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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)
2004-11-13 02:36 am (UTC)

another wife...

(Link)

For 12 months, I held on to e-mails to Fortune Magazine (responding to their 2003 article) when I shared my stories of being a wife of an EA employee with them, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that your voice is being heard. I describe it to my friends as "the time during which EA ruined our marriage." When I first starting reading these comments, I felt all the anger and bitterness, frustration and hatred that I felt while I was waiting for my husband to come home (or driving to the office at 2AM so I could spend time with him.) Now, I just feel sad that so many other people's lives have been ruined - ok, there's still some anger there too. Some of the most vivid memories I had were:

-hearing that "some countries celebrate Christmas in February" with regard to a winter holiday
-being told that some family events such as weddings and funerals fell on "inconvenient days" and that they should still come in to work
-being bought off with flowers, promises of bonuses, and other electronic gadgets
-welcoming my husband home at 5 AM as I was getting up to go to work
-throwing "congratulations" parties to co-workers who left the company (too bad my husband couldn't make those parties)
-eating dinner at the company...after all, why should I cook when it's just me at home?

Anytime I hear anyone considering working there, I tell them to run away while they still can. It was so sad to see such a hard-working group of people I respected and admired treated so poorly. As I read the other postings, I wish they were exaggerated, but know from experience that they are true.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:42 am (UTC)

Re: another wife...

(Link)

Finally another wife who will admit to eating at EA too. I do it all the time. Cheers! I think EA should pay for my food.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 02:39 am (UTC)

Consumer support

(Link)

The only appropriate response a consumer such as myself can offer is to boycott EA products until they capitulate and respect the rule of law. Would consumers pressuring retailers (Walmart, etc.) for their proxy support of EA's unscrupulous labor practices give you any leverage, or is that expectation too high?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 02:46 am (UTC)

CLOCK, CLOCK..who's there?

(Link)

Somebody mentioned on this post that they aren't putting a gun to our heads. true, but they have put a new wrinkle on "motivation"- it's called fear and pressure. The minute you walk onto one EA dev team in Orlando there is an obnoxious huge red digital clock displaying the "countdown to ship date" (a year away mind you) that does nothing but tick away how much time is left.

How's that for work productivity? It looks like a huge bomb timer making you feel the pressure every time you look up, so you don't ever look up.

Despite many employees asking management to remove it, it's been up there for months. In fact, EA management from other studios plan on adopting it for their teams and studios with similar "countdown to milestones". I think the guy with the whip shows up Jan. 01...

just in time to tell us our bonuses are laughable again because we are going into another "transition year" that'll last 3-4 years like the last console "transition year(s)"

ROW FUCKERS!
[User Picture]From: adeliedreams
2004-11-13 02:58 am (UTC)

Re: CLOCK, CLOCK..who's there?

(Link)

A whole year?

Wow. Sounds like things are a bit better there.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 02:47 am (UTC)

EA's illegal HR practices

(Link)

In addition to the points made by the disgruntled spouse, in which I have not experienced but many of my friends have, EA also practices in illegal hiring and non-hiring methods that I have witnessed first hand.
The EA HR makes deals with certain companies that keep current employees from getting hired at other companies and vice versa.
For example, I have witnessed many times that EA will not hire from other game companies without first calling up the HR person from the company to find out if this person is available for interviewing. They will also not hire certain people without the permission from the other company. This puts the employee in jeopardy since their current employer now knows they are looking for better opportunities.
In turn, certain other companies under the "illegal contract" will not hire EA employees. This keeps the overworked and disgruntled EA employee from getting out of the "Machine" unless they quit or get fired. If he or she gets fired, they will most likely not get unemployment because EA will use the "employee did not work to satisfactory levels" excuse for working only 40 hour weeks.
It sounds like a good deal to EA all around the board.
I would just quit if I where you guys.
From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 03:59 am (UTC)

Re: EA's illegal HR practices

(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. What this company is doing is outrageous! Is there anyway that we can document this "illegal contract" that you describe? Someone has to put an end to this. If there is anyway that you can help, even anonymously, please call me at 415-441-6400 or unionjosh@local16.org
These workers really need your help.
Josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:02 am (UTC)

There can be one word to explain all this

(Link)

"BULLSHIT."

This is all lies and scams just to put EA down, and to just get attention of the community.

Anyway, something bugging me:

You can't blame the big publishers for the downfall of smaller companies, it is obvious that civilization as we know it, is controlled by the rich and powerful, and there is no choice but joining them. Independent companies won't live long enough in this world.
[User Picture]From: ukraine_heart
2004-11-13 03:05 am (UTC)

Re: There can be one word to explain all this

(Link)

Is being stupid like being high all the time?
From: sarcasticangel
2004-11-13 03:04 am (UTC)

Fight the Man

(Link)

I feel for you. I have a brother in law that just got out of the industry because they won't hire talented, experienced artits and designers like him. Instead they hire kids straight out of college so they can do exactly what you have described. I hope things work out for you, as I read about some sort of "orginization" fighting back over EA's illegal pratices.
[User Picture]From: dour
2004-11-13 03:13 am (UTC)

(Link)

I worked at Electronic Arts as a game tester, a few years ago. Hourly pay, not salaried; I'm not sure if that's what caused them to obey overtime laws in my case, or if they just hadn't thought of pulling that trick yet.

The long hours weren't something they tried to hide from the testers. In fact, it was something that got pumped up as a mark of pride... we were told, during our training, that one of the groups testing a flight simulator a few months back hadn't left the building for two months, they'd had their wives and girlfriends bring them clean clothes and showered at the company gym. Personally, I broke triple-digit hours in a couple of weeks. And since I was a young bachelor with not much of a life, it really didn't bother me much; that much double-overtime combined with no time available to actually spend the money, leads to quite the pile-up of cash.

But there were no medical benefits. We were all on six-month contracts, after which we couldn't be re-hired for another six months; one of those little legal loopholes EA loves to use, nobody ever worked there for more than half a year so nobody qualified for benefits. (At the time, there was the possibility of being converted to full-time if you were an exemplary tester; shortly after I left, even that carrot was withdrawn.) And over the course of my months there, the work environment got steadily worse. Early on, we were allowed to stick around after-hours and play network games, or use the company's T3 for whatever. Our lunch hours were flexible, especially if we were on a crunch project. These little compensations vanished one by one; lunches must be one hour at noon, no gaming at lunch, no taking a break to snipe at each other with Airsoft guns, no instant messanger software, no downloading (even legal) audio/video content... while I was there, it never got to "no using company equipment after-hours for any purpose" but it was heading rapidly in that direction.

And these were the things that kept us sane. These were the only reasons we put up with such shitty conditions: because, ultimately, it really was a fun environment. It almost felt like being self-employed, during the crunches; we lived there, we hung out with our friends, we collaborated on a project and when we got too frustrated with that we took a break and had fun. But that environment was dying as I left, that's why I left before my contract was up, and from what I hear, it's completely gone now.

But apparently there are enough technically skilled Americans willing to work in a sweatshop, that they can get away with it.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:29 am (UTC)

(Link)

too true, damn EA!!!DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!!!!!
From: unionjosh
2004-12-22 06:44 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Did you work at EA? I am a union organizer and I am talking to a lot of current and former employees.
Josh Pastreich
IATSE Local 16
unionjosh@hotmail.com
unionjosh@local16.org
[User Picture]From: kuddle_lion
2004-11-13 03:32 am (UTC)

My 2 cents on unscrupulous acts by EA.

(Link)

I’ve always loved video game and jumped at the chance to work for EA’s support department.
However I quickly found the shady business practices out shun the glamour.
First was the low pay. (I could deal with that, I’d worked for less)
Then came the mandatory overtime (that started creeping me out when it was 3 or more days a week)
Next were extracurricular duties that were assigned to support reps. (these seemed like good ways to advance in the company; Call reporting, Shared support staffing with Help Desk, Compatibility and Testing, Customer Quality Control but they were just cheep ways to stretch us into doing someone else job and our own.)
Lastly the manipulation of time cards to eliminate any visible double time and on occasion even overtime. (Although hours were not actually shaved and we got paid the correct amount this as I found out later could be considered illegal)
There are a few other smaller things that tarnished the overall experience but out of respect to certain individuals I will not mention them here.
I would have stayed longer. I could have put up with all of this for longer, but I had to leave to better support my family.
My heart goes out to those who endure far worse at the hands employers who take their employees for granite and walk all over them with our fair compensation and I hope EA and other big companies will wise up learn that respecting the individual is more important the bottom line in their profits.

[User Picture]From: tiamat_dragon
2004-11-13 04:19 am (UTC)

Re: My 2 cents on unscrupulous acts by EA.

(Link)

He's too nice. He could have made more working for Starbucks. I mean really. He was never home. We were constantly going further into debt. I had to pick and choose what bills to pay. And that year they reported record earnings, but did my husband see any of it? No. They had him working a different job than what he was hired for, one that would have paid more, but refused to transfer him into that department claiming a hiring freeze. I was willing to risk going bankrupt for him to have a chance at a better job. Now he works for a company that gives a crap about him and treats him like a human being. I swear EA should break out those whips cause they aren't any better.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:35 am (UTC)

(Link)

most those guys put in those hours cause they dont want to go home and see their wives... and most peopel that make games WANT to be there. its not so much abtou getting paid as it is doing somethign you love... of course, and they were either women or people who have their balls in their wives purse's. Yep the one that cry about it! Everyoen wants a million $ an hour, but without puttin in the hour.

"yeah fine, all the married pussmouths can bitch and work standard hours, meanwhile well live with our projects and make them great."

These are the words from few industry guys. "where everyone else puts in the 9-5, we will put in the 110%"

One of the guys also states - "who knows, I may find a girl, a wife by the time I reach that level" "but she will understand, or have to at least, that my puter and games were there first"

A quote from some woman posted here earlier "Turning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm."

another guy in the industry says about her response " dumb bitch doesnt know shit about the line, and if you are complaining about the hours youre getting, then you obviously have no heart and passion for the job, company and project youre involved in!" I 100% agree!

He also states - "game developmen and design to me is not a job, its getting paid to do somethign you want to do anyway... and even when I was doing skateboarding, there were stress levels and things to overcome, even your pure love and hobby will stress you out. and like they say, "Thats why its called a job." "


Another post from a woman here - "You lack empathy"

One of the younger guys - "empathy is a womans job, men work, women pamper. This makes things smooth and gives people a position, plus I can school my wife on games, but she can school me on love and passion. When Im in the busness world stomping on people left and right ruining lives and taking over positions and shit... After all that I can come home to kind love, and passion, and calm comfort."

Wow do I agree!

One also mentions - "The best thing to do is leave work at at work and home at home" "I will always see ID software as heros, cause they were a 12 person team that did all their own shit!"

Anyway, these are few of the responses I got from people in the industry! Now you can call us heartless SOB's, but thats fine!

Since most of us, are, and willing to even sleep in the offices, work our assess of, and on top of that so what if we dont have a social life? We do, its just different! Plus we manage to stay single, since dont need none of that "DRAMA" at home. Work is stressful enough, yes it sucks working overtime, but hey... When they asked if you are willing to work long hours what did you say? I know I said I did! Most of you seem to said that just to get into work place.

Anyway, the industry will never grow up, becasue it has whining people like you in it! Well sure, I shouldnt be so harsh on few, but common people does it pay out in the end?

Reading all these posts made me feel bad for ea_spouse and few other women on here, but what I dont get, is this guys bitching about their work, passion. Where is your confidence? The reason woman change men, is men get anoying when they bitch so much!

Another thing I want to ask is, so everyone found a problem with every publisher out there? WIERD! Yet all want to work still? If its so bad, why dont you people just leave?

Anyway, I am done...

-AQX



















From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:41 am (UTC)

(Link)

What are you, 15 years old? Go get a job yourself, and have a real realationship, and then come back.

And take a couple of hours to actually read through ALL the comments. There are hundreds of people from the gaming industry that have posted -- this is not a scam. This is not a bunch of husbands that don't want to hang out with their wives. It's abusive and unethical employment practices.

Go fire up your gameboy and leave the real discussion to the adults.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:37 am (UTC)

(Link)

"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?"

He knows damn well, and he dosn't care. He's a CEO. His objective is to produce the maximum possible profit for the shareholders, and that's it. Nothing else matters. If you could get him on the phone, he might sugar-coat it a bit, but that's what he'd end up saying.

Isn't the stock market great?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:56 am (UTC)

(Link)

You must be 14, or just thick as pig shit. FUCK OFF!

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:57 am (UTC)

Boycott

(Link)

It probably doesn't mean a lot, but I'm boycotting EA and encouraging my friends (mostly gamers) to do the same. Unfortunately examples like yours are becoming incredibly prevalent in all industries, not just gaming, and it's really sad to see brilliant creative individuals who want to do nothing more than entertain people like themselves get stomped on by a bunch of donkey rimming pig fucker CEOs like Probst. I've been screwed over by management before, but never to such a degree, and never in such a way that I've been unable to fight back directly. I can only begin to imagine how tough it is for your spouse and you.

In any case, since money seems to be all these corrupt fuckheads care about, I'll do my own bit to kick them square in the sac. I've posted boycott threads on pretty much every forum I frequent as well as getting people I personally know into not buying from EA, so we'll see how that works. Hopefully enough reaction will get them to shape up for nothing else than the chance to indulge their greed.

Best wishes to you and your significant other, and good luck in the future.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:09 am (UTC)

Re: Boycott

(Link)

Heh, it probably means even less, but I'm joining your boycott. I already boycott games that require a CD check, which covers a lot of them, but if EA releses a game I want that dosn't require a CD check, I'll boycott it anyways, and encourage my friends to do it too:P
From: durandall
2004-11-13 04:07 am (UTC)

EA's not fun at any level....

(Link)

...especially in CS or QA. In customer service and QA, you get crummy hours like that -- I spent an entire month doing 80 hour work-weeks. I had to sleep under my desk, since the commute by train took too long to allow me to sleep properly at home.

Luckily, I had a drawer to keep a change of clothes in, but drawers are not standard for CS; you practically have to fight other reps for them, and as I understand it, only supervisors for QA have them. I only got mine because I knew a guy was getting fired, so I took it once he left before anyone else could.

While I was sleeping under my desk, I could shower, too, which I felt I had to do to, well, work. But I had to pay 20$ a month at the company gym to be able to do it, because I was a temp, and not full time.

The worst part was probably when I was put to work on doing the actual work of EA's shift from using e-mail to using their web-based format for support. This meant we had to collect the various CS answers we had, prettify them, and then put them on the web. I spent weeks working on this project, and when it was done, another team in the same company took all my work, and claimed it was theirs. And then when it was uncovered, and they were exposed, they got a slap on the wrist, and I had to fix it all.

To top that, the team that stole my work got one of the EA 'ACTION' awards for their efforts. I got absolutely nothing but my normal 9.50/hr, + overtime.

And yeah, on any occasion where I got double-time (it happened a few times), my time-card was edited to roll the extra hours into a week where they wouldn't need to pay more for my work.

I feel sorry for the people in QA -- last I checked, EA only paid 9.00 an hour for them. I really wish EA respected its employees more, but until now I was under the impression that CS/QA were the most mistreated. You have my sympathy, and I hope that some good can come of this.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:33 am (UTC)

Re: EA's not fun at any level....

(Link)

Dude, those conditions are deplorable, and unethical. May fortune bless you in your next job, you have unduly suffered. Shame on your manager. Shame.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:15 am (UTC)

From EA Canada

(Link)

EA even has some huge system in place that is supposed to retain their "most talented members." It's absolutely ridiculous that they would brag about something like that, sugar glossing over the huge problem that is their debilitating work hours.
From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 04:17 am (UTC)

Re: From EA Canada

(Link)

My name is Josh Patreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE 16. We represent the cg workers at ILM. We are also part of an international union that covers Canada and the US. The way to stop these abuses is to get a contract that states exactly what the working conditions are going to be and has the enforcement mechanisms built in. If you are interested, write me at unionjosh@local16.org
Josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:20 am (UTC)

Not So Bad

(Link)

Listen.

You are lucky you have a job.

You are lucky that you can walk into an office building and for the most part sit behind a desk all day for 12 hours. How would you like to be doing physical labor for 12 hours a day? Because I know people that do just that.

You are lucky that EA doesn't pick up and move it's whole operation to India and pay the workers there $5 a day. Are you making more than $5 a day? That's what I thought.

I have no sympathy for any of you. Just do your job, collect your god damn paycheck, and go HOME. Stop complaining.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:27 am (UTC)

Re: Not So Bad

(Link)

So even though our conditions suck, we should be happy we have a job?

That's what people were saying at the turn of the century, when trying to form unions.

As for your friends that do physical labor for 12 hours a day, do they do it 7 days a week, for 4 or 5 months in a row? Do they get paid overtime? Be honest now.

And how about you stop your complaining about our complaining? Oh, the irony.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:41 am (UTC)

Agree

(Link)

I was in Maxis/EA. I totally agree with everything you said and yes I witnessed it. I was not as high level as you were in the company, but I could say that it was even worse at the buttom level. People did not want to talk about this inside, because they were punished, because this given economy - job is hard to find. Thank you for posting this up to let the world see. But for real, there were more than just the harsh work schedules.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:53 am (UTC)

Re: Agree

(Link)

one more support for ea_spouse
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:04 am (UTC)

(Link)

I just don't get some of you people. You say "Stop complaining." or "Suck it up."

No one should have to work more than 40 hours on a regular basis.

Is there a shortage of manpower? Is EA short on funds?

No and No.

The onus is not on the workers to "suck it up" and live with unlivable employment practices -- it's on the company to come up with reasonable time schedules for their projects, and ensure that they have enough workers to do the project without forcing undue amounts of overtime.

Stop blaming the workers for having the cajones to complain about an untenable situation - put the blame where it belongs: on the company.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:25 am (UTC)

You can't complain

(Link)

Can't complain, When there is an atmosphere that everyone else is working 15+ hour days, and management gets on your ass every day for working only 8 hours and not coming in on weekends, what are you to do? What are you to do without health insurance and the ability to pay for rent . EA will most likely withhold Unemployment?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:07 am (UTC)

My 2 cents

(Link)

I used to work at EALA, and I agree with 95% of the bad things that have been said about it so far in the 1400+ message posts.

I have something else to contribute. This is the story of a QA tester that worked at EALA last summmer. He, along with all other QA testers, worked 80+ hour weeks for weeks on end. Just week after week of practically living at EA. Like all QA employees, he gave every minute of his time to the company; slaving away for a game and getting absolutely no recognition. Working for low pay, as a temporary employee, knowing full well that as soon as the game shipped that he'd be laid off with the other testers. Working on a game, "Medal of Honor Rising Sun", that would go on to sell millions of copies despite being a boring game that merely cashed in on a) EA's huge marketing clout, B) The reputation of the Medal of Honor franchise (which had been quite solid before this mediocre game), and c) the similiarities between the game and the movie Pearl Harbor. He sacrificed all his spare time for the company, as did 100+ other testers in the QA department. Everyone was working LONG hours, very bitter and unhappy and miserable. Until one day, this particular tester didn't show up for work. Immediately, people knew something was wrong. Most of the testers wouldn't dream of missing a day at work; they had all been there 7 days a week for over a month, time off was NOT an option, what was he thinking not showing up? His bosses called him, but there was no answer. Had he finally decided that he had enough, that he wouldn't put up with EA's crappy work environment any longer?

Well, in a way, the answer was yes. The following day, after again not reporting for work, concerned friends went to his home and found his body. He had committed suicide.

Now I'm not going to say that he killed himself solely because of his awful work situation. Truthfully, I didn't know him that well; we both worked in QA, we both tested the same game, but really he was just another face that I saw a couple times a day. For all I know he had a myriad of other problems that he was dealing with. I could only assume that for him to commit suicide, he had to have a number of problems in his life, not just a crappy work situation.

But on the other hand, if he had really enjoyed his job, if he had only been working 40 hours a week and had time off to emjoy his life, if he was treated well and compensated fairly for his time, if his hopes and dreams weren't being crushed by an evil corporation that saw him merely as a worthless pawn, would he have ended his life? I don't know. Maybe he wouldn't have. Ultimately, maybe it was EA's awful treatment that was the final straw that caused him to leave his cruel world.

I was there at EA when it was announced. The QA manager brought us all together, and told us that one of our own was no longer. It was an awkward and awful silence. The asinine HR department, led by the immortally inept Carol Brickner, sent out a lame email to the entire company, mourning the loss of one of our own. But interestingly enough, there was no mention of the cause of death. No one ever actually told us that he had committed suicide. He had "passed away" or "passed on"; but we weren't told the truth, that he had killed himself. Why would EA not tell us this? Were they afraid it would look bad?

Ultimiately, Rising Sun shipped on time, 98% of the QA department was laid off (including me, and later, over half of the "permanent" QA staff, including many test leads.) The game sold surprisingly well considering how bland it was, and EA made millions. The stock price went up, and the executive team no doubt congratulated itsef on yet another great accomplishment.

And the sad truth is, I don't think EA is going to change any time soon. They will always make millions of dollars, because of their movie licenses, their enourmous marketing power, because they keep buying up the small and talented independent studios, because millions of people buy the same damn Madden game every year, because even if every one of their employees quit tommorrow they could just hire up the next batch of fresh faced kids and abuse them for a few years before they got wise.

In memory of Kham Saybanha.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 01:34 pm (UTC)

Re: My 2 cents

(Link)

http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId=143698/
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:11 am (UTC)

It's not just the game industry

(Link)

IMHO almost all large companies treat IT workers this way. High tech workers are viewed as expensive commodities that only have a few motivated years where they are "cheap". Once they have had a few raises they are expensive and burned out, time for a replacement.

I've been at Intel and Xerox, and have friends at Microsoft. It's the same everywhere, work em till they bleed and then fire them if they protest (not a team player). It will take a High Tech Employees Union to break the corporate beasts but they have been trying to form one in Washington state for a long time and I don't think it has gotten them anywhere. The young and naive won't join and the others are rightly afraid.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:19 am (UTC)

It's just a Video Game people!

(Link)

We are only making stupid "video games" that are going to be out dated in less than a year, and totally obsolete when then next console comes out. There is no legacy and no point in working your ass off for someone else doing at your expense.

After working in the industry for almost 9 years, it has sapped most of my energy. With all these big companies, the game gets "done" whether you are there or not, whether you do a good job or a great job, whether you screw up or you don't. Whether you crunch or don't crunch, I would probably expect the game to be similar in quality.

Life is about balance and being able to balance everything in your life and not let one part of it take over and the rest all go to hell.
Is your house clean, can you buy a house, do you have a girl, a family, a nice car, vacation time, etc.

It's nice to work hard and be proud of the work you did for someone else, but in reality it would be nicer to be proud of something that you did for yourself on your conditions for your own benefit. How are you going to do that working 50+ hours a week for someone else?


From: unionjosh
2004-12-22 07:18 pm (UTC)

Re: It's just a Video Game people!

(Link)

If companies had to pay for overtime, don't you think they would be more considerate of how they used people's time? I hope that with a union contract, workers will be able to have a good job and a good life outside of work.
Josh Pastreich
IATSE Local 16
unionjosh@hotmail.com
unionjosh@local16.org
[User Picture]From: malaya_zemlya
2004-11-13 05:37 am (UTC)

(Link)

Good news, it is not like that everywhere. The place where I work (Visual Concepts Entertainment) is definitely very chill. Decent management (who actually sometimes come to your office and ask if you need something), good pay, nice people and.. yes... flexible schedule.

Now , I dont know whethere they are hiring or not, but i do know there are loads of jobs out there at the moment. When I was looking for a job not so long ago, I saw literally dozens of positions on various boards, at recruiting companies, in magazines etc. This is how I found this job, in fact. So EA is far from the only game in town, pardon the terrible pun. Look around, post resumes, you have nothing to lose but your chains :)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 05:46 am (UTC)

I hear you, sister!

(Link)

I once spent an entire weekend in the same cubicle as my husband, curled up with a book, because it was the only time I had been able to see him during regular waking hours for 2 months. He was working 14+ hours a day, 7 days a week non-stop.

Now, we all know that if you do the math, the bonuses don't come close to paying for all the extra hours taken away from families in the form of overtime. I think poor planning is a hallmark of this company, and I did threaten to leave my husband if he ever got himself into another project with his managers. Thankfully, he was transferred to another team and I think he may have spent a week working overtime during their finalling period. I find that a lot more reasonable than two months sitting in the dark, drinking wine alone.

I encourage my husband to post his resume online and at least see what else is out there. Sadly, he insists on punishing himself with EA experience because he'd like to make his own games one day. I hope all the people who are being abused by employers like EA wake up and realize that this is not normal. I equate their staying with battered-employee syndrome. How many times have we heard, I promise not to hit you again? I'm tired of the emotional black eyes.

Great blog. It reminds me of many a post I have written on my own as he finalled one of the worst projects in EAC history. Good on you!
From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 04:30 am (UTC)

Re: I hear you, sister!

(Link)

My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for the IATSE 16. We represent cg workers at ILM. We are also part of an international union that represents workers in film and TV in both Canada and the US. If you think your husband might be willing to do something to change this situation why don't you have him write me at unionjosh@local16.org
He can remain anonymous if he wants.
Josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 06:14 am (UTC)

DO SOMETHING!!!

(Link)

God bless you and continue to give you and your SO strength, ea_spouse. I'm a battle-weary developer for ea-tiburon in Olando, fl., and after reading through and drawing strength from this amazing thread I think you've shown great leadership bringing the people in the trenches together on the issue of employee abuse by electronic arts management.

When the time comes for action instead of discussion and commiserating, we should work together to make a change! Who is with me? If you think ea best practices are WRONG, then show your support during Steve Chang's next company meeting! I challenge all Tiburon employees who agree with and follow the sentiment of this thread to wear hawaiian shirts during the next company meeting!! That's right, just like the movie Office Space.

Do you want to show solidarity, or are you just a wannabe lurker or whiner? I guess we'll all find out where allegiances lie at the next company meeting.
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-13 06:38 am (UTC)

Re: DO SOMETHING!!!

(Link)

What a neat idea. Though do you guys have time to go out and buy Hawaiian shirts? Maybe a color would be better. And you have regularly scheduled company meetings? I suppose you could keep the shirts in your cubes... Let me know if I can help get the word out about this.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 07:23 am (UTC)

WORKING HOLIDAYS

(Link)


-----Original Message-----
From: Boyd, Thomas
Sent: Monday, August 30, 2004 3:06 PM
To: LOTR3 Team @ EAHQ
Cc: Campsey, Jen
Subject: Labor Day policy
Importance: High
Hi Team,

As many of you have noticed, Labor Day, September 6th, is our beta. Unfortunately, this means the LOTR:TTA team will need to treat Labor Day as a regular working day to hit our ship date.

However, we will trade you this day for an alternate day after the project is over. Please work with your manager to choose an alternate day off after the project is completed.

If you have Labor Day plans already that you need to attend, work with your manager to make sure someone else is covering for you.

Apologies for rescheduling national holidays. Please let your manager know if you have any questions.

T

From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:58 pm (UTC)

Re: WORKING HOLIDAYS

(Link)

I am another unhappy significant other

A prominent NC developer doesnt give off labor day or memorial day, although you are 'permitted' to take a vacation day. You get a grand total of four holidays: july 4th/new years/thanksgiving/xmas. Even mcdonalds managers get more. I find not having memorial day off to be quite an insult to veterans, especially while we are at war. This has become new management policy without warning, and is symptomatic of other problems there.

consider yourself lucky to at least get this consideration for an alternative day off.


BAHHAHAHA - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-13 07:23 am (UTC)

Lowly EAC Peon

(Link)

It's not just a Tiburon problem, or an EALA problem, it's happening at EAC and EAX as well; and judging from the posts around it's not something that will be stopping at the bigger studios that EA has bought. I'm sure it'll start happening at EA Chicago if it hasn't, and EA Montreal, EAUK, EAJ, etc...

We all know the problems, the question is what is the solution?

We all seem to be working these massive amounts of hours with compensation only coming to us if we have a semi-competent manager who's put in the same place and they actually have the ability or "budget" to hand out a sliver of the immense pie.

Sure, we can all rise up and complain to management; but what are they to do? Throwing more bodies at the problem has proven to not be a solution; just look at QA. "Not enough 'coverage'? -- Get more people!" I'm pretty sure it happens with the dev teams as well; I can only speculate as I'm a lowly EAC Peon in QA...for now. Myself and many other Sr. Testers are all looking for employment elsewhere; but everyone keeps it below 'management radar'.

Yes, i'm posting anonymously; I fear the wrath of an Non-Disclosure Agreement we have all signed, the wrath of a Cease & Desist coming to EA Spouse's posting and LJ removing it.
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