2004-11-14 03:44 am (UTC)
I TOO AM A EA SPOUSE
My family are also victims of EA work practices. My spouse took a position with EA about a year and a half ago. Of course we came with our 3 children under all of the promises of a great salary, benefits, and of course a yearly bonus. The first year my spouse was subjected to 3 months of "crunch time" hours consisting of 6-7 days per week up to 16 hours per day with no less than 12. Of course, with the industry comes a certain amount of expected overtime. So the kids and I disappear for the summer as to ease the burden my spouse feels trying to meet the needs of a family versus the demands of his managers. Of course the bonus they offer as part of the hiring package is suppose to somehow financially compensate us for all the time lost. Well here is the kicker, the employees didn't get their full bonuses. Why? Is it because EA didn't make money? No, that isn't so, all we heard all year was how they had record breaking profits. The share holders made money, and I am sure the executives made plenty of money. But when it came time to compensate the people who made them that money, they got kicked in the face. This years project and "crunch time" believe it or not was double that of last year. Six months of brutally long hours. And as the kids and I went to disappear again, my spouse had come home a couple of nights at 7:00 pm after already working 10 hour days in order to have some time with his kids, was pulled aside and told that he needed to be staying longer. Rediculous! By the time this project ended my spouse was so exhausted I was serously concerned about his health. I know for a fact that if we had of known the conditions that we would face coming to work for EA we wouldn't of taken it. We would never sacrifice family, and health for any amount of money. I guarantee you that our time with EA will be coming to an end, and they will lose a very talented employee, but as the writer expressed, they will find another and go on.
2004-11-14 07:05 am (UTC)
Re: I TOO AM A EA SPOUSE
There are so many stories like this. I would strongly encourage you and your spouse to look into your options with the lawsuit. The overtime that is owed should the suit be successful for programmers (proving them to be non-exempt, as they should be under California law) EA could potentially owe your family many thousands of dollars. Overtime suits in CA can be retroactive up to four years.
2004-11-14 04:27 am (UTC)
Not buying any EA game from now on.
Knowing what goes in them now (piss-poor management), I'm not getting another EA product again.
Although I'm a newbie C++ programmer, I know its hardwork building a quality product. But doing it under a stressful environment until you go sick...That's just wrong.
Regards to all those hardworking EA folks.
I cant even begin to read all the comments. but I'm with ya. I work for a game company. Its teh same everywhere.
2004-11-22 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: were with ya'
My name is Josh Pastreich. I am a union organizer for IATSE 16. We represent cg workers at ILM. It is time this industry grew-up and workers are going to have to stand-up. I am at 415-441-6400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk to you soon.
2004-11-14 05:06 am (UTC)
WOW.... here is my responce
You might not get to read this because of the thousands of responces but I have gone through and continue to go through the fight with my employer for having hazardous conditions in the workplace.
You and your fmily will have to sit down and discuss what you are going to do about the situation. I believe this is what you should do:
For the next 6 months, record everything that is going on at the job site. Your husband should be as discrete as posible, but record his hours and what he has to do. Even record the policy of "if you don't like it, just quit".
You can get unemployment, I REPEAT, you can get unemployment if you can prove a reason why you left your job. Speak to an unemployment representative today if posible.
Secondly, after colecting data over the 6 months, write to OSHA and to the Human Right Division.
Then, write to your representavives in Congress, in detial, of what is happening.
While it will take time for results, be sure that you will get them in time. This will be hard on your family, but lets face it, isn't it already hard?
2004-11-14 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: WOW.... here is my responce
I am reading all of the comments, though I'm not replying to as many of them as I'd like. =) We have been recording daily goings-on for awhile, actually... and not necessarily even intentionally, but simply by way of how we normally communicate. Thanks for your suggestions, they will definitely be put 'on the burner', so to speak.
2004-11-14 05:14 am (UTC)
I've often seen large corporations function within our society stating they are law abiding. They likely are. Are they ethical? Hell no. Captialism can be synonymous with exploitism. Captialism claims to be fueled by innovation, progress or technological advancement. Its not. Its fueled solely by greed. Governments in capitalistic societies divise their laws to accomodate the rich before the poor. That is why big companies can exploit employees ethically, but still be innocent legally. Stock markets and stock prices become the company head's primary concerns.
We claim that we've evolved from the age of Kings and peasants, where you worked for the King and received just enough to survive. Did we really evolve beyond that? No. Today we have many Kings. Corporate Kings, who make millions as they work and exploit their peasant employees.
I hope the employees take EA to the cleaners.
2004-11-14 04:20 pm (UTC)
Right... and the answer is Socialism right (that's laughable) Capitalism isn't without its evils, but overall it's proven to work better than any other system in terms of fueling an economy.
If these companies are viloating laws then they can be fined and if any damages are owed they will be paid. These people aren't forced to work at this companies, they can escape, they can change career paths.
They can even open their own business and become the next EA or Lucus, that may be extreemly difficult to do, but the opportunity is there no less. This doesn't seem to be the case in most non-Capitalistic countries.
People who think Capitalism = Evil are brainwashed and the US is the #1 hated country, because it remains the sole "super power" (thus, again proven the success of Capitalism). China is quickly rising in the ranks, but the still do not have the same GDP, the only reason China is growing so rapidly is because of their adoption of Capitalistic economic practices, so fuck off and educate yourself.
2004-11-14 05:21 am (UTC)
A Different Perspective
Okay, to get a few bits out of the way, I work for EA. I have been there a long time and I plan to be until I retire. I am also a manager, although I started at the entry level.
ea_spouse's story is awful, and I am sure it's true although there are some data points wrong. I am glad it was posted anyway. I have input things here and there amongst these threads but thought I would add my own subthread as many of those comments are a bit buried.
A few notes about how I manage, and about the company:
1. I refuse to manage my team by assigning mandatory overtime UNLESS someone is late because they did not do their work.
2. I would never fire someone for not working overtime. I might give them less compensation than someone who does. Is there anyone here, really, who questions the fairness of that?
3. I _LOVE_ to work at EA. I wanted to make games since games came into existance, and now I do. EA has its problems, but the vast majority of coworkers are fun, interesting people who are a pleasure to work with.
4. Some teams (too many) are screwed up. I am high up enough in the food chain to know that sometimes higher management is blind to this, and sometimes it's not. Believe it or not, EA is working on this issue. It is training its management (I already have appropriate training myself, but many of our managers do not).
6. I give my team members comp time at the end of projects.
7. I do everything in my power to keep my teams from having to work more than 50 or so hours. I happen to think that 50 is a reasonable minimum.
When you are confronted in your workplace with a situation like this, you have a list of choices:
- You can put your head down and do the work and the hours. Sometimes that sucks - trust me, I've been there. Sometimes it's actually fun, as much as that sounds like rationalization. It is certainly very tiring, although I personally never let it get to the point where it damaged my health.
- You can quit. This was mentioned as a bad attitude on management's part, but is it? Seriously: there are other companies and other industries to work for. I don't say that to be mean - the hard work is not for everyone, and I don't think any less of the people who would rather work less.
- You can form a union. Dangerous devices, unions. A company I used to work at had a union vote, and even though I was one of the lowliest engineers there I rallied against the idea. I would rather not lose my own right to negotiate my circumstances, which in all my time at EA I have occasionally been frustrated with but never felt like anyone was forcing me to do anything I didn't want to do. If I had felt that way, I'd have quit. In fact I _did_ quit the previous company...even though I got overtime pay there. There are other important factors in the workplace. EA was an immediate huge bump in salary for me, with a bonus program that has ranged from okay to great and a stock option program that essentially bought the house I live in...and remember, I'm a manager now but I started at entry level. Unionizing would have other consequences as well, but I don't want to sound like the bad manager trying to scare people away from unions.
2004-11-14 05:23 am (UTC)
A Different Perspective (continued)
One more thing about working hard: some people (I would call it a significant minority) do it to themselves. They surf the net, they shop, they take long lunches, they play Magick the Gathering in the middle of the afternoon, they visit or IM with their friends. If these people would just sit and do the work, they could cut 3-4 hours out of their day. I don't mind when people do this, because it's an informal environment - as long as they don't turn around and complain about the hours, or leave after eight hours when three of them have not been spent working.
Regarding "Challenge Everything" and Madden. I do not play Madden, but anyone who does will tell you what an awesome product it is. Madden took video game football from ridiculous little pseudo-3D sprites to a presentation that at medium distance on a monitor is often mistaken for the real thing. It is and has been the best damn football game in the industry pretty much since its inception. If you don't think that's a challenge, or that it's a challenge to do that year in and year out without fail, then you don't understand the industry.
Your challenge, ea_spouse, is just as valid and whether anyone wants to believe it or not the company is addressing that challenge as well.
EA has problems. Vivendi has problems. Eidos has problems. Sony has problems. Microsoft has problems. I don't know anyone that works there, but I'd bet Nintendo has problems. I also know that this hard work is NOT restricted to larger companies - if anything, people at smaller studios sometimes have to work harder. Me, I choose to work on the system from within, to help defeat EA's problems. I have had success at it, and I am doing everything I can to try to get that success to spread to other teams so that letters like ea_spouse's are unnecessary and unheard of.
Slave labor? I think not. There is only one person who can force you to work under conditions you do not want to work under, and that is yourself. EA's talented staff can just about all go work wherever else in the industry they want, and most teams I've had the good fortune to work with have the talent to work in any other industry they apply themselves to as well.
Oh, and no question: I think Larry Probst is overcompensated too. :) Of course, I think I would be hard-pressed to name any CEO who's not...
I've never been a big supporter of video games to begin with, but I work in sales for the largest computer retailer, and I'll be not only boycotting these practices, which are much worse than outsourcing overseas, but I'll be showing a printout of this to my customers who mention any ea product. thank you.
2004-11-14 05:37 am (UTC)
For the past year I have worked for a video game development company. The project I was on was very difficult we put in insane amounts of overtime in an attempt to appease the demands of our insane publishers. Eventually the project was cancelled and our entire development team was laid off. One of my friends had been putting in extra hours above and beyond the already insane schedule we were on in order to have an opportunity to be a character modeler. A few weeks after the cancellation of the project he had a heart attack and died. Unfortunately he will no longer be modeling characters or making video games.
2004-11-14 05:53 am (UTC)
Videogames and Health
I almost had the same thing happen to me, maybe. I was working at another game company with an even worse crunch time schedule/habit. I used to get pains in my chest but I couldn't take time off to see a doctor because management laid a heavy guilt trip on me. I ended up smoking hash all day - it was the only way to relieve the stress and I think it actually saved my life. I'd spend every day at work in a daze - getting high in the bathroom at the company cafeteria until I eventually got fired for botching up a meeting with an exec from Paramount. I walked in all red eyed and everyone could smell it on me so I got all paranoid and freaked out. All this happened three months ago. The job stress in these companies can get so high but I didn't think I would have made it if I hadn't turned to drugs to ease the stress. The only way they'll listen is if you form a union.
2004-11-14 06:35 am (UTC)
Lord of the Slave Drivers
From: Gray, Steve
Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 12:22 PM
To: LOTR3 Team @ EAHQ
Subject: Drive to Beta, CQC and Final!
While we’ve put two really important milestones on the road to shipping this game behind us – Alpha and Asset Lock – there is still a lot of work to do debugging the game and putting the final touches of polish on.
We can’t slow down quite yet. Because debugging and tuning are such a critical part of making any game, we need everyone to help out in every way they can.
First of all, we all need to be clear on the order in which Dev Track entries should be processed:
1. A Bugs
2. V Bugs (Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft standards violations)
3. A Tuning Tasks
4. B Bugs
5. A Tasks
6. B Tasks
7. C Bugs
8. C Tasks
If you don’t have any of these things to do, you should test the game. I’m going to send out instructions on how to do this. Also realize that “A Tune” tasks need to be turned around ASAP. I’ve asked the Producers to work with all of you to make sure all A Bugs, V Bugs and “A Tune” tasks are completed by the end of each day. Realize that these tasks will be generated during that same day, so clearing out Dev Track on one day is no guarantee you won’t have more tasks the next day.
A significant part of the team is working very hard to debug the game. If you don’t have DevTrack entries assigned to you, please follow the game testing instructions I distribute and spend your time between DevTrack assignments helping to debug the game.
As we close in on the final stretch, here’s the approach we’re taking to ensure we all are working in synch to close down bugs and put the necessary efforts into tuning to make a great game:
1. Core Work hours – be here during core working hours; those start at 10:00am and end in the mid-evening
2. Outside Core Work hours – please make arrangements with your manager to be reachable in case of a key problem with your part of the game and stay within 45 minutes of the office when possible
I’ve also asked the Producers to work out shifts for Pod members to make sure that at least one person from each Pod is on-site while engineering is working on their bugs, generally until midnight. The shifts should ensure that that this doesn’t impact any one person too severely.
This is the final stretch and we need to make all of our hard work really pay off by finishing on time.
Thanks to each one of you for your continued creativity and drive. It’s inspiring to me how much we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. You all are great.
2004-11-14 06:52 am (UTC)
If I worked for you, I'd quit.
So basically you're not allowed to go home. In fact you'd prefer if we lived in the office until the game is in the box. Thanks, Mr. Slavedriver. I'll take may sanity and leave now. Buh-buy.
2004-11-14 06:50 am (UTC)
the first company email about the lawsuit
From: Earl, Nick
Sent: Monday, August 02, 2004 3:51 PM
To: STUDIO RFT @ EAHQ; Testing RFT@ EARS
Subject: FAQ on Recent Legal Action
On Friday, we were served with a class-action lawsuit claiming that Artists in our California studios are not correctly classified under California labor regulations regarding overtime pay. This suit was filed jointly by two law firms – one in San Francisco and a second in Boston – with one employee named as the plaintiff.
Unfortunately, under the rules of class-action lawsuits, the one short-tenured employee and lawyers now speak as a representative voice for every one of our Artists on this matter -- whether the Artists know they are included or not.
We believe EA has been fair and we will vigorously defend our position. Still, the lawsuit could drag on for many years and could have a significant long-term impact on our compensation, benefits and development process.
The two law firms may use the media to draw attention to the case. If you get any questions from the outside, please do not comment and instead refer them to Jeff Brown at x87922.
Because you all may have questions, I have attached a FAQ below which I encourage you to review. Because none of us are lawyers I urge you to use caution in what you say and write on email regarding this issue. Additionally, we will talk about this in further detail at our next All Hands.
We remain, regardless of challenges, committed to keeping EA a growing Company that will deliver successfully on our mission and objectives.
What’s this lawsuit about?
This is a very sensitive issue that the entire digital entertainment industry is grappling with. Fundamentally, it is about re-defining who makes creative decisions in the development process. There’s no clear cut, final answer as each new generation of technology forces us to re-examine jobs and responsibilities.
What’s a class action lawsuit?
In essence, it’s a suit that aims to resolve legal questions for categories of employees rather than a single individual who has worked for us a very short time.
What are they suing for?
This gets into complex legal questions that our attorneys are sorting out and addressing. In most situations the attorneys fund and fuel these suits and take a large percentage of any settlements.
Why does EA oppose the suit?
We’re concerned any time one employee and a group of lawyers takes any action that could significantly change our compensation, benefits and studio development process.
If EA’s a #1 People Company, why don’t we just pay them?
EA succeeds because we combine good wages and benefits with a tightly managed cost structure. We believe that we’ve paid our people fairly and legally and EA pays for a lot of great benefits such as gyms, cafeterias, day care, game rooms as well as bonuses, benefits and stock options. On a global basis, it would be very challenging to pay for all that and then add additional compensation.
2004-11-14 06:56 am (UTC)
And I should stay quiet why????
Go get them all you ex-EA artists, programmers, testers, CS people, etc. THIS is your finest hour!
2004-11-14 07:05 am (UTC)
I want to cry.
After reading ALL the posts to date, I feel the need to congratulate you on your actions. I posted my experience too because I felt it was the right place to share it. After reading how many other (ex-)EA SOs have been through that so closely mirrored my situation, I felt like crying. The injustice of it all, to the employees, the families, the hopeful wannabees who looked to these companies for their future. It's a sick industry and it must not continue unchecked.
I am glad something is being attempted and I so hope it makes the industry change for the better without sacrificing so many able and talented people. My heart goes out to all of you who have been through harsh time and please take some small comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Strength, determination and success to EA_Spouse for getting the snowball started.
SO of former art director at another stupid video game company
2004-11-14 07:42 am (UTC)
Re: I want to cry.
You know the best way to hurt EA is TO NOT BUY THEIR GAMES... I should think. But unfortunately this practice is widespread and not just at EA. And as for hiring younger talent to replace the older one's hah hah hah! Nothing is more short sighted.... I left a video company a year ago and held the position of engine programmer. The CEO in his ultimate wisdom decided to take my salary and hire three college kids instead of someone with EXPERIENCE. He figured if he could hire three for the price of one everything would be golden.... WRONG.... In two short months those "kids" took a well designed engine and tool chain that artists loved to work with and turned it into an abomination that would crash if you sniffed at it. Then the crunch started setting in, and not a normal crunch, a hellatious straight out of hell type of crunch began by all accounts. And why did this happen? Well the engine and tools stopped working and everyone had to find work arounds\hacks\patches\fixes to get their work done. Before the company had manageable crunch times of 1 or 2 months. So as a result of the shortsightedness of management, what was once a productive and efficient team disappeared into thin air.
Hopefully something good will come out of all these discussions. As for me I already knew what to do when a recruiter comes calling about a position at EA................. Click.
2004-11-14 08:21 am (UTC)
Pure class. lol
2004-11-14 08:52 am (UTC)
Suggestion for all fellow EA employees
For all of us who have been reticent in filling out the "anonymous" Talk-Back survey, perhaps we should just fill it in with a hyperlink to this journal entry. That should make the point.
Or perhaps the deadline for participation has already passed?
2004-11-14 10:05 pm (UTC)
Rusty is helping us out with a deadline extension. Apparently he didn't meet his 85% participation goal. Given the wholesale gloss-over and the ridiculous conclusions drawn at the end of the last talkback survey, not to mention the 'semantic adjustments' to the company mission statements like '#1 People Company -uh - for high performance individuals' , i think the talkbalk survey is wasted effort.
rusty knows about this blog. frankly, i think he should just resign.
I know an ea spouse who told me about what was happening several months ago. She's probably heard of your post by now, but I'll print it out for her.
Your post, and the responses to it, helped me a lot. It educated me about my rights, it made me reflect on my 10 year career in software & web development -- and for the first time, began to heal the caustic experiences of the last four years. Sincerly....thanks.
It's ironic. I'm developing the web design process for an after school program ... and then I read your post. When my QA manager told me years ago that I knew the QA process, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Defining this process made me realize how much I knew. We all use some type of process (or a methodology) whether we're developing software or teaching a child the ABCs. Seems to me that EA's methodology is ... crunch. I await the day that (1) "ea spouse" appears in Websters, and (2) a college course or book evaluates the crunch process.
My copy of Death March is in storage, so I looked it up and found a site talking about DeathMarchValues that led me to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development:
We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.
2004-11-14 09:09 am (UTC)
So very true
I got started in the industry pretty young, with a company with similar if not worse labor policies. The reason I stayed is because it was my dream and my employer took advantage of this.
There is no excuse for treating employees like this, which is why I left. I would say to anyone working for a place like this, just leave, trust me life goes on. The key to fixing this problem is to stop putting up with their shit, and to start your own companies or find another, they can't continue without you, but they pretend this isn't true.
There are a lot of mean things I'd love to say about my former employers, however I'd rather just tell other young people facing this same situation, that you can't be intimidated by your boss. If you don't like your job, leave, its the only thing you can do. If you don't stand up for yourself, I'm not going to cry over your pitiful existince, and neither will anyone else.
Free your mind, enjoy your life, do what you love and do it with people who are human beings and will treat your right. If you just keep on working for these people and complaining behind their backs, you're no better than they are, you're still helping them get rich so they can abuse more young people.
More power to you all, I know how hard it is to leave something you love but its better than losing your dignity and self respect, and the relationships with those you love. Don't trade the best years of your life for something that is promised to you, because trust me, promises are only a comfort to a fool.