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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
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?



This article is offered under the Creative Commons deed. Please feel free to redistribute/link.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 12:22 am (UTC)
This practice is rampant in the game development sector, even in small studios.

My husband works for a studio where a guy recently had a heart attack, and instead of letting the poor man rest, the management kept in touch with him telling him how behind they were getting, and how it would be really great if he could come in and work. It was disgusting how they were trying to guilt him into working hours when he was suppose to be resting. This is what they do best. They make you feel like you are a disappointment to your team. That the game won't ship because of you, and you'll start losing them contracts.

Divorce and families troubles are common, workers have gotten into car accidents due to falling asleep at the wheel. Workers have had strokes, ulcers and other stress related conditions. This is a relatively young work force too. Most of these men are in their 20's and 30's.

Something needs to be done, and I think your approach of public awareness is brilliant. Thanks for being so brave.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 12:35 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment. I read a comment from someone on slashdot who mentioned one of their coworkers DYING from overwork in a crunch like this. He went home one night and never came back, they found him on the couch... a cold had turned into deadly pneumonia. My SO has gotten sick twice on this project, and they just kept pushing him -- at one point the whole office was coughing. The slashdot post scared the living daylights out of me. Of course because there's two of us we're able to stop things before they get so bad, but it is not hard at all to see how something like that could happen under these conditions.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
getting sick - (Anonymous) Expand
No surprise here. - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 12:33 am (UTC)


Here is another problem. If EA will come out of USA to china and india for bigger part of the production pipeline...Is it will be better to lose these job places at least for just aftercolledge workers?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:24 am (UTC)

Re: Globaliztion

EA is already starting up an office in China that is planned to have more emplyoees than in the states.
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Re: Globaliztion - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 12:34 am (UTC)

Oh boo hoo hoo

Tell your husband to quit and find another job that is as fun to do as making games. Let him work at UPS working regular 8 hour shifts packing boxes. See how much fun he has then, at least you won't whine because he is home everynight for dinner. Then you can have your social life and quit ruining other peoples days by bitching about how bad your life sucks.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 12:36 am (UTC)

Re: Oh boo hoo hoo

Oh, I'm sorry, did I ruin your day? My bad.
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hah.. - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 12:35 am (UTC)

EA: The Human Story

The same thing has existed in the web development industry for the last decade. Bosses would always threaten to get "younger, cheaper and more dedicated programmers" if you didn't work unpaid overtime all the time.

The web industry is no different, but at least your EA stock options are worth something....
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From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 12:39 am (UTC)

Re: EA: The Human Story

Legally speaking -- and bear in mind I only have the vaguest notion of this from what I've been frantically trying to gather in the way of information -- those stock options can actually be dangerous. Once you possess stock in a company, there's a certain murkiness with the law as regards overtime exemptions. Again, I'm not 100% certain of how this works, and if anyone has further information I'd appreciate it, but it merits mentioning, since EA does put a lot of emphasis on exercising those stock options.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: sgpearl
2004-11-12 12:46 am (UTC)

Taking the Next Step

Dear ea_spouse:

Thank you for what you wrote. It takes tremendous courage to take a stand, as you did here. Most people just endure, and then just move on, either because they think there is nothing they can do or because they simply do not have the strength to stand up and be counted. The companies know this and they prey on it.

A friend sent me the link to your posting because I am an attorney and I help employees, particularly IT employees, recover for their unpaid overtime. Here is a link to my web site: www.ITOvertime.com.

I have lots of information there for anyone who is interested (you obviously have already done your homework) including the overtime statutes and regulations. You are absolutely correct that most IT employees do not qualify for the IT employee exemption, which is Labor Code Section 515.5.

First of all (and as strange as this may sound), the statute was never intended to apply to salaried employees. The legislature passed SB 88 because industry complained about having to pay hourly IT people time-and-a-half, when they were already being paid for each hour worked. The overtime regulations make this intent absolutely clear.

Second, in order to be exempt, an IT employee must make at least $44.63 per hour, which will increase to $45.84 per hour on January 1, 2005. Even if this exemption did apply to salaried employees, which it does not, you are right that the minimum salary to be exempt would exceed $90,000 per year ($44.63 x 52 weeks per year x 40 hours per week = $92,830.40)!

There is a reason why the legislature set this figure so high. Public policy requires companies to pay employees for their overtime hours, and you did a better job explaining the reasons for this than I possibly could.

I would love to help you and your spouse with this problem, if you both decide that is something you want to pursue. Even if you don't want to pursue it, I would like to post your story on my site. (I will not post it unless you say it's OK to do so.) What you've written applies to so many companies that only care about the bottom line, and not the impact on their employees and their families. You obviously wrote from the heart, and people should hear what you have to say.

Please let me know if I can be of help. In the mean time, I wish you and your spouse courage and strength.

Steve Pearl
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From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 01:11 am (UTC)

Re: Taking the Next Step

Hello Steve -- thank you for your comment, it is very informative, and hopefully will clear up a lot of questions that other commenters here have had about how the labor exemptions work. I do know that my SO and I do not intend to stop here as regards the whole situation, but we also have not decided what direction we will take, or with whom. The class action lawsuit involving artists has already been mentioned in this thread. It does not currently apply to programmers, so some of that field is still open, but the folk involved with that lawsuit believe that we are strongest if we stand together, and I agree with them, so any legal action would at least be coordinated in tandem with their efforts. I am trying my best to encourage other EA employees who have posted their stories here and elsewhere to take action on their grievances as well.

Please feel free to post my article on your website. I posted it with the information about the Creative Commons deed specifically so that readers would feel free and encouraged to re-post so long as it was for informational purposes and was unaltered. I have also given permission for the post to be translated into Russian for re-posting on another site... you, being a lawyer, might be better able to tell me whether the CC deed applies to translations, but in either case, the bottom line is that I would prefer that as many concerned people as possible be able to read this and be informed.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 12:53 am (UTC)

Leave the game industry for software development

I always aspired to be a game developer. I was always amazed by the quality of games produced year-by-year.

Game developers are the cream of the crop but they are underpaid and exploited. If you want better pay and normal work hours, go work for a software development firm.

The customers of software development companies are other companies and corporations that depend on the software for the day-to-day running of their business. Therefore SW companies know that to make a quality product that doesn't upset their VALUABLE customers, they can't kill their employees like EA does. They also hate losing employees because new hires take a-lot of time to get up to speed. Therefore they provide ALOT of good benefits and normal works hours to lure and keep employees. Because without them they will loose customers, reputation and business. But the FINAL customers of large Game Development(GD) companies are us, the consumers. They know consumers will buy any game as long as it has good hype or heritage. They produce crappy games that end up in the trade-in shelf next week, but they still get money for it. They don't have a reputation or support contracts to uphold.

I recently graduated with a BS. Computer Science degree and took up a new job. I'm not even 21 years old and I'm making over 59k with a TON of benefits, that with a GPA below 2.8 . Seriously quit and go for a SW company. Game developers are highly skilled. They can adapt and learn new stuff fast.
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[User Picture]From: segasnk
2004-11-12 01:01 am (UTC)

My thoughts.

I always thought EA was ruthlessly corporate. This company has been doing not just this but I heard about what they did to the Ultima creator and dumping the lastest Ultima project because it wouldn't make a profit. God knows how much "crunch time" they put those people in for.
EA has burned too many bridges and been too unoriginal. They're like a bigger Naughty Dog: no creativity and some games may have solid gameplay. Sorry it's just that very few times have I EVER seen EA take a risk with maybe one or two exceptions. If anyone ever wonders what would happen if you took Disney and made it into a game company you have EA except EA's stuff is more tolerable and in that I'm referring to Disney shoveling out DTV stuff.
In the end I'm curious on comments here. I apologize for not wading through everyone's comments since this entry was brought to my attention recently but I have a question towards working conditions in other companies. I read your comment about Blizzard, ea but I'm wondering about others. What about Valve? Capcom or maybe specifically Capcom USA. Konami especially and this ties into questionability of their U.S. or Japanese marketing officials intelligence(coughSnatchercoughPolicenautscoughDraculaXcough), same second part to Capcom USA. Has anyone here worked for any of Sega's R&D departments?
Let me make this clear I'm not critisizing the programmers but rather EA's behavior in stifling creativity otherwise who knows where EA's games might lead.
Anyway I guess people have said this already but have him look around. If the working conditions are good and he likes to be creative perhaps he can "outsource" himself to whatever happened to UGA or other places.
Also a giant question to anyone here. What's Atlus U.S. or Japan like to work for?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:08 am (UTC)

This is as good as it gets, folks.

All you twenty-somethings reading this and wondering if it will happen to you, or if it already has happened to you, you must realize this is as good as it gets for 99.999% of you. You put up with these hours for 10-15 years and what do you have? If you aren't crippled by carpal tunnel you will still be let go the minute you slow down because there is someone 15 years younger who wants your job. Or you are still in your prime but earning too much money so they fire you. That has happened at ILM in the past 6 months, 25 year veterians with tons of knowledge fired because they earn too much. After you get fired that next job will be hard to find. First of all you aren't naive and full of enthusiasm. Second the technology has passed you by.

So you get to be 45 years old and you go looking for a new career that will pay a third what you make now. To those of you who get into this rat race: save your money, don't buy fancy cars and plenty of needless toys, invest now in the stock market and buy a home in a good, upcoming neighborhood. Something you can sell quickly when the time comes.

Good luck.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:29 am (UTC)

Re: This is as good as it gets, folks.

The person who wrote this article is 100% correct about saving money. Regardless if you are a white or a blue collar worker, if you can put 10% of your income away every year and start doing this early on, the incredible amount of leverage on how you want to do with your life is great when you grow older.

If you want the toys now and go in debt up to your eyeballs because you have to be and look "cool", it will come back and haunt you when you get older. Toys are temporary gratifications of the hear and now. The price that you will pay is the quality of life of your near future.

I hope you 20 somethings understand that I was there, where you are now over 20 years ago, in a godforsaken meat-grinding job, with no hope of a future unless I made my own.

And that is exactly what I did.

I made my own future.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:10 am (UTC)
My husband works in a simular sisuation. Not nearly as bad but i feel for you greatly and hope and pray that it gets better for you as the story spreads and becomes more known. Take care
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[User Picture]From: epiphaniesrus
2004-11-12 01:18 am (UTC)

All right. I can't take it any more.

wtf is wrong with you people!? Are you anti-progress? Let's say you live in Texas in 1850. You say, "damn, my cousin lives in Atlanta. I wish there was some way I could talk to him quicker than by 3 week post, dagnabit." And your neighbor says "I'm working on an invention called the telegraph that will let you send messages long distances in seconds" (names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent, or to avoid looking up historical facts)

Is your reaction to say to shoot him in the leg and say "You some kind of whiner, you sissy?? The post office has always been in charge of state to state communication and that's the way it's always gonna be!"

Someone says "I'm extremely unhappy and I'd like to do something about it", you do not get to respond by trying to convince them that they're not really unhappy or they shouldn't be miserable or there's nothing they can do about it or any of that crap. A group of people says "we've been mistreated and we need help making it right" and you ought to react by saying "right on!" Do you tell someone who's just been hit by a drunk driver that they shouldn't outlaw drunk driving, just be thankful they didn't get in an accident on a muddy mountain road in Malaysia? Do you tell someone that's been a victim of ID theft that muggings are a lot more painful, so don't bother trying to recoup your losses - if you don't like it don't have bank accounts or credit cards?

How about, instead of telling people to shut up and take it up the ass, you actually look at the big picture and decide that maybe there is some room for improvement (I haven't heard a single person suggest otherwise) and that it might be time to do something about it.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:34 am (UTC)

Re: All right. I can't take it any more.

Most of these people saying "Boo-hoo" are either very young, have no family, or are workaholics themselves.

I hope.

Or maybe they're just assholes.
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From: ravidrath
2004-11-12 01:38 am (UTC)

EA Class Action Lawsuit Already In the Works...

Enjoy. :)


> On July 29, 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed against
>Electronic Arts Inc. ("EA"). This communication responds to earlier
>email communications from EA management regarding the litigation. The
>lawsuit alleges that EA improperly classified some of its employees,
>including "animators," "modelers," "texture artists," "lighters,"
>"background effects artists" and "environmental artists" as exempt from
>overtime, and therefore failed to pay those employees overtime
>compensation. Plaintiff's action seeks statutory penalties, damages,
>restitution, and injunctive relief. EA denies plaintiff's claim. It
>is EA's position that it treats its employees fairly and lawfully, and
>that it has properly classified its employees within the meaning of the
> The plaintiff is seeking to bring this lawsuit on behalf of
>himself and to represent a proposed class of current and former EA
>employees as a class action. A class action is a lawsuit in which one
>or more individuals seek to represent a large number of people with
>similar legal claims (the class). One or more members of the class can
>serve as representative plaintiffs, acting on behalf of all members of
>the Class. Class actions are often used when a large number of people
>have comparable claims, and each individual claim is not sufficiently
>large to pursue separately in an economical manner. In a class action
>case, the plaintiff must show the Court that having the case proceed as
>a class action is appropriate. The Court has not yet certified this
>case as a class action.
> If the case is certified, members of the class will be notified
>as directed by the Court, and may be given the opportunity to be
>excluded from the class ("opting out"), or to hire their own lawyers to
>represent them. Generally, if a class member fails to opt out, the
>result of the case will be binding upon him or her. Any settlement or
>other resolution of a class action must be approved by the Court, and
>any award of attorney fees must also be approved by the Court. Class
>members will receive notice before any settlement or fees are approved,
>and will be given the opportunity to provide comment to the Court as to
>any proposed settlement.
> EA will not retaliate against employees for exercising legal
>rights, including by participating in the proposed class action.
> If you have any questions about the litigation, you may contact
>the following:
> Plaintiff's Attorneys:
> Robert C. Schubert
> Miranda Kolbe
> Schubert & Reed LLP
> Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1660
> San Francisco, CA 94111
> (415) 788-4220
> mkolbe@schubert-reed.com
> Thomas V. Urmy
> Todd Heyman
> Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP
> Exchange Place
> 53 State Street, 37th Floor
> Boston, MA 02109
> Telephone: (800) 287-8119
> theyman@shulaw.com

> EA's Attorneys:
> Jessica Perry
> Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
> 1020 Marsh Road
> Menlo Park, CA 94025
> Telephone: (650) 614-7350
> jperry@orrick.com
> Jacob Schatz
> Electronic Arts Inc.
> 209 Redwood Shores Parkway 207/5
> Redwood City, CA 94065
> Telephone: (650) 628-7241
> jschatz@ea.com
> Please do not contact the Court.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 02:34 am (UTC)

Re: EA Class Action Lawsuit Already In the Works...

Thank you! I had heard about these emails but I hadn't seen one.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:44 am (UTC)
This studio is Tiburon in Maitland/Orlando/wherever Florida. They do Madden NFL, NCAA, and NASCAR -- sort of anyway, as much of it is outsourced to other companies (NASCAR) or done by other EA studios. The only reason they don't shut the whole thing down and do it at EAC is because they can't get anyone other than southern-US Floridiots who actually like to program and test football and NASCAR -- almost exclusive American sports.

I worked there too, I hated it, my girl friend hated it, and I quit. I would advise any person not to work for EA at that studio under any condition. Don't do it. It's a big move to Florida and it will be hard to leave once you get there. Don't do it. I know you don't live in Florida because NOBODY with talent lives in Florida (unless maybe you are a fat government contractor). They just get suckered into moving there. Actually, I didn't know anyone in any of the EA studios, short of some guys over in Pogo, who actually seemed to enjoy their job.

I wouldn't get specific with the studio, but it's important. Nobody in Orlando really wants to be there. It's a big misery-go-round. There are no other jobs in the gaming industry in the area, unless you want to be an "instructor" at Full Sail maybe (an equal har-har worthy pain-trap so say the kids). Many of the people there service the tourism industry and the supporting service industry, and because they fake being nice all day, it causes them to hate the rest of their miserable lives and spread that misery to anyone and everyone they meet.

The things said by ea_spouse I support as fact. The hours are 80+ a week for many weeks, the pay is very poor compared to similar jobs in other industries, and people go home angry and pass it on to the people they live with.

Notice how most people are too scared to ID themselves and won't even talk about the specific studio. It's because they REALLY ARE SCARED. They would be fired right away. For those who don't work there anymore, they know about the law suits, or they are doing their best to leave a painful part of their lives behind them. ea_spouse, DO NOT allow anyone to figure out who you are. They WILL FIRE AND SUE your significant other if they can. You have good reason to be scared.

The people who I worked with were just as burned out and victims as I was, even if their daily demeanor was venomous. I can't blame them, or at least most of them. The managers are just those who have been there long enough that their eyes have glazed over and they don't care about themselves any more.

These days I am out of the gaming industry. I might do a start up some day if I had confidence in the project, but that's going to be after a few years when I have built my savings up again and can afford it.

If you are under 25 and thinking of going into the gaming industry, you are an idiot -- please stop. Go get a job at McDonalds or Papa Johns or something.

I hope that Tiburon gets closed down some day and all employees laid off. I really do. It would be so much better for all of them who won't quit, and it would end the cycle of misery and pain. They WOULD find other jobs, and almost ANY other job would be better than a job working for EA Tiburon.

Stop, please stop the pain. Quit today. Go home. You know this isn't it. Go home.

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From: unionjosh
2004-11-13 10:27 pm (UTC)
My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and I am helping with the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime violations. The case was filed in CA but I am curious as to the exact conditions in Florida and if a similar suit shouldn't be brought there. Judging from your posting it is just as bad. Why don't we talk? unionjosh@hotmail.com
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:48 am (UTC)


Wow, talk about a narrow scope of reality. I'd love for you to sit down with the mothers, fathers, wives, and husbands of our service members in the middle east and push this sob story on them. You're husband works 85 hours a week? Put him in gunfire and 168 hour work weeks, thousands of miles away, and see if you're still kvetching about "crunch time."
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:51 am (UTC)

Re: Maybe....

So because things suck for someone else, we therefore shouldn't complain about conditions in our own industry? Talk about a narrow scope of reality -- "Things suck worse for others, so you should shut up."

Things don't change for anybody unless people speak up.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:48 am (UTC)

And I thought I had it bad

I'm so glad that you wrote this and that it's getting so much attention. I work for a large game company that doesn't set mandatory hours like you described, but expects us to work until the job is complete, regardless of how many late nights and weekends that necessitates. Like someone described in a previous post, I've driven home many nights with the windows down and the music blaring to help me stay awake. One night- or early morning I should say- I actually had a minor accident. The response I got at work was, "oh, we've all driven home when we're tired." I've given my husband instructions to sue their ass if I fall asleep at the wheel and kill myself driving home after one of those 16+ hour days.

I love my job, but I've been seriously considering leaving the industry. When I first started I didn't mind working crazy hours. But it's taking its toll, and I find myself increasingly discouraged as time goes on. The job is definitely not compatible with having a family. I remember working one day from 9 in the morning, trying to leave around 2 the next morning, and being told that I couldn't leave yet. When I finally got home at 6 in the morning, I had just enough time to get on my pajamas before my year-old son woke up for the day. I still can't believe that I survived those days.

I applaud you for bringing attention to this problem and hope, for all our sake's, that something good comes from it.
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From: unionjosh
2004-12-20 11:16 pm (UTC)

Re: And I thought I had it bad

If by "something good," you mean a contract that guarantees overtime pay and allows workers to negotiate working conditions, give me a call. I am a union organizer and I am trying to make this industry livable.
Josh Pastreich
IATSE Local 16
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 01:58 am (UTC)

There is such things as life choices

I'm an EA wife aswell, originally from the Uk and living in Canada. While what you say is true, it annoys me intensely. You and your husband both have choices and he choses to work at EA and you chose to stay with him.

There are plenty of people in this world who work equally as long hours for much worse pay and have no choice about it, their sole goal is the survival of themselves and their families.

The reality is there are hundreds if not thousands of people who want to work at EA and I am sure that your spouse is employable elsewhere should he chose to move.

Thank yourself lucky that you have choices in life and if your husband's job which he can easily change is the worst of your troubles you've done well girl. If its that bad leave. I agree with the EA bosses, you have other options.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:07 am (UTC)

Re: There is such things as life choices

Did you even read the original post? They're planning on leaving EA, so that's a moot point.

Just because something is standard and other people have to put up with it, does not make it RIGHT. Nothing will change unless some light is shed on the problem, and that's what this post is about.
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From: chronojam
2004-11-12 02:23 am (UTC)
Maybe now all the Westwood employees EA outright fired won't feel so bad, as their EA-absorbed brethren are likely faring worse than they ever expected.

To anybody who has never been satisfied with any of the other answers to "Why do you hate EA?", this should explain things from a more human perspective.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:29 am (UTC)

Just Leave

I worked at EA-Tiburon as well. All the stories here are true. It is a demoralizing nightmare. The work is also pretty lame too, a lot of db programming and scripting, not what a lot of people might think of as 'game programming'. Anyway, it took me 6 months to reach my wits end, and another 3 to find another job. I now do graphics programming outside the games industry. It's more challenging, I make over 30% more money and I'm home by 6:30 every night. Yes, you can sue EA, or strike, or whatever, but they have evil lawyers and will fight back hard. Put your efforts into finding a better life for your family. In the end its all the talent leaving that will kill EA.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:34 am (UTC)

Abuse at EA

A union for software engineers is long past due. My SO is a software engineer also. His company has had annual layoffs for about 5 or 6 years. Every year their benefits are lessoned or restricted. Complaints are met with references to outsourcing overseas. I strongly feel this is largely a bluff. I also feel that too many software engineers are working in what can only accurately be described as sweatshop conditions. A 90 hour work week? C'mon, it's time to call the other programmers and shut down production at once, simultaneously.

It's also time for Americans to realize that how people are treated by American corporations in other countries does come back to haunt us. Individual and ordinary citizens are going to have to take on the job of policing international corporations.

Step 2, after forming a union, should be to push for a minimum wage equation that all businesses with no less than 50% of it's ownership held by individuals with U.S. citizenship must abide by or risk loss of right to conduct business in the U.S., fines of as much as 15% of the previous years gross product and incarceration of top management.
The minimum wage equation for U.S. businesses would be based on our own minimum wage. At the start of each fiscal year, the host countries GNP for the previous year would be obtained from an independent non-govermental organization. If this countries GNP is 10% of the United States GNP then the minimum wage that could be paid to workers the current fiscal year would be 10% of the U.S. minimum wage.
Such a plan would eliminate the virtual slavery that some people endure working to supply large U.S. companies. Yet, by creating a relationship between existing GNP and the wage we reduce the likelihood that dangerous inflationary conditions would be created in the host country. At the same time exporting jobs to other countries is made somewhat more expensive. Couple the new minimum wage equation with the utter destruction of tax incentives for exporting jobs and suddenly the bottom line for moving versus keeping jobs domestic will look very different. Businesses would retain the right to move the jobs if they still preferred to do so. However, the jobs would now be more likely to pay a living wage. An increased ability to earn a living wage in ones' home country would reduce immigration pressure on the U.S.. I believe this would be especially true of jobs moved to Mexico.
A minimum wage equation would not seem to have bearing on the higher paid jobs in software engineering, but it's effect would be felt when highly educated software engineers in India, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe begin to refuse to work for less than they could earn (with the advent of the minimum wage equation) in a factory churning out Disney memorabilia.
Americans have to start looking at the big, the global picture and look for ways to pull together as Americans and as global citizens. Come to think of it, an international Software engineers union might not be too shabby of an idea although it would likely be banned in communist countries and difficult to sell in impoverished ones. Even if an agreement could not be reached on actual wage perhaps there could be an international standard for the work week.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:46 am (UTC)

I too have gone through this

My first game almost cost me my relationship. Moving deadlines and perpetual crunch almost broke up a 12 year marriage. This industry is starting to smell rotten.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:16 am (UTC)

Starting to smell rotten?

I agree entirely with your comment with exception to the word "starting." According to the posts, and I've read all but the idiotic ones, this has been going on for a long, long time and this EA Spouse is the first person who has been willing to stand up, be heard and concretely do something about it. Ain't she great!!! Would she be willing to run for President, perhaps?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:00 am (UTC)

just a thought

i understand your complaints about the time away from family caused by your SO. you see, i am in the military. i work when i have to and possibly for less than what you make. yes, there is a big difference between consumer goods and national security. other than the obvious, i still end up working almost every day for 6 months while i am on a cruise. that does not take in to count the time spent in preparation for that cruise pertaining such things as training, regular work days, or ensuring that the ship is ready for said mission. i am on call 24/7. no excuses allowed. if i am late, there is a chance that i will lose pay and time from my family. i signed on for this, read my contract and signed the bottom line. i have been in the service of my country for almost 8 years. i have spent roughly 4 of those away from my family and friends. it is not for everyone. time apart will test even the most stable home.
sincerely, a member of the us navy
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[User Picture]From: tinsoldier
2004-11-12 03:24 am (UTC)
Hey there, I've worked in a number of different industries in both Missouri and Kansas as a manager. Since I did, I had to really acquaint myself with the Wage and Hour laws in each state. I'm no longer working in those industries and I'm in school now, but from what I recall, California is pretty liberal in it's labor law practices. My advice is to contact your state's wage and hour commission and file a complaint and request an investigation. Your spouse should convince as many fellow employees as he/she is comfortable with to do so as well. I will say that from my experiences, the more complaints they receive the more seriously they will investigate.

The following link is a place to start. I've only briefly scanned what is there, but I'd advise that you make sure that you educate yourself and your spouse one what the California labor statuates are so that if you're forced to you can fight back from a position of educated strength.


Good luck
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:30 am (UTC)
Wow, the comparison of the army to EA is so interesting... They both recruit doe-eyed young people in somewhat manipulative ways, projecting a glossy image of what life will be like after you sign up.
In both cases, self-sacrifice for what you believe in is one the most admirable of human traits. That's why we have to take a stand when we believe that people in power are taking self-sacrifice for granted.

Anyways, maybe if less people had these glamourous ideals of life in the entertainment industry, people working within it wouldn't have to fear being replaced by some young chump just for speaking up about making a better work environment. Anyways, I've done enough complaining about EA in the last year to realize I will never make a career of it unless something changes... until then I suggest everyone reap any benefits you can, and get out.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:40 am (UTC)

not just a game


its not just games corporations, not just the usa either. even here in australia developers are increasingly being treated as blue collar trolls under the threat of perform as ordered or be outsourced. theres a very real need to collectivise the sector internationally as our jobs and workplaces are very interdependant these days. as the corporations globalise and shift the jobs to the cheapest providers, so too should IT workers collectivise internationally to meet the challenges. this is turning into sweatshop labour conditions very rapidly. i am coming from a perspective of 20 years in the industry, a very long view of how things are developing, i dont say it lightly. but the issues now are almost the same as the time of the first technological revolution more than 100 years ago (radio, electromechanical music devices, etc) - the willingness and ability of bosses to bully denigrate and basically rip off their labour is also unchanged. i cant see many other options but collective strength. i wont go into my own workplace, but there are strong echoes of the EA experience here too. (its a dangerous time to have an opinion, even more dangerous to publish a contrary one.....) Put up or shut up and leave expresses the most common attitude across the board. problem is eventually one runs out of places to leave -to- and when one is past 40, trying to find new work in IT is becoming very difficult, especially with fresh graduates every year who are prepared to put up with shocking wages and conditions for the sake of a job. i had to halve my contracting rates a few years ago just to feed my kids - no price on pride or professionalism when you need to put bread on the table.

but its a savage indictment that a once well regarded well paid job has declined to the lowest rungs of the industry. yet without developers, no software gets made, anywhere. i'm tired of hearing but its good for the economy - if its BAD FOR HUMANS then there should be no doubt that the economic rationales are a distraction and a denigration of the true social cost.

managers take note: we're mad as hell and we aint gonna take it much longer.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:41 am (UTC)

game developers are pussys

The answer: Stop going to work more than 8 hours a day. It's as easy as that. You come to work at 9, then leave at 5. You don't come in on weekends at all.

The law is on your side. And EA kows that, they know that the law contains provisions which protect an employee from being fired for refusing to work unpaid overtime. Yet they all still refuse to act! Why?

Because game developers are pussys!

Seriously, just stand up already!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:13 am (UTC)

Re: game developers are pussys

It's easy to make statements like that without knowing all the facts.

Refuse to work overtime, and they fire you. It's as simple as that.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:49 am (UTC)

Why don't you come down here and tell us all to stop

Are you willing to come in lead this revolution? I'd like to see you try and convince our managers that we all get to leave at 5pm. I've been at EA for nearly 4 years and have worked overtime for every single one of those days.

Come on down, Let's see what happens!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:59 am (UTC)

Re: Why don't you come down here and tell us all to stop

Why don't YOU tell them to stop. Or just stop yourself.

The point you seem to be missing is that you don't need to convince your managers. If the law is on your side, that means they need to either pay you for your work, or you don't work more than they're paying you for... Stop and think for a minute, if they are asking you to work without pay, that's simply unreasonable and illegal, and they aren't going to win in court.

Your problem is that you think there's something to discuss. There isn't. You just refuse to work more than they pay you to. If they then fire you, you'll end in much better financial shape than you are at EA.

What a pussy. Grow some balls, EA sure as hell isn't going to give you any. Read http://www.t-nation.com and start being a man. They like you nice and mild and feminized and afraid. An office full of pansies is good for their bottom line. It sounds like I've been wrong all along about the lack of women in game development- I just wasn't paying enough attention to the "men".
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