2004-11-15 04:50 pm (UTC)
New updates on 'EA Spouse' and 'Motivational Posters'
News is still spreading across the blogosphere. The more people that know, the better. :)
Other site's reporting/comments:
'EA Management Motivational Posters'
Wow. I thought my internal contract was bad .. and I've seen bad contracts.
I did at some point 70 hours a week at Apple, with California laws written contract in Europe, and the day before got paid I had 4 euros in my wallet .. due to project delays of 2 + months, and the project shortening from 3 months to 13 weeks...
So after all, a permanent job at Apple isn't that bad.
Cheers .. my work schedule is far far less hours now, less salary but .. easier to plan life with some certainties in it. Like knowing they will need you even in December or April and so on ...
2004-11-15 05:23 pm (UTC)
90 Hour Weeks? Comp time?
Not to belittle it or anything, my SO is an entry-level associate at a law firm, and was told by a partner when he was hired he's expected to work a minimum of 90 hours a week with definite overtime, five or six days a week depending on case load. As a current TA and law-school student, I can tell you in the legal profession that's just about normal for any firm attorney.
When you only see the guy you live with on Sundays and Monday morning as you're both walking to the car, it gets rough, so I sympathize there, but the video game industry (maybe not EA, but at least the industry) is a step ahead if they're in the practice of offering weeks off in compensation. My SO got an entire weekend off after closing the last case, and was back to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. the next Monday. Right now we're just hoping his vacation time comes soon.
2004-11-15 05:38 pm (UTC)
How much does your SO make? Is he salaried? Does he make overtime pay?
These are the issues.
It's about a company having the decency to pay for what they get out of an employee.
As for "comp time". This is not a guaranteed thing. It is something awarded at the whim of the company and often times is more of a teoken gesture (when the amount of hours worked by so many developers is taken into account).
How can this possibly be legal? How??
2004-11-15 06:21 pm (UTC)
In Related News
EA is about to take over the majority of shares at DICE (the studio behind battlefield), the DICE board of directors has already agreed, citing the raising costs of game developement for this "strategic" decision.
Unless the majority of shareholders at DiCE are the employees, we all know what will happen (can you say BattleField II - IX)?
My condolences to the working people at DICE and their families, as soon as EA figures out that European Labor laws are not as "flexible" as in the US, DICE will become an empty shell and get sucked, err relocated into the mother ship, as all the other studios before.
2004-11-15 06:25 pm (UTC)
Not even us doctors work this hard...
Very interesting discussion.
Being a norwegian doctor with an interest in computer games, i can share some research data. A receently published article in New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med. 2004 Oct 28;351(18):1838-48 and 1829-37) Found that doctors working 34 hour shifts made 5,6 times as many mistakes in diagnosing patients than those working normal hours.
There's no reason why this shouldn't apply to computer industry workers, perhaps even more so as i imagine the work to be more repetitive. Game devs dont work 34 hour shifts, but crunch time with 90 hour-weeks is far worse when it goes on for this long. It is unethical, unhealthy, and at least in Norway, very illegal. It's also probably quite inefficient, because as described in the article and your post, more time is spent on error correction than on actual progress.
The chronic headache, mood changes and fatigue you describe is very dangerous indeed, (leading to burnt-out syndrome and for some, depression and suicide) and sadly becoming more and more common as labour rights are being challenged worldwide.
Go get'em, ea spouse,
good luck in an eventual class-action lawsuit.
2004-11-15 06:27 pm (UTC)
Notes from the development end.
Long ago and far away, I owned a small game development shop. Our idea was to create in tandem, Board/Wargames, and a PC client/server (Like the CIV game translations, and the absolutly crappy "Politica" coming from Clancy Studios)
I even had some interest in funding from a "Japanese company to be unnamed".
(Didnt get it, but had a -lovely- trip *roll eyes*)
We all came from a university arena, knew each other, had the idea, I had the vision and the initial capital, While the development was going on, We did the rounds at E3 and the GDC, even shopping out to Origins/GenCon, and other traditional gamer type places.
Our base, however, was that "It gets done, when it is -DONE-". We could announce a title, but none of us wanted to get slammed by precomitting ourselves to a date, when the technology was leaping so fast, and we wanted to take advantage of new tecniques.
Did that bite us in the back? At the time, I thought it did.
However, seeing that the big 5 have CONSTANTLY blown major release dates, or even worse, sold what are essencialy BETA copies of crap, while they make you purchase the -bugfixes- seperatly as "Updates/addons", I still think that we took the most ethical route possible, and had we had more funding, I believe we would have survived.
We -ALL- worked insane hours. ALL of us, especialy since the design for the game was linked to each half. But almost -all- of us were also engeneers, and at the point where our output was outpaced by fixes, development *STOPPED* One day of rest equated to 11 days of relitive crap-free production.
We failed, not for the concept, but from the business end. Live and learn. Most of us continued on in our academic persuits, a couple went off to work for software development houses, one got offered a juicy gig at a game developer, and I went on to create a internet security firm.
But all of us still kept our ear to the industry, looking for a time to "Get the band back together again".
The way the industry is now, there is no possiblity to make a 1.5M+ financial layout PLUS a production schedule that requires at least 30 engeneers, artists, pre-and-post production staff...
And the way the engeneers, like your spouse, are treated...they cant ether.
I am sorry to say that your story isnt the exception...it is the rule.
2004-11-15 06:30 pm (UTC)
I feel for you.
Being a programmer with a family when ever I hear things like this it angers me to no end. I don't understand why companies think they can work any kind of computer programmer into the ground. After reading this I will no longer support EA games and if I want one of there games you can bet I will download it and they will never see another piney of my hard earned money.
I hope things end up better for you.
2004-11-15 06:38 pm (UTC)
Re: I feel for you.
It's not just the programmers. It's the artists and game testers too.
wow, that is the most horrible thing i have ever heard of. thank you for tell me this, now i will never buy another EA game.
2004-11-15 06:38 pm (UTC)
I think boycotting EA's games is not enough. Gamers should boycott stores that carry them
EA has clawed it's way to the top of the game industry by following the tactic Trip the Jip thought up when he founded the company. Buy up and control the distribution channels. They've since expanded on that, and go with good ol' corporate America's favourite game of buy up and control the production channels too.
It might be possible for us to hurt them by also using the distribution channels.
Some of the larger retail chains may not want to be associated with carrying products produced in sweatshops. I've seen it work in the past, where large retailers stopped carrying goods made by child labour in Asia (or threatened to stop carrying them unless the company that supplied them revised their labour practices).
Maybe we can get people to put pressure on the large retail chains who carry EA products as well. Walmart. Electronics Boutique. Future Shop. Circuit City. You name it, any big company that carries EA game may not want to be associated with any press generated by the stand we are taking.
I went to the Walmart homepage and looked up the Feedback/Suggestions email form under Company Contacts this morning. I'd like all of you to do the same. Pick your favourite game retailer, and send them a letter expressing your disappointment that they carry goods manufactured under slave-labour/sweatshop conditions. Express your horror that this is happening RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA. (It happens in Canada too). North America is supposed to be a better place than this. As commented earlier in this thread, this is not just a problem in the game industry. It's in all industries run by large corporations these days. But we have to start making our stand somewhere.
And considering that the game industry is the second-largest entertainment industry in terms of sales, revenues and profit, it's a damn good place to start. Games are bigger than Hollywood, bigger than pro sports, and bigger than pretty much everything except the corporations that sell you the basic necessities of life (your gas, electricity and home heating). EA has bought its way to the top of the game industry.
If we're going to stand up and demand change in our society, let us start with Evil Arts. Let's make an example of them, and start the labour revolution.
Here's a copy of the letter I sent to Walmart expressing my disappointment and displeasure in them carrying goods produced under such inhumane conditions as EA employees experience daily. Send similar letters to your favourite game retailers. Post them on places that investors read before buying stocks. Some people that buy stock in companies are regular North Americans like us who have morals and integrity, and just some extra cash to gamble on setting up a retirement fund. Those are the kind of investors that are likely to dump stock in a company that contributes to sweatshops, slave labour, and employee abuse. Let them know what's going on.
Hi. Is it Walmart's policy to carry goods from suppliers who use child labour and slave labour to produce the goods?
I would like to complain about goods carried in Walmart stores that are manufactured under inhumane conditions from workers who are horribly exploited and taken advantage of in order to deliver products to your retail chain. This isn't right, and I expected better of Walmart than to partake in such horrible and inhumane practices by carrying goods produced in sweatshops.
I know most people expect this only happens in Asia, but there are companies right in the USA that are doing it too, and Walmart is helping them by carrying their products. I would like to request that Walmart stop carrying Electronic Arts products. I will not be shopping at Walmart so long as it carries goods produced in slave-labour sweatshops, and I will be asking all of my family and friends to do the same, until such time as Walmart takes steps to either pressure this supplier to start engaging in legal labour practices, or Walmart stops carrying their products and thus contributing to this horrible and inhumane abuse of American citizens.
Please read this heartwrenching plea by a spouse of an EA employee, and pass it on to whoever makes decisions in your company.http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/
This shouldn't happen in America and Canada. It shouldn't happen anywhere, for that matter. And the number one retailer in North America should not be contributing to or encouraging this kind of mistreatment.
Thank you, and please take this complaint seriously. If we convince every gamer we know to join the boycott of EA products and stores that carry them, well... that's an extremely large number of people that might stop shopping at Walmart. 200 million people in the US alone play computer and video games. Even a small percentage of that number joining the boycott could impact your sales. Please take this matter under serious consideration.
didn't Walmart just get in a heap of trouble for forcing employee's to work unpaid overtime? I vaguely remember something about locking the doors so they couldn't leave the building....
That said, I think this isn't a bad idea. ;)
2004-11-15 06:56 pm (UTC)
You American programmers complain too much
Game programmers in Japan probably work 90/hrs a week and don't complain at all. Those in Korea probably work just as much.
Why do you think Japanese games are so good compared to the typical drek that American programmers crank out?
You guys may think this sort of slave-driving by EA is bad for people, but in reality it's the only way the American gaming biz can catch up to the Japanese.
2004-11-15 07:12 pm (UTC)
Re: You American programmers complain too much
For a more genuine Image of Japan
Japan as it really is can be better understood from this exceptional article which was published in the International Herald Tribune of Feb. 9. 2001, comparing the societal differences of the U.S.A. and Japan.
Japanese are Perplexed by U.S. Views of Japan
By Doug Struck, Washington Post Service
TOKYO – The U.S. Treasury secretary, Paul O���Neill, said recently that he would urge Japan to improve its economy but that he would not prod. It���s more a question of “how do we help the people of Japan achieve a higher standard of living.” Mr. O���Neill said.
Although U.S. officials have been urging the Japanese for years to slow their phenomenal savings rate and spend their way back to a boom, the remark has some Japanese chortling behind Guccini gloved hands.
Noriko Hama, a chief economist at Mitsubishi Research Institute in Tokyo, said: ”It���s a bit bizarre to be talking about raising the living standard of this country. Japan is the largest net creditor in the world and is thus the richest country in the world. This is far from a country that needs its standard of living raised. If anything, because people���s standard of living is so high, they are a bit complacent about the economic situation.” Noriko Hama added that Mr. O���Neill���s view was “about a quarter-century old.”
The high living standard is clearly visible on streets crowded with shiny new cars driven by Japanese in expensive suits and dresses going to jobs where they will earn more, on average, than Americans. Japanese have higher incomes, more savings, longer lives and better health than Americans, according to a host of statistical indicators. And they work less to achieve it: The image of Japanese working themselves to death aside, the average workweek among manufacturing workers is five hours shorter than in the United States. American workers on average put in the equivalent of two weeks more work per year than the Japanese, according to the International Labor Organization.
Japanese also pay less of their salary to taxes. Workers give less than 12 percent of their incomes to the government; in the United States, the burden is more than 16 percent, according to the Bank of Japan.
And the Japanese say they get more services. Health care is virtually free; child care is offered at a modest fee for working parents. Every ward in Tokyo has a large public swimming pool, and every neighborhood has several playgrounds.
Japan���s public transportation system is probably the most efficient in the world: Tokyo���s commuter trains provide 21 million rides a day, and on average Japan���s high-speed intercity trains pull in within 18 seconds of their scheduled arrival time.
Proportionately more Japanese take overseas vacations than Americans – and they still manage to save money. While American workers spent more than they earned last year, the average Japanese family put 13 percent of its paycheck in savings. Japanese have banked $6.5 trillion in savings, according to the Bank of Japan.
The government here agrees with Mr. O���Neill���s goal of bolstering the Japanese economy, which has been sputtering along with little real growth for a decade. In the third quarter of last year, the economy actually contracted at an annual rate of 2.4 percent, the government said Thursday.
With the U.S. economy slowing, many economists had been hoping that Japan could absorb imports from Asia and elsewhere to keep the global economy humming.
I've always known that the games i play require tremendous amounts of work and time, but i had no idea that it was so bad.
I hope that your SO can find a better alternative to working at EA. Game developers and software programmers are artists in my eyes, and should be treated considerably better.
Best of luck in all your and your SO's future Endeavors
2004-11-15 07:53 pm (UTC)
more fun emails...EA managers suck
This was sent out 6 months before ship...shit, the game was just announced. It's even title "crunch definition"........
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 4:54 PM
Subject: Crunch definition
In an effort to get us all on the same page as to what is crunch… here are the MOH4 expectations going forward.
3 late nights a week. You choose ‘em. A late night is defined as a day that you leave after 12 or more hours after you arrive. If you get here at 10am then you leave after 10pm. And so forth.
The non-late nights will be defined as leaving 9 hours after you arrive. If you get here at 10am then you leave after 7pm. Just like the bank.
1 weekend day. You choose. Saturday or Sunday. If you don’t care then please come in Saturday. There will be some exceptions where we need key people to rotate their days so we have full coverage both days. Check with your DD if think that might apply to you.
Everyone out by 11pm. Working in to the wee hours of the morning only gets one thing accomplished: creates a fried developer who has difficulty being back by 10am and is anything but mentally sharp. Get out of here, get a good night’s rest and get back in here.
Let your DD know what your default late nights and weekend day will be. This will help ensure balanced development teams. We will remain flexible as special events arise. But hopefully your default schedule will remain so most weeks.
Finally, expect exceptions to this generic definition. We will continue to have exec demos and big end-of-milestone pushes where we will ask people to put in a little extra to get us over the hump. But, hopefully, those will be exceptions and the flexibility built into this definition allows you to maintain a better outside of work life.
That’s it. Please let me know if you have any questions.
It's crunch time? Deadline still a month out?
Time to quit and take the whole team with you, and detail why to the upper staff. If a game completely fails to ship, it will affect them financially, far more so than a simply end user boycott will. Explain that the stupid hours are unacceptable, and that it's over, and that's why everyone is leaving.
I sure wish I had done that when I was in this situation. It's hard to think that the money isn't worth it on 4 hours of sleep a night. In fact, it's hard to think of anything on 4 hours of sleep a night, so you go into zombie coder mode.
2004-11-19 12:24 am (UTC)
Everyone can quit. EA has enough money to hire more people who want to work for them and are young and desperate and love games enough that they will not care how abused they are on the job. They just hope to get a game cred on their resume and use the EA name to make a move afterwards. EA as a publisher can just extend their deadlines. Even if they don't release enough SKUs or whatever that quarter, they are still making bank, so their stockholders won't cry too much.
I've seen similar stuff happen at other game publishers. Even developers can extend deadlines. They just have to blame it all on the lazy workers who walked out on them...