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[Dec. 15th, 2004|02:18 am]
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.

From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 09:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....


Allow me to respond to your rebuttal the best I can. Eloquence was never one of my bigger talents so bare with me here.

I don't think that your original displeasure with the amount of overtime your spouse has had to endure is unfounded. However, it is very important to notice that no matter where you go in the game or film (dare I say most electronic and non-electronic entertainment industries) you will experience a large amount of overtime, lengthy "crunch" periods and the like. I am only assuming here, based on what little amount of information you have allowed to be disclosed about yourself, that both you and your husband are relatively new to the game industry.

Take it from someone who has been in this business for over 11 years -- overtime and deadline "crunches" are something you -must- deal with regardless of whether they are mandatory or not. However, these crunch times can be alleviated and, at that, the magic formula lies closer then you might think. Again, I am only speculating here, but perhaps your significant other's overtime blues can pass if only he would become a more efficient worker. Now before you get upset and defensive of your life partner, let me explain what I mean. This idea comes not even from me, but a colleague of mine who is a long-time film industry veteran who now works on games. You see, in my colleague's previous 15 years of industry experience he came to work at 9am and left at 6:00pm with -extremely rare- instances of overtime, deadline rushes or weekend work. Why, you ask? Certainly not because he worked in a smaller capacity then his peers. My colleague is an award-winning professional who have worked on major (and I do men -major-) feature films. He simply cut down on what we like to refer to as "screwing around". Having a family and children, he realized early in his career that if he puts an end to prolonged lunches, socializing and "shooting the breeze" with his coworkers and browsing the web, he can get a lot more done in the amount of time equal to one normal (8-hour-long) work day. Add to that a learned skill of good self-management and pacing and you have a guy who never in his life experienced what your spouse did in the industry which is -notorious- for overtime and long work hours.

Maybe your spouse is the most efficient programmer on the planet, but we will probably never know that considering the veil of mystery surrounding anything else but your claims about your husband's mistreatment.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Hello again. First, I want to sincerely thank you for the cordiality in your response. After some of the recent posts in this thread, it is relieving and refreshing.

As you say, I have intentionally kept a 'veil of mystery' surrounding my personal information and my SO's. I do believe that, for now, this is still necessary. However, and this depends on how you count it, we are not new to the industry. Both of us have worked in it before, and both of us have experienced crunch. I do entirely know what you mean about the inavoidability of crunch, and it is not crunch itself that I oppose, but rather when crunch is planned in to the development cycle. For someone who explains this better than I want to take the time to right now (no offense intended, I just don't like re-stating what someone else has already said well ;) ), I would point you to Damion Schubert's "In Defense of Crunch".

Your comment on worker efficiency is valid, but given your time in the game industry, I would have to ask how much intentional inefficiency you observe during crunch times. Do your coworkers "screw around" during this time? In the companies I've worked with, whether there is 'screwing around' normally, it doesn't occur during crunch or when the team is behind schedule, period -- if it does, I would think that that is actually a management issue. However, the problem that I have specifically observed with EA, and from publishers in my experience with other companies, even has nothing to do with this, and to suggest that the problem is the workers in those particular cases is -- painful. Let me explain.

EA directly, in my SO's recent experience, and publishers, in our previous experience, are not satisfied when a project remains on schedule. If it does, their response is to add features. And add them, and add them, until "crunch" at the end of a project goes far beyond what would be considered reasonable even by a seasoned game developer team. Even the designers object to this, as it amounts to making design decisions on the fly, something that rarely yields good results. One EA designer posted his story with a similar experience where design decisions kept coming down from upper management -- his original design was scrapped and he was asked to do it over. He did it over seven times, before, in exhaustion, submitting his ORIGINAL idea -- which was approved! This is only a single anecdote, but it represents in a condensed version what the teams frequently experience; there are other stories of the exact same thing on other projects. There is a problem here, and blaming the workers is very similar to blaming a -- if you'll forgive the analogy -- victim of domestic abuse for 'asking for it' from an abusive family member. These problems are not limited to EA, certainly -- but they are definitely present there, and we have to start somewhere.

Thank you again for the courtesy in your response. I will respond to your other comments later this evening.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 11:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....


There is one more important comment I wanted to make about your story. A lot of people do not realize this, butt Electronic Arts has many, many development houses all around the world under its umbrella. They have offices in California, Florida, UK, France, Thailand, etc. Your husband's unfortunate experiences occured in one of their offices while he was working on one of the many development teams within said office. Being an Electornic Arts employee myself, I can tell you with confidense that not only every studio but not every team within each studio has it as bad as your husband might have experienced. The practices you describe might be indeginous if not to the particular team then to the Electronic Arts studio your spouse is working in. Needless to say I am yet to see or experience the same degree of employee misstreatment your have described at the studio I work in.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-17 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Returning to these comments now.

I think you might benefit from reading some of the comments posted to the main essay. To a large degree, it speaks for itself that I did not reveal what studio my SO worked for, yet there were many, many comments saying that he must work for studio X because they were experiencing the same thing -- it sounded too familiar.

EA does have offices all over the world, but its primary development houses are in:
California - Redwood Shores (EARS/EAHQ)
California - Los Angeles (EALA)
Florida - Orlando (Tiberon)
Canada - Vancouver, BC (EAC, EA Black Box)
Canada - Burnaby, BC (EAC HQ)
United Kingdom - Surrey (EAUK)

All other offices in Europe are sales offices -- not development studios. I have no doubt that if you work in one of the sales offices your hours and treatment are going to be vastly better than those actually working on games.

Of the primary studios that EA lists on its website (shown above), we have multiple testimonials from every studio documenting these practices. If you have not experienced the conditions, you are either very new or very lucky. In either case, I think you would better serve yourself by listening and reading rather than denying it all outright before you are even informed. Rest assured that this is not an isolated incident or even a series of coincidental isolated incidents -- it is EA policy.
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