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Gamewatch.org [Nov. 1st, 2004|01:45 am]
So, let's talk about it. What would you like to see?

Edit: Hello all. I'm sorry about this, but I've turned on screening for anonymous comments in this thread and the top one on the blog. We have a troll who has been spamming comments every few hours or so, and I just don't have time to keep coming in here and deleting them. Rest assured if you post anything that ISN'T vulgar, I will unscreen it as soon as I see it. Hopefully the troll will lose interest soon and I can lift this.
Edit 1/4/2005: Comment screening turned back off; thank you all for your patience. =)

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-15 03:53 pm (UTC)
I've been checking back every day to get a status update (which I just submitted to Slashdot for ya). What I would like to see eventually, in the long run, is a disclaimer on every piece of software that GameWatch declares "developer safe" saying the following:
"No developer was harmed in the making of this product."
Thank you for all your efforts, Mrs. Spouse. You have a following, and it is great.
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From: jbosman
2004-12-15 11:18 pm (UTC)

Hello there, it's me again.

I don't like anonymous masks, so I registered a livejournal to remedy that. So you know who I am, I posted the above comment, the first comment on your update (and the most recent one, bidding one of the trolls to get a life), as well as submitting the update to Slashdot.

After sleeping on it, and thinking about the future, when GameWatch.org becomes a reality - and then seeing the trolls and guerrillas which have a faint yet pestilent presence in your comment threads - I see both great potential for this watchdog organization, but even greater potential for abuse. While anyone can post their stories in a journal or public forum, such mediums do not leave them free of slander, bias, or even dishonesty - not to imply anything about your journals, but those who clearly very blindly support EA commenting on your entries leads me to anticipate that they will try to submit fabrications to GameWatch (maybe not to further their own ends, but to damage those who exposed them, for instance).

I'm going to look into ways such things can be avoided, aside from an obvious restriction that entries must be viewed before going public; in terms of screening and such. I will let you know what I find - though the internet is a big place... it might take a while to come up with something solid. :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 12:50 am (UTC)

Re: Hello there, it's me again.

I don't know if you're already familiar with TheVault.com, where companies info are posted. There are employees message board. I used this to try to research my last company. TheVault.com does charge for messages older than 30 days, so that's how they do that. It could be a sample of how things could be for GameWatch. Incidentally, this a blurb about EA:

Long hours...to rack up experience points

Working at Electronic Arts is a lot like playing the games it produces - very fun and very intense. "Because they let us have so much fun, we work like maniacs," one employee says. Another employee reports that "about three times a year, I'll work 80- to 90-hour weeks for a month. Two years ago, I frequently worked 100-plus hours a week to get a product to ship, though I've lost some steam since then." Employees offer mixed reviews on salaries. Though one reports, "The pay is fine. I'm happy with my salary," another says that "the work......
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From: todpunk
2004-12-16 06:11 am (UTC)
Perhaps you could work a bit with the BBB or at least learn from their example and provide an award for game studios to apply for. How you'd evaluate such a company is beyond me, but I'm sure you're creative enough to figure something out.

I'd also like to see a nice list of companies with a rating system for users to rate and review each company they've worked for, somewhat like Amazon.com's review system or similar examples. Could be a powerful community effort there.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 07:58 am (UTC)
Using the BBB as a sort of template and contact is a good idea, thanks. The suggestion is one that will be useful in any discussions with the IGDA, also.

There should indeed be a standard rating system in addition to text testimonials, perhaps similar to the 'star' rating system for movies, and in different categories: compensation, comp time, crunch ratio, benefits. I'd appreciate any suggestions having to do with what categories we should focus on in the ratings, and also if anyone has a clever idea of what to use instead of 'stars'.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 08:47 pm (UTC)
In the 12/15 update, someone posted:

That may pose a sticky problem - some sites require an email from your work address to join, something that certain potential posters would be adverse to. This organization will have to find some way to confirm a persons' employment credentials to keep things relevant and honest, I think.

I'm just recording that comment here, and would be interested in discussion on it. I have a proposed notion for how it might somewhat be avoided, but it's not complete: essentially, verification would indeed be through email -- a user would create their account and prove that they worked for the company they claimed by providing an email address in that company's domain. The website would then send a verification email with a link to that address. ONLY the verification email would be sent. Once the account was created, the user could set another email account as the primary address for it, and have all correspondence shunted through that; no email or information other than the initial verification would be sent to the company address.
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[User Picture]From: randomnine
2004-12-18 07:34 am (UTC)
How about linking it to the star program? As part of the certification, companies would need to pass employee contact details on to GameWatch. Any other system would be open to abuse; verifying via emails from the company domain, for example, is very much open to abuse by the employer. Sure, this means that it won't be able to cover the majority of employers to start with. However, without credibility, it affects none - and with time and effort, I'm sure it could become near universal.

One way of encouraging companies to adopt the certification, of course, might be to permit anonymous and largely uncontrolled posting on companies that haven't.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
Also redirecting from the main thread:
Re: I know you´ve had enough, but here goes more
2004-12-16 10:15 (link)
As far as GameWatch goes, breaking anonymity somehow will be key.

Anonymous rants about EA (or any other game company) as a constant stream will be somewhat meaningless...it opens the door too widely for employees to target companies just because they feel like it for whatever reason.

I realize this sets the site up for a problem, it's just that I don't see how it will have any credibility without that kind of validation.

Solve that issue, and you just may produce something useful.

Validation is addressed in the above comment, but the point about relinquishing anonymity is a new one, and one that my SO and I have been discussing at length over the past couple of days. Input is as always welcome.
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From: todpunk
2004-12-17 06:37 am (UTC)
hmmmm. Anonymity is a bit tricky. You can't have anonymous reviewers, obviously, but you can't verify credentials without (at the very least) a significant time investment or a rather convenient scenario like that mentioned above. The time investment takes from your day or costs wages or whatever. The convenient scenario would be easy to automate, but then it limits who can review. Something like making them signup an account would be a good balance IMO.

Having an account they have to be using, and rated by, makes them take their review a bit more responsibly, as well as eliminates people writing a hundred different reviews for the same company. Yet they can call their account whatever they want and retain anonymity while still having to put some effort into the account creation.

I think the above comment about not taking anything but company emails would be a relevant case, in some claims, but if they had to sign up an account and provide a valid email address, they could always be contacted about their credentials if they were needed. So you wouldn't need to require a company email, per se, just require something that wasn't a freely available completely anonymous email, like Hotmail or Yahoo, etc. Fairly standard par for the course in account setups.

Meh, I'm just rambling now. Hope somebody gets something from my late babbling. =cP
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 10:10 pm (UTC)

Creating the site

Hey ea_spouse! I read your story at Gamespot.com and eventually found my way here. I've been very touched by your story as I'm a regular purchaser of EA products. I own the entire FIFA line since 98 and I've been playing EA's soccer manager games which I have to import from England since 98 as well. I'm disappointed in the treatment employees at EA are receiving I don't think its fair and for making me such a happy gamer they at least deserve the basic perks all jobs offer such as comp time and overtime pay. If I can aid you in anyway with Gamewatch.org please let me know. I'm a web programmer and work in ColdFusion. If you need help with creating or maintaining a site please don't hesitate to drop me a line at JJfutbol@hotmail.com. I would be real happy to help your cause in any way possible. Take care and good luck!

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-19 02:11 am (UTC)

I truly feel for you and yours

I work for an agency that frequently forces it's employees to work vast amounts of overtime. Though we are compensated with "comp time" which builds up "on the books," we are rarely given an opportunity to use this time due to "staff shortages."

Though, the case with EA seems to be much more severe. I have never really been a supporter of Electronic Arts for many reasons including lack of originality and the fact that they have swallowed so many promising development houses and turned their once great games into cookie-cutter sequels.

Though I am extremely busy with my own work schedule and personal life, I look forward to reading everything that comes from your site in the future. It is my hope that the backlash EA receives both through negative press and (hopefully) a drop in sales will force them to re-evaluate the working conditions and situations that they put their employees in. I for one no longer plan on purchasing Need For Speed Underground 2, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault or Oddworld-Stranger (the only EA games I had on my personal gaming radar). In all likelihood, my personal decision to not purchase these three titles won't have any effect at all on EA that is measurable. But if others follow my example, perhaps it will. After all, that is $150 out of EA's money-grubbing pockets.

And on one final note, I hope that your family is in a position where it can afford a job change and get away from EA. I can't imagine that all development houses out there treat their employees with such disregard.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-22 11:29 pm (UTC)


Why not just ask everyone who submits an entry to send a photo or two of the person at their desk, or some other location in the building w/the company they work for clearly displayed. These photos can be looked at by the mod, then deleted. No real invasion of privacy, and I'm sure anyone working in the industry could easily obtain a digital picture of themselves =) Just a thought.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-29 03:07 am (UTC)

PC Gamer Article

Just in case anyone is interested, the latest Dec. 23rd issue of PC Gamer UK features an intersting 2-page feature on this whole situation. They provide a link to this very livejournal aswell. It includes quotes from anonymous developers also and that some gamers are planning to boycott companies with bad employment records. A small quote from the article:
"Some brotherly gamers have even talked of boycotting games from publishers and developers with bad employment records. But while you might boycott EA's Madden 2005 with a smile, would you shun Half-Life 3 if Valve was implicated in such an uproar? Theres now talk in the US of developers sueing there employers. Perhaps only the courts can make every company take its responsibilities towards it's staff seriously, and end this unhealthy working hours arms race"
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From: randomelginguy
2005-01-04 02:11 am (UTC)

Possible solution

Here is a suggestion for a solution to make it more credible than simply peoples rants about certain companies.
If people researched criticized companies and published findings in reports or something, it would provide more backed up idea criticism of the company. Here is a link to a basic guide on how to research companies.
This along with links to relevant topics regarding Quality of Life issues in companies would provide a good basis for the site.
Obviously this would be costly and time consuming, but it would definitely provide credibility.
Feel free to put any comments as this was just a quick idea and I'm sure some points can be made regarding this suggestion.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-04 07:37 am (UTC)

Re: Possible solution

Yet still problems arise. What about people who USED to work at a game company but no longer do? the email thing is out the window there. Plus whats stopping companies from screening out emails from gamewatch.org? or monitoring programmers emails? Many will not email you in fear of losing their job.

I have 2 possible, imperfect suggestions:
-the phone method... some game subscription sites now call you for verification. You or someone working for gamewatch.org could call to confirm the person, with a phone number that is not just a dumped phone number... sure this can still be abused a little, but its not like people making 20 email address, people can only have so many phone numbers.
-The "verified by a friend" method. After you recieve comments that youc an prove are true, those persons could gain access to confirm that others within their companies are really them. Example: bob posts his comment about EA treating him bad. After spending time confirming his claim is true, Bob can then enter Bills name in you site, so when Bill posts, he dosnt have to go through any streanous verification system (saving time for both you and bill).
Sadly, the abuse can still happen, but these are just some things that might ease the mayhem you could face...
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-04 01:10 pm (UTC)

gamewatch.org domain name registration

Hi there,

If you are going to set up such site (which sounds like a great idea, BTW) shouldn't you reserve the domain name www.gamewatch.org before someone else registers it? I guess you can say even your "enemies" are reading your posts and may try to prevent you from going ahead with such a site...

Although I may have just given them an idea, for a small fee you should register this (and any possible alternative domain names - check out http://www.whois.net ) as soon as you can!

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From: ea_spouse
2005-01-04 07:34 pm (UTC)

Re: gamewatch.org domain name registration

We do have gamewatch.org registered, and are working on getting up a simple placeholder site put there. =) Right now the logo contest is still under way and will be closing on January 15th.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-28 02:45 pm (UTC)

Expand this past dev houses?

How about expanding this past sweatshop dev houses, but publishers that abuse the small indie studios, under-reporting sales for example? GMX comes immediately to mind. It sounds almost like the 'coyotes' sneaking immigrants across the border for exorbitant amounts, then abandoning them, taking the money and running. Small dev houses are desparate to get "across the retailing border" and onto store shelves. A oversight of predatory publishers would fit right in with your plans, I think.
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From: ea_spouse
2005-02-01 09:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Expand this past dev houses?

While I agree that bringing standards to publishers as well as developers is a great challenge that faces the industry, the issue of publishers in general is more complex than the comparatively simple demand for livable working conditions. There are certainly publishers that participate in flatly illegal and immoral activities as regards creating games, and they can be confronted on a case-by-case basis, but the larger problems facing publisher-developer relationships in particular can sometimes stem from developer issues as well. Right now, developers have the ability to make promises that they can't keep, in a very large way. The publisher has very little way of knowing whether the developer will actually deliver on those promises. They tend to rely on things like a past history of games shipped on time, which is fine but can be detrimental for small developers trying to get a foothold in the industry.

If we establish standards for the way games are made -- which is what is ultimately necessary to obtain consistent, livable working environments -- the benefits will carry over to publishers, who will then have a rubric to request of a given developer and ask if they are meeting those production standards before signing a contract.

In the cases that you mention, where a publisher deliberately under-reports sales, that's something of a different matter, and falls into the arena of the lawyers. As far as an overview of good and bad publishers... that gets into somewhat foggier legal territory, and tends to occur more behind the scenes than in the public eye. I'm not sure that Gamewatch has any ability to change that, or should.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-02-07 02:31 am (UTC)

Your efforts are noble and wonderful.

I am mstrmnd34, a member of the C&C online gaming community. As a member of Westwood Online and XWIS, I have personally suffered at the hands of EA LA who bought up Westwood Studios years ago, and since has provided product service from bad to worse. The online gaming services are extremely laggy at best, and they even refuse to re-rout their server from WOL to XWIS because they believe that they can make more money off their new games by not supporting old ones. This is untrue: the real reason people don't buy their new games is because they stink very badly. In addition, they disabled 'lobby chat' on their servers when people started asking for serial numbers. EA also prevents anyone from sharing their serial and logging onto their servers. They are hurting thousands of people just for $$$. Worse, they are planning to kill the servers entirely without re-routing to XWIS, which would effectively destroy a great many friendships formed in the C&C community, which I think is the saddest and ugliest part of all.

BTW, I bought the game so I could do online gaming. In other words, I acceped a promise, and the promise was broken.

I believe that creating gamewatch.org is a truly noble effort, and I thank you for it. I hope to see EA LA clean up its act very soon to avoid more bad publicity.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-03-11 06:28 pm (UTC)

Sweatshop pratice is common in other software industry as well

I would like to suggest that you should extend the scope of gamewatch.org to other software industry as well. The company that I worked for is a leader in wireless device. During crunch time, most of the developers in our department were working at least 50 hours per weeks and it lasted for 3 months. I got no overtime pay. The working environemnt is no different than a sweatshop of garment industry in developing worlds. I hope that you can extend the discussion topic so that software delovpers in all industry can have a place to submit the working conditions in their company.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-05-13 10:21 pm (UTC)

Black Ball List

I'm currently a student working on a Computer Science Degree and was thinking of going into the game industry once done. I don't think I will now. I'm a mature student and worked for 10 years for various engineering consultants. The hours, while not as extreme, were excessive and I have no desire, to ever again work for more than 40 hours per week (just a little fantasy of mine). My comment is this. I've had the opportunity to work with unionized electricians and pipefitters and they posted, in unionhalls a blacklist of employers that were abusive to employees, along with the reason the employer was on the back list. The more abusive (ie more comments made about an employer), the higher that employer was on the list.

Since this site or Gamewatch.org can be anonymous, these lists would be tremendously helpful to people worldwide and employers would not be able to hide behind their lies and misrepresentations.

It's just a thought.
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