|Frequently Asked Questions
||[Nov. 1st, 2004|04:27 pm]
Although I appreciate and will respond to as much feedback as I can, I've attempted to save us all some time and post a list of commonly asked questions, and their answers. I'm still answering all email (I'm behind, but I'm working on it-- if you've sent me an email and requested an answer, you will get one), but if you ask a question that's already been answered here, I'll probably just send you a link to this page. Please note that this is something of a work-in-progress, with answers added as needed. If you think something should be here and it isn't, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FAQ is divided into the following sections.
1. The Department of Redundancy Department
Common questions with answers that are actually present in the article. By that I mean to say that the answers to these questions are in the original article, and if you read it, you will find them. Which is to say...
2. Basic Information
Some questions have come in about the specifics of my SO's situation, and mine. Some I can answer, some I can't. Members of the former are here.
3. Now What?
For developers and observers alike, this is the most common question. It deserves a full post on its own, so that's here, I'm merely cross-linking from the FAQ.
4. Is This Legal?
Questions regarding legal issues, union issues, and other such things. If you are currently working at EA and you are wondering what your options are, this section is for you.
5. Help! I'm a student and I wanted to get into the game industry, but now I'm intimidated.
Answers for students in particular, with links to discussions in the forum from industry veterans.
Everything else. Technical details about the journal, answers about email, how to contact me, that kind of thing.
The Department of Redundancy Department
1. Why doesn't your SO just quit???
This question comes in many forms, some less polite than others. From the article:
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.
So the answer to this question is, as I stated in the article, that we have no intention of staying. But we also have no intention of going quietly and allowing this long-festering issue to continue to go unaddressed. To walk away would make our suffering stop, but it would not make it right. We want to make things right, and that will not happen unless those involved start talking about a solution. A real solution, not just a perpetuation of lies, a complicity through silence. At risk of being terribly blunt, either you understand this or you don't, and in either case, if you post a comment saying "just quit" or any variation thereon, please do not expect to get an answer.
Even were this not a moral issue, no one in their right mind "just quits" a job, unless they're independently wealthy and have nothing to worry about. The rest of us find NEW jobs first, then leave, and anyone who has ever done this knows that there is no "just" involved. Apartment leases, mortgages, bills, family ties, and all the other accoutrements of responsible people are not things that can be picked up and launched overnight.
For those who are truly concerned, though, rest assured that we have begun the process, and further that even desperation and anger will not make us stupid about it. To wonder about the specific details of our one family, though, is somewhat to miss the point. Although the devil is in the details, and the stories of each family do need to be remembered, the issue here is one that belongs to the entire game industry, and fixing one family will not be enough. That doesn't mean we won't do it, it just means that we're not going to stop there.
2. Dur, maybe your SO doesn't want to come home / Nyah, nyah, you obviously suck and your SO is trying to get away from you.
Comments like this, regardless of how they are phrased, are arrant trolling, but they've come up a few times so I will address them in bulk, so to speak, as I have no interest in addressing them individually. It is one of those cases where, despite my long time experience with the Internet, I am amazed at what people are willing to say when the object of their comments is not standing right there in front of them. The comments generally come from those out of touch with the industry situation, but as that group is a large one, and is one that I would still like to reach with at least some sense of the magnitude of the issue, they do warrant response, ignorant or no.
So, purely for the record, yes, my SO really is at work this long. As I have commented a few times, when the long crunch started, I started driving him to and from work both to maximize what small time we could spend together (the trip added ten minutes a day to such) and to prevent him from getting into an accident because his eyes were exhausted and his reflexes dulled. Given that a) I have described the actual physical effects of the long hours and b) described extended effects on the entire team, and that all of these effects have been witnessed by employees of EA at every studio that EA maintains, the statement that my SO wants to get away from me or isn't really at work is on a scale of Alice in Wonderland delusion, which on some level I can understand because I would like to believe that all of this isn't true -- but in this particular form, the delusion is egregious and insidious because it conveys itself through a deeply personal attack on my SO's character, and that I will not tolerate. This, ultimately, is why I feel compelled to respond -- despite the comments being faceless, and despite the reality that these people know nothing about my SO at all and very little about myself, I cannot let such words go unanswered.
Let me put it more simply: would I be this pissed off if my SO was in any way deserving or suspect of anything even remotely close to some of the callous suggestions? Some have couched their language more manipulatively than others, appearing to sound concerned, and to those I say only that there is no doubt in my mind not only of my SO's fidelity but of his unwavering devotion to the things that he loves, both games, myself, and every other of a myriad interests that this forum knows nothing about. And that is precisely why I fight. I would suggest that those who were capable of making such comments deeply evaluate their own modus operandi, that they can so easily fling grievous insults at people they don't know, and moreover in the face of all material evidence to the contrary. It is perhaps poignant that these comments have appeared only anonymously on the blog, and that none have dared email them to me.
3. Here's how much Larry Probst makes!
Okay, so this isn't answered in the article, but we've had at least a dozen posts offering up Larry's financial information. I'd meant the question in the article rhetorically, but yes, I do think it's important to keep track of how much one's executives are pulling in... particularly when those same executives are pulling employee bonuses based on "disappointing" revenue.
If you are curious as to how much Larry and the other executives pull down, here's a link:
1. Are you gay?
No, I'm not. I used gender neutral language both to further obfuscate my identity and to make the situation seem as generic as it really is.
2. How much does your SO make?
I can give a range on this but I'm not willing to be specific. As mentioned in the article, in order to qualify for overtime exemption in California a worker has to make approximately $44/hour, which translates to roughly $90,000 a year. My SO makes less than $60,000 and more than $20,000. This is typical for EA as far as we know.
3. How did you get into the game industry?
We both have been steeped in essentially game culture from an early age, and we watched that 'culture' gain legitimacy as we got to the point of thinking about our future careers. We met in college and entered the industry together when we graduated. There's not much more to it than that. =)
4. How long have you been together?
Coming up on three years. Not as long as some game couples we know; longer than many relationships last.
5. What caused you to write the article / letter?
Basically the same thing that commenters on the blog are saying. I got fed up. Stress built continually across my SO's project timeline, and one night when he came home, utterly exhausted, to tell me that not only were overtime hours AGAIN not to be let up as promised, but they would be extended to seven days a week, something snapped. I sat down and wrote out the entire article in a little less than an hour. It went through a few revisions after that, as these things do, and then sat for about a month waiting for my SO to get a chance to read it -- he was so tired that the last thing he wanted to do when he came home was read something about work, and I didn't press him on it. Eventually, though, he did read it, and offered some comments -- I implemented them, spent a little time shopping the article around, got a cool response due to my wish for anonymity, and late at night decided to just drop the thing on Livejournal and see what happened. I advertised it in one community -- gamedevelopers (a link to the post is here). I did not mention it anywhere else; things took of on their own from that point.
6. Does your SO know about all of this? / Did your SO know what you were doing?
Yes, he does and he did. I get updates on the general tone of how EA staff perceives the entire ordeal -- we have yet to hear anything other than positive response from the 'trenches'. I wrote the article several months ago, and attempted to shop it around to a couple of places before resorting to Livejournal (IGN and Gamasutra, notably). He proofread it for me and offered some suggestions that I implemented. Although the impetus has been mine, the effort has been a joint one. He also spoke at length with Randy Stross for the New York Times interview.
7. I heard that game companies give bonuses instead of overtime. Is that true?
Check here ( http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/274.html?thread=372498#t372498 ) for an account of how bonuses work at EA.
1. So what do we do about this?
That depends on who you are and where you stand with regard to the game industry. More detailed answers follow... the solution will likely not be simple.
2. I don't work at EA, but I'm really upset and I'm going to boycott. ...Will it do any good?
A boycott is ultimately going to be a personal decision. With the way our government and economy works, there is no question that the single best way you can express your displeasure with EA is to cease purchasing their products. However, if you are going to do that, it is important to let them know. And those who are least involved with the industry are most important in voicing their opinions; a great deal of EA's audience is composed of 'casual' gamers, or folk who do not ordinarily purchase games for themselves but would be swayed by EA's marketing.
Some threads on boycotting:
3. What else can we do?
Someone on Slashdot had a very interesting idea involving purchasing one share of EA stock so as to become a stockholder: http://games.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=129283&cid=10788530
If you want to contact EA directly, their customer support is here: http://eamembers.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/eamembers.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php . If you really feel compelled, and you are a California citizen, you can contact your representatives in the Senate:
The Honorable Barbara Boxer D - CA
112 Hart Senate Office Building (202) 224-3553
Washington DC 20510 ( email@example.com )
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein D - CA
331 Hart Senate Office Building (202) 224-3841
Washington DC 20510 ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
A post on what to do if you are not directly involved with the gaming industry (if you do not purchase games):
4. Hey, somebody should form a watchdog organization, and then games can be released "developer-safe."
I agree. Keep an eye on http://www.gamewatch.org for details.
5. Do you need any help?
Yes! Thank you for asking. Please contact me if you are interested in helping out with the site. Initially I will be seeking developers (web programmers) and possibly an artist, though the graphics on the site are going to be very minimal to make best use of bandwidth. When the site goes live I will be seeking moderators and extending an open call for articles related to quality of life in the game industry or related fields.
6. How can we keep in contact?
A few mailing lists are being formed in the aftermath of all of this. Someone has started one on google groups called 'UGRailroad', here: http://groups-beta.google.com/groups?q=UGRailroad . There will be mailing lists on gamewatch.org, and I am putting out a few feelers to see if there is any interest in a support group for gaming families. Sometimes it helps just to vent one's frustration to an audience that understands, and I don't know anyone who couldn't stand to beef up their industry network.
7. I'm at EA and I want to get out. Who do I contact?
There are a number of reputable placement companies, and you might want to start there. A number of folk have recommended http://www.mary-margaret.com/ wholeheartedly. You might also check the links below for threads relating to worker-friendly companies.
A thread on where else you can go if you are an artist:
And a thread on transferring from the game industry into film:
8. I'm a game tester. What about us?
Of all questions, this one is probably most difficult to answer. Game testing in the industry is, in my opinion, one of the most broken aspects of our development. There is a catch-22 -- while publishers and developers treat testers as if they are "unskilled", and hire them accordingly, they will of course remain "unskilled." Ultimately, this hurts our games, and it hurts our developers. It is something that needs to be fixed. But that process, I'm afraid, may be even longer than that to correct working conditions -- although a number of developers have already begun. As far as how testers are treated, both by management and by developers, there is simply no excuse. An astounding percentage of QA testers have upper level degrees -- they approach QA as the 'door' to the game industry, and it is a grievous mistake for us to line that door with spikes and bad management.
A large thread on testers:
There is also an interesting article on game testing, here:
Is This Legal?
1. So is it legal?
That is an interesting question, and not easily answered. One thing you need to know is that the laws are not the same everywhere. Thanks to certain recent modifications to overtime law, much of the country is unprotected -- Maine has the most stringent and clear overtime regulation, and California has Senate Bill 88 (see below) specifically addressing labor exemption. "Exemption" is a legal term used for "creative" or "highly skilled" employees; basically it was intended to ensure that entrepreneurial endeavors (which early tech companies were, inherently) would be able to produce a product despite a limited amount of available workforce/talent. Due to Hollywood's strong worker representation, in that California exemption law (and my apologies, but I discuss primarily California law here because EA is headquartered in California and my SO's studio is located here) workers in the theatre and film industry are specifically exempted from the exemption, so to speak. Following this, to qualify as overtime-exempt, an employee has to meet a list of criteria. Whether game developers (specifically game artists, in the case of the Jamie Kirschenbaum case, right now) meet those criteria is what will be decided in court. The link below is a California government website addressing overtime exemption.
The website for the Jamie Kirschenbaum case:
Threads on legality:
2. I am a current or former Electronic Arts employee. Who do I contact about the lawsuit?
Visit http://www.eaovertimecase.com/ . Specifically, you should contact Miranda Kolbe at Schubert & Reed LLP at EAovertime@schubert-reed.com or (415) 788-4220 and Todd Heyman from Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP at EAovertime@shulaw.com or (617) 439-3939. Even if you are not a current EA employee, contact them if you have worked for EA within the last five years; overtime compensation is retroactive in California. They can give you further details.
Case history for Jamie Kirschenbaum vs. Electronic Arts Inc is here:
A thread discussing how to get involved in the lawsuit:
3. I'd like to talk to a lawyer about these details, but I don't know if I want to be involved in the existing suit.
IT overtime specialist Steve Pearl (www.itovertime.com) was kind enough to leave us a few messages on legality:
His website is quite informative, and I am sure he would be willing to field questions sent through it.
4. Who can we contact about a union?
Josh Pastreich of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Local 16 would like you to contact him. His email address is email@example.com and his phone is US 415-441-6400. IATSE 16 represents CG workers at ILM, and is international. What Josh says:
My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and I am helping with the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime. The only thing EA cares about is money and the only way they are going to treat their workers like human beings is if it is more expensive for them not to. Don't quit, you worked to hard to get where you are. Make them change. Make the industry change. Every industry has had a time when workers stand up and make a difference. Looking at the number of responses to EA Spouse's postings, I think that time is now.
He has also posted a number of informative threads about his experience with unions:
Kevin Koch, president of The Animation Guild (IATSE 839) and Dreamworks animator, also posted:
Here is the union rep card for animators, for anonymous signing in the Southern California region (Local 839):
5. I want to file a complaint with the labor commission.
Information on the Fair Labor Standards Act:
6. If we smack EA, won't they just outsource?
Most likely, no, not any more than they are already outsourcing -- if they could be making games more cheaply, they would already be doing it. Evan Robinson addresses the outsourcing issue in his article "It's Not Just Abusive. It's Stupid," which contains a lot of insightful information about the game industry and what we need to do to fix it. ( http://enginesofmischief.com/blogs/ramblings/archives/2004/11/11/643#more-643 )
Information for Students
1. I was thinking/dreaming/wanting to join the game industry, but now I'm intimidated. Do I need to change my career path?
Here are some threads with advice to students, and whether or not to enter the industry:
One developer also started a weblog aimed at sharing information with prospective developers:
A discussion on why EA is looking for students (and something of a warning):
2. Are there any GOOD places to work in the industry?
Yes, there are. Threads on good companies:
1. My comment vanished! What happened to it?
Although I've only heard this twice, and one of the times was indirectly, I do want to address it ahead of time in case anyone is wondering. I am not deleting any comments from the journal unless I am specifically asked by the original owner to do so, and even then, I will not delete other threads. If your comment has disappeared, something slipped in the cyber-ether -- either Livejournal hiccuped and your comment got dropped, or something else similarly technical is amiss. I am not interested in removing any voices from the journal, nor will I be.
EDIT 12/16/04: Since some lovely individual has decided to start spamming comments anonymously, and when challenged moved on to leave several extremely vulgar comments, I am altering this policy. If you post your message more than once, deliberately, I will delete all but the original message. If you post something that cannot appear on evening TV, I am going to delete it. Were it an option I would simply ban this one sad individual, but to do so I would have to turn on IP logging or remove anonymous commenting priveleges, and that's not something that I want to do. Try not to feed the trolls.
2. I emailed you but you didn't answer.
I'm really sorry. Chances are, I haven't gotten to your email yet. I was pretty busy before this whole ea_spouse thing got started, and now I'm learning a new definition of the term. ;) I am still working through the email box slowly, and I will get to your message. If I don't, or if you have a more immediate question, feel free to email me again with it.
3. Hey, I want to talk to you, you should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org...
Also sorry, but if you want to talk to me I would really prefer that you just email me yourself. My email address is email@example.com.
4. Has EA responded to all of this? Has anyone from EA contacted you directly?
Yes, and no. EA did respond generally in a "leaked" memo from Rusty Rueff after the blog had been up about three weeks -- prior to that they were not responding to either the blog itself or media inquiries, except in one late instance to tangentially refer to the blog as "rumor". After the story grew too large to be brushed off, Rusty Rueff, VP of Human Resources, released a memo that was leaked to gaming media site Kotaku.com. It quickly spread, but in case you haven't heard of it, there's the link. Kotaku.com later posted a followup confirming the authenticity of the leaked memo, and a second followup on December 8 2004. Additionally I have received some comments attributing abrupt weekends off and leave time from EA workers to the blog and related publicity, but realistically, the deadlines just passed for Christmas releases, so some letting up around this time of year is natural.