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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse.

EA's bright and shiny new corporate trademark is "Challenge Everything." Where this applies is not exactly clear. Churning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm. To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?

I am retaining some anonymity here because I have no illusions about what the consequences would be for my family if I was explicit. However, I also feel no impetus to shy away from sharing our story, because I know that it is too common to stick out among those of the thousands of engineers, artists, and designers that EA employs.

Our adventures with Electronic Arts began less than a year ago. The small game studio that my partner worked for collapsed as a result of foul play on the part of a big publisher -- another common story. Electronic Arts offered a job, the salary was right and the benefits were good, so my SO took it. I remember that they asked him in one of the interviews: "how do you feel about working long hours?" It's just a part of the game industry -- few studios can avoid a crunch as deadlines loom, so we thought nothing of it. When asked for specifics about what "working long hours" meant, the interviewers coughed and glossed on to the next question; now we know why.

Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this "pre-crunch" was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don't know how many of the developers bought EA's explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title's shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Weeks passed. Again the producers had given a termination date on this crunch that again they failed. Throughout this period the project remained on schedule. The long hours started to take its toll on the team; people grew irritable and some started to get ill. People dropped out in droves for a couple of days at a time, but then the team seemed to reach equilibrium again and they plowed ahead. The managers stopped even talking about a day when the hours would go back to normal.

Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.

The stress is taking its toll. After a certain number of hours spent working the eyes start to lose focus; after a certain number of weeks with only one day off fatigue starts to accrue and accumulate exponentially. There is a reason why there are two days in a weekend -- bad things happen to one's physical, emotional, and mental health if these days are cut short. The team is rapidly beginning to introduce as many flaws as they are removing.

And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it. Further, since the production of various games is scattered, there was a concern on the part of the employees that developers would leave one crunch only to join another. EA's response was that they would attempt to minimize this, but would make no guarantees. This is unthinkable; they are pushing the team to individual physical health limits, and literally giving them nothing for it. Comp time is a staple in this industry, but EA as a corporation wishes to "minimize" this reprieve. One would think that the proper way to minimize comp time is to avoid crunch, but this brutal crunch has been on for months, and nary a whisper about any compensation leave, nor indeed of any end of this treatment.

This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable. The extended hours were deliberate and planned; the management knew what they were doing as they did it. The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.

No one works in the game industry unless they love what they do. No one on that team is interested in producing an inferior product. My heart bleeds for this team precisely BECAUSE they are brilliant, talented individuals out to create something great. They are and were more than willing to work hard for the success of the title. But that good will has only been met with abuse. Amazingly, Electronic Arts was listed #91 on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2003.

EA's attitude toward this -- which is actually a part of company policy, it now appears -- has been (in an anonymous quotation that I've heard repeated by multiple managers), "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy. The concept of ethics or compassion or even intelligence with regard to getting the most out of one's workforce never enters the equation: if they don't want to sacrifice their lives and their health and their talent so that a multibillion dollar corporation can continue its Godzilla-stomp through the game industry, they can work someplace else.

But can they?

The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)

To put some of this in perspective, I myself consider some figures. If EA truly believes that it needs to push its employees this hard -- I actually believe that they don't, and that it is a skewed operations perspective alone that results in the severity of their crunching, coupled with a certain expected amount of the inefficiency involved in running an enterprise as large as theirs -- the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be. Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.

The interesting thing about this is an assumption that most of the employees seem to be operating under. Whenever the subject of hours come up, inevitably, it seems, someone mentions 'exemption'. They refer to a California law that supposedly exempts businesses from having to pay overtime to certain 'specialty' employees, including software programmers. This is Senate Bill 88. However, Senate Bill 88 specifically does not apply to the entertainment industry -- television, motion picture, and theater industries are specifically mentioned. Further, even in software, there is a pay minimum on the exemption: those exempt must be paid at least $90,000 annually. I can assure you that the majority of EA employees are in fact not in this pay bracket; ergo, these practices are not only unethical, they are illegal.

I look at our situation and I ask 'us': why do you stay? And the answer is that in all likelihood we won't; and in all likelihood if we had known that this would be the result of working for EA, we would have stayed far away in the first place. But all along the way there were deceptions, there were promises, there were assurances -- there was a big fancy office building with an expensive fish tank -- all of which in the end look like an elaborate scheme to keep a crop of employees on the project just long enough to get it shipped. And then if they need to, they hire in a new batch, fresh and ready to hear more promises that will not be kept; EA's turnover rate in engineering is approximately 50%. This is how EA works. So now we know, now we can move on, right? That seems to be what happens to everyone else. But it's not enough. Because in the end, regardless of what happens with our particular situation, this kind of "business" isn't right, and people need to know about it, which is why I write this today.

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. "What's your salary?" would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?



This article is offered under the Creative Commons deed. Please feel free to redistribute/link.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 09:41 am (UTC)

Tired of the ill-informed.

I am an EA employee. Not exactly going to tell you who I am, because I do not know what the legal ramifications are of such things, but if evidence is needed, I can probably find some way to provide it.

Now, there are some valid concerns in the original ea_spouse post. But there are some things that are just not right. I dunno if people are either ill-informed, ignorant of what their company is doing at any level other than development, or flat out lying to try and make EA look like the devil. But people who say that EA is either willingly exploiting people to make games, or that EA is not taking any steps to solve the overtime problem, well, those people are blind.

EA is taking many steps to try and rectify the problem. They know the problem exists, and they want to improve the quality of life for their employees.

The managers work the same hours, by the way, until you get up into REALLY high management. I noticed someone posted an email from a manager earlier in the thread, that included working hours of like 11am to 2am. A lot of shady dealings went on in that post.

For starters, the manager is there for those hours. Do you think she enjoyed being there? Do you think she sat there, thinking to herself "This is AWESOME how much I am making everyone SUFFER!" for 14-15 hours? Of course not. Also, based on the date of that email, the product (Madden in this case) was literally 2-3 days away from finaling. Yet this is not mentioned. There is no frame of reference, and everyone immediately assumes it was months before finaling or something. No, it was 2-3 days before finaling. There were a few too many issues at that point to have them all resolved in the final days without working some pretty hard hours.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 09:42 am (UTC)

Re: Tired of the ill-informed.

(cont. from above)
By the very nature of game development, the last few days are very amorphous and vague, and generally require a lot of hours because bugs can come in at any minute, and they have to be addressed ASAP, otherwise your product does not ship on time, you lose money, and, in the long run, you (the developer) will be out of a job because of it. Nobody wants that.

As for the argument that there are a zillion other people waiting in the wings for the same job? Well, that is probably true. Many people would do anything for a job in the games industry. But does this mean EA relies on that? Does it mean that they don't care about working their employees to the point of burnout?

Nope. It is remarkably expensive to train someone on a new project. You do not get anywhere near peak performance out of them on an unfamiliar project for quite some time. And even then, to get them to the level of experience where they can replace a two year burned out veteran takes, well, two years. That is two years of salary you are paying to get someone back up to the level where they replace the good talent you lost. Bad business all around.

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ill-informed? - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: ill-informed? - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: ill-informed? - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: ill-informed? - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 11:56 am (UTC)


I could write for an eternity on this topic, but all I want to say is this:

I've seen very similar situations to this pushing families apart, and I know the pain it causes. Please, whatever happens, don't let this push you apart. All this crap your SO goes through is to keep providing. I'm not doubting your love and devotion to him for a single second, but over a long period of time things like this can create irrepairable rifts.

I just hope upon hope your situation improves and you can both go back to being happy again.

Best wishes,
Another internet user.
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From: bwingb
2004-11-18 02:25 pm (UTC)

I'll give it a go because I give a damn...

Re: To every moron who comes here and says "stop complaining"

2004-11-18 08:09 (link) Uhm...either that, or he was incompetent.

How do we know? Because YOU say so?

[You know, I find this comment more than a little bit ignorant and inflamatory, but I am going to respond in the hopes of offering some enlightenment to someone who has never learned the fundamentals of justice or common courtesy]:

See how effective it is when someone starts throwing the "incompetent" word around? ;) Whether it's true or it isn't, when someone starts spreading that around it does a lot of damage to a person's reputation. And DH's manager spread it freely to prospective employers after he left EA. I know this for a fact because we called him up and he outright admitted it to us. I guess he was pretty secure in that $15 grand release form he had DH sign releasing the company from liability.

Just imagine for a second, that you worked your self near to total exhaustion for a company, and you were doing a pretty good job under the circumstances, and management didn't like you because you were leaving to catch the last bus at 11:00p.m. instead of driving home at 2:00 p.m. like all your co-workers even though you arrived hours earlier than them in the morning. Imagine you did this because your wife had a new baby at home who woke her up all night, and you wanted to be there to go get the baby for her from the crib when he started to cry so she could breastfeed-- so she wouldn't have to wake all the way up to feed the baby-- so she wouldn't have a nervous breakdown from exhaustion. Because it takes some women several months to recover from childbirth.

And you get fired for it.

Whether or not that actually happened, that's what I am saying happened. All you have to do to be a reasonable human being is imagine that it's possible, and what it would be like to go through that kind of humiliation and strain in such an intimate part of your life for an employer for months on end.

And if you can't imagine it because you've never been through it, then is it really wise to be forming opinions on the subject?
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[User Picture]From: theolive
2004-11-18 05:55 pm (UTC)

Re: I'll give it a go because I give a damn...

I'm bumbling in late on this, but oh, my --I hear you. And of course it's TRUE, and of course I believe you. And of course, the point you make is: this is the situation as you describe it. Either take it as the truth, or ignore it.

I don't get at ALL people who feel so defensive about this subject-defensive of management, essentially. I work in a similar business and it's prevalent there, too-that idea that "well, if so-and-so got the boot, he deserved it"--UNTIL it happens to them-for whatever reason. Although in my 15 years experience it's almost always the much younger and more inexperienced workers who buy into that thing of..."anyone but me". When you've worked a while, you begin to see it all and get a sense of reality. AND to get a sense of "life is fleeting-and you never get those years back". Anyway, very well-written response.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 04:17 pm (UTC)

Front Page Story on c|net, Published: November 18, 2004, 4:00 AM PST

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From: irrateso
2004-11-18 05:28 pm (UTC)

Carrot Dangling and false promises

I am so glad that there are so many comments on this thread. I have been tearing my hair out about my SO's situations (yes more than one company have taken the proverbial!). It's most certainly not just EA, and it's a global problem too. I've seen this happen in so many companies, and some of the smaller companies seem to thrive on the humiliation of their staff, a couple in Croydon and Beckenham (nr London) come to mind.

I'm also sick to the back teeth of all the carrot dangling that happens.

"Honestly, if you work like a dog through crunch time the bonuses will be worth it, and 'yes' you're up for a huge bonus if you get the job done". I don't care these days if the 'bonus' is that my SO gets a WHOLE weekend off... my god I can't remember the last time that happened!

I haven't seen one of the 'carrot' bonuses for many years, but it seems to be favoured practice amongst games houses.

Add to that the sudden disappearance of smaller games houses, and you're in for a fun ride..... job security? What's that??

I would never see my SO doing anything but games, it's his passion, and it's all he knows how to do. After being in an industry for 17 years, I think it would be unfair for him to do anything else. Why should he. All it takes is for staff to be treated humanely and fairly.

For six months of the year the only time I see my SO is when he's sleeping, he's lost weight, he's over stressed, and the strain it puts on our relationship gets ridiculous.

Why should such passion, talent, creativity and commitment be exploited so outrageously. This should really start being covered by more media outside the industry (I've posted to a few news places... I don't know whether they'll pick up on it, but worth a try), I think if the public were aware they would take more care over the games they buy (maybe it's an ideal, but hey, why not). I know my man is worth so much more!

Thank you SO's, I'm glad I'm not alone!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 05:33 pm (UTC)

This isn't a new problem...

I hear people bitching and moaning about how these developers make a six-figure salary and have to work long hours. Well it's not just the developers that have to work these long, grueling hours but the QA Engineers, Audio Engineers, etc. When I worked at 7th Level several years ago as a QA Engineer, I had to move in with my mom to be closer to work so when I got off work after 16-18 hours, I could go home and TAKE A NAP so I could go back into work in the morning, incoherant. After the games shipped, we had to watch the software developers jump around with their $5,000 bonus checks and two weeks off work while we got nothing and had to start testing new games. What was my salary? $22,000 a year.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 05:58 pm (UTC)

six-figure salaries???

Man, I don't know what company you work for, but I'm a developer with nearly a decade of experience and a long list of games to my credit.

But I've NEVER made a six figure salary.

Especially at EA.
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ROTFLOL - (Anonymous) Expand
From: nprreporter1
2004-11-18 06:24 pm (UTC)

inquiry from National Public Radio

Hello all,
I'm a reporter with National Public Radio and I'm doing a story about how workers in the game industry are being overworked. I'd really like to speak with anyone who works in the industry and wants to talk on the subject. I can guarantee anonymity. If you're interested please email me at LSydell@npr.org or call me at my office. 415-503-3164. Thanks to anyone who is willing to chat.
Laura Sydell
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From: gmophion
2004-11-18 07:19 pm (UTC)

Re: this is normal growing pains..

I've worked for myself, DOD, and currently for a large corporation as a software dev (20+ yrs). I've also worked for a small online games developer for a few years as well. I've seen this spurt of growth effect programming resources quite often.
Many game development houses start out small (10-20 employees). This is often the case because there's 1 or 2 folks with the vision and they can scrape together enough capital to support only a small staff size. The really good games come from very creative and talented programming folks. Because they are small, folks usually put in 50+ hours per week. Folks do this because they believe in the games they build. There's personal attachment to the product. Even if they don't show up in the office, they're constantly thinking about their work. Personally, when I was designing for the online games, I was thinking, dreaming, processing game ideas in my head 24h/day. How many workers in other industries do you know that do this? I would often look at something in real life and think, 'Wow.. how cool would it be to put this in the game?' I think this is a result of the creative draw that the work invoked in me. It had an incredibly strong appeal and I always wanted to do better and evolve the game. Because of the size, player feedbacks were often one to one level that really helped shape and ferret ideas. The interaction and observation of other players enjoying what I created was extremely satisfying. As a small dev, I didn't get 6-figure salary. But it didn't matter one bit. The level of enjoyment in creating the game more than made up for payroll.

Now fast forward, game dev's that have managed to create really fun and enticing games end up being bought out by big outfits like EA, MSFT, Sony, etc.. These corps put even greater demands on the game dev resources. So much so, that the small dev mentality and practices become overwhelmed. I would often wake up in the middle of the night and code for hours on end when I get an idea. Friends, family and food would fall to the wayside when I was in that mode. Also the freedom of development in a small outfit it incredibly lax. There are no software lifecycle development practices, metrics, scheduling, formal QA. There was some semblance of a deadline that would fluctuate wildly depending on the talents and zeal of the programmers. These practices are detrimental in the corporate environment. On top of that, many small dev's lack formal training in software development processes that are often needed with large scale projects. And in today's level of releases, games have evolved into requiring full scale software development efforts.

Large scale software development needs a formal process. You can't get away from this. People will get burned out if you don't pace them. However, this process also requires a lot of balance so as not to stifle creativity.

As to this topic at hand, one of the criteria of a formal software development process is planning and scheduling. Being able to plan and schedule resources to accommodate project milestones and deliverables is a core aspect that needs to be adopted to prevent these 80+ hr weeks that is not sustainable.

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From: ravidrath
2004-11-18 07:22 pm (UTC)
While this is probably a bit unfair, I have to smile every time I see that the EA reputation is quickly spreading.


The more of a rep EA gets for this, the more likely they are to do something about it. And, hey, EA is an industry leader - other companies will likely follow suit if they do something.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 07:59 pm (UTC)

Slave labor in America. Hahaha...

Yeah to EA, run your people down, kill all your programmers! The rest of the world will gladly take over when you’ve worn your people out. In the meantime we get cheaper games by the day.
Congrats people, your slave camps are way better organized than those of the communists.
The American presidents tell the world how they should run their countries, while oppressing their own people to fund their wars.

This is strange:
The most intelligent people in the country can’t even read or enforce their labor law?

Ha ha ha
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 08:28 pm (UTC)

More jobs will become outsourced

I'm afraid the game industry will slowly outsource jobs if it comes down to dealing with 'pushy' employees. I wouldn't be suprised if 'NFL 2015' was made in India in the next 10 years.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 08:37 pm (UTC)

Re: More jobs will become outsourced

Oh, please. That shows a complete lack of understanding of how games are created. You need to have people in close communication on a constant basis -- you can't do that with half the team on the other side of the world.

Tied into that is the basic fact that foreigners would have a hard time creating a product that would resonate with American audiences -- do you think that a foreign country could produce a game about something that is so uniquely American (i.e. football)? The Japanese game industry, which was covered in a recent Newsweek article, is tanking here in the US, because they are having difficulty creating products in which American residents are interested. 5 years ago, they had 9 of the 10 top games in the market; last year, they had 3.

I don't doubt that some companies may try outsourcing at some point -- but will quickly do what current companies that have tried it are doing -- bringing things back to this country. Technology outsourcing was a fad that is slowly fading, because it simply doesn't work.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 08:30 pm (UTC)

EA's holiday party: not content with dicking over their own employees!

Did you know that EA's holiday party is being held at one of the hotels currently on strike in the Bay Area? My spouse (yes, add me to the number of disgruntled EA spouses) inquired about this with the people planning the party and they don't seem to have alternate plans in case the strike is still going on. God knows I don't want to cross a picket line to fake niceties with the people that think they already own my spouse's soul.

Just another example of EA's lack of respect for worker's rights, their own or somebody else's.
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From: ravidrath
2004-11-18 10:39 pm (UTC)

Re: EA's holiday party: not content with dicking over their own employees!

I don't know if they still do this, but EA used to lay people off from Origin the day of the Christmas party. They'd give them their pink slip and say "Oh, and don't bother coming to the Christmas party." People used to dread the coming of the holidays because they didn't know if they'd be employed after them or not.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 08:58 pm (UTC)

Are there good companies?

So what are the good game companies to work for? Are there any reasonable ones in Southern California? I don't mind working some crunch time, but not for months like people are talking about here!

Are there any good companies? :(
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From: ravidrath
2004-11-18 10:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Are there good companies?

There are a few. I've heard that Point of View in Orange County had a mini-rebellion and management changed it for the better after that. Also, Neversoft is said to work only four 10-hour days a week normally, and goes to five 10-hour days on crunch, without ever working weekends. Ensemble Studios in Dallas, TX never crunches more than two weeks at a time, rarely needs them, and these crunches are always announced in advance.

If you go read the IGDA open letter, they laud a few studios for their dedication to Quality of Life, and Ensemble is one of them. One really great the IGDA is pursuing (and will hopefully accellerate now) is a sort of "Seal of Approval" that is given to companies that prove themselves to be dedicated to Quality of Life. I think this is a fantastic idea - companies that get these will get more and better applicants, and other companies will change to attract those people. This idea is the main reason I joined the IGDA and asked to get involved with the Quality of Life board.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 09:56 pm (UTC)


My Nephew, bother, and countless other family members who i love and care about, Play the Madden foot ball games every day. But it seems they are deriving pleasure from another human beings pain. We will not longer be paying "blood money" to EA. I worked for a home "improvement" store that I will not name, but after three days there you will bleed orange. And they treated me the EXACT same way. Tossed me in the deep end, and you either sank or swam. It's to damn easy to forget that these are not numbers, but people. Perhaps we should put the EA executives in the middle of a skateboard half pipe and tell them to role a bolder to the top... for 90 hours every week.
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From: katspurr
2004-11-18 10:03 pm (UTC)

My god...

And to think that I have actually been dreaming of working as an artist for EA in the UO team for years now. I think I just changed my mind.
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From: ravidrath
2004-11-18 10:20 pm (UTC)

Re: My god...

I believe the art for UO is outsourced to Vietnam, actually - EA did this after closing down Origin so they could keep cranking out new expansions.

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From: bwingb
2004-11-18 10:57 pm (UTC)

Re: this is normal growing pains..

This was a very intelligent and insightful post IMHO.

If any of us have studied business to any degree, the first thing we learn is that a business has a life like any other entity. The bigger the life of a company, the longer each facet of it's growth will take. It makes perfect sense to apply this analogy to a given industry as well. Gaming is, therefore, in it's early adolescence. This means the brains of the larger corporations (being it's managerial staff) is not very experienced at properly using it's resources, and is inclined to make impulsive, short term decisions. The consequences of these inexperienced and rash decisions affect the soul (or artists) of a given company in a profoundly negative way.

The challenge with this particular industry we call entertainment, is that it is based on a highly abstract and misunderstood human trait; the need to play and discover.( I don't know about the rest of you, but I seem to recall getting scolded time and again for exhibiting these interests as a child in school.) As a society, we have not developed enough respect for the type of learning which takes place that is abstract; creative. The critical type of development which defines us as individuals and defines a life long map with which we find the sustenance which is our soul life.

In our society, a lot of emphasis is placed on dollars and cents; on figures and the accomplishing of goals which lead to related rewards. In gaming, (and other increasingly technologically oriented arts, such as animation, film production and post production, and others I am sure), we are using the creative aspect of our psyches to accomplish monetary goals, because we need money to sustain ourselves in society, and fund our creative pursuits. There is a creative reward which entices artists into the production environments, but the very nature of big business runs against the core principals of creativity and experimentation; against the very natures and processes of the people who make the products which generate the profits.

People who move in corporate circles are often big picture people; many of them born into money and privilege. They have little means to understand what it is their policies are impacting on the lives of their employees. They see the big picture, but are simply not tuning into the nuances and all the little things that go together like jigsaw pieces to make up the day to day experiences of their talent. Therein lies the core of the problem-- it's a communication problem between the mind and the soul.

The more we rely on "marketing experts" to determine our appetites with their charts and graphs and whatnot, the less communication we have with the fabric of the individual life upon which the business is dependent, and the more we bite the hand that feeds. Not only the hand of the artist who makes a given product, but also that of those who consume these makeshift, increasingly uninspired stories, games, etc... What began as cultural nourishment is degraded to nothing more than superficial acquisition; mere status symbols to be greedily sported and then discarded for the ever present 'latest model'.

The artists first began to create because they had something of value to offer society; and society, in turn, rewarded the artists because they derived fulfillment from the creations they offered. But the bigger we get, the farther our brains get from our soul, until we just can't remember why it is we were creating in the first place. And as a direct result of this, there is an increased diminishing in innovation and inspiration going back into society.

I am too drained from putting all this into words, so I won't begin to address the solutions as I perceive them. I'll need to ponder it all a bit more before it comes out so I can be properly understood.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-18 11:21 pm (UTC)

Re: this is normal growing pains..

This is based on an incorrect assumption. First of all, the game industry isnt really as new as people say. It is well over 25 years old now. The industry itself is fairly matured. While not as old as other industries it still is old enough to know better

The issue about inexperienced managers has nothing to do with the industry being young -it has more to do with the fact that anyone who works in this industry will be looking for the exit door by the time they are in their mid 30's.

There were many many artists and engineers who worked on atari 2600, NES 8-bit and sega console games from the 80's and early 90's and pretty much all of the have left the industry ergo -no one experienced to manage.

The previous company I worked for, which had over 300 employees, had maybe 2-3 people from the "old school" employed with them.

My current company has only ONE artist who worked on "old school" titles (NES, N64, genesis etc etc) and NO engineers or designers!

So , the real problem with this industry is NOT its youth, but the high turnover rate caused by the anti-family nature of the profession. It is a systemic issue.

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