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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)
2004-11-12 03:51 am (UTC)

It’s Not Just Abusive. It’s Stupid.

(Link)

It’s Not Just Abusive. It's Stupid. (http://enginesofmischief.com/blogs/ramblings/archives/2004/11/11/643#more-643)
Evan Robinson

By now, we've all read that cathartic LiveJournal entry by an angry EA widow who has had her husband, her family life, and her own career co-opted by the hellish product development environment that has become the norm at Electronic Arts. Most of us in the business know, right down deep in our ulcers and migraines, exactly what she's talking about. Too many of us have been caught in "normal" development cycles that require overtime as a matter of course; and have been at the mercy of abusive managers who ratcheted us up to several months of 13-hour-a-day/7-day work weeks. Perversely, these managers always claim that this is what's required to make the schedule – and (the mendacity of this part is always breathtaking) to prevent our work hours from expanding even more in the future.

These stories are nothing new to me. I spent my 20s living them – and my 30s figuring out how to avoid ever doing that again.

Let me begin by establishing my bona fides. I've been building software for more than 20 years. Fifteen of those years were in the games business; half of those years were spent at EA's Bay Area offices as an external developer and an employee. I've held just about every technical position from tool programmer to director of engineering. As a programmer I've worked by myself and on teams of almost a hundred engineers. As a manager at a Fortune 100 company (Adobe) and elsewhere, I ran teams of up to 25 people, working on up to five projects at once. I've managed multi-million dollar art-intensive games, single developers, and core technology teams responsible to as many as eight clients (all with different requirements and all on different shipping schedules). Over the course of my career, I've been “in charge" (i.e. the senior engineering or project manager) on more than a half-dozen published titles, and held up the technical direction or project management end on over two dozen more.

In all that time, for all those titles, no project I was in charge of has ever missed its ship date or overshot its budget.

Yet I absolutely refuse to work the kind of death march hours ea_spouse describes. And I have never, ever asked or allowed my employees to do so.


Her story – and others that have been shared in the industry-wide conversation that her post provoked – make it clear that EA's management believes, as a matter of institutional principle, that only way to make money at games software is to create tight schedules, and the only way to make a tight schedule is to work your employees harder.

Decades of software engineering research and best practices – and my own experience – prove conclusively that this belief is complete bullshit.

Read More (http://enginesofmischief.com/blogs/ramblings/archives/2004/11/11/643#more-643)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:05 am (UTC)

Re: It’s Not Just Abusive. It’s Stupid.

(Link)

READ THE REST OF THIS....It's important....
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:01 am (UTC)

Don't be a sheep

(Link)

I used to work for EA. I am still doing some games, but not for the big game companies and on my terms.

Folks, let me get this out. If you are doing 80 hrs a week, you are a sheep. As a sheep you will be shaved untill nothing is left, and then you get slaughtered.

Someone should sue the game industry, and may that someone become rich in doing so and may that someone be you. There is nothing un-ethical about this and you are not a rat for doing this and you are not letting your co-workers down. In fact, you will improve their working conditions. Think about it: get rich and do something good for you co-workers. The game industry is deceitful, engaged in slavery, and breaks state and federal laws. Most likely, you are NOT a professional as defined by the labor laws. The game industry wants to call you a professional, so it can work you, but you are not. Get over it. Educate yourself on your rights. Given the level of violations by the game industry you can sue and win and get rich.

Hollywood used be like the games industry. Some actor took the trouble to represent his fellow co-workers. He improved the film industry to be professional and went on to become a US president.

The game industry is a 10 billion dollar plus industry. Games will be made regardless of working conditions. Let's improve the working conditions. Currently, companies like EA are not worth the money, your friends and family, your health, your sanity and your dignity. Don't be a sheep.
From: unionjosh
2004-11-13 10:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Don't be a sheep

(Link)

My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and I am helping with the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime violations. Did you work for EA in the last 4 years? Maybe you could be that someone. I'm looking for some people with some fire in their bellies (not mutton). Let me know. unionjosh@hotmail.com
Josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:17 am (UTC)

EA sucks !

(Link)

EA sucks ! Their games are just over-rated, more of the same, bland sequels of un-original financially viable games released years ago.

From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:19 am (UTC)

Oh boy

(Link)

When a buddy of mine sent me this link earlier, I had no idea it was about to make me completely question my plans for the next few years.

I recently signed a contract for EA.

What are my options now? Run for the hills?
I certainly don’t want waste my life at this Enron Guantanamo Bay hybrid.
The overwhelming response to EA_Spouse’s posting does indicate a good chuck of credibility that’s hard to brush off as the usual healthy employee bitterness.

Ironically, my last studio was forced into closure by EA’s ‘Godzilla Stomping’.
Looks like EA get to fuck me twice. What a great year 

Best of luck everyone.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 04:44 am (UTC)

Re: Oh boy

(Link)

Good luck to you. The only advice I can give is what people have been saying above -- stick up for your rights. And KEEP TRACK OF YOUR HOURS. That's the one thing I would change from our position if we were in yours. We have records, but they're scattered all over the place.

Alternatively, you could find someplace else to work. I have had a number of people contact me to let me know of studios that are hiring. If you drop me an email (ea_spouse@hotmail.com) I would be happy to pass them along to you.
Re: Oh boy - (Anonymous) Expand
Don't take it. - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:24 am (UTC)

Just a gamer

(Link)

I must say it sucks that Ea and others do that stuff . But I would like to say thanks to all those that put up with that crap work hours and I feel you all should fight for better work hours . I as a gamer would rather play a good game then one with alot of bugs. and pushing games out just to make a fast buck isn't the way to go. so please all you programmers get together and take action ! go on strike !

Kids do need there Moms and dads. and moms and dads do need time with there kids . even single people need some time off.

Good luck . I just wish all jobs (whats left of them) were fair. Fast food work sucks . get paid minmal wage and deal with jerk offs all day who think the people behind the counter have no lifes. well to let you all know . they do . they even have kids. and they stand all day long ,sometimes 9 to 10 hours every day to just take orders and make the food ! playing a good game after working so hard would be so much better the playing a bad one that is rushed !

Things need to change !
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:37 am (UTC)

Re: Just a gamer

(Link)

I just want to say that I appreciate your thoughts. I posted links to this article at some major gaming forums yesterday -- the overwhelming response by the gamers was "Game developers are supposed to be dedicated and want to work every waking minute on their games," or "Shut up and quit whining."

All I could get from that was that gamers just don't care how the products are made, or who is hurt during the process, and that some of them just don't care about the actual humans that make their games, so long as they get made, and quickly. That's hurtful to those that work so hard to make these games -- they do it because they like games themselves, and because they like making gamers happy. To have a bunch of young kids say "Oh yeah, I don't give a crap about you and how hard you work," is hard to swallow. Well, I chalk it up to them being young...someday, they'll have to deal with working in the real world themselves.

Thanks for the kinds words.
Re: Just a gamer - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:26 am (UTC)

fuck ea

(Link)

fuck ea!

ea sux!

they buy other companies and then dismantle them.
they kill games and dev teams!

stop buying from ea! even better, you can distribute freely to your friends illegal copies of their software!! (but dont get caught:D)
bottom line, dont finance them!

and as for the employees, sue them! NOW! STOP WORKING OVERTIME HOURS!!
if they threathen you, make them fire you illegaly and sue them AGAIN

that will teach them a lesson!
WE CAN KILL EA. WE ALLTOGETHER CAN KILL THE BEAST
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:29 am (UTC)

(Link)

This is starting to hit some major sites. Check out CNET:

http://news.com.com/2061-1043-5449296.html?tag=rsspr.5449339

Hopefully this is going to make EA sit up and take review. They can't keep expecting people to work shit hours, not pay them for it, and then not give them decent time off afterwards.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 05:13 am (UTC)

(Link)

Very interesting. Thanks for the heads-up.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:32 am (UTC)

Been there done that

(Link)

I used to work at Ubisoft in Montreal and it was the same as EA. I heard it was different now but I doubt that; one of my friend just left Ubisoft for another game company and the reason being he was still working 10 to 12 hours a day/ 7 days a week and getting paid shit. (eh... and not having a convenient family life which is like more important than cash!)

When I was there I was paid 30000$/year and working an average of 60 hours/week. With the "overtime" paid I managed to get paid 35k to 38k/year, but they would not pay all overtime (ie the first 2 hours of overtime was not paid... so to get back at them, I slacked the first 2 hours since I was not paid.)

The sad thing is, in my case, working in the video game industry was a youth dream and I managed to work at Ubisoft for about 3 years, before being completely burned out and disgruntled. It was not only the salary being bad or working overtime all the time and the impact on your social life that was problematic, but the perspective you had as an employee from the upper management was just miserable. I mean after 3 years of hearing promises and bullshit, you get to a point that you just don't have any future there or faith in your bosses. That was my case at Ubisoft.

Now I'm happy, I work in a company related to the video game industry, (they use our products), where they care of their employees, we have close to no overtime (you can't escape a little bit every 6 months or so, I mean it's normal and -ok-); Now I have the feeling my job is being considered important : I feel important as part of a team and for my company, that's good for the morale you know. My salary is almost 3 time what I had at Ubisoft (now ~75k+bonuses and social packages etc...) for 40h/week, and I have a social life too.

Just for fun, I think I will apply for a job at EA in Montreal (they opened an office last year) and I will tell them I'm only working 40h/week and if they start bullshitting me, I'll tell them to take their job and go fuck themself with it!

Guys, you need to get some balls! There are other jobs out there, so might think about it seriously.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:34 am (UTC)

hmm, just like non-profits (rant ahead)

(Link)

This whole thing reminds me way too much of a pericular non-profit that I've been working with (but not for) for the past year and a half. I can desticntly remember when one of the staff members called me on my cell phone at 10 or 11pm to make travel aragments for me. This was during one of the worst crunch times for them - thats what happens when you plan confrences for over 200 youth. Oh and its an anual confrence so they get to look forward to that every year. There's also the endless mailings out to hundreds of students, retreats, media stuff. Oh and in their biggest office i'd say there are about 30 staff at most, the other two offices have three to five staff. And remember this is a non-profit so these people don't get payed anything near where people in the game making inderstry do.

More about the hours...at the perticular confrence that they called me about regarding the flight plans all of the staff had to get up before 6 and had to stay up until after 12 and they were working the entire time. Also the location of the confrence had horrible cell phone reception and because that's the way most of the staff get a hold of each other during confrences (or when they're out of the office) there were some people who had cell phone bills of over $200, and no, this org. didn't cover it...note that most of the people on staff who had those horrible bills were inturns or new staff who hadn't been/wouldn't be issued a company phone.

As far as managment goes, that's whats fueling a lot of my frustrating towards this organization. There are some amazing people in some of the managment positions...but they are few and far between (i'd say three people) and the executive director isn't one of those people. There's one perticular manager who won't listen to anyone below him (which includes the students this person works with as well as the staff members). This person is the main reason I'm going on this very long rant. So while I was in the office of the org I've been ranting about today (I was there keeping one of the staff company for an hour and a half or so) I went to one of the other staff member's desk to look at some pictures and it turns out that one of the summits is going to be in freezing Minisoda (sp) why in such a freezing state (oh and this will be in Jan.) you ask, because the aftermentioned staff member in the managment position won't listen to the person I was talking to nor any of the other staff directly affected. Note that the staff member I was talking to looked like they were ready to cry, it was horrible.

But yea, ok, I'm done...just thought I'd let you all know it's bad a lot of other places too
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:56 am (UTC)

Run.... no really. RUN.

(Link)

As an EA widow, this is not the first time I have seen this story. I am also not new to crunch time environments. A friend worked at Industrial Light and Magic, and I myself worked in tech for a long time. Normally I would roll my eyes at such a story, but as my husband had worked contract at EA I know it all too well. At the time 300 or so employees had been laid off from another game company who let them work two weeks into payroll before telling them the company was going out of business. Also not uncommon in the game world. At the time, any job was good to have. Then the EA death march began. Not only were the hours exactly the same as you describe, my husband developed an ulcer from the stress. Not knowing if his contract would be renewed every 3 months, ramping up on a game, loosing a couple weeks pay, and working 7 days a week/14+ hours. With a commute of 2 hours a day. One hour each way. It isn't an exaggeration he got an ulcer. Thankfully now he is only occasionally symptomatic.

Luckily since I had also worked in high tech and realized there are two types of companies which EA belonged to the less desirable. They will work whoever they can to burn out, just because it is cool to work there. You know... that feeling of when you wear the company shirts people come up to you and gush. Industrial Light and Magic was that way too. You should feel privileged to work there. And you do. For a while. You try not to get sucked into such things, but you do. The ego boost is a weird perk. I thought all of that was ridiculous, but even I got sucked in at one point.

After about 8 months he got a better offer. Still often works long hours. No big deal. Each and every time I hear your story I am glad he didn't stay longer and perhaps taken a permanent position. Many in his team from the company that went under did. All really talented and hard working folks. I hear the same stories from them. Long time workers in the game industry used to crunch time.

The story you tell I have heard at least a dozen times since he left. Obviously not a huge sample, but I have yet to hear the opposite. And I am looking for it. There were a lot of interesting bennies at EA. It would have been fun, but in the end they were just not worth sleep, my husband and I spending time with each other. Which, since we both find each other really fun, was a significant issue.

I really, really get where you are at. It sucks. I know the game industry can be really boom and bust, but for your relationship and your sanity scour the net for other companies. You are not the only EA widow.
[User Picture]From: opals25
2004-11-12 04:36 am (UTC)

(Link)

Wow, that was a damn good read. the article spread around the Command & Conquer Community really fast. I wanted to go to work for E.A. to work on the CnC Games, but after reading that, I think I'll go somewhere else...
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:54 am (UTC)

(Link)

So, I've been skimming through all these posts for the past day, and have left some of my thoughts here at there. Yes, I'm a whore for online discussions 'cause they intrigue and amuse me.

From the posts that I have read, I've gotten this sense of one-sidedness from the situation and I find it rather silly. Yes, it is good to question things and to bring into light the problems that do exist. But with the bad, there is still good. Here are my thoughts all in one post, I don't offer a real solution to the problems unfortunately, but again, the lure of online discussions... I'm sure that this'll get ripped apart soon enough too. But ah well, that's internet "debates" for ya!

The issue at hand is overtime. Overtime when made mandatory. I believe that it is all up to the individual to decide whether or not s/he wants to work extra hours or not. Unfortunately, there are leads or managers that will wonder why you're not doing those extra long hours if you decide not to 'cause they see it as the norm. But there are leads and managers that believe it is people first. If you have a problem with doing overtime, TALK to your lead/manager/whoever's above you about it. And usually something can be worked out if they're a reasonable person.

Then there's the problem of everyone thinking that overtime comes with the job. Overtime can come with any job. The way to avoid overtime in gaming is to make sure everything in preproduction goes well. Solid designs and all that nice stuff. Don't make any major changes after that. But I'm guessing most of the people posting here who are having problems, aren't in a position to decide whether or not changes get made or not. So communication is again the key. Bring up your problems rather than accomodating them and just doing the work like sheep then, if you're not happy. It all begins with communication. I'm not saying to stop there with your activism, but make sure you do that first.

(Note for the following few paragraphs: I, in no way, am a representative speaking for all EAC employees or EA in general. Just a singular human being with individual thoughts!)

I work at EA Canada and have had NO problems with overtime. I've been asked maybe 3 times in the last 2 years to work overtime. And if I had a reason to not do it, they understood it. Any other overtime I've done has been my own choice. Because I want to get the work done. My leads and managers have all been great to work with, but maybe I got lucky with the teams I've been with. I also point out that there have been some structuring changes made that are trying to reduce the amount of overtime and create more steady hours throughout the year.

As for QA, I've heard good and bad about it as well. I do agree that they aren't respected as much as they should be, both by the company and by fellow employees. There are a lot of dev people who think they're worthless, and I find it pretty sad. Because without QA, our games would never ship. I've already heard of them being gyped in holiday pay, or getting a week of pay a month later. That is unacceptable. For a company as big as EA, they should be on their toes about these things. Plus the extended periods of OT for them, it's quite unfortunate. But some people don't mind it, I'm sure. My idea to fix that is to have shifts, days and nights. That way QA won't get burnt out so easily...

(continued into next post...)

-em
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 04:55 am (UTC)

(Link)

(...cont)

Now I'm not gonna say that EA is THE BEST place to work for, but here in Vancouver, it's pretty damn good. Would I rather be doing sweatshop work at Mainframe, or being fired over an e-mail at Radical? NO. I do have my complaints about the company, but still, I have to admit I have it pretty good here (and no, I don't make 60k a year, drive a sports car or live in Kits). They do have practices that should be changed, I agree with that. I don't doubt for a second that these negative tales are true. But I just wanted to say that it's not like that everywhere, 'cause everyone here seems to be getting that mob mentality. "Oh, don't buy EA games!" "Oh, I won't ever work for EA!" Sure go ahead and do that, but you have to admit, we do make some damn good games. There ARE talented people in the studios. Pirating games is also NOT an answer. It's just childish.

Also, I'm guessing most of these horror stories are coming from the American studios... What's up with that?

So speak up when something isn't working out. That's the first step to changing things. Don't say, "Oh that's how it is and how it always will be," or "Well, if you don't like it, then find another job." We're here to make games right? Choose what is important to your life and stand up for it.

There ya go.

-em
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:07 am (UTC)

My own experience.....

(Link)

While I don't have anything beyond anecdotal experience of EA...I can certainly agree that at times the pressure put upon people at various levels during the development of a game is intense.

What I would suggest though is that usually it's not because of some corporate policy at the Publisher. Well.....ultimately they take some blame but it's more complex than it appears....

Essentially at a corporate level a Publisher is putting pressure on middle management to perform and make sure they hit targets with regards to the completion of projects. Mostly this pressure is aimed at getting those managers to hit dates that the managers assured them were achieveable. In their turn the middle managers agreeing to, or suggesting, completion dates in an attempt to impress. Quite often those same middle managers have a faulty preception of the consequences of failing to make dates or in telling the truth (being realistic) in the 1st place.

And.....I have to confess that for a lot of my career I've been one of those middle managers and I did my fair share of forcing, bribing, cajoling etc etc people into working too long too often. Mostly in my case it was in an attempt to pull screwed up projects back into line that I'd not started...and, the one thing I will say in my defense, is that I did as many or more hours than the people working for me. And sometimes for less remuneration.

But guess what? Eventually I realised that the world didn't end when we didn't deliver. The sky didn't fall and, more importantly, it didn't fall on me. SO I stopped saying I'd attempt to get things done if I thought I couldn't ("I'll try" often gets morphed into "I'll definately do it" in corporate brains).

What I'm really getting at is that the causes of the problems people have been describing in this thread often (usually) reside somewhere in the middle of a company not with the people at the top. Yes...of course they want the impossible but somebody, somewhere tells them that it's actualy possible and then they make their plans etc etc.

So if there are middle managers/Producers/whatever reading this. Take a step back and think about what you're really achieveing by pushing people. What does it really achieve? We're only makng computer games, it's not Brain Surgery. Try some perspective...the sky won't fall....



From: doctester
2004-11-12 05:11 am (UTC)

(Link)

SIGN ME UP!!
What ever it is you need me to sign or whatnot I'll sign it!

Hope this works out too, I myself have worked in QA for 2 1/2 years steadily and was disposed of like a worthless worker for no good reason!

Lead the charge Lady, we're with you!
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-12 05:17 am (UTC)

(Link)

Information regarding the lawsuit and who to contact is here:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/274.html?thread=197138#t197138

The lawyers would be able to tell you more about your position than I would. The QA situation is also not good, but I don't know what sort of position you guys are in, being hourly (unless you aren't hourly?), since the suit is about wages owed. Believe me, though, I empathize. The QA situation is not good anywhere... in that much, EA is not alone. I do think that QA will improve as studios begin to recognize the value of quality IN QA, but we are most definitely not there yet.

Thanks for your support. =)
[User Picture]From: easterkat
2004-11-12 05:17 am (UTC)

(Link)

Ironically enough, I found this article when I was surfing around EA's Sims 2 website.

I have a friend who works for EA. I hope they don't do this to him, too. I wish you the best of luck, ea_spouse, and hope you and your SO are able to get out of this awful situation intact.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:22 am (UTC)

Go to the media: TV, newspapers, radio, NPR

(Link)

If you want it fixed, get some attention on it.

Talk to KTLA, The LA Times, radio & TV stations. Use your smarts. Get some buzz around this and IT WILL make things happen. SOMEONE WILL LISTEN.


www.ktla.com
www.latimes.com
www.npr.org
www.star987.com
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:24 am (UTC)

Re: Go to the media: TV, newspapers, radio, NPR

(Link)

Um...duh. There's a reporter from the LA Times that posted several pages back asking for people to interview. This is obviously already being taken to the mainstream media. Wait, let me find it...

http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/274.html?thread=129554#t129554

If you're an employee of EA, might I respectfully suggest you put your money where your mouth is, and contact her?
[User Picture]From: brinstar
2004-11-12 05:24 am (UTC)

(Link)

Hi. I'm a gamer. Someone posted a link your blog on girl_gamers. I've read your entry and most of the last 13 pages of comments. I know that all companies aren't like EA, but it sounds like a great many do hold to these working conditions. It's shocking.

Most gamers don't know just how much stress, time, and energy is put into making the games we enjoy. Everyone dreams about working in the games industry, without knowing exactly what is going on. Thanks for providing one angle.

I think it's so terrible and sad that many people who are going into the industry to work at something they love get sucked dry and their home lives as well as physical/mental health suffer. I don't think there is much that I can personally do, but I just want to say that I support your efforts for change. I have more appreciation for all the people who are involved in the creative process.

All the best.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:27 am (UTC)

(Link)

This isn't surprising. It is pretty common for developers of EA's best made and most publicised games to quit and take their team elsewhere. This happened with 2015, the creators of Medal of Honor:Allied Assault. 22 of the team (including ALL the leads) went and created Infinity Ward, while the rest of 2015 went off to make another war game (Men of Valor) unhassled by EA. The same has happened before on multiple occaisions, maybe not exclusively with EA but not rare in the least.

Just like many companies, they swelled to such a large degree that their inflation causes them to stop caring about their workers. When they pay millions of dollars to advertise games and build their hype to such incredible degrees they feel compelled to push their workers harder, thinking that it ensures the game will be complete on time even if the developers are on schedule.

None of this surprises me in the least.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:28 am (UTC)

(Link)

I thought I'd post because I have an interesting situation. I, too, am the wife of an EA employee. I'm also an ex-EA employee, and the daughter of an ex-EA employee, so I have seen EA from many different sides. Between the three of us, we've been on at least a dozen projects at three different studios with EA alone, and not a single one of them has been accomplished without significant crunch time.

On the one hand, I understand this and was prepared for it. My father started working in the game industry ten years ago. I've watched him go through all the highs, lows, huge payoffs, sudden layoffs, surprise moves, and general drama the industry has to offer. So when I decided to get into the industry five years ago, I knew what I was getting into. When I started dating a game designer, I knew we were going to have to be very level-headed about our careers and our money, if we both expected to stay in the industry, and expected to keep our relationship healthy.

So far we've been able to do it. We are both employed, though with different companies, and we try to stay as mobile as possible. We try to keep our lives as uncluttered and simple as possible, because of how much time we spend working. Basically, we work, and we spend time just the two of us. We play games together, we go see movies when we both have a weekend day free, and we go out to dinner and talk game design together. It works well for us.

But that's not to say everything is sunshine and roses, or I don't have a beef with EA. I think their practices of scheduling a project for half the time it should take to complete it is criminal. Working 60 to 90 hour weeks is considered part of the job at EA. If they were forced to abide by California law and pay employees for overtime, they would be a lot stingier with scheduling it in. What is better, a week of 40 hours regular time plus 40 hours time-and-a-half, or two weeks 40 hours of regular time? If EA actually had to pay for the overtime they are currently getting for free, the practice certainly wouldn't go away -- projects will still get behind schedule from time to time -- but it wouldn't be scheduled in from the beginning.

So show me where to sign up. I think a union for the entire game industry (not just programmers, or artists, or designers, or QA, but everyone) is long overdue. Maybe we can get help with this through the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (www.interactive.org)? A union carries with it a lot of bad with the good, so I'm going to talk to some of my friends in television and film and see what they think of their unions.

Other than a union, a think a class-action lawsuit is the way to go. We need to make an example of EA, and prove that companies cannot continue to work their employees to illegal limits. If we could form a class action suit (or expand on the existing artist-based lawsuit), and extend it to include ex-EA employees, there would be a lot of people wanting in on that. The joke in the industry is that everyone eventually works for EA. That has certainly proven true in my family.

So show me where to sign up. I'm definitely with you on this one.


I also wanted to post a note to those of you who have been thinking about getting into the game industry but have been discouraged by this news. Don't be discouraged. The industry is broken in a lot of ways, but we can fix it. Having young people (ok, some of you are only a year younger than me, lol) entering the industry with their heads on _straight_ is a wonderful thing for everyone. Don't let anyone talk you into working inhumane hours! If you refuse to do it either, then the argument of "there are a dozen fresh faced 22 year olds waiting to take your job" will cease to be true.

I'll also tell you what my father told me, and what I am now telling my husband: There is life after EA. You can leave EA and get a better job. Better yet, don't start out there! Someone is always hiring. You might have to relocate to LA, San Francisco, Seattle, or Austin TX, but it is still possible to get a good paying job, working with talented people on a project that you love. Don't give up hope, if making games is what you love.
From: unionjosh
2004-11-13 11:26 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Hi,
My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and am helping on the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime violations. I still have a lot to learn about EA and you sound like the perfect person to talk to. Drop me a line and maybe we can answer some of each other's questions. unionjosh@hotmail.com

Josh Pastreich
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:28 am (UTC)

Thank God I never took their offer

(Link)

This is an amazing story. Reading it I realize that the same line they fed your SO regarding working long hours, was asked of me at least 9 times during my course of interviews. This was at EA Canada and everyone one of the people I met with looked like they had been run through the ringer. I left there with the biggest stomach ache! My decision to not take the job was good then but in reading your message makes me realize it was the best decision I have ever made. I would hope that people do not get wooed by their name and realize beneath their facade they are a sweatshop. I hope this word gets out more so they will be forced to deal with this publicly.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:31 am (UTC)

(Link)

Well, sorry to come off harsh, but who cares? Really, do you need to spend time with your husband that much? I think that every Game Developer should be single, that way there is no attachment to anyone that will interfere with their work. Its passion, respect, and the drive to do something they have always dreamed about doing. At least that is the way I see it! What do you always hear? A woman nagging on something, or requesting so much attention that it gets out of hand. Then the Husband/Boyfriend get frustrated, and leave something they worked so hard for for someone that might leave them in the future? Whats up with that? Career comes first, then relationship. Well maybe you can call me selfish, but hey, I wouldn't want anyone to take something away from me! Sure, its not about the money, but its about doing something I love! That love lasts... Love between two people usually dies after some time, and then what you get? DRAMA! More DRAMA! Stress, and etc. Maybe we have different views on life, but seriously? What do you get when your wife leaves you? No wife, and guess what no job! Yep, wouldn't it be so much better when, he comes home after those long hours of work, and you treating him as he was gold? Saying "How are you honey?" "How about we get down to it?" give him the best pleasure you can possibly imagine, then he would be rested up for work next day! Or spend that quality time doing something else? Yeah, doesn't that sound more appropriate? Or you just seek so much attention that you don't know what you want to do with your self! Sure, if there are kids, well I am sure they miss they dad, but later on when they grow up, they will know that their dad was part of something big, something they can be proud of. I know I would! Anyway, hope everything turns out how it should, but please you dont have to bash EA, after all its your husband who took the big task, and he knew what he was getting into! GOOD LUCK!

From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:35 am (UTC)

(Link)

Wow, you really got the point of the article, didn't you?

Not.

Go back to playing your video games, little child.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:47 am (UTC)

This story is true, but extreme

(Link)

I worked on Madden 2005,and the hours were crazy, but that is how the game industry. Anyone producing a blockbuster title goes this EVERY dev cycle.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 07:39 am (UTC)

Re: This story is true, but extreme

(Link)

you've been brainwashed.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:56 am (UTC)

(Link)

This is typical EA. They create 180+ person teams, build the product in 4 months, all the while burning their teams to a crisp. EA Redwood Shores, EA Maxis, EA LA - all the same. The most recent games where this development 'strategy' has been implemented are Third Age, Sims, and Bond Rogue Agent. There is a 20% turnover rate at EA, though I think it is a lot higher. It is correct that HR is not on their side, because they are flooded with green candidates willing to do anything to get in the game industry. EA, HR, they don't give a shit about you. you are simply a number on their spreadsheet. The problem is that there are people at EA who buy into this milataristic way of development, and spend 24/7 there to support the 'EA way'. The people that buy into this mentality are promoted to managers, and it is their job to set an example by being there. I am glad this is getting national coverage:

http://news.com.com/2061-1043-5449296.html?tag=rsspr.5449339

However, this will never change unless their studios are torched.

Anonymous,
11 years as a developer in the Video Game Industry
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 05:58 am (UTC)

Ex-EA Canada spouse

(Link)

Dear EA Spouse,
Thank you for this post. I couldn't agree more with the points you made. It seems to have hit a nerve with a lot of people.

I am an ex-EA spouse, and I was never so happy in my life as the day my husband came home and told me he had been fired from EA. Over the two years that he worked there, I had grown to hate the place so much, that I couldn't even set foot on the premises. This was unfortunate, since it was the only chance I had of seeing him for months at a time.

For the first 6 months of our daughter's life, he hardly saw her, and I formed the EA Single Mothers club. I even had spouses with no children wanting to join. My husband has worked in production at a number of different companies for many years, so I was used to the "production lifestyle". I was completely unprepared, however, for the utter disregard EA has for their employees lives and well being. We had never seen anything like it before in any of his other jobs. EA makes up for their lack of innovation and gross inefficiencies by bullying their employees into working tons of unpaid overtime. They have created such a "culture of fear," that individuals are afraid to speak out. As much as I tried, I could never understand how so much overtime could be required for a game that was essentially the same every year.

I won't get into the details of my husbands termination, but we did consider suing for wrongful dismissal. In the end, we decided that EA was just too big to take on. In a nutshell, he took the fall for the inefficiencies and shortfalls of the supervisors of his team. The whole HR procedure for termination was ignored, he was even given the "heads up" about his firing from a friend working in another company. His supervisors were so professional!! He is now working in the film industry for another company, and our lives are so much better. Many members from his old team at EA are now approaching him looking for work, because they hate EA so much. Some of them are even taking a salary cut to get out.

In summary, if you can afford to do so, get out of EA sooner rather than later. Life is just too short!
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 06:01 am (UTC)

just phuck them

(Link)

Leave. Activision is hiring like crazy for some really nice high profile projects and at least they aren't scheduling for overtime as far as i know from my friend. Larry Probst's salary with bonuses for 2004 was about $1.4 million and his stock options are worth about $140 million with $22mil exercised, $99 million unexercised and $20 mil unexerciseable. I can understand though.. Those high end hookers are really, really expensive and they love flying around the world in private jets. Blizzard is hiring too, Epic is hiring and so does Naughty Dog and Namco. Namco seemed like a good company to me when i interviewed there (i hear it's good for programmers).
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 06:40 am (UTC)

Re: just phuck them

(Link)

Trust me, Activision (from my experience) is just as bad if not worse. I am sure it does very from development house to development house under the main company, since a great deal of fault does lie within middle management, but I have some tales to tell that are even worse than what's been told in this essay.

But this isn't something that can really be solved by jumping around between companies. It's something that should have been addressed a long time ago, and now is as good a time as any to do so. Workers of any field, whether it's game development or not, deserve some rights when it comes to working overtime. The reason this is a big problem in the gaming industry is because companies are VERY careful not to come right out and say "we need you to work an extra 10 hours". They send out company wide e-mails "encouraging" people to work longer hours instead, and those who don't are conveniently disposed of and replaced with new workers. It's legal, but it sure as hell isn't ethical.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 06:07 am (UTC)

Ug, this is disgusting.

(Link)

I can only imagine how this woman feels. If my father had to work under those conditions I'd feel absolutely horrible..

I for one am going to do everything I can to avoid buying games with the EA logo anywhere on them until I hear about this situation being rectified.
From: (Anonymous)
2011-06-03 06:20 am (UTC)

Re: Ug, this is disgusting.

(Link)

I understand you. Here I am, a teen thinking of being an animator only to find out that its like being in the military... Maybe worse. I'm going to have to find something else that inspires me... BUT I LOVE ANIME!!! But I also do want to spend time with my future wife. EA, PITY.
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