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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one… - ea_spouse Page 4 [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
ea_spouse

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[Dec. 15th, 2004|02:18 am]
ea_spouse
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve
the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature
and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions
of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

- The U.S. Declaration of Independence




Welcome, and thank you for visiting. If you are here in search of the original "EA_spouse" article, you can find that here. The following is my update as of 12/15/2004.

So much has happened in the past month, I find it difficult to grasp. One essay written months ago set off a powderkeg of response, not just from the game industry but from the entire software development community. Truly, the power of the Internet is astounding, and all other things aside, we live in a positive age when so much information can be shared so easily and quickly.

The thing that lifted this up into public view, though, was not my essay so much as the response to it, so I will keep this brief. I have left the original essay and comments intact, and you can find them below. To supplement the original essay, I have organized my own comments and links to others' commentary into a FAQ. I have also put together a press page that links to all of the news stories related to this blog.

I am pleased and a little flabbergasted to announce that "EA: The Human Story" was nominated for Joel Spolsky's Best Software Essays of 2004. More details on this as they come.

I also would like to announce the initial inception of Gamewatch.org -- don't visit it yet, there's still nothing there. =) But there will be. It is my intent to start a non-corporate-sponsored watchdog organization specifically devoted to monitoring quality of life in the game industry. As much as I would like to extend this to the entire software industry, games are what I know, and where I need to stay right now. However, this project will be as open-source as I can possibly make it. All code written for the maintenance of the site will be available to the public, and all financial information for the organization (which will be a volunteer one) will likewise be made public. While GameWatch will occasionally run articles, its primary purpose will be to provide a reporting site where employees from any company in the industry can come to share their experiences. Our goal is to hold up and reward those companies that operate ethically, the better to ensure that top talent can seek out employment where they will be respected and best provided with the resources to do their jobs, namely family time, sleep, and sanity. Employees will be able to post anonymously or publically, as they so choose, and will also be offered an in-between option to register with the site but have only their testimonial posted, not their name or contact information. Registered testimonials will be given a greater weight than anonymous ones, but both options will be available. We will also provide forums for advice and discussion for all game industry affiliates, including existing employees, veterans, and aspiring students.

If you are interested in helping out with Gamewatch, please contact me with 'Gamewatch.org' or similar in your subject line. In particular, I would also like to announce a logo contest for Gamewatch. Simply, I'm looking for a one or two-color vector graphic (black with single-color highlighting, or simply black and white), approximately 200x200 pixels, on the GameWatch theme -- a couple of ideas we've tossed around are a caricature of an English Bulldog or Doberman Pinscher with a controller in its mouth, or some variant on an actual wristwatch theme, but do not by any means feel restricted by these suggestions. I will accept entries at ea_spouse@hotmail.com for one month, until January 15, 2005, and then a winner will be selected. I will pay the winner $20.00 -- $25.00 if the entry is provided in a standardized vector graphic format (Adobe Illustrator .ai, for instance). It isn't much, but it's what I've got -- and the artist will of course be credited on the GameWatch website.

For those interested in discussing Gamewatch.org as a concept and in its details, I have added a page here for that purpose.

All of this aside, the most important thing I have to say is -- thank you, to everyone who has visited this page, and especially those who took the time to contact me with an interest in our story. And especially especially to the spouses and EA employees who voiced their support and declared their own willingness to help our industry fulfill its potential. We're not done yet, but we've made a great start, and that is entirely due to the outpouring of response that flooded the Internet over the past month. Thank you.

Edit: Hello all. I'm sorry about this, but I've turned on screening for anonymous comments in this thread and the Gamewatch one. 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: Turning screening back off, since things seem to have calmed down a bit. Thanks, all, for your patience.
Edit 2/24/2005: Modified contact link to reflect my new gmail address, ea.spouse@gmail.com.
linkReply

Comments:
Page 4 of 6
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From: ravidrath
2005-02-19 09:09 pm (UTC)
Hey guys.

Put this in the other comments section, and I'm putting it here now. This is a pretty good article showing how crunch isn't fiscally responsible, either, even if it may seem so to the people mandating it.

http://www.igda.org/articles/erobinson_crunch.php

Enjoy and discuss!

-Peter
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From: swarthmoresudan
2005-02-19 09:10 pm (UTC)
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From: ravidrath
2005-02-19 10:14 pm (UTC)

Another EA Lawsuit!

Just found this in my mailbox, courtesy of the fine folks in the IGDA Quality of Life committee.

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/sv/20050219/tc_siliconvalley/_www10942104_1

-Peter
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[User Picture]From: dbldbl
2005-02-20 08:17 am (UTC)

SV.com / Mercury News article, EA hit w/ lawsuit on OT

from the Saturday 19Feb05 print edition, sv.com also has posted a copy of the article:

http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/10942104.htm
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[User Picture]From: dbldbl
2005-02-20 08:21 am (UTC)

Re: SV.com / Mercury News article, EA hit w/ lawsuit on OT

also, sidebar information in the newspaper article lists urls for:

•the Internation Game Developers Association, with their report "Quality of Life in the Game Industry" Challenges and Best Practices" --> www.igda.org

•finding the agenda of the IDGA's "Quality of Life Summit" on March 8 in San Francisco --> www.gdconf.com

•and the livejournal.com link to this LJ, however the user ea_spouse was not specified...
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From: vlydia_noctum
2005-02-23 03:11 am (UTC)

Wow.

I had no idea about any of this. I've always wanted to be a game programmer; that has always been my dream job. But now you guys are really giving me something to think about. I think it is completely ridiculous how software executives are so worried about getting games out at a fast rate that they neglect and undercompensate those very people who are the ones who actually make them the money. I love video games, but every poll I have read says that we gamers would really prefer games to come out at a slower rate! There are so many great games coming out that no one has enough time or money to play them all as soon as they come out anyway, and the more time a game takes to make, the better it will be. I don't understand why they pressure their employees so much. Movies and music albums sometimes take years to produce, and it seems like the longer something takes to come out, the more money it makes. Why doesn't the game industry learn something from this? The sad truth is, though, that the whole industry has to change, not just one company.
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[User Picture]From: randomnine
2005-02-25 12:15 pm (UTC)
This just came up on the Register... it seemed kind of relevant. It might be interesting to look at the approaches they're taking to help raise awareness of unpaid overtime.

TUC to IT workers: 'You're working too hard'

IT workers put in more unpaid overtime than almost any other profession, according to the TUC (Trades Union Congress). The organisation is calling on managers to recognise the extra time their staff puts in, and has declared Friday 25 February "Work your proper hours day".
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[User Picture]From: uprightcitizen
2005-03-10 01:07 am (UTC)
And this is what happens when the uneducated enter the world of Capitalism. It's labor vs capital. Always has been, always will be. I suggest those in the IT industry take heart from their counterparts in Europe and understand this concept called "collective bargaining." Smartly designed unions will set you free. Brush up on your labor history and economics, to all those that are wailing in this thread about injustice and how the workers should just "suck it up." I also suggest the same to those that wish to improve the situation. US Labor laws, and laws concerning capital in general, need improvement. Stop in by your local I.W.W. office and say, "Hi."
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From: beatings
2005-03-10 09:26 pm (UTC)
Is the IWW still beset with internal strife, ineffective leadership, and drunks??

There must be a better way.
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(Deleted comment)
From: ea_spouse
2005-03-15 07:32 am (UTC)
Replying to this before I delete it, in case anyone wonders why... we have an anonymous poster seeding "legitimate" comments with (violent) porn links under a display:none tag, I have to assume to confuse search engines or cause blocking software to see this page as spam. Charming.
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From: gurlsarepretty
2005-03-15 03:42 am (UTC)
my cousin applied to an EA job at their orlando place, and he would have had to work 80 hours a week! he said he didn't listen much more after hearing that.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-04-03 07:15 am (UTC)
80 hours a week?! Was that quoted to him during employment interviews or did they jsut flat out told him that's "the deal"? Most importantly -- what was your cousin smoking when he told you about it and quoted that exact amount of hours?! Even if this was true (which I sincerely doubt), no self respecting HR person, recruiter or interviewer would quote such a bridiculous amount of hours or such a innane condition for employment to a prospective new hire.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: lilithraevyn
2005-03-23 03:47 pm (UTC)
I took a brief look over at gamewatch.org earlier (I stumbled on this journal from the UO Stratics forums, of all places). I was wondering if you ever got a logo designed for the site?

I'll be sending you an email about it. :)


Btw, I had a roommate who worked for EA in Maitland, FL - EA Tiburon - as a tester. He also worked these horrible hours for a year and a half as a "contracted" employee. No benefits. He did get some overtime, however. That was the only saving grace. Unfortunately when the hours began to deteriorate his health (He suffers from an autoimmune disease where his white blood cells attack his red), they had no sympathy for him.

I'm kind of glad I didn't get the job I interviewed for.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-04-03 07:04 am (UTC)

EA TIburon / Maitland

It pains me when people pass the heresy comments left by friends who once worked at EA Tiburon test department. It would be ridiculously wrong to evaluate the quality of life of EA employees, especially EA Tiburon (Maitland, FL) employees, based on what testers once experienced. Allow me to shed a little light on the Tester situation.

First of all, testing is the lowest end of the totem pole for game development professions, as the prequisites for the job are age (one must be over 18) and possession of opposable thumbs. No degrees or special skills are required. Therefore compensation is that slightly higher then a minimum wage.

Secondly, employment is Temporary Full Time, meaning, not a salaried employee, meaning no benefits but fair overtime pay. Additionally, every new hire is told right away that during alpha and beta periods that last several weeks the work load must be well over 40 hours.

So, in essence, people know far and well what they sign up for. If they complain afterwards or try to pass this up for inhumane treatment or some sort of lies, clearly their claims are unfounded.

Lastly, EA is one of the few, if not the only company who promotes into producership or design development form the Tester pool. Good testers have a great chance to become associate producers or level designers with full employee benefits and appropriate salaries.

Furthermore, as far as quality of life goes, EA Tiburon is, by far, the best of the EA branches in that respect. yes, people work overtime as do all those in the film or game industry, but compensations and perks make up for it and the overtime periods are, also, much more sensible.

Last but not least, I have several friends who work and thoroughly enjoy working at EA Tiburon’s test department, where they have been employed for a long period of time (some more then a year, which is a record for the fast employee rotation rate in test departments in general). So I guess it is not such a bad place to work at after all.

Please do not pass bitterness for not being hired by a company or being laid off from the company's staff for malpractice on behalf of said company.
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[User Picture]From: thecause
2005-03-31 07:52 am (UTC)
i want to thank you for what you do.. the world needs more corporate watch dogs.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-04-14 06:35 am (UTC)
I’ve followed all the various EA-related work horror stories, and I feel it is extremely important to make two comments regarding them.

I’ll say up front that I am in fact a former EA employee (was only there for the duration of a project…well, two projects, really). Additionally, I am a happy EA former employee. I was treated well while there, our schedule was reasonable, no one ever got seriously angry over anything that I saw, etc. etc. I had a good experience working there and if I thought I would again, I would do it again. I’ve also worked for a couple other game companies.

That said, I also want to say that I have no doubt that the EA_Spouse and related stories are true! I’m not going to try to debunk them for even a second. However, I believe that much of the following discussion has been somewhat miss focused and more than a bit unfair.

#1 – The problem described is endemic of the industry. It is NOT a problem isolated to EA.

#2 – It is also not even a problem pervasive through EA.

I say these things, because I hope people focus on the right issues rather than the wrong ones. With regards to the first comment, these quality-of-life issues are a serious problem throughout the game industry. Check out various IGDA reports and the QoL group to see more. Talk to any friends you may have in the game industry, and hear how many of them have war stories of the long hours, difficult job, etc. And then there’s the former industry vets that completely switched over to another industry altogether; various surveys have found startlingly low percentages of industry retention compared to most others.

EA gets the brunt of the blame by being the biggest – just like the biggest corporation in any industry will be the first-attacked for any industry-wide problems. Do these things take place at EA? Absolutely! However, are they company wide policies that all EA employees are regularly subjected to? Not at all. It’s important to remember that when dealing with any organization of the size that EA is, with all the various studios all over the world, that there is going to be very little standardized management at the lower levels. The team in England working on the Harry Potter game might have completely different working conditions than the guys in Florida working on the NASCAR game who might have completely different working conditions as the guys in Canada making the soccer example, for example. If one of those studios has some producers that are harder on their workers than other studios, the stories will grow, and taint the entire corporation. Additionally, the larger number of workers referring to the same name aggregates to more than might be referring to one small studio somewhere. 1% of EA employees complaining is a whole lot more than even 95% of some one-game independent studio.

But I’m not sitting here and trying to defend EA. I merely want the focus to be a little more broad, and a little less specific. EA definitely has these problems with some of its teams, just like probably every other large games entity does (Nintendo? Sony? Take Two? Ubisoft? VU? Midway? THQ?, etc.). Maybe EA should try harder to actually get more company-wide policies for quality of life in place. It would be a start. And if they do, I hope other places follow their lead and do the same. And also, remember, there are a lot of great producers and managers within EA who make reasonable schedules and are very concerned about their teams’ quality of life. Don’t let the actions of the some taint the many.

I whole-heartedly applaud the efforts of people attempting to bring these issues into the spotlight; they are doing a brave and wonderful thing. I only hope people don’t place all of the blame on EA’s shoulders, and assume that EA is 100% pure evil. Recognize that it is a problem that many – if not most – game companies currently have, and also that there’s some good teams within EA that aren’t run by demon-spawn…

“Game Developer X”
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-04-16 12:23 am (UTC)

I don't get it.


"I only hope people don’t place all of the blame on EA’s shoulders, and assume that EA is 100% pure evil."

If tens of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of present and former EA employees come forward to share EA-specific horror stories about being mis-managed, and these horror stories support and echo EA Spouse's original posting, why suggest diminishing the company's responsibility for contributing to the problem just because other companies suffer similar problems?

As much as EA prides itself on being the biggest, baddest, kick ass, most successful player on the field, it equally must own its process and people management problems. The fact that other companies suffer similar problems does not detract from EA's responsibility to fix itself.


"#2 – It is also not even a problem pervasive through EA."

You're a former EA employee with experience on 2 projects and you have the facts, data and knowledge to say conclusively that the problem is not pervasive throughout Electronic Arts' 13 worldwide studios? Indeed, your explanation is that: "If one of those studios has some producers that are harder on their workers than other studios, the stories will grow, and taint the entire corporation."

"I merely want the focus to be a little more broad, and a little less specific." EA's issues start from specific circumstances that, repeated time and time and time again, built up to create broader issues. The problems do not require a rocket scientist to fix them.


Why is it reasonable that those who have had pleasant EA experiences cast questions over those who have had unpleasant experiences? And suggest that EA isn't so bad -- even though others have had to experience unpleasant/unacceptable circumstances?

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: strife2002
2005-05-02 08:02 pm (UTC)
I'd just like to mention that I'm using your essay and the subsequent appropriate comments that follow as my primary sources for a college paper on Marxian Theory of Capitalism. The title for the work is Under the Whip: The Surviving Practice of Laborer Exploitation in Silicon Valley
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From: ravidrath
2005-05-31 07:02 pm (UTC)

Likely layoffs at EA Tomorrow...

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/gossip/ea-to-layoff-employees-leave-cali-update-105191.php

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/business/ea/ea-update-2-nipping-things-in-my-bud-105291.php

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/business/ea/ea-layoff-rumors-part-3-105340.php

It's just rumor, now, but if EA Irvine and the Medal of Honor team are let go tomorrow or in the near future, I suspect the rest is true. It makes sense, and fits their corporate personality. Additionally, EA execs are known to be major Republicans and someone actively contributed to the Bush campaign, so such arrangements with the already business-friendly Governor of Florida are not so far-fetched.

A very nice, Wal-Mart-esque sort of move on their part. Don't like the employees unionizing? Close the store. Don't like the state's labor laws? Move out of the state.

It amuses me how people think EA is safer and more secure than working at a smaller developer, because it's big. Sure, the company may never have to wonder where their next project is coming from, but you will always need to wonder if you will be on it.

-Peter
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-19 10:24 pm (UTC)

After seven months

So after seven months since ea spouse's first post, can someone who is better informed than me tell me how is lawsuit working? And boycott? Is there any chance that EA will bankrupt, change owner or be forced to change itself completely? Will there be any unions anytime soon?
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-20 01:51 pm (UTC)

Re: After seven months

Here is a brief synopsys of the results:

1. Due to the lawsuit EA has re-evaluated their practices and now most junior employees are hourly. This allows them to earn overtime pay but, in turn, eliminates the accruing of more stock options or yearly bonuses. In order to make as much money as they did past fiscal year (bonuses included) the bulk of them must voulanteerily put in over 49 hours a week. That is nothing new, however, as in most film, animaiton and game companies (Like, say, Pixar or Disney, for instance, a 50-hour work week is mandatory year-around.

2. A large amount of EA Los Angeles employees have been laid off. Wether this is in an attempt to move the operaitons to Florida or due to other things is up for pure speculaitons, but it seems awfully convenient.

3. Most employees are outraged by the transition to hourly pay, loss of some of the most attractive benefits and layoffs. Thanks, EA_Spouse.

4. There is no chance in hell that such an industry giant will either change ownership or go under. Much like Microsoft, which gets pelted with massive lawsuits almost daily, I would assume.

So there you have it. I hope EA_Spouse is happy. Or maybe her husband got let go in the wave of layoffs in California. Who knows?
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