’s work crosses departments, that means some employees could work on technology that helps further military initiatives without even knowing they’re doing it.
Vice tracked down several deals inked with the Department of Defense, including two six-figure contracts for “modeling and simulation prototypes” with the U.S. Air Force. Reportedly, at a Unity all-hands meeting earlier this year, the company could only name one GovTech contract that wasn’t with the Department of Defense.
“It should be very clear when people are stepping into the military initiative part of Unity,” one of Vice’s anonymous sources said, echoing an apparent sentiment from across the company.
CEO John Riccitiello (yes, the same guy who used to head up EA...twice) responded to employees via Unity’s internal Slack, and promised an all-hands meeting with employees tomorrow.
“Whether or not I’m working directly for the government team, I’m empowering the products they’re selling. Do you want to use your tools to catch bad guys? Maybe we shouldn’t be in the business of defining who bad guys are,” one source told Vice, whose report you can read right here.