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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
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?



This article is offered under the Creative Commons deed. Please feel free to redistribute/link.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-08 10:46 pm (UTC)

How to deal with these conditions

If you do a good job while working 24-7 then you enable who ever came up with this idea. Next time a crisis happens don't do such a good job. Behave like tired people behave - make mistakes. You guys just dig your own grave.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-08 11:17 pm (UTC)


you said this is illegal right? Why can't you guys just get a group together with some pay stubs or just basically something that proves you have been working those insane hours and go to court. I find it hard to believe that there is nothing you can do besides writing this article. There must be some legal form of action you can take to get the money you deserve isn't there?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ravidrath
2004-12-09 08:30 pm (UTC)

Re: question

The problem is more complicated than that.

1) None of these extra hours are really documented, specifically to make this more difficult.

2) If this were a cut-and-dry legal situation, it would've already been resolved - Game developers fall into a legal gray area - software engineers don't get much in the way of protections, but entertainment people do. Our contention is that our jobs are virtually identical to some protected entertainment positions, but these don't apply because the end-result of our efforts is software.

3) People are scared. It sounds lame, but there is a lot of fear of losing one's job, and many companies cultivate this fear to keep people in line.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
Re: question - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 12:39 am (UTC)

Court date

can you give us any information about when you think it is likely that you will have a court date? Do you think it will take several years? Have conditions there improved at all due to the media attention you have attracted?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 02:17 am (UTC)

Re: Court date

oh dude, are you familiar with the legal system in this country? Most cases, if they ever do get a hearing (which can take years), are settled before they ever go to trial. For the most part, years pass by and legal teams send back and forth pounds of depositions, correspondences, pleadings etc. All the while, the attorney fees escalate, time marches by on the calendar, and some magical date looms on the horizon - one that you never can seem to reach because some pleading gets in the way. The legal system in this country is a broken, miserable process and the individual,the plaintiff, rarely sees justice. This case, I can assure you, will probably settle some day in the future, just when the XBOX 4 is debuted at some E3 party with booth babes wearing g-strings that double-down as fiber optic cable. IF you have enough money, and the right kind of legal counsel, you can burry any case in that fragmented, corrupted american legal system. Good fucking luck.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 03:05 pm (UTC)


Tax free cigarettes at bargain prices.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 04:41 pm (UTC)

Re: http://www.internetcigarettes.com

sweet, i was reading all this thinking 'i could really use an ad for cheap cigarettes. i don't want one on the side of the page or even a pop-up. i want one right in the responses!'
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: argileflannigan
2004-12-09 05:10 pm (UTC)

A gamers tears...

programmers, marketing associates, developers, script writers, these are the people who make our games. Our worlds of adventure and entertainment come from hours of solidly plugging along on a computer, with a development engine, to create the pixelated worlds we so covet.
Shame on EA. Running these men and women ragged. I like my video games, but not at the cost of someone going home to a cooked dinner, and loving family. No man, no matter what work he does should ever have to tell his wife, he can't come home tonight, theres just too much work to do. I have honestly, never been a supporter of big game firms, simply becasue of the sweatshop like environment there programmers have to live with. I tip my hat and heart to all those men and women toiling in front of a computer for my video game wonderment, thank you, for you folks have given me some great times. Shame on EA.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 06:33 pm (UTC)


Someone on /. suggested this, and I just couldn't resist;


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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-13 05:53 am (UTC)

Re: T-Shirt

*ahem*...actually, we generally do get t-shirts.

For my 90 hour weeks at EA, I get a decent-to-excellent annual bonus, comp time, and reasonably valuable stock options as well.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: prospectjazz
2004-12-09 08:26 pm (UTC)

You don't have to call him.

You can look it up. All public companies are required by law to post what they pay their executives. You can find Larry's 2003 and 2004 salary here.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 10:03 pm (UTC)

Not a leg to stand on

This article was so full of ill-informed, naive, melodrama that I'm honestly shocked it has gotten as much press as it has. You can't swing a stick without whacking 3 or 4 rhetorical fallacies in every paragraph.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, ea_spouse, but this is how the free enterprise system works. Corporations exist to make money. Their sole mission in life is to maximize shareholder wealth. Your comment about EA being a "money farm" made me just scratch my head. Of course EA is a money farm. All companies are. Is this news to you?

It may hurt your feelings to know this, but EA doesn't give a toss about your husband's physical health or his relationship with you. They care about getting a game out on time and making as much money as they possibly can from said product. If your husband is able to contribute to that effort and bring value to the project he is working on while working 80 hours a week, guess what? He's going to work 80 hours a week. If his working 80 hours a week was a problem and his productivity dropped to an unacceptable level, he would be fired. I feel like I'm lecturing a schoolchild, but I honestly don't think you understand this stuff.

If it helps you to visualize, think of your husband as a widget. To EA, your widget-husband has one input and one output. The input is his hours worked and the output is his creative contribution to the project. If they don't get the proper ratio of hours to performance, he will be replaced. And guess what? EA knows the exact expense of finding, hiring and training a new widget to replace him. They would just as soon have the next widget in the box as your husband. He is merely a means to and end, and that end is maximizing shareholder wealth.

My point is this: If EA can work your husband for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end, one of two things is true.

1. The opportunity cost of replacing him is very low. Which means either a) his skill set is widely available or b) people really want to work for EA and are willing to endure whatever abuse they are burdened with.

2. Perhaps the experience of working for EA is worth so much at subsequent jobs that the 80 hour weeks are worth it.

In any event, no one is holding a gun to his head and forcing him to work there. That's the beauty of a free market economy. When the benefits of working for EA are outweighed by the long hours, people will leave on their own. The fact that EA is able to treat people like this means the market supports their actions. Evidently the employees are getting some sort of benefit from EA, otherwise they wouldn't continue to be employees, would they?

admin: lurid.org
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 11:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Not a leg to stand on

Since when do we live in a free market economy? From the wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market):

A free market economy is an idealized form of market economy in which buyers and sellers only carry out transactions to which they mutually agree without interventionism in the form of taxes, subsidies, regulation, or government provision of goods or services beyond simply the protection of property rights and enforcement of contracts..

Due to regulations for healthy working conditions, monopolies, emissions, etc. we do not live in a free market economy. Companies are required by law to pay taxes and ensure the health of their employees, as well as pay overtime to employees that work over 40 hours a week. Nor is "to make as much money as possible" the sole reason for EA (or any corporation) to exist; its an important part, but you would be hard pressed to find a mission statement that says "we want to make as much money as possible for our shareholders", EA's included.

Lets see.. make as much money as possible.. Work our employees 24 hours a day would make as much money as possible. Screw copyright law; lets steal and start selling our competitor's products. Heck, while we're at it, lets screw our customers too, by raising the price and selling them empty boxes!! You know, we're losing money by paying our suppliers; thats money that would go into our pocket..

We do not live in a "free market" economy. That is what makes this whole story atrocious. Just because the market supports their actions does not justify the actions themselves, nor absolve the market of wrong..
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[User Picture]From: bridgetlover
2004-12-10 07:21 am (UTC)
*shrugs* Who gives a shit. NO ONE NEEDS TO WORK FOR EA OR BUY EA PRODUCTS. If you hate EA so much and your husbands job at said location, tell him to quit.

If you wanna goof off all day, go work for working designs. All they do is play pinball all day and release less than 2 games a year sometimes.
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[User Picture]From: bridgetlover
2004-12-10 07:28 am (UTC)
BTW, the Madden franchise must take alot of work from year to year.

I think if anyone is disrespecting employees, its you for saying the said football games are just "re-hashes".
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bwahahaahahaha - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 07:32 am (UTC)

Why not leave EA if you hate it?

Sounds like ea_spouse's partner works in a sweatshop in a underdeveloped country. But wait, this is USA. You can leave your current job with or without reasons.

I was upset on politics of my own country, I came to US, spent several years in a minimal-wage job and attend night-schools.

Then I found a better job, then better job until I met a hairy manager. I quit, find another job with a paycut, but I'm happier.

I never complain, I just vote with my feet! You can choose your life, at least in this country.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 01:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Why not leave EA if you hate it?

When you've spent a few more years in the country, you'll figure out you can also vote with your mind by creating a public relations nightmare for the company in question.

You said "You can choose your life". Did you understand what you meant, or was it just some happy horseshit you've learned to mimic? You're watching people "choose their life" right in front of you.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 02:46 pm (UTC)

I left the games industry

Life is waaaay too short. I worked for Gremlin in Sheffield that was later taken over by Infogrames - it was never quite as bad as you describe but it was definately heading that way! Now do something much more interesting!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 05:26 pm (UTC)
You are saying bla bla bla... and thats all i hear.. this is my lifestyle and I CHOSE IT, not the other way around. So stop whining and take a cookie, INSTEAD OF GETTING YOUR "significant" FIRED!!! btw what your "significant" did at EA im glad for it... BECAUSE EVERY GAME IVE PLAYED HAS CHANGED THE VIEW ON HOW I SEE THIS WORLD... and what ever he did it changed my view... you should thank you "significant"... take a cookie dry your eyes, THIS IS IT! THE REAL LIFE, not some dreamworld, wake up alice!!!

And i wish you good luck...
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 05:55 pm (UTC)

How are you threatened?

Perhaps you could tells us just how your "lifestyle" is threatened by ea_spouses actions? Or is working 90 hours a week an integral part of this lifestyle?

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 05:34 pm (UTC)

ea_spouse, ignore all these ignorant haters.

Many of us in the trenches (and those married/otherwise related to us) are right there with you and your spouse. Cheering you on, out loud or in private.

Keep up the good fight.

It is one well worth fighting.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-10 06:34 pm (UTC)

Re: ea_spouse, ignore all these ignorant haters.

Thank you for your comment. My own skin is pretty thick, but it is important for me to know that the people I'm championing don't think of it as an intrusion or anything negative. I get reports from my SO's impression of the attitude toward all of this at the EA office, and all of it is grateful, relieved, and good-humored, which I am in turn grateful, relieved, and humored by. ;) I'm also present without participating on a number of mailing lists where it's come up, so I have some tab on the pulse of industry attitude, but my point is that the feedback is important. Thank you.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 05:59 pm (UTC)

A big problem.

EA_Spouse: Ignore the trolls and lurkers who now trying to spin your story. The problem is very real, and I really hope by talking about it, and taking action will lead the way into better working conditions.

I was at a coffee shop with my friend. While there, I overheard the conversation from a wide-eyed gal who was so excited to get on board with Blizzard (The word Blizzard cought my attention). She might be college (early 20's) who was so eager to work there because according to her words "hard work pays off." I didn't say much, but it made me think that part of the problem at ITt places is all the exploitation of fresh meat that comes in. And the worst part is that those people believe that the work they put in, will be acknowledge and recognize likewise. Unfortunatly it is not the truth.

Thing is that you husband and other talented workers is not as big pool, as unlimited college drones/wide-eyed kids. And like most of big industry in the past that got away with THE SAME ATTITUDE "Dont like it quit, there are 100 more people waiting at the door."EA seems to be taking the same route. For all the evil(corruption, extortion, mob, money grabbing whores) unions have, they created a great shift in improving the working conditions for most workers USA. Yes mediocrity sets it, but people who are talented and strive DO get rewarded and go further within a union. What is happening now in IT industry is what was going on in lesser degree in manufacturing in 20-30's. I hope major lawsuit will kick all those companies in the teeth.

Ohh and I stopped buying EA's game after buying one incomplete game after another after another, and get their lousy "new features" as patches when in reality the games were in their beta stages pushed to the public. And new features were nothing more then fixes for buggy games that should have never come out in the form it did. EA if you are reading this, most of the people in the gaming community knows your practices and shy away from the games you make. Your games have no soul in them.

Good luck EA-Spouse!
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-10 06:36 pm (UTC)

Re: A big problem.

Thank you for your comment. I am amazed and heartened at the discussion that we've been having on this issue over the past month. I hope we can keep it going.
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Re: A big problem. - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: A big problem. - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: A big problem. - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 06:27 pm (UTC)

I am a Union worker.

et see.

I work in a union. I started as apprentice, and was paid 24 dollars an hour. Have full benefits. Few years later, I took a test and I became a journeyman. I am more experienced, and I was getting paid more about 27. Five years later, I get paid 32 dollars and hour. Guess what I have to work overtime, and I get it 1.5x and on Sunday at 2x's. Swing/and night shift have bonuses. Also when we work over-time our boss has to be with us as well. The company I work for - STILL MAKES A GOOD PROFIT! (and I get dollar for dollar matching up to 3k on my 401k!) And even though we have inter-union infighting, and we still bitch and moan the work gets done, and most of us are fat, and have big butt cracks, the work gets done well, we offer people advencments and paying for their continual education. I am hitting 86~88k for this year. Unions are bad? Sure they are,but are they worse then h1B situation and all the outsourcing that is going on? And dont believe the load of crap people tell you unions kill companies. Yes, some companies will go down, yes unions USED to strong arm people, and contribute to the party I dont give a shit about, but it really does take care of the people! And because they do, bosses do get paid 100-200k of dollars a month. Why? Because unlike CEO of computer companies, they bring bacon on our table, and take care of our needs. And also because people afraid of being unionized (rightly or wrongly) they create conditions that would match those of union. So HOW IS THAT BAD? Maybe if you are a company and instead of 100 million you will make 50 million. Booo hOoo..

One thing, union is only good for big company...not small, I realize that.

Now ask yourself the same question. Does your company take care of you?

Take Care.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: bridgetlover
2004-12-10 08:55 pm (UTC)

Re: I am a Union worker.

"And dont believe the load of crap people tell you unions kill companies."

Actully, Unions only further the inflation of the American dollar bill in this country, which makes living conditions more expensive, raises the national debt, etc. etc. Its a domino effect.

They dont kill companies; they kill the worth of the American dollar.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 06:29 pm (UTC)

not an EA issue

this is an industry wide issue. If you want this to stop, you need to go to all the big companies and get them all togethere against what is happening to them all. Start with the top 5, if you can get 1-2 of them to change then they will all follow suit
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 07:07 pm (UTC)

I completely agree...

... but it's got to start somewhere.
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From: wolverine101
2004-12-10 07:40 pm (UTC)

The human story

This is the lengthiest posting I have ever seen. You gave face to a problem of the new world and job market. It is like the jungle out ther, where you can see the enemy but you can
(Reply) (Thread)
From: wolverine101
2004-12-10 08:06 pm (UTC)

Human stoy

This is the lengthiest posting I have ever seen. You gave face to a problem of the new world and job market. It is like the jungle out there, where you can see the enemy but you can`t get away from it. In today`s world is always nice to have a good job, but sometimes your dignity is sold to please the bottom line of a few. Many times I hear it is business, and if it is business why it impacts so much on a personal level. People suffer day in and day out to get to the end without a proper compensation. I hate when people say business is business, but when they are against a rock and an hard place, they ask you, where are your friendship. In the end when they no longer need you, they dismiss you without looking twice at what you are going through.
I hope people work together for the good of all.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 12:15 am (UTC)

UGRailroad on Google Groups

Especially after being /.ed, this forum has started to turn into a true community. I just started a forum over on Google Groups called "UGRailroad", which is dedicated to delivering game industry slaves to freedom. The discussion is intended for proactive solutions to the problems of game workers. Pasted below is the intro to the group. Lets mobilize this energy and make this an industry in which we want to work again.

This group is dedicated to delivering game industry slaves to freedom.
Most of us got involved in the industry because of a love for games.
After working in the industry for a while, you have to ask yourself --
do you still really love it?

For the past two years I have been contracting off and on for EA at a
small developer. A week ago, I handed in my resignation, and have
decided to start a small shareware gaming company and go to business
school. I just wasn't willing to be a cog in that wheel anymore. I
want my own damn wheel.

The games I make will be smaller, aimed at a different audience, will
make less money, and won't get the press hoopla of big studio games,
but at least I can do what I used to love -- make games.

This forum is intended for discussion of proactive solutions to
changing the industry. Making games should be the best job there is.
And it is up to us to figure out how to make it that way again.

Welcome to the UGRailroad. Let's get back to loving our jobs again.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 07:29 am (UTC)

Re: UGRailroad on Google Groups

Give me a break man. "delivering game industry slaves to freedom" - what a bunch of nonsense. Don't forget when you sign up with Activision they teather you to the fence with a contract that doesn't allow you leave. Sony Imageworks does the same things with some of their artists. EA folks are "at will" - they can leave of their own accord. The studio will address the concerns and make amends. If they are not satisfactory, individuals will leave. Perhaps I'm wasting my time in replying. This reads like yet another post from someone that left the Dean Nation that is looking for a cause. Get a life.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 12:27 am (UTC)

Long hours ain't working

Check out the reviews of Goldeneye. Pretty pathetic.
Management should take note that setting ridiculously tight deadlines to get a product to market fast does not equate to a good sales. games need to be polished to be top sellers.

management at EA has never heard of the law of diminishing returns
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 12:38 am (UTC)

Re: Long hours ain't working

I contracted on GoldenEye. The big problem was the Christmas deadline. Even if we had spent more time polishing, the game would not have sold better because it would have missed Christmas sales. The scheduling problems existed before the project even started and were compounded by the hard wall of the Xmas deadline.

Not to sound like a grinch, but Christmas is the biggest problem with the game industry. Sales are so dramatically higher on this one holiday that there is no room for polish or schedule slippage on many products.

Deadlines will always exist, but how can we keep from constantly overpromising and underdelivering?

Again, for a discussion on fixing the industry in a proactive manner, check out UGRailroad on Google Groups.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 01:55 am (UTC)

Be a true American!

Stand up
Tell management to go fuck themselves
Get fired
collect wellfare
then sue em!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-11 09:45 pm (UTC)

Web address

Hey EA,

I want to give you a present: easpouse.com, .net and .org. No strings attached - you're doing a great thing shedding light on an industry full of sharp, creative people that's getting stomped.

Please contact info AT cyberlodge.org.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-12 07:25 am (UTC)

Re: How?

Sorry, but....what?????

I do not see the connection between your clearly troubled childhood and the plight of EA workers.

I thought I read about 50 posts ago that you were retiring from this thread to feed your children or something? What happened to that? Are the kids okay? Are they being bullied in school? Do their shoes fit? Is it time for an oil change for your SO's car, van or truck? Did your parents walk to school or did they bring a lunch?

If you insist on continuing to post please stick to the subject at hand, and wax nostalgic about your own deep-seated issues in your OWN journal.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-12 03:14 pm (UTC)

This is not just a Game industry problem

This is not just a Game industry problem, it’s he software industry as a whole.

I worked for Microsoft on Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 (MOM) as a Software Test Engineer until October at which point I was laid off. Over the last year and a half I work 90 to 100 hours a week. I went 9 months without one day off (yes you heard me, not one day). We shipped MOM is late August, and for all our hard work 97 people where laid off in early September. There was no fiscal reason to lay us off, our previous product was still making lots of money, our market share went up 200% in 2004, and our division was on track to earning a billion dollars in 2005. We where given 10 weeks of severance, but have sign away our rights to sue to get the severance. I had just bought a house so I had to take the deal. I have never felt more abused in a job. I tried very hard not to get another job with Microsoft but I had to take a contracting job with them.

This seems to be an all to common problem and the abuses are many. I fear there is not much that can be done to change this industry. I am going back to school for engineering so I can get out of software. By the way I am more than willing to go on the record about my experiences. If you ever do get the media involved please let me know.

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-12 06:20 pm (UTC)

Re: This is not just a Game industry problem

So let's just assume the problem is insurmountable and that we can't do anything about it because it's industry-wide not limited to just one company?

The media IS involved, dgjedde, have you read previous pages in this blog?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-12 06:31 pm (UTC)

Smells like Teen Spirit

EASpouse's gripes sound very familiar. They sound like every other GenX employee (and their spouse) I've ever had the "pleasure" to work with.

Most younger employees don't understand the meaning of "hard work." It's easier to blame upper management or the man than it is to own up to your own shortcomings and attempt to fix them. Chances are the team is actually doing something wrong and EA_S's SO can't get it through his thick skull. There is probably some not-so-trivial detail of production that routinely gets neglected and the team is being pushed to compensate or correct. Again, it's easier to scream "injustice" than to put yourself to *work* correcting the situation.

If the long hours truly didn't change deadlines or their being met, then the bottom line and P&L arguments here are invalid. No company pushes people that hard without drawing returns on the effort--it just doesn't make business sense. (Note the MOM Xmas push falls into exceptions due to the revenue thought to be made by releasing for Xmas.)

I'm not saying that bad working conditions don't exist--they do, in almost every industry ('cept probably the DMV and US Post Office ;) ). But a lot of details in the post and in this comment thread smack of exaggeration and being one sided. (No, I haven't read EA's response to get the other side of the story yet, but EA_S's post makes no effort to try and comprehend that there may be valid reasons for the injustices suffered.)

Lastly, EA_S should consider if her SO is truly "at work." Perhaps work is just an excuse to get out of the house and into the bar or otherwise step out?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-12 06:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Smells like Teen Spirit

Glad to see you've read the blog and are commenting in an informed, intelligent way, particularly the insightful comment 'work is just an excuse to get out of the house and into the bar or otherwise to step out'.

The thread is not exaggerated; the descriptions are accurate, beyond stupid and the reason I resigned.

'No company pushes people that hard without drawing returns on the effort--it just doesn't make business sense.' Whatever you say, Professor of Economics. If you're so much smarter than everyone else here, why the hell do you even have time the blog?

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