As for Vacas, he finally settled his dispute with the company in October and parted ways with Machinima. Today, he's represented by a new organization called Union for Gamers.

Union for Gamers is the brainchild of Donovan Duncan, who's also the vice president for marketing at Curse Gaming, a company that has specialized in video game add-ons and industry news.

"There's a lot of ridiculous contracts out there," Duncan says. "Gaming is something we should support, not hinder by locking people into these really bad contracts, so I came up with the idea of, well, let's build a union for gamers, by gamers."

Everyone in Union for Gamers, Duncan says, would be entitled to the same CPM, which would be raised every year. Gamers no longer would be forced into restrictive contracts — union members would have the right to leave whenever they saw fit.

He promises "resources to help people create better videos," adding, "and we'll do the labor, the administration and ad-serving side, allowing them to monetize their content."

But labor, administration and ad service are essentially what networks like Machinima do. When questioned, Duncan admits that this new "union" is really more like a new network — albeit one with high-minded intentions — and therefore competition for Machinima.

Not coincidentally, it's a network that counts several former Machinima creators among its partners. Its public face, in fact, is none other than Bachir Boumaaza, better known as Athene.

Boumaaza announced the partnership in a video posted two months after he left Machinima.

"I can talk, make videos about how the landscape on YouTube should be, but unless I come with a real alternative, why would other networks listen to what I say?" he says, sitting in the same spot, shot with the same black-and-white filter used in his video supporting Vacas.

The video appeared on July 17, but Boumaaza was intent on leaving Machinima even earlier. In a video posted in March, a full two months before he denounced Machinima in solidarity with Vacas, Boumaaza posted a video about Union for Gamers.

So Vacas' contract dispute, and Boumaaza's much-publicized support, proved to be great publicity for the new venture. But Duncan insists that Machinima's problems are real. Even without an upstart competitor to fan the flames, the blowback was inevitable.

"The community was already upset that they were getting locked into these contracts, and I come by and say, 'Well, also: It's probably not fair either, guys, you should probably look at that,' and I think that's probably what sparked that off."

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