Couldn't let this post go by without congratulating the author. It was brave, honest and true to the core.
I have been married for over 8 years. My spouse has always worked in the video game industry. His Experience with EA Canada has been extensive. Most recently he worked for EAC for the last 4 years.
When my husband joined EA I was unprepared for the "crunch time" that took him away from me for those 4 years. There was never ever a time he worked less than 10 hours a day. He shipped 3 titles in 4 years and these title were done for 3 different platforms, therefore 9 sku's. During severe crunch time, he would be at work for 10am and get home at 2 or 3am. He did not have a holiday in those 4 years and he worked 98% of weekends (sat and sun).
His work was never appreciated and I begged him to quit many times over. His dedication to the team and the project was the only thing that kept him there. He did not want to leave in the middle of a crunch time however there was never a down time in the entire 4 years. He kept telling me through our many fights that this was expected by his supervisors and everyone had to do these hours. Often I thought perhaps he exaggerated, since as many in this industry, he is a self confessed work-a-holic. These posts however explain to me exactly the hell he went through, and make me thankful our marriage survived. At times it was dicey.
I am glad our chapter of hell with EA is over. My husband has this year finally left EA and found a new home with a fabulous local video game company called Radical. They appreciate and cherish his 20+ years in the industry and his love for the work. They have revived a man that I slowly saw dying, and have made him love the work again. I can count on one finger the weekend days he has had to work since he began in April, and that is the same finger I give to EA!
I hope all that are responsible for torturing those poor EA employees live a very miserable existence. And my words of encouragement to those employees left in that hell hole is get out! There are other game companies, and though they are not all great, I am willing to bet they are all better than EA!
I could have written that. My husband left his company that had insane hours and joined Radical's team. Radical restored my faith in this industry.
2004-11-13 02:04 am (UTC)
Another former EA employee
I worked for Black Box Games in Vancouver both before and after EA purchased them.
As an independent company, Black Box treated it's employees with respect, encouraged people to have normal lives, and compensated them appropriately for crunch time. A high percentage of the employees had greater than 6 years experience, and turnover was next to nil. I always felt the people in charge had my best interests in mind.
EA changed all that - The company culture all but disappeared, deadlines and workload became unreasonable, the employees were treated like pawns, and the people formerly in charge had no power to change it. What's worse is that EA flat out lied about how the buy would affect the company. After a year and a half of watching them destroy what my friends worked so hard to build, I left for a smaller company, and I'm happy to say that things are much better here.
When I left, I told management in no uncertain terms why I quit, I won't work for them again or buy their products, and I wholeheartedly encourage others to do the same.
2004-11-13 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Another former EA employee
Hey Jason, here's one reply I can write.
Good to hear that you're doing well and your better half also.
Don't wear the nipple shit in public.
Vegas Frenchmman :)
I heard about this on Penny Arcade
and wow... I knew EA was pretty bad as far as games go (another year, another Madden, another Bond, another few shitty movie tie-ins), but this... wow.
I'm linking to this in my LJ, to spread the word.
2004-11-13 02:27 am (UTC)
Welcome to Corporate America
All public video game publishers are like this. I use to work EA's So-Cal competitor. Upper management has financial targets to meet. They're going to run their staff into ground to achieve them. You are easily replaceable by some green nosed kid out of college. leaving will not create a massive void that can't be easily filled at a lower price. If you’ve got enough talent go off and create your own studio so it can be bought up by the big boys.
2004-11-13 02:21 am (UTC)
Hi, My name is...
My name is Sydney Bristow. Seven years ago I was recruited by a secret branch of EA called Development. I was sworn to secrecy, but I couldn't keep it from my fiancé. And when the head of Development found out, he had him killed. That's when I learned the truth: Development is not part of Game Production. I've been working for the very people I thought I was fighting against. So, I went to the only place that could help me take them down. Now I'm a double agent for THQ, where my handler is a man named Michael Vaughn. Only one other person knows the truth about what I do, another double agent inside EA. Someone I hardly know - my father, a matte painter working on Tiger Woods.
Ok folks, I thought I'd insert some humor into the heady talk here, which I might add is a very valuable dialogue. I don't think my story is too pertinent here, but as a game artist (concept illustrator), I've been following the threads here closely. I've never worked in production at EA, but I've done a few conceptual pieces years (ages) ago for one of their pocket developers.
I do feel a bit like Syndey Bristow reading these posts. If you don't watch Alias, bear with me ladies and gentlemen. I've also noticed a lot of media lurking about (good) and attorneys (not necessarily good). I've seen scores of threads ending with "sue them" "just sue" -walk out, etc. It's not that simple. I'm a bit reluctant for one to involve "legal experts" in resolving matters unless I know it is a last resort, and I know the intentions of the law firm are just and honorable. That's not an easy pie to slice there. Draw your own conclusions, this is not pro-bono work folks. Money is to be had.
I have mixed feelings about union involvement. Some of the demonstrative calls to "unionize!" feel very FDR to me. We get it, there's a union out there. No kidding. I think as gamemakers we need to decide what is best to preserve our rights before leaping into union involvement. They can regulate the workplace but all those other things, like taking breaks, activities, those too are under the light, the same microcrope. Will the teamsters join the touch football league, or do they have to sign a waiver first? Give me a break. Maybe that's the way things will go but I'm in no rush to fill out cards until I know what the heck this means. I'll due my Due Dilligence, no need to fill me in.
The heart of the matter is what the heck is it about making a video game that necessiates these kind of hours. It is the damn marketing/product release dates that are absurb? Too many damn features? Game design is not locked down? Managers don't understand how to make games?
But the way NOT to resolve is by the backs of the people, and by "crunching." That needs to go. Bravo to those who have stood up and put their heart on the line. HOW that is resolved, I think we as a community need to look at and talk about. I just don't want to freak and get a picket sign. I want to make this better.
By the way, this is historical stuff here folks. This is being done online, on the internet, free of censorship. Agree or disagree, that is damn cool.
2004-11-13 02:29 am (UTC)
EA Destroyed My Relationship
I had a wonderful relationship with one of EA's former programmers. They put him through that crunch period, and our relationship ended as a result. He felt it wasn't fair to me...he barely had enough time to even call me and when he did, he sounded like he was on the verge of collapsing. I will never buy another EA game as long as I live.
2004-11-13 02:31 am (UTC)
I noticed that in the 20 pages this topic has reached now, not a single person claiming to work at EA has denied the claims, instead more and more EA and ex EA employees find their way here.
If someone would write something like this about my company (one of the aforementioned independent developers), and it wasn't true, at least half of the employees would have posted here to debunk the claims, because they are passionate and proud about making games and their jobs.
The fact that this has not happened here (idiot trolls aside), indicates very strongly that the article isn't far away from the truth.
ea_spouse, my congratulations for having the guts to expose EA for what they are - a greedy, slave wrecking corporation. I'll do my part and make sure a link to this page get's passed around at our university ... to prepare some nice questions for the recruiter guys from EA who show up here every once in a while.
To all the "suck it up or get another job" trolls:
If your grand-grandfathers had the same shitty attitude you have, we would still plow the land for king and landlord and give our 10th to the church, rather cowering in obidience than speaking out against the obvious wrong.
If employees exercise their rights (and that, by law, is a lot more more than "work or leave", unless you live in the third world or the middle ages), they should be commended for that, because it keeps corporations from establishing themselves as landlords just again.
2004-11-13 07:49 am (UTC)
Re: an observation...
Next time the recruiters come around to my Uni, I'm bringing this up as well! This is too much to be ignored!
2004-11-13 02:35 am (UTC)
I work at EARS ... what are our rights?
I was hired to work at EARS less than a year ago and I already see that this studio operates differently to any other in the industry. The hours and expectations are extreme.
What are our rights? Do we really have any rights? Can we really join/start a union? Does anyone out there know how that would work?
2004-11-13 02:48 am (UTC)
Re: I work at EARS ... what are our rights?
2004-11-13 02:36 am (UTC)
For 12 months, I held on to e-mails to Fortune Magazine (responding to their 2003 article) when I shared my stories of being a wife of an EA employee with them, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that your voice is being heard. I describe it to my friends as "the time during which EA ruined our marriage." When I first starting reading these comments, I felt all the anger and bitterness, frustration and hatred that I felt while I was waiting for my husband to come home (or driving to the office at 2AM so I could spend time with him.) Now, I just feel sad that so many other people's lives have been ruined - ok, there's still some anger there too. Some of the most vivid memories I had were:
-hearing that "some countries celebrate Christmas in February" with regard to a winter holiday
-being told that some family events such as weddings and funerals fell on "inconvenient days" and that they should still come in to work
-being bought off with flowers, promises of bonuses, and other electronic gadgets
-welcoming my husband home at 5 AM as I was getting up to go to work
-throwing "congratulations" parties to co-workers who left the company (too bad my husband couldn't make those parties)
-eating dinner at the company...after all, why should I cook when it's just me at home?
Anytime I hear anyone considering working there, I tell them to run away while they still can. It was so sad to see such a hard-working group of people I respected and admired treated so poorly. As I read the other postings, I wish they were exaggerated, but know from experience that they are true.
2004-11-13 03:42 am (UTC)
Re: another wife...
Finally another wife who will admit to eating at EA too. I do it all the time. Cheers! I think EA should pay for my food.
2004-11-13 02:39 am (UTC)
The only appropriate response a consumer such as myself can offer is to boycott EA products until they capitulate and respect the rule of law. Would consumers pressuring retailers (Walmart, etc.) for their proxy support of EA's unscrupulous labor practices give you any leverage, or is that expectation too high?
2004-11-13 02:46 am (UTC)
CLOCK, CLOCK..who's there?
Somebody mentioned on this post that they aren't putting a gun to our heads. true, but they have put a new wrinkle on "motivation"- it's called fear and pressure. The minute you walk onto one EA dev team in Orlando there is an obnoxious huge red digital clock displaying the "countdown to ship date" (a year away mind you) that does nothing but tick away how much time is left.
How's that for work productivity? It looks like a huge bomb timer making you feel the pressure every time you look up, so you don't ever look up.
Despite many employees asking management to remove it, it's been up there for months. In fact, EA management from other studios plan on adopting it for their teams and studios with similar "countdown to milestones". I think the guy with the whip shows up Jan. 01...
just in time to tell us our bonuses are laughable again because we are going into another "transition year" that'll last 3-4 years like the last console "transition year(s)"
2004-11-13 02:47 am (UTC)
EA's illegal HR practices
In addition to the points made by the disgruntled spouse, in which I have not experienced but many of my friends have, EA also practices in illegal hiring and non-hiring methods that I have witnessed first hand.
The EA HR makes deals with certain companies that keep current employees from getting hired at other companies and vice versa.
For example, I have witnessed many times that EA will not hire from other game companies without first calling up the HR person from the company to find out if this person is available for interviewing. They will also not hire certain people without the permission from the other company. This puts the employee in jeopardy since their current employer now knows they are looking for better opportunities.
In turn, certain other companies under the "illegal contract" will not hire EA employees. This keeps the overworked and disgruntled EA employee from getting out of the "Machine" unless they quit or get fired. If he or she gets fired, they will most likely not get unemployment because EA will use the "employee did not work to satisfactory levels" excuse for working only 40 hour weeks.
It sounds like a good deal to EA all around the board.
I would just quit if I where you guys.
2004-11-22 03:59 am (UTC)
Re: EA's illegal HR practices
My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer and I am helping with the class action lawsuit against EA for overtime violations. What this company is doing is outrageous! Is there anyway that we can document this "illegal contract" that you describe? Someone has to put an end to this. If there is anyway that you can help, even anonymously, please call me at 415-441-6400 or email@example.com
These workers really need your help.
2004-11-13 03:02 am (UTC)
There can be one word to explain all this
This is all lies and scams just to put EA down, and to just get attention of the community.
Anyway, something bugging me:
You can't blame the big publishers for the downfall of smaller companies, it is obvious that civilization as we know it, is controlled by the rich and powerful, and there is no choice but joining them. Independent companies won't live long enough in this world.
2004-11-13 03:05 am (UTC)
Re: There can be one word to explain all this
Is being stupid like being high all the time?
I feel for you. I have a brother in law that just got out of the industry because they won't hire talented, experienced artits and designers like him. Instead they hire kids straight out of college so they can do exactly what you have described. I hope things work out for you, as I read about some sort of "orginization" fighting back over EA's illegal pratices.
2004-11-13 03:13 am (UTC)
I worked at Electronic Arts as a game tester, a few years ago. Hourly pay, not salaried; I'm not sure if that's what caused them to obey overtime laws in my case, or if they just hadn't thought of pulling that trick yet.
The long hours weren't something they tried to hide from the testers. In fact, it was something that got pumped up as a mark of pride... we were told, during our training, that one of the groups testing a flight simulator a few months back hadn't left the building for two months, they'd had their wives and girlfriends bring them clean clothes and showered at the company gym. Personally, I broke triple-digit hours in a couple of weeks. And since I was a young bachelor with not much of a life, it really didn't bother me much; that much double-overtime combined with no time available to actually spend the money, leads to quite the pile-up of cash.
But there were no medical benefits. We were all on six-month contracts, after which we couldn't be re-hired for another six months; one of those little legal loopholes EA loves to use, nobody ever worked there for more than half a year so nobody qualified for benefits. (At the time, there was the possibility of being converted to full-time if you were an exemplary tester; shortly after I left, even that carrot was withdrawn.) And over the course of my months there, the work environment got steadily worse. Early on, we were allowed to stick around after-hours and play network games, or use the company's T3 for whatever. Our lunch hours were flexible, especially if we were on a crunch project. These little compensations vanished one by one; lunches must be one hour at noon, no gaming at lunch, no taking a break to snipe at each other with Airsoft guns, no instant messanger software, no downloading (even legal) audio/video content... while I was there, it never got to "no using company equipment after-hours for any purpose" but it was heading rapidly in that direction.
And these were the things that kept us sane. These were the only reasons we put up with such shitty conditions: because, ultimately, it really was a fun environment. It almost felt like being self-employed, during the crunches; we lived there, we hung out with our friends, we collaborated on a project and when we got too frustrated with that we took a break and had fun. But that environment was dying as I left, that's why I left before my contract was up, and from what I hear, it's completely gone now.
But apparently there are enough technically skilled Americans willing to work in a sweatshop, that they can get away with it.