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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
ea_spouse
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)
2004-11-14 02:49 pm (UTC)
My husband used to work in v.g. production at EA but we have since found that a nice steady job in an unrelated industry is much better for family life. He's unionised, and our family gets dental, medical, accident and travel insurance. It's a very good plan. He works rotating shift, which is a bit of a drag, but heaven compared to what he went through at EA. There isn't the constant stress of veiled threats, backstabbing and broken promises in our lives. He really is a different man now. He helps me with stuff and he plays with the kids. He finds the time to draw on the side to outlet his creativity. He seems happy and there's much more sense of stability and fulfillment in our lives. You can't possibly know the cost you are paying until you've led a soulful, happy life!

Now we are talking about a very talented man here folks. So imagine he could find all this fulfillment and job security in a creative line of work? Now that would be something really wonderful!

All I can say is anyone who says UNION is a dirty word is out for lunch or fleecing you again. You need to go with a bunch of seasoned union experts who know the ropes and understand the nature of the beast- not some whacked out left wing job with political agendas. So I say ea_spouse, pick up your phone and call a union guy. Have him show up at EA this week and start poking around, distributing flyers.

You started all this, now do something about it!;)

And union guys, don't stop there for heaven's sake. EA has branches all over and each one of their offshoots has the same work practices. There are people suffering all over the place. It's time we had some conscience in a field that's got away with way too much for too long!

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 03:14 pm (UTC)

I'm hoping to get into the Game Industry One Day...

And I now know to Avoid EA like the Plague. Thanks! Good luck with the situation, and Good Luck to all those involved in the Lawsuit.
-A Student Studying Computer
Science At Oxford University.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-22 03:20 pm (UTC)

Better consider changing your mind.

All game companies are like this. If you like working on games then nut up and we will welcome you as a brother. If you don't, then please for our sakes go work at Oracle.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 03:20 pm (UTC)

It's not Just Electronic Arts

I really sympathize with your story and with the comments from other developers around the country and the world. It simply doesn't make sense to treat your employees this way. It seems that quite a few of these companies make use of these practices. I was in a similar situation at a Game Development company. The managers there used the same tactics. They would constantly tell me how talented I was and how far I was going to go. Be a team player. All while asking me to come in on weekends and work late hours. I bought in to it for the first six months. I regularly put in 80 to 90 hour weeks. One week I clocked in 94 hours. I was never paid overtime. Finally I started to catch on that this wasn't just a short crunch to get things done before a milestone. It was just the standard procedure for the duration of the project. I began attempting to send out demo reels to other companies in the area. I got no response whatsoever. Despite the fact that I knew other people getting hired with less experience and less quality work on their demo reels. Eventually Our project got cancelled we were all laid off. At that point the lead artist of the studio did me the "favor" of making some phone calls to different studios in the area and putting my name on a list. I got calls immediately. Every studio that I had tried previously was suddenly calling me. They knew that I didn't want to move again and so they offered me a job. At 2/3 of my former salary. And their work hours were exactly the same as my previous employer. It's sick these people should be ashamed of themselves. During the interview at the company I ended up at I was told that "we're not a crunch house we treat our employees well." I thought well that sounds great. Upon starting my new position I was told that we would be starting out on a 6 day a week schedule for the next 2 to 3 months and after that we may go to seven. They even told me not to make plans for the paid holidays on my job offer because they may or may not need me to come in during that time. So why even offer paid holidays? Why not just admit that there are no paid holidays. What they are doing is making their employees sick. That is illegal period. Don't just sit around trying to hide the fact that you are having anxiety attacks in the bathroom. Unionize.
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From: unionjosh
2004-11-22 10:27 pm (UTC)

Re: It's not Just Electronic Arts

My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE Local 16. We represent cg workers at ILM. I would like to hear more about your experiences and see if we can do something to change this industry. I am at 415-441-6400 or unionjosh@local16.org

unionize
josh
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 03:25 pm (UTC)

EA slave workers

honestly, what EA dumbarses are willing to work 85 hours for 40 hours pay?
even mcdonalds droids get paid OVERTIME. i'd simply refuse. when they fired me i'd collect unemployment and get a lawyer to sue on any grounds i could. if the entire developement group would just agree to ONLY work 8-5 then management would HAVE to accept it...or fire them ALL and then NO work would get done. in the old days...i.e. back when unions were forming...some patriots would suit up in black and pay a visit to management with some baseball bats and take care of this nonsense.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 03:38 pm (UTC)

I think the Problem is with the Francises as well...

I can see, almost, why EA think they need to do stuff like this. It all boils down to one of the worst things about them. They keep churning out near identical francise games like FIFA, Madden, Each Year, with very real deadlines. I mean, Heaven forbid they not release a game for the New Footie season (I'm English), or for the new Golf season, or for the New Harry Potter film, or whatever. Now if they actually tried making a new game for these francises without these awful time restrictions, maybe I would stop reading the reviews in my Games mag telling me "Umm it is kinda good, but almost identical to the game they released out last year...".

The idiots are most likely doing the Majority of this evil thinking "Hhhhmmmm We don't want those nasty reviewers pointing out it is the Identical game, so we have to work on the game so much, that is no longer the same game. But We need to release it in a Year. I know! We make the prgrammers, designers, etc, work as hard as they would in 5 years, in the space of One! Ah, I am a genius!"

No one seems to realise these days that games are like wine... wait, no they are not, I love computer games, but I am a T-Total... But they are similar, in that they need time to develop and Mature to be really good. Or Something. I don't know how you make wine fully. Does wine go off if you leave it too long? Games are like that too, since a game can take too long to make, then when it comes out, it is old hat compared to current games. Like that Daiketa or whatever it was called.

I hope if I ever get into the industry, I can find an employer who knows that time is needed to make a game, not just work.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:05 pm (UTC)

UNIONIZE BEFORE YOU END UP DEAD. YOU MIGHT BE ALREADY.

Stress takes a tremendous toll on the human body. The Brain is a chemical reaction and if you hope to exercise any kind of creativity you have to treat it right. That means sleeping at night eating healthy and exercising. If you are working more than 45 hours a week you won't have time for any of those things. It's a fact. Creating artwork and programming for video games is difficult work. It takes energy and hard work to make it happen. Companies that ignore these facts are not acting in anyones interest, not even their own. How can anyone expect to come up with innovative ideas while physically exhausted?

http://www.stress-and-health.com/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3034410.stm

You will experience symptoms of stress if you are working in a video game company. You may find yourself going to the bathroom frequently, Having headaches, or possibly self medicating with alchohol and or medication.

Don't fool yourself you can have a heart attack. You can get sick. You can die. It has happened to other people in the industry. It can happen to you.

Ask yourself is it worth being on an SSRI just so that you can have a cool job. What the management at EA is doing is called brainwashing. It is nothing different from Jim Jones getting his cult members to drink poisoned cool aid. It's not worth it. Either join the Union. Get a different job. Or leave the industry.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:29 pm (UTC)

Excellent point!

Good post! It may seem dramatic, but the reality is that our health needs to be our bottom line. It's the one thing that money cannot buy, folks! There is abundant scientific evidence to support claims that these employers are knowingly endangering the health of their employees. If the law upholds that abuse, then the laws need to be adapted to acommodate the kind of jobs that have been created since the laws were created. Widespread computer use is a new thing and it is being widely abused. WAKE UP EVERYBODY!! PROTECT YOURSELVES NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR YOUTH!!

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:20 pm (UTC)

This has now made it to FARK.

http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1213869 (http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1213869)
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:35 pm (UTC)

Why Being a Computer Game Developer Sucks

http://slashdot.org/features/99/08/20/143215.shtml
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Why Being a Computer Game Developer Sucks

I should also mention that the games industry has little respect for experience. What the games industry runs on is youthful energy. It loves to exploit 19 year old programmers who work 10-12 hours a day, get paid less than the standard wage for programmers in other industries, and don't know squat about software engineering principles.


Part of the problem is that our industry labors under the illusion that it is "like Hollywood". Film producers are usually able to turn out a film on time and within budgetary limits. But there's a difference -- film producers don't have to re-invent the camera each time they do a production. There are no "stable" technologies in the computer games industry, and the average useful life of a game "engine" is about two years.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: rhalin
2004-11-14 05:14 pm (UTC)

Possible solution?

Personally, I've long looked upon EA as a bad company. They've taken great studio's like
Westwood and Maxis and turned them to producing crap - very fast. I want to put the power of game developing back into the creative minds that -make- the games. These last few years have seen a heavy decline in the quality of new games that come out, usually a new one is just a clone of something else with a new story slapped on. It's been a long time since I've seen a truly original game, and I hope that I can do something to see the days of innovation again.

I work for a company currently working at providing a solution to the corporate machine approach to game development. The idea is to create an extensible game engine - something that would handle an RPG as well as an RTS, sports game, or deathmatch special. The initial development is done by a closed team, but the eventual product would be open source, were individuals can contribute both to code modules and to an "ever expanding cache of free content" such as models, textures, etc. The engine would be free for non-commercial use and provide client/server support for internet based games. For commercial use, development would be free, and "distribution" licenses would only have to be acquired once a project is finished, and shipping.

The major driving force behind it is that it is -dynamic-. Everything can be updated and changed without having to rewrite half the code. The code behind the core system that handles this is a little complex, but it makes writing modules much much easier. And we hope that the "community support" approach can help keep the engine at the top levels of technology, much the way that current open source projects such as Linux keep themselves updated. We want to create a game engine that isn't outdated in a year, or two years, or possibly ever. We've been calling this approach the "zero budget game," While not exactly true, it's a phrase that’s kept us moving with the project.

Hopefully, with this engine, we'd be giving small development companies the tool they need to be able to create games and undercut the large corporations. We've considered working out licensing model to favor small teams, but that’s undecided as of yet.

We are open to any suggestions anyone may have, our goal is to ultimately even the battlefield for the small dev vs. large corporation (or possibly even make it easier for the small devs), and we'll consider any comments or suggestions on how we can do that.

-Rhalin
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 09:16 pm (UTC)

No future....

I am a gamer. Not the sort of gamer that EA and relative companies target and I am proud of it. In fact apart from Desert Strike and the first FIFA on Megadrive, I have never enjoyed playing a single 'game' pumped out of the licence-based powerhouse of EA. Even then I was not impressed at these two games. I just rented then for a day or so. Personally I dont care about sleak graphics and licenced crap. I like innovation, immersive-subtle control and passion in games. I refuse to give my money to EA! Their games are not even worth downloading...

EA is evil because its all about the money. It doesnt give a f**k about how games are or should be made. Where is the intelligence put into games by companies like SEGA, CAPCOM or ATARI in their golden days??? -to name a few that cross my mind- That is how I understand evil EA as a gamer. It screwed the gaming world and it continues to do so. I see now that this evil is reflected on its employing policies.

But nothing will change... People, in majority are idiots. EA just wanna make MONEY out of them! The pure gamer does not exist anymore. Games went mainstream and gamer turned to a mere consumer-idiot. It not about innovation anymore. Its all about demographics and marketing.

LONG LIVE SUPER MONKEY BALL!!!!!!!!!!!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 05:15 pm (UTC)

In a similar boat...

That’s the horrible trend in big business today. No longer are they concerned with the lives and well being of the people that keep the company running. Everyone is expendable. They waste millions of dollars a year training new employees to replace the ones they burnt out, yet refuse to re-direct any of that money toward keeping the hard working talent they already have. My husband comes home every day exhausted. The weekends (when he gets one) are used to catch up on sleep. We have a 4-month-old daughter that he barely gets to see, but because of her and the exponentially decreasing job market, he can’t leave. They have him by the balls.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 05:28 pm (UTC)

I concur, and here's why!

People on top realize that they are barely holding on to their market by the skin on their teeth. In this competitive business we call entertainment, experience = knowhow. The last thing upper management wants is to be replaced. That's why experience and talent are not rewarded or encouraged.

What can we do about this? Any thoughts?

Maybe if the consumers were aware of this problem and encouaged to choose ethical companies as opposed to being conditioned to selecting the biggest brand names...could that ever work? I remember when they started putting "dolphin safe" labels on tuna... seems to me it made a difference.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: rhalin
2004-11-14 05:38 pm (UTC)

Re: I concur, and here's why!

So perhaps a
"No developers were harmed in the making of this game" sticker?

What about forming an organization (or utilizing one that already exists) to police the corporations and look out for the "artists" much the same way that *cough* RIAA and MPAA *cough* are "supposed" to look out for thier artists in thier industries?

We've got the ESRB (Entertainment software ratings board, http://www.esrb.com/ ) Maybe we should get an additional rating for how many developers were treated inhumanly during the making of the game?

Madden 2008 - rated TS for Teen game created under Slave labor.
The Sims 3 - rated TS+ for Teen game created under Significant Slave labor.
Tony Hawk 12 - rated TS- for Teen game created under No Slave labor

have one for "limited" slave labor and "excessive" possibly?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 05:37 pm (UTC)

additional thoughts...

If someone started a not-for profit 'association of ethical arts' brand that companies could purchase to put on their product labels, would any of you be interested in paying membership fees? If you consider that there are millions of production artist in the world, and if everyone gave a buck or two, we could afford advertizement in all the major magazines and newspapers... to educate the public and have them make the right choices.

Any thoughts?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 09:28 pm (UTC)

Re: additional thoughts...

From: Andie Clarke - Founder, Planetschnoogie.com

EA Spouse - Thank you for bringing these serious issues to the forefront. I am convinced you remain annonymous to protect your SO which we all respect without question.

There are solutions to the immediate issues - but to make a change in the industry overall is to change the mindset of the Corporate entities and thereby establish accepted Codes across the board.

Personally a Union is not the answer. A Union drives a continually separation between sides.

Bringing both sides together to form a unique partnership with accepted guidelines and codes of conduct may be a better solution overall.

This will be a long process - but one not in vein should the outcome prove better working conditions and job satisfaction overall with a bottom line the Corporations are open to accept.

Breaking down the key points - if you are game - we can devise a "White Paper" of what solutions can be presented to overcome these obstacles.

In fact - there are Good Game Companies that may Endorse this "Code" from the gate. Think of it this way - wouldn't you as a Big Game Corporation want to be viewed as part of the solution and not part of the problem? It is in their best interest to be involved.

There are Non-Profits or Associations whom can offer support in one way or another - but I have not yet found one that specifically focuses in this area. Does anyone know of any they can share with the group?

At the risk of being flamed again for offering help - I am willing to volunteer my time to advocate on this cause.

If those serious about making a difference - contact me off-board at andie@devastation3.com.

You as a collective can change this situation for the better - but again - it is going to take a lot of research, writing, presentations, etc.

Be prepared for door slamming rejections, nay-sayers who are stuck in antiquated processes and everything else that will slam you in the face along the way.

With a solid solution that is a win/win for all sides - you cannot lose.

Let me know -

Andie Clarke
andie@devastation3.com

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From: thirdoutsider25
2004-11-14 05:40 pm (UTC)

EA SPORTS

Wow...my obsession with Madden 05 hss greatly diminished
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[User Picture]From: l0th4r
2004-11-14 07:11 pm (UTC)
You made gamespot news.

And then fark.com.

And a friend of mine who had been contacted by EA has just been informed about this situation.. and mostly like will utter the words "fuck that" or something to that extent.

Hope things work out for you and your husband. :)



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[User Picture]From: stardreamink
2004-11-14 07:36 pm (UTC)

Evil Arts Strikes Again, bringing Evil to the Game Industry since Trip The Jip Hawkins founded it

One of my favourite company to hate strikes again. This heart wrenching tale is hardly unique or surprising to hear about in regards to EA. I'll ask all the gamers I know to check this out, and put in their comments on it. Maybe with enough attention, someone in the media or the government will notice it and do something to expose EA's illegal business practices.

Crap like this is just one of the things that inspired me and a few other gamers to try and found our own indy studio, to offer something better. Unfortunately it's not easy to start a small studio these days and remain independant, thanks to the large publishers and their love of putting them down so they can acquire their employees for the software factory meat grinders.

(By the way, you can find out exactly how much Larry Probst and other executives and board of directors members make by doing some research. Yahoo Finance is a good place to start searching. As a publicly traded company, all such information is obtainable in their shareholder reports and annual and quarterly financial reports.)

Here's hoping that other indy studios meet with better luck than we did, so there's alternatives to working for the Big Publishers. I know I can't be the only game designer around who's more interested in art and entertainment than maximized profits. Sadly, few companies these days seem to care about looking after their employees. Had I the cash to keep going, I'm sure I wouldn't have much trouble attracting talent simply by offering a better work enviroment that doesn't revolve around screwing the guys that do the actual work over at every turn.

- d.t. of Wraith Games

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