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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
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My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse.

EA's bright and shiny new corporate trademark is "Challenge Everything." Where this applies is not exactly clear. Churning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm. To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?

I am retaining some anonymity here because I have no illusions about what the consequences would be for my family if I was explicit. However, I also feel no impetus to shy away from sharing our story, because I know that it is too common to stick out among those of the thousands of engineers, artists, and designers that EA employs.

Our adventures with Electronic Arts began less than a year ago. The small game studio that my partner worked for collapsed as a result of foul play on the part of a big publisher -- another common story. Electronic Arts offered a job, the salary was right and the benefits were good, so my SO took it. I remember that they asked him in one of the interviews: "how do you feel about working long hours?" It's just a part of the game industry -- few studios can avoid a crunch as deadlines loom, so we thought nothing of it. When asked for specifics about what "working long hours" meant, the interviewers coughed and glossed on to the next question; now we know why.

Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this "pre-crunch" was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don't know how many of the developers bought EA's explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title's shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Weeks passed. Again the producers had given a termination date on this crunch that again they failed. Throughout this period the project remained on schedule. The long hours started to take its toll on the team; people grew irritable and some started to get ill. People dropped out in droves for a couple of days at a time, but then the team seemed to reach equilibrium again and they plowed ahead. The managers stopped even talking about a day when the hours would go back to normal.

Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.

The stress is taking its toll. After a certain number of hours spent working the eyes start to lose focus; after a certain number of weeks with only one day off fatigue starts to accrue and accumulate exponentially. There is a reason why there are two days in a weekend -- bad things happen to one's physical, emotional, and mental health if these days are cut short. The team is rapidly beginning to introduce as many flaws as they are removing.

And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it. Further, since the production of various games is scattered, there was a concern on the part of the employees that developers would leave one crunch only to join another. EA's response was that they would attempt to minimize this, but would make no guarantees. This is unthinkable; they are pushing the team to individual physical health limits, and literally giving them nothing for it. Comp time is a staple in this industry, but EA as a corporation wishes to "minimize" this reprieve. One would think that the proper way to minimize comp time is to avoid crunch, but this brutal crunch has been on for months, and nary a whisper about any compensation leave, nor indeed of any end of this treatment.

This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable. The extended hours were deliberate and planned; the management knew what they were doing as they did it. The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.

No one works in the game industry unless they love what they do. No one on that team is interested in producing an inferior product. My heart bleeds for this team precisely BECAUSE they are brilliant, talented individuals out to create something great. They are and were more than willing to work hard for the success of the title. But that good will has only been met with abuse. Amazingly, Electronic Arts was listed #91 on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2003.

EA's attitude toward this -- which is actually a part of company policy, it now appears -- has been (in an anonymous quotation that I've heard repeated by multiple managers), "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy. The concept of ethics or compassion or even intelligence with regard to getting the most out of one's workforce never enters the equation: if they don't want to sacrifice their lives and their health and their talent so that a multibillion dollar corporation can continue its Godzilla-stomp through the game industry, they can work someplace else.

But can they?

The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)

To put some of this in perspective, I myself consider some figures. If EA truly believes that it needs to push its employees this hard -- I actually believe that they don't, and that it is a skewed operations perspective alone that results in the severity of their crunching, coupled with a certain expected amount of the inefficiency involved in running an enterprise as large as theirs -- the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be. Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.

The interesting thing about this is an assumption that most of the employees seem to be operating under. Whenever the subject of hours come up, inevitably, it seems, someone mentions 'exemption'. They refer to a California law that supposedly exempts businesses from having to pay overtime to certain 'specialty' employees, including software programmers. This is Senate Bill 88. However, Senate Bill 88 specifically does not apply to the entertainment industry -- television, motion picture, and theater industries are specifically mentioned. Further, even in software, there is a pay minimum on the exemption: those exempt must be paid at least $90,000 annually. I can assure you that the majority of EA employees are in fact not in this pay bracket; ergo, these practices are not only unethical, they are illegal.

I look at our situation and I ask 'us': why do you stay? And the answer is that in all likelihood we won't; and in all likelihood if we had known that this would be the result of working for EA, we would have stayed far away in the first place. But all along the way there were deceptions, there were promises, there were assurances -- there was a big fancy office building with an expensive fish tank -- all of which in the end look like an elaborate scheme to keep a crop of employees on the project just long enough to get it shipped. And then if they need to, they hire in a new batch, fresh and ready to hear more promises that will not be kept; EA's turnover rate in engineering is approximately 50%. This is how EA works. So now we know, now we can move on, right? That seems to be what happens to everyone else. But it's not enough. Because in the end, regardless of what happens with our particular situation, this kind of "business" isn't right, and people need to know about it, which is why I write this today.

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. "What's your salary?" would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?

Right?


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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:32 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Lawrence Probst, III, 54
Chairman, Chief Exec. Officer $ 1.45M $ 22.78M


WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I got an idea. Quit the f*cking company.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:40 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Oh, and it's just that easy, isn't it...
Try it yourself under those conditions.

Dim-knob.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:36 pm (UTC)

Me too!

(Link)

Hello EA Spouse,

Your story is all too true. My SO also works for EA and my mother often ask, "How do they (EA) expect to get anything out of their employees when they work 12 hours a day for a week straight?" Recently, he had a 23 1/2 hour shift and returned to work within 8 hours---that was the ultimate Labor law violation. I come from a strong labor union family and my mentor is a labor law professor. Common labor laws are being broken at EA on a weekly basis, particularly near the holiday season.

How are the employees, whether temporary or permanent supposed to speak up when they are coaxed with the state of the art gym, Jamba Juice splurges, and late night catering? If anyone complains, they are easily replaced. So many young men want to work in video game industry. The CEO of EA was recently named one of the CEOs who is "worth his weight in gold". Seems to me like he could afford to reorganize the work schedule to be more humane.

From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 09:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Me too!

(Link)

Please contact me at ea_spouse@hotmail.com if you would, there are things we can do about this. Our families have put a lot of pressure on us, as well... parents and siblings. My SO's family is back east, and we've cancelled our trip out there for Thanksgiving just because he is too exhausted.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:37 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Bravo. Thanks for this post.

Three years ago, I worked for another video game company, just a contract as a beta tester. My contract stated "full time hours", and verbally in my interview, this was described as a 40-hour work week, with "some longer days". Fine. I wanted the job, and I could be "flexible".
Well, within a couple of weeks, this became a 50-hour work week, then a 60-hour work week. I was told that I should "know better" and that this is the norm for the industry. "Didn't you research the company?" "Researching" this kind of thing is like a question you can only pose if you already know the answer.

My father died while I was at this company - and I was given some slack because of that, and managed to keep my hours down to between 40-50 hours a week while the other testers and staff practically lived on-site. But I could also demonstrate that my workload (actual number of bugs reported and verified fixed) and efficiency at 40 hours a week was more than double that of the next-best performing tester who "worked" 60+ hour weeks.

It doesn't help things that here in British Columbia, some people in the industry successfully lobbied the provincial government to make "hi-tech" industries exempt from many of the labour laws that govern "normal jobs". Supposedly, this was supposed to make people in the industry "more creative". Yeah.

Apparently, after I left, I had people on the team pulling to get me hired full-time. But because I put my foot down about my hours - and eventually succeeded, it was suggested that I wouldn't be much of a "team player". No loss, I really don't think I could go through that again, and I'd probably have to have another death in the family to get a break cut for me in terms of work hours.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:38 pm (UTC)

yep

(Link)

this isn't a reply to the above post, it's just 4am and i couldn't figure out how to make a new one >.<

But i read the article, and the whole time I was just laughing. Kind of laughing at the misery of it all. I'm an animator who has worked for about 3 different studios at this point- never EA though. The last project that I was on was.. ready for this? 100+ hours, 7 days a week, for a good 2 months straight. It was the worst thing i've ever had to deal with. And i lost 3 months of my life (the month before the 100 hours was only 80!).
It's funny because the blame can be put on so many people for it. Alot of what happens, if whoever hires you for Game "X", gives you an insane schedule to work with. Like, yeah we need this game done in 3 months. Or something stupid like that, and then, as the gruntwork game designers (or artist in this case) you get to just take a deep breath and deal with it.
With EA, they're also a publishing company too, so they're pretty much unable to avoid any blame whatsoever. With the game i worked on, it was for THQ. But they were just the publisher. We did the game, and they just set the timeline of death.
Thats the root of the problem though. I really had to comment about this post because you said "hiring more people to avoid crunch time" would be the answer. Actually, thats not always the case. With the game I worked on, all the extra artists other than myself and ONE other guy, were totally unreliable. And you know what? ONE of them actually screwed us completely with that "8 hours a day only" attitude, and what happened was that he didn't do his job- a month worth of work, and it got slammed on MY back to cover at the last second. Because he refused to work like the rest of us, we all got burned even harder, because the sad fact of the matter is: Unless someone contests the schedule from day 1, you're stuck with it. You make the game, or you get fired. It's that simple. Well, it should have been anyway, Mr. 8 hours is still happily unemployed.
If i sound like i'm saying shut up and work the overtime, thats not my intent. It's just dangerous because it doesn't help. It just makes the crunch time even WORSE. The producer from EA said it best: Bad management. And Accepting rediculous schedules that don't even give room if problems occur. Let alone the fact it makes no sense ANYWAY. And in games especially, you run into tons of problems. The worst part is that there is no give from the higher ups on this. if you don't deliver their game when you say, giving the excuse of working long hours, won't even get you a shift in the deadline. They just don't give a shit, it's very heartless. And I know lots of people in the industry now.. it's you hear the same thing over and over. In fact, alot of them laugh at you when you complain. Plenty of my industry friends would laugh at this EA post and say, like I did "Thats nothing!" But does that make any of it RIGHT? Of course not.
I'm 23 years old and have only been in the industry 3 years now, but I've barely been on a single project that didn't have a crunch time. Maybe like.. 3. If that. And for me, it all comes down to totally unrealistic schedules.
Though last project came down to totally incompetant coworkers.
My friends and family are always telling me 'you don't have to work those hours" But no one gets it. If i don't work it, someone else will. In then instead of some guy putting in 60 hours a week, suddenly he's covering for ME who isn't, and now he's up to 80. And so on.
If you want to stop the crunches, strike at the root. The publishing companies who usually know you'll take whatever you can get, and don't give the slightest damn if the schedule they give you is totally unreasonable. When a deal is made, you deliver, or you die. Period.
And management. it all comes from the top down. As my old boss used to say:
"Shit rolls downhill"

If you feel like reading my helltrip, feel free:
http://natehorsfallmain.homestead.com/Incred_Summary.html

And best of luck to you, your SO, and everyone else (because there are thousands of us) suffering the crunch.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 09:59 pm (UTC)

Re: yep

(Link)

Thanks for your post. There have been so many comments that I'm working when I can to put together a sort of 'FAQ' to link from this journal -- I'll add your story to that link so it has a bit more visibility.
From: mustra3d
2004-11-11 09:42 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Working and living in America is getting harder and harder. Most companies are demanding these kind of hours just to stay competitive. Our living standard is going down fast, and I think, for my future, I need to do something radical. I think that pretty soon America will no longer be a 1st world country - It's all about the living standard and quality of life. Most of the people I know work in conditions like these regardless of the industry. I think that this is pointing to a much deeper and darker problem in our society and economic system.

What’s really scary is that it will all come crashing down. It can’t keep going on like this for ever.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 03:36 am (UTC)

Damn, I was having a good day.

(Link)

Geeze, you make perfect sence but I didn't feel like committing suicide until I read your post. Damn, you're a downer.
We need to find some solutions before this happens. I think that's the whole point of this, isn't it?
[User Picture]From: jbernoski
2004-11-11 09:48 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Two questions.
"To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?" wtf? Can we get an "on" in their?

Also, do you say spouse and give no gender hints because you guys are a homosexual couple? But mind you, I'm not reading any of the other comments to find the answers to these questions.
[User Picture]From: jbernoski
2004-11-11 09:50 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Oh, I just found the "on", gg.
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[User Picture]From: errickfoxy
2004-11-11 09:49 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I know you have hundreds of other comments, surely some say what I'm saying, but I feel the mneed to say it anyway.

The reason this sort of thing happens is because, in general, employees are too afraid of losing their own jobs to fight illegal practices like this. This kind of thing will not stop if you don't make a concentrated effort to stop it.

Consult a lawyer. Look into a class-action lawsuit. If they're as blatantly breaking the law as they seem to be, I really think you should do something about it. Going up to them as an individual employee likely won't have much impact, but I suspect companies like that are far more afraid of lawyers than their own employees.
[User Picture]From: jbernoski
2004-11-11 09:50 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Are you a furry?
Why so afraid? - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: tolaria
2004-11-11 09:49 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Since there are literally hundreds of other comments, I'll keep this brief, but suffice it to say that my partner and I moved to Florida and moved out of Florida all within the span of maybe 14 months. The reason was the incredibly poor treatment of EA by its employees, and their total lack of disregard for the importance of family life. My partner was told by one supervisor that, since I was too high a priority in his life, I was hampering his career and he should dump me. He was also kept out of the EA social circle once it became apparent that the 14-hour a day, 7-day work weeks were not making him happy. Whenever I see an ad for Madden or some other banal game of theirs, I think to myself, "Yeah, only they don't tell people buying it that the games are built on the blood and personal sacrifice of the workers." And all this for FOOTBALL...
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 09:56 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I've heard bad, bad things about the Florida studio. There are a few reporters who have picked up on this story and would very much like to hear from anyone who has direct experience with EA. If you would be willing to talk to them, please drop me an email (ea_spouse@hotmail.com) or email our contact through the LA Times directly at Alex.Pham@latimes.com. =) The comments your SO's supervisor made are ridiculous... and are likely exactly the sort of thing that ought to make it into the press. These details are what combine to make EA's situation infamous even among the long hours of game development as a whole.
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From: torka_wail
2004-11-11 09:52 pm (UTC)

damn

(Link)

Well those hours suck, and so do most of the games that EA make, no discredit to your SO, but its just the same game every time, boosting graphics, changing player names/rosters. For a majority of their games. Plus they never get the game right in the first place, constantly seeing patch 1.5 1.4 for many games EA make. THE PUBLIC ARE NOT BETA TESTERS!!!!! Im sure if you ask us we will be, and we would do it for free. You would save ALOT of time doing so.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:31 am (UTC)

Re: damn

(Link)

Perhaps you should consider the possibility that these working conditions and management problems are the very things that cause the games to have such problems. Like in all other production companies, there is a production hierarchy that determines objectives. If the management is poor, it cannot always be mitigated by the individual developers.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:56 pm (UTC)

stupid dumb e.a.

(Link)

i have a friend who works at ea, and he too is working close to 85 hours a week. at first, he was excited, and in the manner the author detailed, bragged about all the time he put in testing the game. the excitedness turned to fatigue, headaches, insomnia, agoraphobia, womanizing, then finally to hardcore drug abuse. anything he could get his hands on to stay up, look good and make the grade, he bought, then later stole. women in his life were reduced to personality-less drones. he never left the house save to make a call to the escort service from a payphone.

after the game was released, with critical bugs he found and notified management of included, it still sucked and is getting horrible reviews. right now, my friend has been released and is sitting at home on a strict green tea and carbohydrate regimen to regrow fatigued bone marrow.

thanks e.a. thanks alot.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:04 pm (UTC)

Re: stupid dumb e.a.

(Link)

dude, you are a liar. at first you say that he works there, then you said he got sacked. what gives??
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 09:59 pm (UTC)

just another EA widow

(Link)

Thank you for writing this when I'm sure there are thousands like you who are in the same boat, myself included. Ours, and our spouses/partners, stories might just raise the interest of some journalists out there because when EA is promoted in every other flier and commercial you see it's essential that the hidden story be told. My common-law partner has been working for EAC (Electronic Arts Canada) for two years and in that time his position has gone from dream job, doing what he's always wanted to be doing for the "best" company out there, to absolute nightmare. He works 10 hours+ overtime EVERY week with the demands never getting any lighter. He gets sick on a regular basis, wakes up in the night with migraine headaches, cries from mental and physical exhaustion and all I can do to support him is convince him to hang on. His salary is laughable and there are no rewards at the end of a project. He can't even look forward to stat holidays anymore because a day off could jeopardize a deadline. He used to love his job and now he dreads waking up in the morning. What can we do? If you speak up you risk getting fired and what game company is interested in an EA reject? If you quit you're faced with finding a job for a company that may very likely go belly-up in a year, or worse, be bought out by EA who sends you packing. EA employees and animators, programmers, etc. in general need to form a union and start asserting their rights because they're human, not machine, and no one deserves this kind of treatment, especially not from a company voted one of the top 100 companies to work for. People in power need to sit up and pay attention before the industry starts to crumple under the weight of their abused employees.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 10:01 pm (UTC)

Re: just another EA widow

(Link)

Thanks for your comment. For ourselves, we do need to be more vocal about what's been going on at all of EA's studios. If you would be willing to talk to a reporter, please drop me an email at ea_spouse@hotmail.com. =) I've retained my anonymity through all of this and I have the committment of the press that all anonymity for any who speak out will be maintained, if that's a concern.
From: subtrahend
2004-11-11 10:00 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Unless you're a start-up or your PM is incompetent, there's no excuse for 'crunch' time. I work for a small and successful game developer where crunch time is now extinct b/c we do so well at planning our projects.

But, given the current economic and political climate, I wouldn't be surprised if many of EA production jobs aren't shipped overseas...
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 10:03 pm (UTC)

(Link)

As others have posted, the issue of crunching is a delicate one in the game industry. We all know that we sometimes (often) have to crunch to deliver a quality product. However, I think a lot of the fury and anguish on the part of a lot of game developers with the smaller studios is that their small studios work SO hard to avoid abusing talent... and EA, who could avoid it so easily, does nothing, and in fact deliberately institutes abusive policy.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:07 pm (UTC)

Common practice put to the extreme

(Link)

Come work at Shiny, we have changed all that nonsense :)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:07 pm (UTC)

Communist Tactics

(Link)

Comrades!

The (deadline / fashist onslaught) is near! Keep up the frontal assault, or (the company / Mother Russia ) will fall. Remember, your families, will die if you don't work harder.

Towarishtch / Project Manager Yhukov
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:11 pm (UTC)

Typical...

(Link)

I've seen this all throughout the industry with the larger developers and publishers. Some of them at least pay hourly or for OT, but the trend has just grown worse and worse over time. I think EA should be made an example out of what they've turned into, but I also think other game companies with similar practices should be held accountable too. I've seen too many people's lives trampled over by these monsters. Enough is enough.
From: unionjosh
2004-12-17 10:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Typical...

(Link)

My name is Josh Patreich. I am a union organizer for the IATSE Local 16. I have been working with people from EA, but more and more I am getting contacted by people from other companies. I want to organize enough companies that it will set some standards in the industry that won't burn everyone out. Let me know if you can help.
unionjosh@local16.org
josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:12 pm (UTC)

Oh please

(Link)

This is a ridiculous thing. This lady or man is jealous of there spouse has a good job. I have a cousin who works for EA and he loves it. He's been there 4 years> he has worked through several of these "crunch-time" hours. Granted 85hr work weeks are long, but there are some jobs out there that wore 80-100hr work weeks. Like construction workers, some police, nurses. And these make considerably less than someone working at EA. I guess this person needs to get a job and quit complaining.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 10:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Oh please

(Link)

Wow. RTFM. On a scale of ten rating points, there are possibly two that make my SO's current position qualify as a 'good job'. He plans on exiting it at the point of greatest opportunity. Secondly, you make a number of assumptions. I have a job, and I'm willing to bet it's better than yours. This does not prevent me from being deeply disturbed by my spouse's working conditions. Thirdly, my stepmother is a nurse. They have far better worker's protection than game developers do -- they have their own issues, but they also have a union. Police are in a similar position. Fourthly, those people are saving human lives. They are not feeding the slathering maw of a corporate media giant. If you would like to take this up with me further, my email address is ea_spouse@hotmail.com. I have little hope that this response will prevent further moronic behavior, but I do what I can.
From: hatboxhats
2004-11-11 10:14 pm (UTC)

Call a Lawyer

(Link)

I was in a similar situation at an advertising firm. I was working long hours and was told I was "exempt" from overtime. After many assurances that they would hire more people and cut our extended hours, I decided to look further into the law. As far as I could tell, it seemed that I was actually "non-exempt" under California's law.

So... I called a lawyer. Well, two firms, seven attorneys and five years later, I settled with the firm. Not only for myself, but in the name of 89 employees in the State of California in a class action suit. It was a court-approved settlement. My original claim of $17,000 for a year of overtime cost the firm over $2.5M, between the settlement and their attorneys' fees (my attorneys' fees were paid through the settlement). And who was this advertising agency? TMP Worldwide (known best for their little job-board website called monster.com).

If you think the law is on your side, then take the next step. Not only on the behalf of your SO, but on behalf of all the employees. You may cause a change in the industry. Look at the six women from Wal-Mart that are contesting their gender discrimination policies... The bad thing about frivolous lawsuits is that we start to question legitimate lawsuits. This is legitimate. EA is benefiting by not paying the full cost of salary. That skews their bottom-line (and if not for the assumption that this problem is industry-wide, you could argue that it causes unfair competition).

If you are interested in talking to an attorney, I'm happy to give you the numbers of the firms that helped me. Email me directly at hatbox@pobox.com. It's good to vent and let people know what's happening. It's even better to make them change their ways. Good luck.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:23 pm (UTC)

The Irony

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The irony of it all is that some developers actually enable this kind of thing. Because most developers only view their productivity in terms of LOC produced, well then 60 hours of keyboard banging MUST be better than 40, right?

If rework (that is code returned to the owner because of bugs) were factored in, it would be relatively easy to demonstrate that most people working prolonged overtime are actually hurting productivity. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if some weeks teams actually experienced negative progress because of this.

This is clearly shown in the attitude with which the developers and company hold the testers. In that mindset, the testers are the "enemy", since they produce problems. It's no wonder they've been unable to link the bugs to the overtime: developers don't create bugs, testers do.

A previous poster mentioned Extreme Programming. We use that in my project. One of the principles is "Sustainable Pace". In other words, you want the team to go at the absolute top speed they can managed for the entire release. Short (and I mean short) term sprints of a week are allowed, but no one is allowed to work overtime two weeks in a row. A burned out programmer is a liability, not an asset.

What's funny (and sad) is that, while XP teams are often vastly more productive than regular teams, you have to spend time managing your management. Managers see a team that isn't pulling overtime and complain that the team lacks "dedication" or has no sense of urgency. Sigh.

Btw, I'm also active in the game modding community. I see the "game company fever" that many modders have. I've seen the sweeps companies make through the modding community where they snatch up any warm bodies available. You can tell right away that the size and breadth of the hires means the "lucky" people are going to be treated as disposable.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:23 pm (UTC)

Welcome to manual labor

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Yes manual labor. Any labor that is not managment is now considered maunal and you will be treated as such. Two concepts for you and yours 1. A Union! 2. A labor Contract define working conditions. Have Fun
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:25 pm (UTC)

UO Player feels sick

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I have the worst feeling of guilt right now. I am supporting a high-tech sweat shop - I really had no idea. I wouldn't buy sweat shop sneakers, but I am a 5 year veteran player of an EA game.

To be honest, I can not understand why your SO doesn't leave; it is just ridiculous to stay. There is always a market for talent. If your SO is the love of your life, bite the bullet and move if you have to.

Sue them, report them, whatever. But just get the hell out of there.




From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:29 pm (UTC)

Welcome to manual labor

(Link)

Yes manual labor. Any labor that is not management is now considered manual labor and you will be treated as such. Two concepts for you and yours 1. A Union! 2. A labor Contract defining working conditions. Have Fun
[User Picture]From: jhohanna
2004-11-11 10:30 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Hi SpouseMouse -

I just want to let you know that I sympathize with you greatly. Unfortunately, this seems to be a rather standard of software companies, particularly big houses. When I was young, my ex worked for MCI, and was much the same way. Working 4am-10pm and working from home until 2am, functioning on 2 hours of sleep a night. The kicker was that he was so amped up on various keep-awake drugs, that he had to drink 1/2 a bottle of vodka just for the 2 hours of sleep he did get. By the end, we were both wrapped up in a very abusive and highly dysfunctional relationship. I know that it wasn't just the job that caused it, but it was a big peace... that and a massively nasty custody battle. Don't let it get to this point!!!! For the sake of both of your's sanity. It required me literally running away in the middle of the night, changing all of my personal information, and hiring security to protect me from the insanity that he had embraced. Only to find he was schtooping some "protoge'" (turns out it was a guy!!!) that was doing his bitch work for 12 hours a day. Sweetie, no job is worth this. Worst case, email me... I'll get him an interview here, where the pay is excellent, the bene's are superiour, we're a block from the beach, and they really treat you right. And God knows we need the talent. Email is jhohannavh@gmail.com. Get some rest hon... and kidnap him for a week if you have to. He needs to get a break NOW, or risk losing everything.
[User Picture]From: spiralfeathers
2004-11-11 10:32 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Didn't have time to read through all 600+ comments, so someone has probably already said this...but I would seriously report the matter to an appropriate government organization (osha maybe, or whatever else would be more appropriate), and/or talk to a lawyer, particularly if you do think this is illegal. I'd also be sure to keep up with things that can be used as evidence, from things such as the memos or whatever saying when the crunch time was supposed to be ended, to proof of how many hours being worked and how much is being paid. You may have a case, and if you do bring a lawsuit against them, you will be at least in some way compensated for all the crap you've gone through, and it'll make EA think twice about treating employees like that again.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:40 pm (UTC)

Probst's wad

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http://www.aflcio.org/corporateamerica/paywatch/ceou/database.cfm?tkr=ERTS&pg=1&CFID=79527&CFTOKEN=41437425

Lawrence F. Probst
Chairman and CEO
Electronic Arts

In 2003, Lawrence F. Probst raked in $17,552,413 in total compensation including stock option grants from Electronic Arts.

From previous years' stock option grants, the Electronic Arts executive cashed out $13,723,593 in stock option exercises.

And Lawrence F. Probst has another $60,055,226 in unexercised stock options from previous years.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:40 pm (UTC)

EA Spouse

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I am also a spouse of someone in this industry. We have also gone through the insane hours of "crunch" time. There is nothing more frustrating than a manager telling you it will be over soon...it is never over! Last year my husband worked 26 straight days one month and 19 in the next. Having no time off is not healthy either physically or mentally. It wrecked havoc with our home life and our marraige. We didn't even get to have a honeymoon due to the fact that he couldn't take any time off. I have to agree with someone else who suggested a union. Might not be a bad idea.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 10:53 pm (UTC)

Re: EA Spouse

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this is why anyone with an ounce of brain would have this stuff in black and white before they signed the letter of offer.

just do your reserach and know where you stand contractually before you accept the job.

dont accept a job on the basis of what is told to you but conveniently isnt included in the letter of offer.

would you sign a contract for a house even though items which are of extreme importance to you are not covered accurately? of course not.

just apply the same rules you would other business transactions instead of throwing caution to the wind and accepting the job when you dont know what you are in for.

it's extremely difficult to get an employer to change the conditions after the fact when they know their contractual position.

you need to make sure from the word go you and the employer understand and have addressed hours and overtime.

then you dont have to worry about fighting after-the-fact if things get too much you can simply refer to your contract and say hey, remember this.

its that simple.
Re: EA Spouse - (Anonymous) Expand
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