Unity employees reportedly dissatisfied with the company’s military relations

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Unity is a cross-platform game engine that has been around for almost 20 years now. It is popular with game developers because it performs so well – recent Unity-based games include Outer Wilds, Cloudpunk, Hardspace: Shipbreaker, and Phasmophobia – and also because, with some limitations, it can be obtained for free. However, it is not only used for games. According to a recent Vice report, some Unity employees are unhappy with the company’s partnerships with the U.S. military.

Defense Ministry relationships are no secret, but they are also not the kind of thing the company is broadcasting aloud. Two references to US Air Force programs, for example, can be found on the “Government and aerospace“alongside a” simulations and virtual models “partnership with Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, which isn’t exactly the most important location possible.

Lockheed Martin, for example, “leverages Unity to reduce physical prototyping and testing, saving millions of dollars by discovering and solving problems much earlier in development,” while a company called Dynepic, which develops training platforms for clients including the US Air Force (the company’s website features a picture of a person in USAF uniform engaged in what is presumably actual training virtual) touted Unity’s capabilities in a Military training and simulation report.

“Everyone knows Unity is a great tool for creating content, but with our Unity SDK, developers can quickly integrate training with MOTAR LMS [Learning Management System], allowing the Air Force to visualize consolidated data on student performance, ”explained Arthur Goikhman of Dynepic.

The company also seemed eager to talk about this aspect of its business in an undated internal memo obtained by Vice that offered specific advice to Unity employees talking about its government work. Managers are urged to use the terms “government” or “defense” instead of “military” – and noted that “nothing we do will be used in live warfare”.

You learn pretty quickly, however, that getting close to war profiteers is the fastest way to make money pretty much universally in the tech industry.

Despite this, three anonymous sources, all current and former Unity employees, told Vice that ethical issues arise from the potential intersection between military and non-military projects. The development of artificial intelligence for video game purposes, for example, can also lead to military-related projects, without developers realizing it.

“I came to Unity explicitly because I naively believed in their marketing around ’empowering creators’ and ‘making the world a better place’ or whatever,” a source said. “I got into AI with the hope of building some technology ‘for the greater good’ or some nonsense like that. You learn pretty quickly, however, that getting close to war profiteers is the quickest way. to make money pretty much universally in the tech industry. “

Another source said employees “empower” the products Unity’s government team sells, even if they don’t work directly on it.

After being contacted by Vice for comment, Unity CEO John Riccitiello issued an internal statement reassuring employees that the company’s military contracts “are very restrictive” and that “we do not and will not support programs where we knowingly violate our principles or values ​​”. In a separate statement, the company also said it has an internal sales ethics advisory board, which is a group of employees “from various backgrounds, geographies and parts of the business. [who] help assess upcoming business opportunities that present potential risks or may be controversial. According to Unity, he has turned down partnerships that do not match his principles on the recommendation of this council.

But Riccitiello’s internal memo sparked a backlash, according to another source, who said a large number of employees are just beginning to realize Unity’s military partnerships now, and while a few, “mostly executives and senior executives, “have a strong” support the attitude of the troops, most are not very happy with it. As a result, Riccitiello promised in a follow-up note that the matter would be discussed at the next assembly the company’s public, scheduled for next week.

Unity isn’t the only gaming tech company working with the U.S. military: Epic is actively promoting the use of its Unreal Engine technology in various military and police programs, and Microsoft recently signed a $ 22 billion deal to provide the U.S. military with an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) based on its HoloLens headset. An earlier contract to supply the military with IVAS prototypes, worth $ 479 million in 2019, sparked a similar backlash from Microsoft employees, who said in an open letter that they “don’t had not registered to develop weapons “.


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