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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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[User Picture]From: cligammari
2004-11-16 03:00 am (UTC)

Get Organized

EA is a HUGE company and they will fight you tooth and nail so they dont have to pay out a dime. Not that its right...but it is the truth. It sounds easy to "sue them" but it is a big process and they do have the upper hand with fancy-pants lawyers. It is able to be done...if you are organized.

I agree with a lot of what has been said here, even though my SO is currently working at EA (he seems to be exempt from most of these problems) I understand that a lot of employees are being abused and need to stand up for their rights. More power to them.

What is bothering me is the many posts from kids not out of college yet looking into a game/ film graphics career thinking that it will be easy to break into the industry with your college reel and no experience on your resume. What you can expect (if you can find work) is that you are going to have to work harder than everyone else to secure yourself a spot and hopefully gain experience to put on your "empty" resume. Companies like EA are good on your resume and for gaining experience, so you can earn more money. I know this because I used to be the person you would send your reel to (at another large company) Names like EA make your resume stand out over the other places that not everyone has heard of. So ruleing out EA on your demo reel list, just might kick you in the ass later on.

This does not mean you should have to slave away 120 hours a week and make yourself sick. But trust me when I say it will be very hard work and long hours wherever you end up. Concider any experience you get out of college a stepping stone to better things, but you cant bargin with no experience...so dont rule anything out. Just my opinion...
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 05:53 am (UTC)

Re: Get Organized

Yes I completely agree. People trying to find work in the industry just out of college and maybe thinking twice about working for a company like EA in it's current state is far more bothersome than forced overtime with no compensation at all for current employees -- well those who are not exempt from most of these problems. Being terminated after you have been used up and left in ashes doesn't look that great as the first and only entry on a resume either.

The industry is small, everyone knows about EA and their flesh and bone resource strategies. If you yourself are not one of the EA walking charred and don't currently know someone who is you will eventually know/meet someone who is/was.. and they always have a new and more gruesome horror story about EA than the last one you heard. Some might even see this as carrying a sign that says "Yes sir, may I have another!"

One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But have no fear EA will still have lines of young dreamers waiting to be thrown on the pyre.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 03:02 am (UTC)

Electronic Arts Overtime Litigation

Don't know if you guys have heard this, didn't get to scan recent msgs, just got it off of penny-arcade:

UPDATE 11/15/04 8:50 pm CST:
From the forums of penny-arcade (http://www.penny-arcade.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=81073&start=150):

Electronic Arts Overtime Litigation (http://www.eaovertimecase.com/)

On July 29, 2004, Jamie Kirschenbaum, an Electronic Arts, Inc. (“EA”) employee, filed a class action lawsuit against EA, claiming that EA has failed to comply with California labor laws requiring it to pay overtime. Kirschenbaum seeks to represent a class of employees including “animators,” “modelers,” “texture artists,” “lighters,” “background effects artists,” “special effects artists” and “environmental artists,” who worked at EA at any time from July 29, 2000 to the present. The complaint seeks to obtain past due overtime compensation for these employees, as well as statutory penalties. In addition, the case seeks to require EA to pay these employees for overtime worked in the future.

Please here click to view the complaint (http://www.eaovertimecase.com/Complaint.pdf) in Kirschenbaum, v. Electronic Arts, Inc., et al., Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Mateo, Case No. 440876.

If you are a current or former EA employee who would like to participate in the litigation, or if you have questions about your legal rights in the litigation, please contact one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this litigation:

Miranda Kolbe
Schubert & Reed LLP
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1660
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 788-4220
EAovertime@schubert-reed.com (mailto:EAovertime@schubert-reed.com)

Todd Heyman
Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP
53 State Street, 37th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 439-3939
EAovertime@shulaw.com (mailto:EAovertime@shulaw.com)

Additional information about the lawyers prosecuting the case is available at www.schubert-reed.com (http://www.schubert-reed.com/) and www.shulaw.com (http://www.shulaw.com/).

More 'EA Management Motivational Posters' on the way (as soon as I can make them up, haha.)

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[User Picture]From: forestjay
2004-11-16 03:26 am (UTC)

This is why I don't work as a Game Programmer.

I actually interviewed with EA.com in 2000 to work on their internet sports games. After the interview several people got laid off and I was glad a hiring freeze was made.

While this story is worse then many game companies, it's repeated thoughout the industry. I have a wife and son which I gladly give up my chance to create games for. Instead of working in the industry I work as a medical software company that's never had lay-offs and rarely requires more then 40 hours a week.

In the New England area Blue Fang (Zoo Tycoon series) is one of the better places to work. Stainless Steel Studios, Ensemble, and Turbine are other big names in the area. Blue Fang's CEO is one of the few executives in the industry to recognize and act on the fact that overtime decreases productivity. Yet, even at that company they have 'scheduled' crunch time. If I remember correctly they usually work 45 - 50 hours a week (real hours not time reading LJs or playing foozeball). Once a month they have a crunch week where people work 70 hours. Near a deadline they go into crunch mode (for no more than a month) with the 70 hour weeks being the norm and the 45 - 50 hour weeks being once every 4 weeks.

The industry is young and good business practices have been slow to be adopted. It's also a high demand career so companies can often push employees further or replace them. There are jokes throughout the industry that "Orphan's are Preferred" and the age LIMIT is 30ish.

I'm sure this comment will be buried among the other 40 billion, especially since Penny Arcade made a link to it. Still, if any human actually reads it, I hope the best for EA employees and that their management will grow. Personally I don't buy EA games because they are always uninspired.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 03:28 am (UTC)

An investor perspective (part 1)

Hey, I've read through the entire 30 pages of comments and I thought I'd chip in an investor perspective. There is going to be some rambling because I want to cover a lot of topics. For a bit of background, I'm a gamer as well as a small-time speculator. By speculator, I mean that I don't buy and hold (like those mutual fund companies tell you to do), but buy and sell depending on my view of a company's prospects (not day trading based on technicals though). Since I don't play with a lot of money, I don't have any influence, per se, but I do my best to make more money than I lose. Currently I don't have any open positions in the game industry, except for starbreeze, which has been a wash.
From the investor point of view, I can see EA focusing on 2 things, recurring revenue through "franchises" as well as reducing the "risk of development" by commoditizing its staffing. 2 years ago, when I first observed EA's actions, I was puzzled, but with time, I began to understand. Keep in mind this is all from an outsider's perspective, so I have no idea what's going on inside the buildings. The first thing I noticed was EA institutionalizing its dev studios. Original names were removed, and replaced by generic EA (location). Gone were Bullfrog, Origin, Westwood Studios, and others. Then came the centralization of studios, building large buildings and combining them. As well, all the star talent, save for Will Wright, have basically left. I thought it was an idiotic move...why buy up a studio and then let go what was a large contributing factor (although by no means the only one) to the studio's success? I came to realize that it wanted to make its development resources uniform, so that no particular person would be able to cause disruption to the company when he or she left, because he or she could easily be replaced by someone else. The prize in buying the studios were the brands (Command and Conquer, Ultima, SIM-stuff, etc.), which at the time I underestimated their value. Now, seeing the comments here makes the picture even clearer for me now, and hiring fresh grads is an especially devious trick. As a sidenote, I'm not entirely sure about this, but from what I gather, Will Wright has been segregated in the old Maxis building with about 50(?) people, trying to find the next big thing, while the other 200(?) of "Maxis" have been relocated to the central building for the location, where they work on Sims 2, Sims Online, and Sims 2 expansions, so even Maxis has been mostly commoditized. As for outsourcing, EA has already done started it, and seems proud of it, given their press releases. IIRC, the miscellaneous objects in NFSU ("over 800 objects") was done in India, and I predict more will come in the future.
Then came "franchise-building". More and more games were made into "franchises", where each game was built upon the previous game, but with more features and prettier graphics. "Consumers can be sure of what they get when they buy a game in our franchise, they won't get something that may not appeal to them because they know they already enjoyed the previous one," or at least the logic went. Games weren't considered just by their own merits, but by how many sequels that could be made after. If some product line could be made into selling regularly with time, it would become reliable revenue stream, which basically is a corporation's wet dream. That's why there isn't any C&C Tiberian Twilight, because what would come after it? But instead, we have C&C Generals. And I'll wager C&C Generals 2 is next, or perhaps C&C Generals (subtitle), after they finish the LoTR RTS.
(continued in part 2)
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 03:32 am (UTC)

An investor perspective (part 2)

From an enthusiast gamer perspective, nothing galls me more than "franchises", except perhaps ads in games and "unlockables" or "replay value", because I like to enjoy new experiences. I actually was a huge fan of both Maxis and Westwood Studios before I realized that the creativity and fun was being engineered out of their games. I have every single Simcity until 3000, including Scurk, Sc2k scenarios, Urban Renewal Kit, and even Simcopter, until I realized something was missing. Similarly, I own every single C&C, including the expansions, up until RA2: Yuri's Revenge. Finally realizing, I looked at Generals, and wondered, what's here that I haven't had before? Now I can see at least one major contributing factor to this phenomena, which is the commoditization of its development staff, or in other words, making them easily replaceable. I feel for the people at both Criterian and DICE, they'll probably be treated the same way as all the other studios EA has purchased.
I don't really see EA innovating, except perhaps out of Will Wright, whom they seemed to have deemed worth keeping, and who seems to not mind staying. The way EA views staffing seems to preclude any possible creativity. With perhaps the exception of Fight Night, all they do is copy and refine, although they seem to have got the refinement process down pat. One of the most obvious examples is LoTR the Third Age, it's just Final Fantasy refined, with a license slapped on. Many others exist too, but I won't list them since this post is quite long already.
One depressing point is that the other major game publishers see EA's success and is trying adopting the mantra, the question is whether or not they're copying it "well". For those of you who listen to conference calls, you may have noticed EA preaching about franchises a few years back, and now other companies are taking up the script. Every company is trying to become mini-EA, or EA 2.0. Among the examples are Midway is renaming its studios Midway Studios (location) and Activision brags about having "5 different million-selling franchises". Activision doesn't rename its studios though, so not everyone is copying everything. Of course studio names by themselves aren't very important, but they could be a symptom of the problems underneath. However, while other companies may have problems with the way they treat their staff, I'm pretty sure this probably not universal.
Concerning overworking, it really is mystifying why a manager would push knowledge workers this way, unless the manager had no brains at all. It's not the hours that a person puts in that matters, but the output, and tired, overworked knowledge workers can't produce close to what a happy, well-rested one can, even if pushed to work many more hours.
As for unions, as an investor, it's easy to develop a distaste for them, but in this case, it may be needed. Unions primarily have 3 benefits: Collective bargaining, a voice at the table, and getting respect/clout. When staff are treated as disposable, then unions are definitely an advantage. If someone who rocks the boat can be easily replaced by someone else, then staff have no clout. On the other hand, unions have 3 primary disadvantages: They are a money drain (to support union staff), they create a confrontational atmosphere, and they create inflexibility. These are actually large disadvantages if allowed to get out of control, but in this case it already seems that there is a atmosphere of fear, so a union wouldn't make that worse. I think the point at which a union becomes cancer is when union executives start to focus on making the union more powerful, rather than trying to help the people it is supposed to represent. And of course, if it ends up that a person has no voice within his or her own union, then it won't really help if the union has a voice for the company.
(continued in part 3)
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:56 am (UTC)

Since we're naming names here...

Don't forget those talented and unhappy people who work at Rockstar. They like the little, successful gamers so much they bought the companies! And, just to add insult to injury, they sent their own producers (read overseers) along to "motivate" the slaves. They fit the EA profile to a tee.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 03:34 am (UTC)

An investor perspective (part 3)

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

Me too

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

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

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

Re: Me too

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

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

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

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

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

Thank-you everyone!

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

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

Re: Thank-you everyone!

Enjoy your time together, but if you want to make some permanent changes get it in a contract. My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE Local 16. We represent cg workers at ILM. If you think your partner might be interested, please have him give me a call at 415-441-6400 or unionjosh@local16.org
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[User Picture]From: floopyboo
2004-11-16 04:42 am (UTC)
Best wishes for a speedy recovery from hell, and hope your suit goes well.
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From: pyro01
2004-11-16 04:50 am (UTC)
shit.. and i've wanted to be a game programmer my whole life -.-
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 04:59 am (UTC)

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

People at EA redwood shores are the highest paid, but contribute the least to the company. Maybe worth it if you could sleep with some slut from 250 or 207, but I'd look elsewhere for employment.
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[User Picture]From: lonelymoon
2004-11-16 05:05 am (UTC)
Ugh, and my boyfriend wants to be a game programmer...no way I'm going to let him work for EA after reading this T_T
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-16 06:16 am (UTC)
Maybe he'll work for them anyway after you give Joseph his balls back and he dumps you. Glad you're not my girlfriend!

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

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

I am overwhelmed...

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

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

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

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

Re: I am overwhelmed...

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

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

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

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

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

Think Again

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

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

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

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

Re: Think Again

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

Start a different type of Union

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

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

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

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

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