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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)
2004-11-16 03:34 am (UTC)

An investor perspective (part 3)

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The last thing I'll mention is that EA's CEO, Larry Probst is a huge cheerleader of EA stock. He constantly preaches of EA's franchises and "reliability", profit/cash flow growth, and how it's better than other tech companies. I have no idea how to get change from the bottom, but if you wanted attention from the top, you have to hit the stock price, either by convincing institutions to dump it, or by causing EA to fail to make the numbers. Looking at the list of major holders of EA stock, I don't see any really socially-conscientious managers, like Calpers or something, so I don't think it'll be easy. A boycott may or may not work, in any case, I don't see myself buying any EA games in the near future. Do keep in mind that you don't need to stop everyone from buying before it has any effect. If EA's sales even stop growing there will be hell to pay on the stock. On the other hand, a superwide boycott is almost impossible to stick. Trying to boycott a retailer won't do squat, because you will always be too small in that arena. The potential class-action lawsuit may eventually cause a hit to the company vault, but right now, investor-wise, it's non-news, because it will take ages before anything happens, and might not even be certified, depending on how well EA's lawyers do. As well, these things pop up all the time, so we've become quite conditioned to them. In any case, good luck, my heart aches in seeing what's happening to the people creating things I like to enjoy.
(Disclaimer, just in case anyone somehow ends up accusing me of shilling an investment position: I currently do not have any positions, long or short, in any of the companies mentioned, except a small stake in starbreeze, which to my disappointment, is losing me money at the moment. I may, at my discretion, take any position in any of the companies mentioned without further notice. This post is not to be taken as financial advice, nor does it advise you to make any investment decision in any company, whether long or short.)
P.S. For EA staff trying to stay anonymous, be careful you don't reveal yourself to a possible mole masquerading as a friendly person, or accidentally give away clues which could help identify you. Be aware that even web-based mail can possibly reveal the IP of the sender to the recipient.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 03:55 am (UTC)

Me too

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I'm not there anymore, but I hope you guys win in one way or another. Win the lawsuit. Form a union. Quit. Do something that will help yourselves and your families because what do you care about their precious bottom line at this cost to you?

The abuses of power and scapegoating that took place at the studio I was at were unbelievable. I don't think it will end anytime soon; it takes years for regimes to break down and this one is going strong. My advice is to move on as quickly as you can and make your next selection very carefully.

On another note, I see a lot of Maxis people out there. You are all one-of-a-kind and I have been missing working with such a talented, dedicated, and friendly group. Be well.
From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 11:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Me too

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We could still use your help. My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE Local 16. Most people are too scared to talk so I am hoping to get some info from some former employees. Please call me at 415-441-6400 or unionjosh@local16.org
Josh
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:16 am (UTC)

Work in EA Marketing if you don't like the hours

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Can't beat that the $90K/yr salary. Plus your job security is pretty good relative to the grunts.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-19 07:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Work in EA Marketing if you don't like the hours

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I heard you guys never leave...how do you get a sales or marketing position over there?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:31 am (UTC)

Thank-you everyone!

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Tonight my partner's boss sent him home early and there will be no overtime for his department this week. I think the waves of change have finally reached some corners of the company. Keep up the good work everyone!

-happier spouse
From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 11:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank-you everyone!

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Enjoy your time together, but if you want to make some permanent changes get it in a contract. My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE Local 16. We represent cg workers at ILM. If you think your partner might be interested, please have him give me a call at 415-441-6400 or unionjosh@local16.org
[User Picture]From: floopyboo
2004-11-16 04:42 am (UTC)

(Link)

Best wishes for a speedy recovery from hell, and hope your suit goes well.
From: pyro01
2004-11-16 04:50 am (UTC)

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shit.. and i've wanted to be a game programmer my whole life -.-
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:59 am (UTC)

you wanna work at EA and develop Catwomen, rogueagent, LOTR?

(Link)

People at EA redwood shores are the highest paid, but contribute the least to the company. Maybe worth it if you could sleep with some slut from 250 or 207, but I'd look elsewhere for employment.
[User Picture]From: lonelymoon
2004-11-16 05:05 am (UTC)

(Link)

Ugh, and my boyfriend wants to be a game programmer...no way I'm going to let him work for EA after reading this T_T
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 06:16 am (UTC)

(Link)

Maybe he'll work for them anyway after you give Joseph his balls back and he dumps you. Glad you're not my girlfriend!

Maybe once you get out of SCHOOL and actually experience LIFE in the WORLD instead of in a GAME where you got MARRIED (????) you'll understand.

*shiver*
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:23 am (UTC)

I am overwhelmed...

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... by the number and consistancy of the posts. EA is definitely setting itself up as a mill, churning out mediocrity and burning out the passionate. I have worked in the game industry for 5 years, on 3 projects at different companies. They are all the same. If you are concerned about your spouse ending up at EA, be very wary - the vast majority of companies are this way. I would not encourage anyone to enter this industry unless it is just something you want to do for 2yrs or so. You cannot build a life in this industry, unless you become some kind of management.

I don't think anything will stop EA until their practices become unprofitable. And without support from the law, with OT exemptions and all, I don't know that there is much that can be done. I think a union is the only way to go. I am not a union fan, but there is no way to have any kind of leverage without collective bargaining.

I think that most people in games are young, inexperienced, and unlikely to stand up for themselves. I was. Not proud of it, either. I wish I'd have told my employers to fuck themselves. Instead, I just left. But, unless a majority stand up, nothing will change. And I hope I am wrong, but I don't see it happening.

For all of you who sound like fucking neo-cons, I think you should get a clue. If it works for EA, how long before it spreads to other industries? Of course, if even lawyers are shit on with crazy hours, no OT, I don't know if there is much hope for the rest of us...
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:44 am (UTC)

Re: I am overwhelmed...

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Wait, you left? But that's impossible! All these people are FORCED to work these long, horrible hours, but you escaped?

Pray tell, how ever did you manage to do that??

I got news for you, overwhelmed - this didn't start with EA. It's not right, but let's not all be hypocritical bastards and pretend that this phenomenon is unique to one company or even one industry. Come to think of it, you say so yourself.

More people need to do what you did and just work a short stint and get out (to see if it's for them), or just stay out entirely.

As for churning out mediocrity, I'm afraid that EA's success is in disagreement with that sentiment. You can say what you like about EA games...they may not be to your taste, or they may have changed your favorite franchise in a way you don't like (or even killed it), but the overwhelming majority of the game-buying public consistently shows that EA is making exactly what they want. The company doesn't force millions (*tens of millions*) of people to buy their software any more than they force anyone to work there.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:29 am (UTC)

Think Again

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Why is it that more current, actual employees are not posting? Don't give me the bullshit answer that they're busy working, because I don't buy it. For one thing, there are only a few teams world wide in crunch mode at any given time.

Has anyone ever met a SLAVE that made $60K-$120K+ (or even $40K and up) a year plus full medical, dental, vision, health club membership, subsidized or free meals and other assorted refreshments, and up to five weeks of vacation a year not counting sabbaticals or comp time (which IS given, regardless of the misinformation posted here)? Didn't think so.

Before you boycott EA products and financially hurt the vast majority of EA employees who have NOT posted here, ask yourself: EA has somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 employees worldwide. What actual percentage of those have posted here? Not their spouses, and not "former employees" - God knows why they are not there any more - but actual, currently working employees. Yes, people at EA work hard. Yes, it can be hard on them at times. No, they don't have to do it.

Personally, I tackle that hard work with pride, and I wouldn't work anywhere else. If you don't want to...no one says you have to.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:58 am (UTC)

Re: Think Again

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Um...actually, several current employees have posted. Have you read through all the pages of comments?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:53 am (UTC)

Start a different type of Union

(Link)

My bro is in the industry and will make games all of his life. I want to see things changed where people are passionate about the work they do on these games, but are also treated well.

I think that a union (or a guild of some type) is the only option. But rather than goto the steelworkers local 342, develope one that is specially designed for the technology industry, that is built and developed for the specific needs and concerns about the workers.

Example: -If EA requires crunch times without 7 days notice, make it voluntary. Protect the worker that way he or she will not be fired for saying "no."
-Max it out to 14 hour days
-After 7 days of work, mandatory day off (8 hour days...)
-If it goes past 4-6 weeks, monetary bonus and time in lieu.
-Work in cycles so that EA cannot do anything sketchy like give a day off to the team to reset the timeclock (or anything sketchy like that)

One thing that conservatives and anti-union people say that is right is the inflexibility of unions. It is something I agree with and something that the labour force needs to address. Maybe the technology sector can address these issues. 'Techies' make amazing and creative peices of technology, maybe they can develop a new way of doing unions.

poetry_in_gasoline
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 06:19 am (UTC)

News Agencies Informed

(Link)

A copy of the below has been sent to the following email addresses:

Letters@newsweek.com

letters@msnbc.com

TechNews@MSNBC.com

Today@NBC.com

Nightly@NBC.com

niteline@abc.com

abc.news.magazines@abc.com

2020@abc.com

forbes@foxnews.com

newswatch@foxnews.com

oreilly@foxnews.com

Colmes@foxnews.com

cavuto@foxnews.com

newsroom@marketwatch.com

headlines@marketwatch.com


*contents of email*

Copies of this email have been sent to CNN, MSNBC, ABC news, CBS news and USAToday. I think that the labour practices of this and other software companies are comparable to those of third world countries. Sadly this is happening in California not China.

http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/11/11/news_6112998.html

http://www.eaovertimecase.com/

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/12/0537234&tid=123

http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/

http://www.livejournal.com/users/joestraitiff/368.html

http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1213869

http://www.penny-arcade.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=81073&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0&sid=91144d8243cbc8549189d69a0f739075
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 07:11 am (UTC)

Dude, Bill O'Reilly?

(Link)

You're throwin' us to the wolves!
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 07:29 am (UTC)

current Tiburon employee

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I have been an EA Tiburon employee for some time now. I want to let all management know that there is much talk around the office, and that someone should comment on what is going on. It would be nice to know that the managment feels that this is a serious matter, and that this needs immediate attention. PLEASE talk about this at our anual Thankgiving meeting. We want to know what will CHANGE? Obviously the employees realize they do not have to work the hours we have been required to work. How will you the upper managment keep us happy? Personally I am interested in seeing what changes, if anything. I will stick it out to find out, as I enjoy my job. What I don't enjoy are working 7 days a week, and not seeing my freinds and family. It would be great for managment to post what they think of all this, as all they can say is we are sorry! Other then the art managers and art directors, the upper management has no clue what the employees are feelling by working these rediculous hours. So I say this to you.. what is going to change, becuase as the games get better, so does the demand for work to make them better???
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:45 pm (UTC)

Stop hoping it will change. Stand up and make it change yourself!

(Link)

You're still hoping they're gonna change without you having to do anything but post in a forum. They're not. They may even send an email or hold a studio meeting saying that everything's under control and we're all going to be happy soon. This crap has been going on for years and we're still just complaining about it. It's time we stood up and took action in support of ourselves. Start with writing letters to your local IGDA chapter asking to have a union rep from a similar industry (IT or go Hollywood style with the writers, animation, directors Guild etc.) come speak to people about the options available, benefits of a union, and process that will bring this into effect. Then get everyone you know and trust at the office to go to this meeting. At least then you'll be informed and can move on from there. You can also write letters to your local government representatives. We have to do this part ourselves, no one else will do it for us!

Already in action,
Overworked EA Employee
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 07:48 am (UTC)

Former employee

(Link)

I worked at EA back in 95-97 in Austin. When I started, it was my dream job. I started in Support-Q/A at Origin. Back when I started, it was great. We were in crunch mode for a month or so in Support, but they bought us dinner every night. Happy Hours were every other Friday and I think the first two weeks I worked there we actually worked about 3 days. One day we went to a movie (on the company dime)and one day we had an offsite happy hour. That was before Origin had a bad quarter with Wing Commander 4 missing it's ship date. After that EA started cranking down on Origin. Happy hours went away. Crunch time got longer and longer. I didn't mind working 85 hours a week because I was still hourly. Granted, they were only paying about $9 per hour. I finally realized that I could get a job doing tech support for $17 an hour doing ISP support and I left, even though I had started to get some design credits for scenario design.

I now work for a tax software company, probably the biggest one in the industry. It's very similar to the game industry except our "crunch" time is from December until April 15. You basically are required to work 6 days per week at least 10 hours per day. The difference is I'm making almost 3 times what I made 6 years ago working for EA.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 08:26 am (UTC)

They are trying to kill us I swear

(Link)

Not just from overwork, but by slowly poisoning us. Coffee is free, soft drinks are 25 cents, but orange juice is $1.25. There is all this free cereal, but its all co-co puffs and frosted sugar bomb type stuff. During 'crunches' (which is at least 50% of the time) you get free dinner. Zoiks! Now it's all worth while! But the food they bring in is the worst shit ever. Boston Market night is a 'good' night. Philly-Connection? It's like dog food. Yeah, everyone loves pizza, but we're not teenagers anymore. Everyone is so tired they just scarf down this cheap greasy crap night after night. 90 hour weeks! Treat us once and a while!
From: bwingb
2004-11-16 02:30 pm (UTC)

Re: They are trying to kill us I swear

(Link)

Bring your own lunch, man. Yeah maybe it's not the sexy, corporate slick thing to do but you'll be laughing with a healthy colon when everyone else is in the cancer ward 15 years from now... maybe even less.

No offence, but it's the plain truth.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 08:42 am (UTC)

write to your...

(Link)

It's been pointed out over and over again that EA makes its money by churning out franchise games. Many of these (sims, C&C, etc) were made by studios that EA bought up and now owns the rights to. But a vast number are based on sports or movies, and therefore had to be licensed. If we want to get EA to shape up, why not talk to the licensers. EA making a bond game? call MGM. EA making a LOTR game? write New Line. Get in touch with Madden, Woods, and all those other sports celebrities who's names adorn EA products. Tell them to yank away the rights unless EA treats its employees with dignity.

It's a zany idea, but who knows. It just might work.
[User Picture]From: adeliedreams
2004-11-16 12:31 pm (UTC)

Madden won't care in the least...

(Link)

Neither will his handlers.

Unless, perhaps, the modellers over at Tiburon started making his models true to life (they always had to trim him down, or the handlers would start talking of revoking the license). Or, even better, the audio guys could slip in some of his more interesting character flaws, rather than leaving them on the cutting room floor...
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 08:54 am (UTC)

I also work for a Forbes Top 100 company..

(Link)

I work for this BIG - International company. They do the same to us. Crunch time starts when the project starts, and just keeps on being crunch time.

They have god-awfull managers that can't scope a project if their lives dependent on it. You get NO overtime nothing. You MUST ONLY BILL 8 HOURS, even if you worked 15 hours a day. They company makes HUGE sums of money. Profits soars... but you get 1 bonus check a year if your division preforms and if you preform.

The best part is if you don't work 10 hours + a day, you are not a team member. You get a bad rating, and you get a bad pay increase. So your bonus is bad aswell.

But i resigned last month, taking a holiday. Going to work a company that cares for their people (I know a few people at the new place). I know I will have "problems" there, but not like this place.

Sad part is that when I resigned, the head manager was amazed.. about my complains.. even though I told my team lead about it. He promised better hours. It worked for about a week, and guess what. They are at crunshing time again, working weekends etc. LOL..

I'm out of here :)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 09:13 am (UTC)

It DOES affect the games....

(Link)

As a long time gamer, I and many many others, would have to say the Sims 2 release is buggy as all hell and is being very poorly supported. Yes, most games release a patch/bugfix package within the first 6 months, but they also do more to keep the consumers informed. It took them over 6 weeks to even acknowledge that a patch is required and that is ALL they said - no eta, no addressing specific issues. For sure some of the issues are user stupidity related but a group of us on a modding site have managed to isolate problems within the software that will eventually affect everyone that plays the game. We have one modder who has produced a bugfix that now means thousands of people can again play the game. Indeed we have identified one particular problem that could eventually be used for the distribution of malicious code - and this game is very internet download dependent for long time playability. Surely all that is a job of the game developer/producer?

But now having read this and the supporting testimony of many EA employees, who could be surprised? The poor bastards working there have probably been moved onto the next project and its crunch time, leaving dumbass SimMasters and maybe the janitor to deal with the very real problems being experienced by the consumers.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-19 12:38 am (UTC)

Re: It DOES affect the games....

(Link)

It's all through the game industry. I worked at another company on a games that were shipped with bugs and sometimes missing important game elements. After crunching, nearly the entire team was laid off except for a programmer or two who were needed to make the patches.

Although games are fun, and making them can often be fun--it comes down to it still being a business with money as a bottom line--not people, not games, not fun or enjoyment (of employees or even the consumer).
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 10:58 am (UTC)

(Link)

Enforcement
Wage-Hour's enforcement of FLSA is carried out by investigators stationed across the U.S. As Wage-Hour's authorized representatives, they conduct investigations and gather data on wages, hours, and other employment conditions or practices, in order to determine compliance with the law. Where violations are found, they also may recommend changes in employment practices to bring an employer into compliance.

It is a violation to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding under FLSA.

Willful violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.

Violators of the child labor provisions are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $10,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation.

Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay requirements are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,000 for each such violation.

Recovery of Back Wages
Listed below are methods which FLSA provides for recovering unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages.

Wage-Hour may supervise payment of back wages.
The Secretary of Labor may bring suit for back wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages.
An employee may file a private suit for back pay and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.
The Secretary of Labor may obtain an injunction to restrain any person from violating FLSA, including the unlawful withholding of proper minimum wage and overtime pay.
An employee may not bring suit if he or she has been paid back wages under the supervision of Wage-Hour or if the Secretary of Labor has already filed suit to recover the wages.

A 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back pay, except in the case of willful violation, in which case a 3-year statute applies.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 12:24 pm (UTC)

(Link)

_DO_ quit the job. Or business will never learn.
[User Picture]From: adeliedreams
2004-11-16 12:38 pm (UTC)

(Link)

They did learn. That's the problem.

As long as they've got colleges and art schools churning out more graduates, they can always replace anyone they break.

And the rest of the team will suffer while they're training the newb.

Now, an entire department at a studio might get notice.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 12:44 pm (UTC)

Just A Gamer In South Africa

(Link)

I know I'm a country and one or two oceans away, but we still get EA games down here and having played some of them, I'm going to throw my two cents in.

As an end consumer, I had a feeling something like this was happening. I'm involved in the advertising for a large retailer here in South Africa and an EA spokesperson came down here to give us all a pep-talk on punting EA products and what makes them "special": Licenses. Not that I didn't know they were full of shit before this but *shrug*

Anyway, the actual games themselves, NFS, MOHAA etc... are all, at face value, really good games. But it always feels like there's something missing. And I guess this article blows it all wide open: love. There's no love in the games. In the same way that if I'm busy writing copy for an ad and I don't enjoy writing it, I can garentee you no one will enjoy reading it. I'm sure the staff at EA are wonderful people and this isn't an attack on them and their efforts, it's an attack on the people who do this to them and force them to hate the things they onced love: making video games.

There is soul in video games. But not, apparently, in EA.

I for one will not be purchasing or doing any bussiness with EA until I hear of a fair resolution to this matter.
From: brucette
2004-11-16 01:36 pm (UTC)

(Link)

i'm sure someone else has posted this...but sue for the overtime. it is ILLEGAL to not give overtime if you work it. and they will continue as long as no one takes action. those are my two cents.
[User Picture]From: virtualex01
2004-11-16 02:11 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Man, that's a third world country labour situation! Do yourself a favour: go to this website: http://www.devilsinn.de (don't worry, it's not about satanism or anything like that, heh) and then think again about your life.

Don't let anyone treat you like a dog, unless you tell them to.
Good luck.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 02:14 pm (UTC)

producers

(Link)

i just realized that, after reading the majority of the 2250 posts, i have not seen one single member of production (that is the exec producer, producer etc) say anything at all!

hm. food for thought.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:51 pm (UTC)

Re: producers

(Link)

That's because they're often a large source of the problem (at least, on my team, they are). Our producer thinks this is all just a big joke, no big deal.
Re: producers - (Anonymous) Expand
From: bwingb
2004-11-16 02:23 pm (UTC)

Re: An investor perspective (part 3)

(Link)

QUOTE:
--------
"Concerning overworking, it really is mystifying why a manager would push knowledge workers this way, unless the manager had no brains at all. It's not the hours that a person puts in that matters, but the output, and tired, overworked knowledge workers can't produce close to what a happy, well-rested one can, even if pushed to work many more hours."
---------

Maybe there are reasons here which are more sinister than any of us would care to acknowledge? A tapped out, stressed group of people (as we are seeing over and over right here in this discussion) are unable to find the courage to walk out or bring in a union, thus enabling management's human drone farm, or 'franchising' scheme as you put it, to continue unhindered.

These are calculating, intelligent people making these decisions as you point out, so this is the only logical reason for their treatment of their employees. Another thing you pointed out which allows me to draw this conclusion is that apparently there's no one on the board of directors with a conscience, and the motives driving the decision making process are completely void of humanity.

Again, I am reaching the undeniable conclusion that this is a cultural problem at the very heart; a lack of 'family values'. Our disposable commercial culture has manifested on the way we see our people; cold, calculating, sociopathic greed is driving our economic force and until those of us who are in every media begin to acknowledge the need for a change in philosophy-- until then, these highly influential and dehumanizing behaviors will continue to be reflected in our mass media culture. It's not only prevalent in management, but in all the nihilism, superficiality and bitterness in youth culture all around us. People aren't seeing the how and why of youth angst these days-- it's being written off as a reason to mistreat and abuse by those with the power and influence to manifest their perceptions.

Ironically, the generation which brought us 'peace and love' is gonna continue to 'bash our brains in' until we make them feel all mushy inside; until we are all living, walking "Gap commercials'.

Don't get me wrong; I am not advocating any particular type of family; but a renewed sense of belonging and the appreciation for home and hearth-- whatever that might mean for a given person. The fostering of these values is the longterm solution to this insidious greed culture.

Our population is aging rapidly, and while I am normally the last one to generalize, sooner or later, the people who are refusing to value anything that is not a reflection of their narcissistic selves, and the way they wish to see the world, will one day be dependent on us for love, understanding and care.

I only hope we find the humanity to show them what they forgot to see in us in their wretched race to be the one with the most costly home renovations on the block. Because after all is said and done, you can't bring it with you.
From: meshou
2004-11-16 04:19 pm (UTC)

Re: An investor perspective (part 3)

(Link)

I'm going to play mild devil's advocate and ask-- would a board of directors ever walk in on the programmers and ask how their day went? No. Manager's job. Board of directors looks at numbers. Managers make those numbers work.

It's just, to me, the people cracking the whip and seeing the effects are a hell of a lot more scary than the guy who figured out constant crunchtime = profit, and never sees the results. The second is human stupidity. The first is abhorrent in the way only humanity can be.

'Nother thing-- You seem to think Baby Boomers are the biggest generation, and they were a "Peace and Love" generation. You'd be mistaken. At the moment, the 20 and under set makes up 30% of the population in the US, and is starting to make its way into the workforce. The population isn't aging, it's going through puberty as we speak.

The newer generation is much different than the baby boomers, according to Anthropologists. They're more skeptical of mass marketing, more cooperative, more into the family values thing, but far more likely to look to their peers for validation of their ideas. Take every one of those statements, flip it, and you've got the trends of the boomers. The Peace and Love generation above all, looks out for number one.

That's not ironic, that's their own propaganda biting them in the ass.

The biggest complaint the older generation has about the newer is they simply don't have the initiative. They look to please their boss and coworkers, work as a team, and come to group decisions instead of fighting to push self serving agendas. Since the system is set up to drive people to work harder for their agendas, and therefore get promoted, it's difficult for the younger people to get ahead.

Look here. Despite being a family oriented generation, we spend more than the boomers. Family doesn't lesson "greed culture." If anything, it makes a generation easy to market too. Just make them think all the kids are doing it, and they'll all run off cliffs after handing over their wallets.

We're not living in The Jungle. You want heartless consumerism? Try long hours and potentially fatal work for the under six set for pennies a day, all in the days when family values were absolutely enshrined. Business was sure kinder then, huh?

Why not advocate a type of family? Is a particular type of family offensive? If I have two female bosses, do I have two mommies? Do we espouse family values, but don't like doing something as base as suggesting we ought to love our womanizing brother who ruined our wedding toast because he was loudly hitting on our mother in laws (that bastard), because that's, like, hard? Or is family a general, positive term that doesn't mean much of anything, but stands at the antithesis of greed without actually implying anyone personally has to do much about it? The new generation has a sense of family, belonging and values, and is being mowed under.

The solution is, as usual, personal responsibility and a sense of duty (not family) to workers. I've seen families, and I expect different, and in some cases, better from my boss. It needs to be a boss's duty to advocate for the workers below him, and demand their fair treatment. If they do not, then workers need to demand better treatment until that's the way it works. May not be the utopian solution of family. But then, no family has fit that, ever. And personal responsibility has the added bonus of actually working.

Being a nice generation, we'll be there to take care of the old boomers, instead of using them as a satisfying morality play of what happens to the selfish. After all, family values are hollow words if they're dependent on whether we feel like treating others with dignity, right?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:06 pm (UTC)

The dream of removing the publisher

(Link)

First of all, I just want you to know that I've found this story in several papers / online news sites in Europe today. Getting it to TV / 60 minutes or similar don't seem too far fetched at all.

I'm only a gamer, but as a gamer I like quality. But I also like to know that my cash goes directly to those who CREATES that quality. It really annoys me that so much of the cash disappears to the publisher when it's the developers you want to support / encourage to make more games.

The vivendi / valve trial has been extremely interesting in my eyes. The option of downloading games through the internet (with the Steam program) WILL become more and more common - of that I have no doubt. Which also opens the option of the developers going directly to the buyers instead of through a publisher. (A future I think the publishers see coming and are terrified of. Possibly a future that would get here a lot faster if workers got unionized?)
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