2004-11-12 07:10 pm (UTC)
Forced overtime is the problem?
It sounds to me like the problem is the forced overtime. That being said, I don't feel that EA has any alternative but to work their people very hard. I am in the game industry and I work 10-14 hours a day, six to seven days a week without break. I believe the quality of the product would suffer under any alternative solutions.
Game development and having a life may not be for your husband.
I wrote more about it on my website:
2004-11-12 07:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Forced overtime is the problem?
I've been in the game industry for five years, both with EA and with other companies. I have family in the game industry, as well. Of all the projects we have been on, not a single one of them has been finished without at least some crunch time.
But crunch time is not the point! The point is that EA is not paying people for overtime work, as they are required to do by California law. No one is asking to stop crunch practices. No one is even asking that overtime not be "mandatory". All anyone wants is to be paid for the 80 hour weeks they work!
I intend to be in the game industry for many more years. I intend to take many, many projects to market. I fully expect to have at least a few late nights on all of them, a few weekends worked straight through, and even a few more all-nighters the day before demos. I accept this as part of the industry. What I do not accept is not being paid for the time I work. What I do not accept are multi-million dollar companies abusing their employees and using illegal practices to make an extra buck.
Forced overtime I can handle. Just pay me for it for gods sake.
2004-11-12 07:13 pm (UTC)
You think you don't need a union
And then shit like this starts happening to you.
2004-11-12 07:15 pm (UTC)
what to do
for all of you that work for EA, just sue EA and ignore overtime. just go home. if they fire you, sue them again.
everyone else dont buy from EA and spread the message.
maybe in a few months the impact will be so big that they will do something about it.
2004-11-12 07:16 pm (UTC)
Cinescape linked to blog
Your story is getting bigger exposure. Now it's been picked up on Cinescape in their weekly video games column: http://www.cinescape.com/0/editorial.asp?aff_id=0&this_cat=Games&action=page&obj_id=42967&type_id=270331&cat_id=270444&sub_id=272439.
I hope you and your SO get payback and EA learns to change its ways before it's too late for them. Boycott!
2004-11-12 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Cinescape linked to blog
This is standard manipulation by a corporation. Keeping individual employees isolated in their quest for acheivement. No standard agreement in writing that clarifies how many hours you have to work. Due to the amazing demand of people who want to work at that company the workers have no negotiating power.
The alternatives: accept it as is, leave the situation, change the situation.
To change the situation requires a redistribution of power. No one is standing up to EA and questioning their labour practices because they equate that behavior with losing their job.
The solution to this for a low paid employee is to increase awareness among the public, politicians, local and national news.
Every game store in America should have a postcard or flyer explaining the labour practices of Electronic Arts. Encourage a boycott of EA products until there are fair labour agreements.
The workers in these positions are willingly agreeing to these unwritten unspoken agreements out of fear. Dont allow this to be a one to one struggle between the people who control your economic security and the workers. Most employees can be fired "at will" by their company. They do not have to have a reason or explanation so long as they do not violate rules of discrimination. If the company is of a certain size they must have a notification period in some states.
Be Americans, fight the system so others can live in freedom.
2004-11-12 07:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah! Tell it like it is!!!
When my husband worked for EA a few years back, they relocated us from Quebec with a newborn baby and a five year old child. Hubby was flown out there and given a highly taxing skill test, (hours long) which he passed with flying colors. The salary seemed alright and the "EA image" was convincing enough, so we packed up our lives and relocated across thousands of miles to work for those guys.
We were not prepared for what awaited us in B.C. If we knew then what we know now, we would never have relocated.
Hubby was brought on in 3-D modeling game development at the onset of a "crunch" which lasted nine long months. The staff was encouraged to literally live there, and they had a fully stocked gym, cafeteria, etc... to accomodate lengthy stays. The only thing which kept them going was the promise of a "bonus" which would happen at the end of this production. Meanwhile, I succumbed to post-partum depression because I never saw him. He worked from eight in the morning to eleven at night for days on end and even though he had to leave at eleven to catch the last bus home, his team leader began to ride him for not staying as late as the others. For the first nine months of our son's life, our father never saw his son. His co-workers all had cars and would arrive at ten in the morning. They would spend many hours playing video games while he worked. He never recieved a training period, yet was expected to know everything about their production pipeline, and was reprimanded twice for asking questions because his team leader would leap on every chance to run straight to management behind his back.
After they used him up like this for nearly a year, and their game was finally finished, they fired hubby, citing incompetence. Another guy who started there much later than hubby did, and made at least as meny mistakes, had no family and spent his days drawing naked girls on the chalk board did just fine. But the team never saw that bonus that was held like a carrot on a stick during this months long "crunch".
When hubby was fired, they offered him a ten grand severence package. They upped it to fifteen grand when I got on the phone to tell the HR person at the time just how I had nearly been driven to a nervous breakdown by the conditions my husband had endured there while we tried to raise our newborn. They made us sign a legal document releasing them from liability for any damage they had caused us.
That was in 1999.
I can honestly tell you that after what we went through, my health is only improving five years after hubby's departure from EA. The negative cycle our experience with that company impacted on our morale and our reputation is only now beginning to leave us. Management openly slandered him to prospective employers. I still maintain that the culture in that company and the treatment of their employees at that place is NOT Canadian. They are in violation of the human rights of their employees and it MUST STOP. I am so relieved to hear that finally all this is coming out.
Free At Last.
2004-11-12 07:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah! Tell it like it is!!!
Wow, I cannot imagine going through this with kids, as I mentioned in an earlier comment... much less a newborn! I wish I could do more, but all I can say is, you have my deepest sympathies, and I am glad you made it out. Thank you for sharing your story.
2004-11-12 07:34 pm (UTC)
EA's "Compensation Committee"
This is almost funny, EA's "Compensation Committee"
Part of the purpose listed on the page....
"Review annually and approve EA's compensation philosophy and strategy to ensure that employees of EA are rewarded appropriately for their contributions to company growth and profitability. "
Is it just me, or does it sound like they're not doing thier job? ;)
It'd be nice if we could get the email addies for some of these high-ups and see if they can even think of a good excuse...
2004-11-12 07:38 pm (UTC)
Re: EA's "Compensation Committee"
Someone listed the emails for the CEO and others a little farther back:
email@example.com CEO & Chairman
firstname.lastname@example.org SVP & GM, EAC
email@example.com President Worldwide Studios
firstname.lastname@example.org VP, COO, EAC
2004-11-12 07:35 pm (UTC)
Long hours == bad management
2004-11-12 07:51 pm (UTC)
To all persecuted software-dev employees in California:
It is ILLEGAL for your company to require you to work more than six days a week.
551. Every person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled
to one day's rest therefrom in seven.
552. No employer of labor shall cause his employees to work more
than six days in seven.
It is ILLEGAL for you not to be paid overtime if you make less than $85,280 a year.
515.5. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), an employee in
the computer software field shall be exempt from the requirement that
an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Section 510 if
all of the following apply:
(1) The employee is primarily engaged in work that is intellectual
or creative and that requires the exercise of discretion and
independent judgment, and the employee is primarily engaged in duties
that consist of one or more of the following:
(A) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures,
including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software, or
system functional specifications.
(B) 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
(C) The documentation, testing, creation, or modification of
computer programs related to the design of software or hardware for
computer operating systems.
(2) The employee is highly skilled and is proficient in the
theoretical and practical application of highly specialized
information to computer systems analysis, programming, and software
engineering. A job title shall not be determinative of the
applicability of this exemption.
(3) The employee's hourly rate of pay is not less than forty-one
dollars ($41.00). The Division of Labor Statistics and Research
shall adjust this pay rate on October 1 of each year to be effective
on January 1 of the following year by an amount equal to the
percentage increase in the California Consumer Price Index for Urban
Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.[...]</blockquote
There's much much more at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=lab&group=00001-01000&file=500-558 and http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-FAQs.htm. California is very progressive in its protection of workers; the thing is, too many workers think that because their employer is doing it, it must be acceptable. It isn't. Get yourself a good labor lawyer and sue--eventually this industry will grow up, but not unless the workers stand up for themselves.
2004-11-12 07:58 pm (UTC)
Re: To all persecuted software-dev employees in California:
It's actually not $41.00/hr, but $44.63/hr - it's adjusted every year. And the next year would probably be bigger.
It was $41.00 in the year of 2000 when the law was put on.
I worked for the now defunct Ion Storm Dallas on the Anachronox project. Anyone that knows your history of Ion know that it was eventually owned by Eidos. When I started working there I heard tales of the industry I couldn't believe. It was my first industry job, and hearing that the bonus for employees working on Deus Ex was on the other of 400-700 for several years worth of work just sounded preposterous. Especially considering the TOP paid programmers they had got only about 48k/yr.
I thought "Boy that sucks" but worked my little QA job in the back hoping to advance anyway. Then Eidos started to crack down more and more and more. Now granted, the project was over schedule due to some mistakes early on, but after my third month of working hundred hour weeks, we finally shipped a game and were told "OK guys, take a couple days off" On the days off they handed us our pink slips and closed the studio. Didn't offer to transfer anybody, didn't offer any compensation for the mass overtime we had just worked for months without overtime pay. Just "Bye, enjoy unemployment".
I can only imagine how much worse the industry has gotten in the 4 years since. Should I ever choose to try and get back into that industry (which one day I will do), it's gonna be without a major publisher, or not at all. They have no consideration for the many employees working at any given games company, no desire to share the massive amounts of wealth they rake in, and don't give a shit that they wouldn't have ANYTHING without the brilliant talents they drive on with a steel whip and false promises.
The games industry is officially, in my opinion, worse than the music industry at this point. A bunch of middle men get ridiculously rich, and the artist at the bottom gets shit on for all his hard work and talent. The only way to stop this is simply a mass exodus by the talent from the publishers back to independent works. I just somehow doubt there's a way to make it happen. :-/
2004-11-12 08:22 pm (UTC)
Same Applies at Ubisoft
Same Thing applies at Ubisoft. If people would all refuse to work on weekends, EA, Ubi and all of them couldn't do shit and couldn't fire us. Everybody in the industry should stick toghter.
2004-11-12 09:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Same Applies at Ubisoft
True, Ubisoft Canada
2004-11-12 08:25 pm (UTC)
Who's responsible though???
I'm a EA spouse as well,
Nothing is the original text really surprises me as many now refer to EA as the Mac Donald's of IT and the horror stories I heard and know of are very similar. The organization got so big that its out of hand, tons of managers and producers are there only because of their attitude and connections and have no clue about art or technical stuff, but they're really "cool" and what not.
My point is this: how did it get there, who let this happen to all the programmers and artists if not themselves. I know many people that left EA because they refused to work 80 hours a week. But it is all the others who accept to do 80+ hours a week that are screwing it all up. Give management a hand and they'll take an arm.
I feel sorry for all the geeky poeple who accept this faith and therefore help set a new standard! Many guys at EA literally have no life, and they prefer to be at work on week-ends, otherwise they'd be surfing the net or playing video games on Saturday nights.
The truth is now there is so much wasted resource at EA that no one would have to do overtime if things were managed properly. Ask employees there how many times they had to redo stuff because of miscommunication or fancies of knowledgeless producers. How many times whole IT teams have had to put in extra months of work to deal with again some idiotic producer's decision to use software that was never tested. So many times they eventually had to revert back to old systems! I better stop here! Too bad really cause originally EA was an awesome place, now I bet you many EA people are scared to post something here! Afraid they be fired...
2004-11-12 08:26 pm (UTC)
Senate Bill 88
Could you direct me to the Senate Bill 88 you speak of?
I have looked throughout all of California bill records and the SB88 they show on record is in regards to wine selling permits at particular events.
Regardless of state laws, this is just terrible treatment and shouldn't be tolerated. In the future, I fear we will be hearing the phrase, "He went developer" instead of "He went postal".
I once had aspirations of being a game programmer and, here in Austin, my best "opportunity" would have been working at Origin Systems (the fantastic monkey crew that brought UO and other gaming blights on humanity). Thankfully, I got to attend seminars where Richard Garrett was present and realized how messed up it would be to support that man's business. EA owns Origin and while the treatment would have only gotten marginally worse, I would certainly be killing innocents at the local Starbuck's.
2004-11-12 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Senate Bill 88
2004-11-12 08:29 pm (UTC)
thats just scary, I want to be a game programmer but my family and friends are on par with that and will take procedence
2004-11-12 08:32 pm (UTC)
Have you considered forming a labour union of some sort?
You could get the employees at EA to sign up to a collective body (create your own) and then as a group all the employees in that body pressure the company. You dont need all the employees, but the bigger the group, the more effective it will be.
Once established, the group lays out its demands to the employer. The employer will either start a negotiation process or balk and say no. When the employer balks (as it will), the group action starts - start with a stop work meeting - take an afternoon off work to protest your conditions. The company is loosing huge productivity, so they will feel the presure. If they dont listen take the stop work meeting from an hour or so to several hours - apply more presure. Repeat as necessary with increasing periods of time until you get the desired effect.
Bear in mind that they will come back with some sort of compromise to your demands, you can use this as a starting point for your negotiations or stick to your guns until they come with a better offer, the choice is yours.
The group needs to have a negotiation team - a bunch of people who can be trusted to negotiate. These negotiations will take place
I suggest that you start by simply insisting that EA pay overtime. If you go beyond this, you may find that you end up with a less variable remuneration scheme. Which you dont want. If you just want to be paid for the hours you work (which is only reasonable), they either come up with some cash or you eventually all together just stop doing the over time. If they pay for overtime, they will be more sensitive about getting employees to work it too - meaning everyone wins.
The body needs to have some rules which each employee subscribes to when they join, e.g. they work together, not individually, so a benefit for one is a benefit for all. you might need others too - the idea is to ensure that no one employee can be paid off and leave the group reducing it's strength.
Anyway - I'm not a labour specialist, but I've seen this done in blue collar companies, and there is no reason (as far as I know) why it wont work in white collar environments with a bit of thought.
Hope things improve!
2004-11-12 08:42 pm (UTC)
Being a life-long gamer, as many here are, most of which who no doubt remember EA from WAY back when, I'm both horrified AND pissed off about this.
One of the posters on this thread said he or she would not be buying any more EA titles, which is a logical boycott for this kind of situation. Alas, ea_spouse replied that it probably wouldn't help the situation much, since it's NON-GAMERS who make up a big portion of the consumers (moms and dads buying for Jr., fratboys buying Madden, etc).
Although it seems that many employees aren't willing to poison their worth to the industry by starting a lawsuit, what about public perception? There's got to be some kind of way that this kind of story could be presented to the non-gaming public in a way that they would understand. It's not about whether or not you play games, or even KNOW anything about them. This is about sweatshop conditions (albiet with higher pay, but the bottom line is still the same). It won't bring the industry to it's knees, but it would be a nice kick in the crotch for these bastards.
I used to lament the fact that all of EA's MMO attempts have tanked...Now I'm laughing my ass off.
2004-11-12 09:03 pm (UTC)
What about someone starting a paypal fund for a one page advertisement in time life magazine? Everyone who gives a damn donates a buck or two. The ad could have a photo of one of these slave laborers handcuffed to his comp with a golden carrot dangling over his head...caption something like:
Video game development; Is it worth the price?
And it could be folowed by something like:
Did you know that many big title video game companies are squeezing the life out of their employees? etc...etc... then there could be a link to an online petition for reform.