You are viewing ea_spouse

Tired of ads? Upgrade to paid account and never see ads again!
ea_spouse - EA: The Human Story [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
ea_spouse

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

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?


===

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

Comments:
Page 6 of 52
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] >>
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 04:52 pm (UTC)

Rockstar is no better

My DH worked in video games for many years. finally ending up at Rockstar. They pay well but nothing is worth the 80-90 hour weeks or the hypocracy of having four weeks of vacation a year your not aloud to take.

If someone you love is thinking about a job in game, tell them to find something else where they can earn a decent living and still have a life.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-14 04:08 am (UTC)

Re: Rockstar is no better

I agree. I had an extremely bad experience at Rockstar. The publishers tortured us for months constantly changing their minds and setting deadlines that were absolutely insane. Unfortunately in games there doesn't seem to be anywhere else to go. Almost every studio employs these tactics in one form or another. The good ones will only make you crunch for a few weeks at a time. The bad ones can crunch you indefinitely. They keep the artists and programmers moving from studio to studio just happy to have a job even if it means taking antidepressants or anxiety medication.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 04:56 pm (UTC)

Get Your OT Money Back! (65 520$)

After having gone through some "unpaid overtime" issues with my company, I did some research. In Ontario, the basic collective agreement that all employees fall under is actually within the province's labour legislation. If the employee did not enter into another collective agreement, he/she should be protected under this one (check with a lawyer).

In this agreement it states the "Time and a half" rule.

If you can prove that you worked these hours, with the help of a lawyer, you can possibly get your money back.

You would have to prove that you didn't sign into an averaging agreement or another collective agreement. The price of the lawyer might be worth your wile. Check with one (free consult) and see what your options are.

If you were paid 40K/yr and worked 86 hours a week, that's 42 hours a week more than usual. That would be 20$hr normal time, 30$hr OT.

52weeks * 42hrs * 30$/hr = 65 520$ overtime pay.

You have up to a year (if i remember) to file an overtime sheet. Check for your local province on this.

This is the one for Ontario, i think most provinces (and states) have a similar legistlation.

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/DBLaws/Statutes/English/00e41_e.htm#BK30
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 04:58 pm (UTC)

happening now

Aparently there is already a lawsuit sueing them for wages. Someone posted the info on page 3 I believe.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
not in bc - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 04:58 pm (UTC)

Wake up

I hate to break it to you...but this is how corporate america works nowadays---ESPECIALLY in engineering shops.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sophy
2004-11-11 07:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Wake up

That doesn't make it right. That doesn't mean people can't, or shouldn't fight it. Just because it's the norm doesn't mean people should just let it go. That's more of a reason to talk about it, spread the news, and fight it!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Re: Wake up - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: _burns_within
2004-11-11 04:59 pm (UTC)
all i gotta say is, welcome to corporate America.

unfortunately, little can be done. it's capitalism at its best. the average worker is powerless to speak their voice in a multibillion dollar conglomerate. blinded faces, we are. it is the future.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:01 pm (UTC)

Much Sympathy

As a games industry/dot-com survivor I have great sympathy for your plight. I was in the exact same situation as your SO and thankfully my wife managed to beat some sense into me.

Now I build websites for lawyers who handle class-action overtime and employment discrimination claims - oh the irony.

You sound reasonably well versed on the subject. All I can suggest is to try to get your SO and an employment law attorney in the same room for an hour to explore your options. EA is breaking the law and they deserve to be held accountable.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:02 pm (UTC)

This is beyond awful


It has always bugged me that video games cost as much as they do, more than $50 at release. And don't even get me started on MMORPGs. You have to pay $50 for the damn software AND pay a monthly fee. I understand the fee, so lay off on the price for incomplete software!
But I digress. I pay that much for the game, and they guys in the trenches don't even get compensated????? I was pissed before, but now im livid. If i were not such a video game junkie, I'd stop playing altogether. Go get em!!!!!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:08 pm (UTC)
Vote Democrat. Form a union. Take back your workplace. Be a human, not a salaryman. C'mon. Your life is worth it.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:13 pm (UTC)
Voting Democrat won't help, it was Clinton who started much of the offshoring of our jobs.

We need people who care about business but not at the cost of consumers and employees. Party affliation be damned.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:15 pm (UTC)

That explains it...

The qulaity of EA games has degraded greatly. Bugs that are blatantly obvious the first ten minutes you load the game up somehow make it past their testing phases. They are able to release games (MOH PA for example) with promises as good as the last one, you go spend $50 on it, only to realize you've been had, the MP gameplay sucks, and is full of bugs. EA has been ripping its customers off for awhile too, which I see now is a result of bad employee practices. Boycott EA!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:17 pm (UTC)

Um... So quit

I really don't get this. If people are this universally upset with the game programming world, then LEAVE! Get a job outside of the gaming industry. It's not like anyone's making you keep a shitty job like that...
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: wackyvorlon
2004-11-11 05:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Um... So quit

Something important to remember, this guy has a family. He can't just through away his only source of income. It could be a year before he finds another job, or manages to get a job in some other field of work. The only real option is to organize.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Re: Um... So quit - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Um... So quit - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: wackyvorlon
2004-11-11 05:19 pm (UTC)

Coal Mine

Welcome to the coal mine. Now you know first hand why unions where created, and why they are still necessary.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:20 pm (UTC)

Similar in the UK

AntennaAudio's multimedia projects were run in a very similar fashion between 2002 and 2003. I don't know how they're doing now, as I left after working 80hr. weeks with no compensation. As far as I know, they outsource their development now (having run two programmers into the ground such that they quit within the space of 4months). But they never once shipped a project on time, or on budget - very often it was just a question of "getting somethign out the door" and hoping no one would notice.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: dancinglights
2004-11-11 05:20 pm (UTC)
EA is definitely the worst from the prior-employment-places stories I've heard around the office. I work for a much smaller game company and while we do wind up crunching 75+ hours/week without overtime or comp time (state law) as a deadline looms ahead, it's only for a few months of a multi-year schedule and there is a definite light at the end of the tunnel -- this crunch time is not built into the schedule and taken for granted. We also get far more paid vacation time than federal or state law require, a lot of which can run over from year to year, and we're expected to take a chunk of it as soon as a game goes to manufacture. Even though we don't get paid overtime, our bonuses come out of a small profit-share, so there is a direct link between the time we put in and what we get back. And, like where epiphaniesrus works, people who don't have anything to do and can't help out on the tasks that are left aren't made to stay in the office, just be on-call. I may complain when in the middle of it, but as the industry goes I'm spoiled. I think it's as reasonable as the industry *should* be, and has been financially feasible for the company for quite a few years.

I'm also really curious to know how game studios outside of the US run when it comes to things like this. As a country we seem to have pretty screwed-up ideas of work ethic. Something about being settled by Protestants too hardcore for England.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 10:29 pm (UTC)

Game studios in the UK.

I used to be in the games industry. I worked for 2 UK companies and while we had worked hard towards milestones like E3 and such it was never for more than a couple of weeks. I never actually got to ship a game although both the games I have worked on did get to see the light of day. I had to move to the US following my wife's work.
I worked for the game industry in London for 2 years and had to stay late a few times only. Nobody expected us to work like slaves.

Here I have tried to get back into the game industry and wasted almost 2 years trying to get back in. When I finally found a job here in Dallas I was told that the team is in crunch mode (a term I wasn't familiar with). When I started working I found out that although I got a salary for 9 hours a day, they expected me to work 12 hours a day until the end of the project. I was depressed and left after just 3 days. I just couldn't see myself working only and giving up all my free time and hobbies let alone my WIFE and my baby.

They way I see it there are a few problems here:

- The new college grads that are eager to get into the game industry and are willing to work like little coal miners of the 19th century.

- The idiots who think this is normal and if you don't like it then leave.

- Those of us who accept it and work like slaves thinking we are doing god's work.

It's not like your saving life here. It's a fucken software product. You're working your ass off and the company is making all the money. It's not like you are getting a million dollars for selling your life.

I say unions are probably bad but in this case it's a good idea. Also, since this is making waves this is the chance to get together and do something about it. A strike at a big company like EA will sure make the news. A lawsuit that will emphasize the health risks associated with working 60-90 hours a week will also make news.

As for myself, I have left the games industry for now. I still do the odd freelance work here and there but since I had the luxury of having my wife as the financial back bone of our family I have now moved on and turned a hobby of mine into a profession. I now teach martial arts and I have no plan on joining the games industry until this situation changes.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:24 pm (UTC)

quit already

yes, EA sounds evil here.

QUIT. *EVERYONE* should quit, and screw EA. Turn that 50% turnover to 100%, and spread the word so that NO one works there.

Do the math. If you're getting paid $30-40 an hour, but end up working 90 hours a week, you're actually only getting paid $13-15 an hour. GO FIND ANOTHER JOB.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:30 pm (UTC)

Re: quit already

were you not reading? There is not place else to go. Should these people give up what they love to do and abandon their skillset to go flip burgers? or sell you concrete at the home depot?

where? where should they all go?

"fight the power", yeah right, how? and I don't mean a general answer, where should all these people go? I've got news for you, there is currently no prophet and no promises of lands of milk and honey, so the reason they are working there, is not because they are stupid or weak, these people have families to support and this is the job they have now.

I used to work in that industry, lucky for me that I have a very decent fallback to career. Most of these people don't. and those skills do not translate into many other diffent jobs.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Re: quit already - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:25 pm (UTC)

WORKING PEOPLE TO DEATH IS NOTHING NEW

Slavery is nothing new, and that is what this is, a form of slavery.

These people are not better than the nazis who used jews to make munitions and vehicles during the war. Getting free work (exploiting a workforce) in not a new concept.

What genious figured out that getting people to work for free is a way to save money? Tell you what EA, why don't you steal all the equipment in your facilities too? that's another way to save money. And stop paying people alltogether, kidnap their families and make them all work for free, and when they don't, shake them down with thugs.

Why not? you fuckers are already not breaking the law but showing a huge disregard for the very people who make the products you sell. Take it further, why not? It's not like you give a shit about anyone but yourselfs.

And this goes out to Madden himself and Tiger Woods, when you allow these people to purchase your licenses, you are condoning this mistreatment and abuse of employees. You are no different than any other celebrity with a clothing line that uses sweat shops to make fucking shirts.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: hitmaker
2004-11-11 05:25 pm (UTC)

I always saw EA as a soulless company...

...even more so after playing some of it's recent releases. But this put it over the top. Now I see it more as one of those stereotypical heartless evil Mega-conglomerates you'd find in a cartoon/anime/game/what-have you(Shinra, anyone?).

I bet they sell babies, too.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: therealdrhyde
2004-11-11 05:28 pm (UTC)

Go to the union

Your SO needs to mutter at his union rep. If he's not a member of a good union, then I have no sympathy at all.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Go to the union

WHAT FUCKING UNION? ARE YOU RETARDED OR JUST PLAIN STUPID?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:29 pm (UTC)

Another disillusioned ex-EA employee...

One thing to mention as well is that this attitude of "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." is'nt just for the programmers at EA. It carries down to the testers and the phone support people as well. Granted, at least they earn little enough that they get overtime.

However, what is'nt mentioned is a few interesting things;

1. Testers and Phone Support staff are paid less than at other companies.

The average tester earns a whopping $9.50 an hour, or at least they did last time I was there a couple years ago, and their phone support staff share the same wage. Elsewhere the average is about $10-12 an hour on both jobs. 'Course, this is justified in the fact that neither make EA any money and are, at best, considered a necessary evil. 'Tho, considering that EA never really pays attention to the bugs the testers find, and cram it out the door with the "patch it later" mindset, forcing the phone support staff to field angry customer calls over why their game is broke makes you wonder if the managers there are trying to remake Hell on Earth.

2. Testers and Phone Support staff are treated like disposable diapers.

They're used up and tossed out to say nothing of the disdain that they all earn by any other EA employees. You couple this with the fact that Testers work 70+ hours on average and phone support staff are severely overworked averaging about 40 calls per person and you begin to see the picture. If anyone tries to, heaven forbid, kick any bugs upstairs to be fixed you're ignored at best and fired at worst. Most put up with it with the hopes of getting a permanent job at EA but, what they don't realize is that if they were hired on there would be little or no chance of advancement further inside of the company. To say nothing of the fact that they'd still be looked down upon since they're both considered lower than the janitor staff.

I'm not even touching on the other stuff that usually goes on there such as treating testers like criminals on the property or the developers ignorning tech support questions about issues that they find that they can not solve. I remember being asked to vote for the "Best company to work for" thing and the joke around was that the only reason it happened was because they threw out the votes from tech support, testing, and the programmers.

I can still remember times where I'd have to take a break just so I could find a quiet place to cry for awhile just so I could get thru the day. *sigh* Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the people I worked with there and it hurt like hell to quit but I had to decide whether it was worth my health and sanity to stay working there.

I really hope your SO gets out before it's too late and that you both are able to find happiness once again.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 09:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Another disillusioned ex-EA employee...

My sympathies, and I completely agree that testers/phone support are treated like crap. I responded back in another comment, but I believe that that is a separate issue that needs to be addressed in the industry. QA is currently done in a brute force kind of way, which is foolish. Some companies are starting to change that.

I am fairly confident that we will be getting out, but I also want to comment that for anyone else who reads this and is in there... it is never too late to do so. At least, it's never too late to save your own health and sanity. Relationships are another matter. My SO and I are fortunate to have an extremely strong relationship, but I know others have suffered worse. The key is maintaining awareness, both of your home life and of your own rights, not just as a skilled employee but as a human being.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:30 pm (UTC)

The way things really are...

There has been talk about unionization of the game industry since games were 16bit and sat in large catridges. The fact of the matter is that there's still too many individuals who think that working in the business is a priviledge, and being young and idealistic, they will do the hours requested by the employer in order to stay gold in the eyes of management. And, of course, most employers are more than happy to flush out the experienced folk who require more money and more "maintenance".

If people haven't noticed, the sweeping trend across developers and publisher-owned developers is to hire people straight out of college, sometimes even before they finish, and with one developer I've worked at, sometimes right out of high school. This creates a sense of loyalty in the employee like no other, and this is largely the employee that will not support issues that involve bucking the trend.

That being said, the next round of home console development requires more individuals working to output the volume of content required by the publishers/fans, and in order for that developer to turn a profit, especially if they're fairly new and not so well funded, they need to step up production. In several production meetings I've been forced to attend, the mantra really is "twice the workforce, half the time". So, taking that into account, as well as the previous paragraph, you can see how it makes sense to fill the developer with warm, loyal bodies in order to keep costs way down.

Taking all this back to square one, these warm, loyal bodies will work and be worked tirelessly for the priviledge of working in games, and when they realize that they are being taken advantage of, they will be cast aside for the next starry-eyed individual who is ready to pledge their lives away. This is the basis on which I joined the game industry over a decade ago, after which, I lost a potential marriage, my child, and several times in my life when I could have been there for friends and family now, long abandoned. The reconstruction process for these things broken is arduous both for the people involved and myself.

Before a union, or any other organization can be formed, awareness needs to be raised within the budding developer that this job is not a priviledge; it is a JOB and just that. It is not a lifestyle, it is not a livelihood or a hobby. It is a job, and it should be treated as such. When this awareness is raised, only then can people fight back. When that begins to happen, we will see a change that not only changes the working environment and the mindset of the developer, but also the process of management decision making and finally, quality of the games we work so hard on every day.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: dsmart
2004-11-11 05:42 pm (UTC)

Re: The way things really are...

Very eloquently stated; I couldn't have said it better - at least not with some of my trademark vitriol.

For someone who has been in this business since I was smart enough to figure out where my ass was - so I could touch it once in while, knowing that I owned it - it saddens me each and every time I get to hear horror stories about game devs and their plight. Which is why, I usually just bring out the Scorched Earth doctrine manual, grab a lawyer and just sue. Sadly, not everyone can afford to [financially and professionally] do that. Fact is, unless game devs start taking a stand, its NEVER going to change. And the #1 problem is that the big name devs who can take a stand, have a cushy job, nice options, tow the corporate line and won't do squat to rock the boat. At the very least, they just leave quietly and either go form another company (usually one destined to fail) or move to another big name; leaving all their troubles behind.

In other news Warren Spector has left Eidos; just before the closing of the IGN elections.:)

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:35 pm (UTC)
http://eamembers.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/eamembers.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php

I sent EA a very firmly worded e-mail regarding slavery on the job. I encourage you to do the same.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:38 pm (UTC)

Two books - 'Soul of a New Machine' and 'The Mythical Man Month'

Yes it sucks they push people to the limits, yes it sucks they don't properly advetise what one is getting into when one signs up for the job (Experinced engineers could sniff that out easily though, unfortunately the green ones get sucked in). However this is the way things have always been in engineering and software development at the high end. And I dought it will ever change. However, they do have to allow some 'rest time' between projects, that seems particularly nasty they don't have some form of comp time once a project is finished.

The two books I referenced lay out tried and true information pertaining to engineering.

1) You can't just throw more people at an engineering project to make up for lost time. Doesn't work. Never.
2) People can't increase their productivity when it comes to their task at hand. The original team members just have to put in more hours to get the job done.
3) Good managers understand rules 1 & 2, therefore they do what's necessary to make 2 happen. It sucks and it's unfortunate, but that's life. Consider yourselves lucky you arn't working away in a sweat shop and have no other options.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 06:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Two books - 'Soul of a New Machine' and 'The Mythical Man Month'

I have 20 years experience in developing software and 5 in managing developers (other than myself). Including some time with EA, BTW. As a line manager, I have NEVER failed to deliver product within allowable slack and NEVER had to ask my people to work the kind of hours that ea_spouse is talking about.

Anyone who has taken the time and effort to read Brooks' Mythical Man Month probably has enough time to read DeMarco & Lister's Peopleware and Constantine's Constantine on Peopleware. Then, of course, there's Yourdon's Death March.

What you will come away with is almost the opposite of the above post:

1) productivity varies IMMENSELY (order of magnitude immensely) between programmers. The implication is strongly that programmers CAN increase productivity;

2) additional hours are a very limited way of increasing output. Additional hours turn rapidly into increasing errors;

My personal rule has always been: crunch mode for no more than 2 weeks. After that, you're moving backwards (that is, you are causing problems that take more than the extra 2 weekend days to fix). I might, under immense (and believable) time pressure, increase that to a month, but no more.

I'll go further: I could take the team ea_spouse is talking about (I don't care who it is or what EA studio it's at) and produce the same quality of software without more than 2 weeks of crunch at a time, 4 weeks at the very end. I'd bet a year's salary of mine against a big bonus.

The problems described here are failures of philosophy and management, not necessities of life.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:40 pm (UTC)

How much are you willing to put up with

I have a friend that works at EA and while he goes through crunch time like everyone else, he has drawn the line in the sand at working on Sundays. He told his managers he would quit if they made him, and guess what, they haven't made him. It really comes down to not relying on other people to treat you fairly. Make up your own rules and stick to them and people will respect you or pass out of your life.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:45 pm (UTC)

As a game journalist

As a game journalist, I've been to EA's offices a few times, and I talk to a lot of people there. It seems everyone I meet at EA has just gotten there, and people everywhere else are just coming from EA.

I'm glad you're speaking out, I think this is something the mainstream media should take some attention. I think everyone understands the nature of software development and crunch time (which goes with any job, see our print deadlines), but it's been pretty well realized that EA cares about one thing: money.

The one-year development cycle that they've gotten by creating a pressure cooker is one evidence, but you also see stuff like the Catwoman game - as soon as the buzz went through the shitter for it you could tell they cut back on development dollars to cut their losses. EA is very well run from a business standpoint, uses all the touchy feely Gallup leadership principles, allowing it to operate under the radar.

They can alienate their employees, because, as you said, there are lots more people clamoring to work in those swanky offices just north of LAX or down in Redwood City.

Hang in there, and good luck --- I hope everything works out and he can get out of there and find something better.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:45 pm (UTC)

Unfortunately the department of labor disagrees

I think the FLSA trumps whatever California labor law you're refering to. Plus, a lot of us aren't in California anyway. What you should do instead is contact your local politicians to have that section of the FLSA repealed. I don't work for EA, but I've been in the industry for over 6 years, working for 2 different studios. I also have a lot of friends working in other studios and it's the same BS everywhere. Some places are better than others, but they all have a lack of ethics and efficiency when it comes to overtime. I'm currently trying to get a computer graphics R&D job outside of the industry. I'll still be doing something I like and it'll be better for me and my family.


"Fact Sheet #17E: Exemption for Employees in Computer-Related Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

This fact sheet provides general information on the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay for employees in the computer field under Sections 13(a)(1) and 13(a)(17) of the FLSA and Regulations, 29 CFR Part 541.

The FLSA requires that most employees in the United States be paid at least the Federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

However, Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) of the FLSA provide an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled workers in the computer field who meet certain tests regarding their job duties and who are paid at least $455 per week or a salary basis or paid on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour.

Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for this exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and compensation must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations. The specific requirements for the computer employee exemption are summarized below.

See other fact sheets in this series for more information on the exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees, and for more information on the salary basis requirement.

Computer Employee Exemption

To qualify for the computer employee exemption, the following tests must be met:

* The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;
* The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
* The employee’s primary duty must consist of:

1) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

2) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;

3) he design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

4) A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.

The computer employee exemption does not include employees engaged in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment. Employees whose work is highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations identified in the primary duties test described above, are also not exempt under the computer employee exemption.

Primary Duty

“Primary duty” means the principal, main, major or most important duty that the employee performs. Determination of an employee’s primary duty must be based on all the facts in a particular case, with the major emphasis on the character of the employee’s job as a whole."

- http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/whd/fairpay/fs17e_computer.htm
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-11-11 09:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Unfortunately the department of labor disagrees

I'm pretty sure that the reverse is true... FLSA is superceded by California state law. For the studios out of state, I'm not sure -- I don't know if they operate under California law because the corporate headquarters is in CA, or if other labor standards apply. This is something the lawyers should be able to answer. I've been contacted by a few separately, and one offered to help even if we were outside of California -- there are lawyers that will represent individuals who have had similar treatment in other states.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 05:51 pm (UTC)

This is EXACTLY why jobs are moving OFFSHORE

First, my sympathies to those affected.
I too am in the software industry (not Gaming s/w).
But, software enggs. in other countries dont seem to mind the long working hours and terrible work conditions.
Maybe that is why our jobs are moving offshore, because we are spoilt rotten with luxury.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: dsmart
2004-11-11 05:56 pm (UTC)

Re: This is EXACTLY why jobs are moving OFFSHORE

Luxury? Are you mad?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: britgeekgrrl
2004-11-11 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm sure this has been said before but... is there any way the employees could report this practice to OSHA? Particularly in light of Senate Bill 88...

Taking another tack, I'm sure that *many* EA employees have lost their health to this over-stressful work environment. Surely in this litigation-happy-state that's grounds for a lawsuit? Particularly if a whole bunch of EA employees/ex-employees get together. (I can send you in the direction of at least one guy who'll join in but, for now, he should remain anonymous...)

Thanks for sharing the essay. I bet it'll be a real eye-opener for a lot of people.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: unionjosh
2004-11-13 08:49 pm (UTC)
Something can be done! My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and I am helping with the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime violations. I would very much like to talk to your friend about putting an end to this kind of exploitation and making them pay for what they have already done to so many people. Please pass on my email address; unionjosh@hotmail.com
thank you
josh
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Page 6 of 52
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] >>