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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)
2004-12-04 01:24 am (UTC)

$8.50/hour for "independent contractors" in customer support.

(Link)

I had a friend who worked for EA in "customer support" a little while back... they hired him as an "independent contractor" (non W-2) for $8.50 an hour (which was barely minimum wage, once you account for the self-employment taxes he had to pay), and let him go just a few months later. It was made very clear to him (and everyone else hired with him) from the beginning that he shouldn't expect to be there long, that it was unlikely he'd be there even six months, and that this was deliberate policy on EA's part. This was the first bite of work he'd had in months, so he took it anyway... even though it was an hour drive each way from where he lived.

This is despicable. EA treats these people like a disposable commodity. My assumption is that they don't want to risk having the government categorize them as an "employee", with all the benefits that entails (ala the Microserfs who won their class action suit). Which he really was... he didn't set his own hours, he didn't supply his own equipment, he used EA's equipment and was trained by other EA staff, etc.

This is a far greater scandal, in my opinion, than any abuses heaped on at least formally employeed staffers who receive something approaching a livable wage.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:38 am (UTC)

Warren Jensen Offer Letter -pt1- FYI

(Link)

ELECTRONIC ARTS

June 21, 2002

Warren Jenson

Dear Warren:

I am pleased to offer you a regular full-time position with Electronic Arts as our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial & Administration Officer, reporting to me, at a base salary of $500,000 annualized, minus applicable taxes.

For your information, I have enclosed a copy of our current Electronic Arts Playbook, which describes employee responsibilities, as well as various benefits to which you may be entitled. In addition to the benefits described in the Electronic Arts Playbook, you will also be eligible to participate in our discretionary bonus program. This discretionary bonus is typically determined at the end of our fiscal year (March). Your discretionary bonus target will be 75% of your salary. For Fiscal Year 2003, we will guarantee a minimum payout of your target ($375,000), minus applicable taxes. To receive payment of your bonus you must be employed by Electronic Arts at the time any bonuses are paid.

The Board of Directors have approved that you be granted a Non-Qualified Option to purchase 600,000 shares of Electronic Arts Class A common stock in accordance with our 2000 Class A Equity Incentive Plan. These shares will be granted and the exercise price set at the fair market value on your first day of employment with Electronic Arts. 300,000 options of this grant will be on a 48 month cliff vest. The other 300,000 will vest on our normal vesting schedule.

You are being provided Executive relocation assistance by EA. This program will also cover your temporary living and temporary commuting costs. You will also be provided a $4,000,000 one time interest free loan from EA, within five business days of your first day of employment. This loan win be forgiven in two parts: $2,000,000 will be forgiven at the 24 month anniversary of your employment and will be grossed up at that time to offset the tax implications of the forgiveness. At your 48 month anniversary, the additional $2,000,000 will be forgiven. You will be responsible for the tax implications of forgiveness of the second $2,000,000. If you voluntarily leave the employment of EA, you will be responsible for repayment in full within 60 days of the outstanding loan amounts in accordance with the above forgiveness schedule. If you were to die or be permanently disabled, we would forgive the loan in full.

Per EA policy, if you voluntarily leave your employment within one year from your date of hire, you agree to pay EA, within 60 days of your last day of employment, a pro rata portion of the incurred relocation expenses not related to the loan.

Lastly, EA is providing you a one-time sign on bonus of $500,000 as incentive for you to forego other opportunities and to join us.

If you have any questions about this offer, about the matters in the Playbook, or about your eligibility to participate in or to be covered by any of the described benefits, please call Rusty at 650-628-7430.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 06:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Warren Jensen Offer Letter -pt1- FYI

(Link)

Oh my fucking god!

This guy is going to get $8 million in 4 years. $4m in a "interest free, forgiven loan (WTF?! How is that even legal, let alone in the interests of EA's shareholders?), $2m in salary, $1.5m in "discretionary bonus" which is basically guaranteed to him, $.5m signing bonus.

That's enough to fund at least one entire project, and possibly as many as 4 smaller projects.

How can EA justify this one fuckhead's salary in place of having 1-4 more products available for sale? I hope the shareholders are reading this, and that the board gets ousted.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:39 am (UTC)

Warren Jensen offer letter -pt2- FYI

(Link)

-cont.-


In the course of your work, you will have access to proprietary materials and concepts. Our offer is contingent on your signing Electronic Arts’ New Hire/Proprietary Information Agreement. Two copies are enclosed for signature (please keep one for your own records).

This offer letter contains the entire understanding between you and Electronic Arts as to the terms of your offer of employment and specifically supersedes all previous discussions you may have had with anyone at Electronic Arts regarding those terms.

Your employment with Electronic Arts is for an indefinite term. In other words, the employment relationship is “at will” and you have the right to terminate that employment relationship at any time, subject only to the financial agreements regarding the loan as described above. Also, although I hope you will remain with us and be successful here, Electronic Arts must, and does retain the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time.

I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that you’ll be joining our team. Please sign below and return both pages of the original offer letter to Rusty in the enclosed envelope, and we can begin your orientation to EA. Please keep a copy for yourself.

Electronic Arts’ mission is to be the greatest entertainment company.... ever. We get there through four critical areas of focus and success: Being the #1 Company on the Next Generation Consoles, #1 Entertainment Software Company on the PC, #1 Provider of Interactive Entertainment Online and the #1 People Company for high performance teams and individuals. We will be delighted to have you join us in our mission.

If you have any questions regarding this offer, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

/s/ LARRY PROBST

Larry Probst
Chairman & CEO
Electronic Arts

Enclosures

Accepted by Candidate:

/s/ WARREN C JENSON

Anticipated Start Date: June 25th, 2002

cc: Rusty Rueff
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 08:01 am (UTC)

Re: Warren Jensen offer letter

(Link)



That's over $153,500,000 over a 4 year period (not included raises and bonus increases.)

Not bad!

A shame they can't afford to pay for overtime....
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 10:26 am (UTC)

(Link)

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
At the same time, in sympathy, EA have no right to employ some of the tactics that they do and there should be some kind of investigation. You people not heard of an industrial tribunal ? If you have a valid case, Sue 'em, otherwise, enjoy the cash that it brings in and quit complaining!
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 04:54 pm (UTC)

From Internal Personel: Nothing Has Changed

(Link)

ummmmm - I just finished crunching for Third Age. There was a 6 month, 6-7 day, 80+ hour work week crunch on this project. Now I am on Godfather. The team is 150 people already and the game is supposed to finish in 11 months! The cycle continues...
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 04:58 pm (UTC)

Re: From Internal Personel: Nothing Has Changed

(Link)

and so begins another Death March.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 11:33 pm (UTC)

how much is EA paying you all for these hours?

(Link)

For a standard 80 hour work week in the Bay Area you would need a salary of around 120k a year to be within the middle class

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 11:18 pm (UTC)

Re: how much is EA paying you all for these hours?

(Link)

LOL!!

For a SENIOR level design position at EA Redwood Shores, try LESS than 70k a year before taxes, not including bonus. And keep in mind they aren't paying for overtime at all. If they were, all the time-and-a-half pay for continuous 80 hour weeks would add up nicely.

But then, if they were paying overtime at all, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-05 10:22 pm (UTC)

Breaking it first

(Link)

Although the glaring "We broke the law because it didn't work for us" paragraph was obviously the worst of it, another thing that strikes me as odd is EA's habit of screwing things up in the favor of penny-pinching, and then not having any sort of fix or monitoring process for it. Comp time was an inadequate but mollifying way to account for crunch time. EA pulled it without replacing it with anything, or making sure crunch doesn't happen, and waited to see if the shit hits the fan. Same thing with the afterhours meal plan, they pulled our standard system out, used the dumpy cafe in the 205 building, and waitied months while people complained to go back. They only switched back when some HR person, months later, sent out a survey to see if it was unacceptable.

I've only been with EA for two years, but for those who've been hear longer, has EA always pinched pennies like this? I'm wondering now since often that's a sign of a failing company, and yet our financials seem fairly healthy, at least so far. Is EA going to pull an Enron soon?
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: Breaking it first

(Link)

Months? I seem to remember the crappy Atrium cafe system lasting less than a few weeks...

And for the umpteenth time: comp time is still given! Even Jamie bleeping Kirschenbaum got it! You can say they don't give enough, but you sure as hell can't say it doesn't exist for people that work hard enough!

The amount of misinformation in this entire discussion is absolutely mind-boggling.

If you don't believe in the company or don't think you're being adequately compensated for what you do, leave. There will be no hard feelings...we'll continue to work hard and dominate the industry without your help.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 03:11 am (UTC)

you too can be a big publisher

(Link)

The organization is caught in a catch-22. Because of earnings forcasts and revenue expectations, the studio is in the position to either put product on the market or adjust revenue forecasts to reflect diminished revenue. Luckily, EA has a host of bread-winning franchishes, mostly Sports titles, that it drops on the market place in predicatable patterns quarter to quarter. They are not in a fail-safe climate - the studio must release these titles at the designated time, as has been the historical basis and consume/stock-holder expectation. Not shipping Madden would be a catastrophy, and it won't happen.

Well, as we all know, EA diversed it's license portfolio years ago, mostly through acquisition. Smart move. The sports niche had built an incredible war chest of funds and it would be years before competitors would (or ever) catch EA in that area. In addition to acquiring studios, it also began to develop properties based on mass market consumer appeal in other namely, namely film.

Again, dipping into the war chest, they could purchase weighty franchises such as Bond, Lord of the Rings etc. and develop competent games across all consoles.

Perhaps the greatest stroke of genious was to develope the BIG sports line, diversifying the sports licenses even further for a series of imaginative games built upon the loyal fan base for the EA brand, and leveraging in-house know-how to put these titles on the market.

The catch-22 is somewhat nebulous. The studio is in the public position of satisying tremendous consumer and stockholder expectation - based upon their own forecasts and breadth of game offerings. They are in no position to stretch development times to ease the hours developers work. They must sustain growth at the forecasted level. Very few companies are able to do this, in any sector. Typically, consumer and client based demand sustain the company, and it tails off after long periods of growth. Witness Cisco.

EA is a state of perpetual and renewed public demand and it must meet that demand by shipping product. The studio is all about product. Titles. Putting it on the shelf. To do so under the deadlines it imposes (upon itself), it builds large development teams to handle the load. However, as we all know, large teams are precarious in moral (takes time to gel, takes time to train) and are management nightmares.

If EA is to seriously examine work-lifestyle balance they need to FUNDAMENTALLY rethink how they develope their products. I, for one, don't believe they have arrived at the moment. I'm being kind with that soft comment.

At best, they will make some cursory, superficial adjustments to respond to the outcry about hours. They need to keep the talent base intact. These posts have had a tremendous impact. Don't underestimate what has happened here. It will change the industry. But they will be kicking and screaming along the way. Why? They are not built in 2005 to accomodate sweeping change.

Also, the studio hasn't truly come to grips with next generation development. They don't fully realize that it will be MORE complex to ship a game on the next consoles, not easier. EA is not in a position to ship a game like Jak - it is too sophisticated in level design and art. When that title hits the next generation EA will not have a product in it's portfolio to compete. You laugh. Jak right? Well, just watch.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 08:41 am (UTC)

Re: you too can be a big publisher

(Link)

Absolutely true. I have worked in game development for the last 8 years and have seen technology outpace the studio's ability to produce content. I was there, at EA, when they made the jump from "sprites" to 3D characters. They slipped, and it was NOT without its pains.

Now, I am with a smaller company, and we are lucky to have almost 2 years of development time. However, we and our publisher are realizing that 2 years, with our given team, is not enough for a multi-platform release for next generation. The bottle neck isn't coding - although it could be. It's content: more specifically, art assets.

But the tools to develop art have not progressed nearly as fast as the need to produce it in a timely fashion. So the knee-jerk, and common response, would be to throw man-power at the problem.

This is where EA steps in. They are very good at this...very VERY good at this.

When they can't hire more (because of head count, which shows up in the financials and affects stock prices), they are forced to work groups OT.

So while I regret that people are burning out, as they will when worked this hard, I also feel the need to look at the whole as a system. Scheduling and management, good or bad, are just a part of the problem (cause and symptom) of the whole process.

From: i_schmendrick
2004-12-06 03:40 am (UTC)

Go ahead with a legal case.

(Link)

If you can, make this a legal case. Get some volunteers to help you from anywhere. Get as many EA employees to file together, like a class action suit. You already have a legal start, as you've stated.
Good Luck.

Peace
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 05:57 am (UTC)

Sniff Sniff

(Link)

Seems to me the programers at E.A. are what we all thought of them in high school....whiny little computer geeks. Nobody complains on pay day I bet. If you don't like it....leave.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 06:22 am (UTC)

Nice...

(Link)

... go back to sniffing your high school jock straps while dreaming of your glory days.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 08:17 am (UTC)

Sounds like UPS....

(Link)

...and who knows how many more do this to their employees. Just check out this article http://www.lawroom.com/story.asp?STID=730&P=B
I've worked for them for five plus years and just recently started to get paid overtime as opposed to salary and working for free full time. Before they threatened us with our jobs if we didn't stay and work for free overtime. Now that they are forced to pay us, they can't seem to forget to remind us to go home quickly enough or tell us just how much overtime they are paying us weekly. Before we never had mandatory meetings of how many hours we were forced to work for free and now we do but only to remind us to pump out more packages in less hours or "else".
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 09:21 am (UTC)

Wimps!

(Link)

An 85 hour work week is long? Trying developing TWO different products with ONE person SIMULTANEOUSLY on two DIFFERENT operating systems WITHOUT health insurance, and with kidney problems in which both kidneys are working at only 25% efficiency - at age 36. I'm pulling 90 on average and that's when I'm coasting. And I've been keeping up this pace since I was 23 - 13 years. Oh I did take off 2 months and finally take a vacation overseas in 2002. I felt like a complete slacker. Have you been to Japan? Where do you think the Sony PlayStation came from and how did it get invented? By employees watching The Apprentice? In Japan 80 hours is a normal week. Americans are the fatest, laziest people on earth. We want $80K a year, but we want it EASY.

Ever brought a cot in and slept under the cube so that you could get right to work the next morning with no commute and no shower? No? Then you're not a real software developer.

What a bunch of crybabies. Most projects are run by morons - get over it. All software is this way. It's a huge, mega-profitable, greedy business. Do you think those execs and shareholders are nice people? They're greedy pigs! Learn to love them for it, or else you're in the wrong industry.

It's up to the developers to work around the fatal plans of those who don't know what they are doing.

You either love creating this stuff so much that you can't get enough of it or else you're in the wrong line of work. If you want it easy, go get a 9-5 job at Costco selling pizza or something. People do this because they LOVE to do it. They love to do it so much that they would work 24/7 with no sleep if they could get away with it.

You should be thankful your SO has a job at all in this economy.

Stop whinning, turn off your TV, and go back into work and get something done.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 02:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Wimps!

(Link)


I think the point is that the hours are killing the love.

I have to laugh at your definition of a real software developer. Dude, I don't want you anywhere near my code. A great software developer is one who can plan it and do it in a 40 hour week. Continually.

And exactly what sort of moron works to the point of kidney failure on jobs without health insurance, anyway? Evolution in action, I guess.
Re: Wimps! - (Anonymous) Expand
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Fucktard - (Anonymous) Expand
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 09:29 am (UTC)

Look people......

(Link)

The fact is Communists have taken over our big corporations. Don't believe me? Check out #37 here:

http://www.uhuh.com/nwo/communism/comgoals.htm

Why do you think they have to pay the HR director $240K? It's because no patriotic American in his right mind would treat people this way - or lay people off and replace them with cheap imported 3rd world labor - unless that is they are sucked in by an offer they can't refuse - like $240K a year.

The fact is the Communists are trying to destroy the American workforce and dismantle our industries. Communism isn't dead - it's just inside our house lighting fires instead of attacking us militarily.
From: bwingb
2004-12-06 03:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Look people......

(Link)

Communism? I think you are mistaken. And that link may be well intended, but it is grasping at some very scary and ill conceived straws, my friend. It is nothing more than a ghost from a very troubled past which most of us prefer to leave behind us.

This problem has more to do with unbridled greed and a lack of humanity and understanding. It is a symptom of a failing education system which breeds insecurity and persecution and rewards false values and sociopathic principals. It has resulted in a frightened, confused corporate culture which can no longer see it's own feet.

Capitalism and free enterprise have become shelved for a controlled, counterproductive culture which represses progress, innovation and profit in order to maintain an increasingly dubious ideal. All around us, people who faked it into power are hanging on by a string- because they are faking it through life. Not everyone, but a significant number of people. And friends, it only takes one in a group to ruin it for everybody else.

Please do us all a favor and desist in this unfounded and illogical fear-mongering. I guarantee it will cause more harm than good.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 03:54 pm (UTC)

(Link)

A boycott would be a useless waste of time. After all, while there may be hundreds, even thousands, of people willing to boycott, there are MILLIONS who would refuse, and some would even go to the extent of buying MORE games in an attempt to make up the difference. And what would the marginal drop in sales accomplish? That's right...pay cuts, longer hours, and less benifits. Think about it, people.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 09:49 pm (UTC)

A boycott need not hit majority to work

(Link)

You don't need to eliminate all of ea's revenue for a boycott to have impact. You don't even need to hit half. Just 10% would have a huge impact. Even 5% of EA's revenues would be a major deal because EA is looked upon as a growth corp.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 07:27 pm (UTC)

What's new..

(Link)

Well What u Say and Cry about happen to h1b's all the time in US.

Welcome to the real world. It's nothing new except in your case you can leave the job not like many unfortunate others.

LOVE
h1b

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 10:16 pm (UTC)

7 Years of H1-B

(Link)

This is what 7 years of H-1B and imported guest workers have done to the Silicon Valley economy:

http://www.1394watch.com/photo_gallery

Far from helping the U.S. economy, all imported workers are doing is carrying off America's wealth and producing nothing of value.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 10:18 pm (UTC)

7 years of H-1B

(Link)

This is what 7 years of H-1B and imported guest workers have done to the Silicon Valley economy:

http://www.1394watch.com/photo_gallery

Far from helping the U.S. economy, all imported workers are doing is carrying off America's wealth and producing nothing of value.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 10:07 am (UTC)

Re: 7 years of H-1B

(Link)

Sure. And Koreans are to blame for Japan's economic crisis...

Foreign workers didn't do this to Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley did this to Silicon Valley.

The dot-com's overpriced, overzealous, hyper-inflated bubble burst and all that remains are empty shells of buildings where start-ups, that relied on venture capital, died.

And I know, personally, several start-up CEO's, all Americans, who walked off with America's wealth and produced NOTHING of value : for their employees OR their share-holders.

God Bless America because noone else will.
7 years of H-1B - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 01:37 am (UTC)

(Link)

I worked for Interplay back in the day. I think the conditions there were better, but I do recall that anyone who works for a company like that doesn't want to leave for ANYTHING. Even to this day I hate mundane cube-zoo jobs and would jump at the chance to go back into the gaming field...even if they treated me like shit. Just to be "in the industry," working on something I enjoy.

This is not be defending the crap they pull on their employees. This is just me saying rather sadly how easy it is for them to get away with this if because they exploit something their employees love to do...at least to begin with, and with no appealing alternatives. :/
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 01:39 am (UTC)

(Link)

Dude. Not only did I get a new page...I got page 42! *dances geekily*
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 06:31 am (UTC)

Larry Probst could care less

(Link)

Probst is out of the loop of normal species emotion so forget about appealing to his humanity.

When you hit his kind of paydirt and with the promise of much, much more you tend not to give a rat's furry behind about the pions who lifted you there. Funny human condition known as RICH AS F##K.

However the real funny about this guy is his failure to grasp the "always cheaper to keep the ranks mildly happy" flip of change ala chump. And please red circle the "mildly", because that's all they ask, those binary inputing hamsters, they're asking for a better grade of bitter seed. To be eaten at home once in a while.

And this hurts: If I'm wrong and you are not actually all hamsters, then for whatver reason you allow your very own soul's nutsack to be french fried and onion dipped.

I've plugged into your collective efforts and they are worthy. Lots of hum ding animation from the cats who bailed Disney, and what happened? Disney got better too. Thanks, Bailcats.

So Probst could care less. Who gives a fuck?
From: ravidrath
2004-12-07 09:33 am (UTC)

Another Cartoon...

(Link)

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 08:37 pm (UTC)

Same Scenario at Activision

(Link)

This exact same scenario also exist at Activision -- not just within production but all across departments of the company. Guess this is the "Acceptable" practice in the gaming industry.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 01:09 am (UTC)

Re: Same Scenario at Activision

(Link)

Former Activision employee here.
some departments didn't experience the long overtime hours. finance had the long hours for only a few quarters. However we accomplished our goals of cleaning up the balance sheet and documentation all the processes. We achieved consistent accelerated monthly closes while providing accurate and timing reporting throughout the company without having to work extra hours.

Our problem was management. They relied TOO much on the staff doing on the work and did not financially reward us. Some managers were pretty much incompetitent so the people who turned around that company left.
From: ravidrath
2004-12-07 08:42 pm (UTC)

NPR Covers It...

(Link)

Laura Sydell, who was here looking for people earlier, ran her story on NPR recently.

Here's a link to an audio archive of the story - good stuff.

http://www.npr.org/rundowns/segment.php?wfId=4206253

Enjoy.

-Peter
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-09 11:13 pm (UTC)

Re: NPR Covers It...

(Link)

That's a terrific segment. Thanks for posting the link.
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 09:17 pm (UTC)

If only it were just the games industry...

(Link)

Having worked for an enterprise software company for several years, the situation is much the same. As I suspected, our "reward" for meeting impossibly tight deadlines--the ones that followed the original schedule that no one believed--was to do the same thing all over again, only with the bar raised higher. Did quality suffer? Did employees burn out? Did the company have any idea whether it was giving its customers what they wanted? Did executives turn into venom-spewing alpha creatures, deflecting the pressures on them onto their employees? Are these rhetorical questions?
[User Picture]From: mrferal
2004-12-08 12:17 am (UTC)

That was close

(Link)

I only recently had an interview with a company that is under EA's wing. Everything went well, and I was confident that the job would be mine. I didn't get hired there, and I was upset about the fact, but after reading all this, I'm relieved that I didn't. I hope this lawsuit *stomps* EA.

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-08 02:52 am (UTC)

Are there any decent software companies?

(Link)

Reading through these posts, it seems like EA is the worst of the lot, but there are many other software companies that treat their employees like crap. Are there any decent video game or software companies to work with anywhere? This is horrible that people put up with this crap at EA just for fear of being fired/blacklisted from a high paying job, but then again, if it's not better anywhere else, what's the point of leaving? If there are any decent companies that people can personally vouch for, please let me know!
From: ravidrath
2004-12-08 07:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Are there any decent software companies?

(Link)

There are some that the IGDA mentions by name in its open letter to the industry. They are Blue Fang and Ensemble. I've also heard that Neversoft, makers of Tony Hawk, normally work four 10 hour days a week, and move to five 10 hour days when crunching, and never work weekends. However, I've also heard that this was in response to previously terrible working conditions and employee revolt.

Right now the IGDA is working on some kind of approval process for companies. Companies with good labor practices and quality of life will get this "seal of approval," which will help people decide where they should work before they get there. This is a great idea, and I'm looking forward to seeing it implemented - when recruiting is hurt at companies that didn't get the approval, then maybe they'll start reconsidering their practices in order to attract top talent once again.

-Peter
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-08 10:51 am (UTC)

Are EAC practices legal?

(Link)

I work at EA. I don't think I've attended a meeting in the last few weeks where this blog hasn't been mentioned either as a nervous joke or a serious concern.

Why is EA suddenly a hot topic? - perhaps a fairly stagnant stock price over the last year combined with massive staff influx has brought us to some kind of critical mass. Who knows but I think 'ea_spouse' has definitely lit the blue touch paper...



Ok so now for my rant. Can anyone explain how the 'high tech' companies in British Columbia managed to make themselves exempt from standard working practices? It seems to open the way for poor treatment of staff. I'm from Europe and I was staggered when I discovered this:

http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/facshts/high_tech.htm



Can EAC classify itself as 'high tech'? I thought videogames companies lived in the 'interactive entertainment' pigeon hole. I don't see videogames developer in the government's list. We don't build or design the hardware so how would we be any different from someone at Mattel or Hasbro who develops the latest toys?

If EAC do fall into the scope of being considered 'high tech', last time I checked we have a few hundred programmers who might fall into the category and 1000+ staff who probably do not.

Even ignoring working time excess, I believe EA have actually breached my employment contract a number of times. Although it would be unfair to say that no breach of contract has ever happened at another employer that still doesn't make it alright.

At EA I've worked many weekends and far more hours week-on-week than any other company I've ever worked at. If I was working similar hours to my previous employers I would say I received fair compensation. I have worked crazy hours at another developer but never sustained for so long. I actually received overtime and/or bonuses from that developer during crunches so this is not an alien concept for some of us in the industry.

I have never seen any mention of an employee / employer liaison committee for discussing these overtime practices.

I would like the 'high-tech' employee and company status of EAC to be clarified by HR. A simple job classification head count via internal email would suffice.

I firmly believe everyone at EA should aim to receive compensation for excessive overtime or reach rational scheduling agreements before crunch time so employees can perform at their optimum and not at their limit. I also believe EAC should make employees aware of how they are following the relevant legal procedures. If you're from EA and want to pursue this or from another company and have prior experience of these agreements, please mail me:

maybe_we_need_a_union@hotmail.com


If you work for EA and feel that I am wrong to add my thoughts to this blog, please feel free to mail me as well. It may turn out to be a cathartic experience for everyone involved.

Ok. EA are not the only ones who may have their hand in the tempting cookie jar of employee abuse. If you in the industry or are considering games development as a career it is likely you will come up against more than one employer who behaves like this. However for a company with the $x,000,000,000 stockmarket footprint of EA I believe we should take them to task. There are many great points to working for EA and everyone reading this should be aware that it is certainly not all bad.

Just for the record, EA have not overstepped my mental 'line in the sand' *yet*. If they do, I will almost certainly do what Joe Straitif (sp) did. Like him (and other experienced game developers), I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can move fairly easily to another job if required.

I have enough experience in games to realise that excessive overtime indicates poor workflow and management. I worked at company previously where we hit every milestone and we would usually go home around 7 o'clock during the week before a milestone. I am giving EAC the benefit of the doubt over the coming year but they won't get a chance for a third strike.

Continued on next post...
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-08 10:52 am (UTC)

Re: Are EAC practices legal?

(Link)

If EA put their house in order and address their workflow issues they will (re)discover they can do the same job with fewer staff and in less time. That means more great titles can be pushed in parallel with less pressure on the development staff and more staff will come and work for them. That means we all make more money in the long run because the stock will follow.

Given the resources of EA I often find myself wondering why we are putting out sequels on a yearly basis with a ship date close to the final project date. Why not get ahead of the game and schedule a team to final 6 months or even a year before it's launch? We are not a small development house who cannot afford a solid safety margin at the cost of a period of overlap to get the ball rolling.

Many smaller developers do a great job with a fraction of the staff we have on our teams and produce comparable or better output.

Would their employees leave their employer if they were treated in the way many at EA are? Yes.

Do crunched up (EA et al) employees produce better work than reasonably rested ones do? No.

On a personal note, in the past I often worked in my spare time and went beyond my job mandate just to get something done. I definitely noticed that when being made to crunch for months on end at EA the last thing I wanted to do at home was anything related to EA.

Theres probably a disclaimer on this website but just to be sure:

Everything I've expressed in this post (except the quoted website) is entirely my opinion.

Whew...
/endrant
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