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.
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.
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.
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.
2004-11-18 11:52 pm (UTC)
spreading word in orlando
i'm currently a student in audio production @ valencia community college, hoping to break into game dev as a sound designer. up until now, i had been putting all efforts into getting into Tiburon. They had contacted my school and UCF about recruitment. i was really excited when i heard they were not hiring from Full Sail and wanted to pull students from my school. i felt fortunate, not being able to afford Full Sail's tuition costs, when graduates were coming here complaining about what a crappy school it is. now yet again i feel lucky to avoid making a terrible mistake. thank you so much for bringing this to light. i'm sure you've saved a lot of other students from making that mistake. i will be informing as many people i can, here at school, about EA's practices and hopefully my friend in game dev @ UCF will do the same there. seeing such unity among developers, only strengthens my desire to join the industry. now more difficult that EA is the only studio to contact my school, and i refuse to go there. hope things work out for you, your spouse and your family.
And I thought working DSL tech support for BellSouth via a subcontractor was a bitch.
You have my utmost sympathy, and if you haven't already, I urge you to report this tripe to the Better Business Bureau.
Yeah, I'm glad I stayed away from that one. I've known a lot of people that work(ed) at a place called ClientLogic that did DSL tech for Bellsouth. We called it the McDonalds of the tech industry in the area. The one project they were involved in that I wanted to be on was canned after about 3 or 4 months.
2004-11-19 12:39 am (UTC)
Also a Video Game Widow
My boyfriend works at one of those big video game companies too. But he is a Temp technically, so he cannot even claim the large video game company on his Resume. Being a Temp also means he works those ridicules hours like EA employees but he also has no job security or health insurance. Its crap. The only bright side is the hourly wage, but it isn't even close to livable, so he depends on the overtime. Which means a month of work with 12-15 hour days with NOT ONE DAY OFF! The gosh darn loophole is this-you must have 4 days off a month, but that is considered a calendar month not 31 consecutive days. So you could work Sept 4-Oct 27 with not a stitch of time off-and its LEGAL!
When someone works 80 or upwards of 90 hours you think Doctor or Lawyer, but no these poor schlubs work that playing the same video over and over. In the instance of my boyfriend-his last project has been shipped and on store shelves for weeks-but he is still playing "looking busy" for the next big PUSH to happen.
The problem is this; the fine video game loving individuals love their jobs. They get to play games all day long. Often as us widows know their SO's play when they get home too. They love what they do, but it is hard to see them 20 minutes a day because you have a job too, or to see them with bags under their eyes, or stomach problems from too much take out. It breaks our hearts.
2004-11-21 04:14 am (UTC)
Make your actions count. Tell your friends about the site and ask them to read the relevant information. 1 person tells 2, 2 tell 4, and so on. At some point, EA will see they are not winning the game on the backs of their employees. It takes a little effort from everyone to make a big impact and it can be done.
Thanks for your support.
2004-11-19 12:48 am (UTC)
Overwork lowers productivity -- even total output
In 1900, Dr. Ernst Abbe, director of the Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany, conducted an experiment with the hours of work. He reduced the scheduled hours from 9 to 8 per day and carefully observed output during the shorter day, using several measures. What he found was consistent with more casual observations that had been conducted throughout the 19th century: output at the plant during an 8 hour day exceeded that from the 9 hour day.
In the 1920s Philip Sargant Florence wrote a book, the Economics of Fatigue and Unrest, documenting the empirical evidence about the relationship between the hours of work and productivity. The following quote from Florence sums up that evidence to that time:
"Reduction from a 12-hour to a 10-hour basis results in increased daily output; further reduction to an 8-hour basis results in at least maintaining this increased daily output; but further reductions while increasing the hourly rate of output, seems to decrease the total daily output."
Now, it occurred to the Work Less Party
that an innovation that can increase the daily output of a worker and that is based on scientific observation can properly be called technology. Reducing the hours of work is thus, strictly speaking, a technology
but one that has been forgotten in out supposedly "high-tech" knowledge economy. That is why we started the Work Less Institute of Technology
-- to refresh our societies failing memory about the empirical and theoretical knowledge regarding the economic and social benefits of working less.
2004-11-19 01:40 am (UTC)
Students: What to expect when working in games
Here are some realities that your school won't tell you about:
1.) Very unstable career path. Only a tiny tiny fraction of games ever being developed ship to market. Of those games that somehow make it, only a small percentage break even or turn a profit. This basically means that unless you work at one of the major publishers that own licenses(EA, Sony, Ubisoft, Activision, LucasArts, Midway, THQ, Sega, Nintendo, Konami, Capcom, Vivendi etc) you can pretty much expect to get laid off of work every 12 months or so.
2.) Be prepared to relocate a LOT in life. The game industry in the U.S. is very small. Approximately half the industry resides in LA/Southern California with pockets in Texas and Northern California. The rest are scattered about randomly around the nation. If you expect to stay in this industry long term, you have little choice but to move to one of these locations. Don't expect to apply for a game job somewhere out in Oklahoma and settle down with a house and kids for the long term. You WILL get laid off within a few years and be forced to move again. To tie this in with point number 1, a coworker of mine got laid off from a job in Northern California so he took a job down in San Diego. He had relocated his entire family down there. Approximately 3 months after arriving in San Diego, he was laid off AGAIN and had to relocate to Los Angelas. This industry can be THAT volatile kids so be aware.
3.) Extremely competitive job market that can also be feast-or-famine. Small studios get dozens of resumes for a position. Large studios get HUNDREDS of resumes for a position at times. Of all these resumes out there, only a tiny fraction qualify for the job or are considered a fit for the team. If your skill level is top-tier you can do very well. If your skill level is adequate or poor, you may have a tough time. While average applicants fight each other for a studio position, exceptional applicants get fought over by studios. Thats why EA may disregard 20 animators that work cheap and can do the job, but pay six figures for that one person with feature film animation credits.
4.)Long hours with no overtime pay(no explanation needed here)
5.)Outsourcing. Studios are just now starting to escalate their outsourcing. Currently it is mainly art but engineering and design will follow next very soon(although to a smaller extent than art). By the time the Playstation 3 and Xbox 2 arrive, it will be just too damn expensive to do eveything in-house. Expect a development structure in game production where there is a small core staff of senior developers in-house with the work reserved for junior artists/programmers being farmed out to India or Eastern Europe. This will possibly make it more difficult for entry-level people to break in due to these positions going overseas.
6.)Education and long term outlook. The turnover rate in our industry is very high. The constant job insecurity combined with the family burden created by long hours/constant relocation causes a large portion of developers to leave after 5 years. Many of you will at some point get burned out of game production and look for something more stable to raise a family. Don't pigeonhole yourselves by getting a "game degree". Do yourself a favor and get a good solid 4-year degree from a proper college(many of them have game design courses). If your going into game programming, get a proper engineering degree so that you may cross over to other companies later in life. If your going into game art production go to a proper art school that teaches the basics of design theory. Many of these schools just teach you the software which is useless since it will be obsolete in a few years. With a game degree, your options may be limited as we have yet to see how other industries feel about them. An engineer with a 4-year college degree can get into games but an engineer with a "game degree" may not be able to get into Oracle or Microsoft. Just food for thought
Although the game industry has its good points such as creativity, informal dresscodes, smart coworkers, free beer during crunch, and being on the cutting-edge, please be sure to factor in the above points and decide if this is the path you want to take.
2004-11-19 05:16 am (UTC)
Re: Students: What to expect when working in games
I hear the "outsourcing" argument a lot, yet I have not seen any evidence of this. In fact, here at EA, all the stuff you mentioned being outsourced to India is stuff that we are doing ourselves, in a more organized manner.
We are basically "outsourcing" low level engine code to new central EA teams that reside within the US and Canada, at existing EA studios.
There are no plans for outsourcing as far as the eye can see. At least at EA. I cannot speak for any other developers.
2004-11-19 02:50 am (UTC)
I totally understand I was also in a draining career, underpaid and over worked.
I felt too much like a minion so I quit and just got offered a new job and i made sure for now I only work part time hours as I'm so exhausted and numb.
I hope things work out for you.
2004-11-19 03:16 am (UTC)
I need help
I need help. My husband also works for a game developing company. Is there a support group out there? My life is falling apart and I don't have anyone to talk to about these issues. I can't give away many details because I fear that people will know who I am and who my husband is...I don't want him to get canned because of my big mouth. Going to a shrink is out of the question because even though my husband is one of the exempt, there isn't enough money left after paying all of the bills. Well, maybe there are a few dollars left, but I don't think a shrink would really understand me unless she/he was in a similar situation. Is there anyone out there to listen? Please email me at email@example.com
2004-11-21 04:25 am (UTC)
WE HEAR YOU!
All of us, SO's and more, hear you. You have our support. We've been where you and and you are not alone. It's very hard to stand but this whole site tells you there are others who will listen. Post your story, anonymously if you like and go and and find the links to the people who want to form groups and report on these atrocities. Communicate with them and find strength in the numbers.
Your SO other needs you, too. He/she hates this situation as much as you do. Take any chance you get to spend together and make it quality. You already know this, I'm sure. Put even those few minutes/hours to the best use you can. Don't let it tear your relationship apart and, if you need it, there is no shame in going to a counselor.
If you have medical benefits, visits to a marriage counselor should be covered by your plan but make sure you read your contract first to see if there are any conditions. If you don't have a copy of the medical benefits, ask your SO to get one from the boss or HR. (I had to call HR and she was very co=operative. They are not allowed to ask the nature of the call or what you want it for.)
THe best exercise our counselor gave us was to write a letter "WHy I fell in love with X" and read it to each other. Corny as it sounds, it did help us reconnect.
Everything you do together is so much stronger than what you do apart.
Hang in there and we're on your side, too!
2004-11-19 04:20 am (UTC)
going the wrong direction
On labor day we celebrate the people who helped give us a 40 hour work week. Now we have those of us who worked to get an education and are working two times that many hours every week. It is not acceptable.
2004-11-19 05:56 am (UTC)
ARE AN EA EMPLOYEE AND WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOUR STORY LOOK HERE
PLEASE CALL THIS GUY. SOME OF US EX-EA AND CURRENT EA EMPLOYEES ARE CALLING HIM ANONYMOUSLY AND TELLING OUR STORY. IF YOU DIAL *67 THEN THE NUMBER IT WILL BLOCK YOUR NAME AND # SO IT IS TRULY ANONYMOUS.
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose CA 95190
THIS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!
2004-11-19 06:34 am (UTC)
Re: ARE AN EA EMPLOYEE AND WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOUR STORY LOOK HERE
Yes, Dean is quite a well known and respected journalist who follows the industry. His articles that cover the industry are published in the Mercury and picked up by the AP. He also wrote the book: Opening the Xbox : Inside Microsoft's Plan to Unleash an Entertainment Revolution
He will listen.
2004-11-19 05:58 am (UTC)
oh man if it ever gets this bad for me, i swear, i'm not afraid to get people together, ill blow that whistle and get a union going, anyone that treats human beings like that NEEDS to get bitten in their arse. I may loose my job but most CERTAINLY NOT in the industry, all you have to do is just not stick where u worked in your resume, or if you do just give the phone number of a co-worker who you've informed that they may get a call asking about you. Simple as that, just make friends and working with a team day by day shouldn't be too tough to find someone you can trust. But seriously, thanks for saying this, I'm going to post this on every board I know of, and when i get into this industry I'm not going to stand for it.
2004-11-19 07:04 am (UTC)
Just to let u know ea_spouse
You have probably scared me to the bones with that story and what really goes on behind those scenes. I'm a student going to school of visual arts in NY and EA actually made a presentation in my school yesterday which I THOUGHT i was upset at missing until i read your post. And wow, scared me like hell but im happy and grateful to have found this...your post is getting its way around the net and i'm going to make sure to spread it further and beyond that ill make sure to tell all my classmates to stay clear of EA and even more so just give them your post and perhaps as students who are still in college, we can make demands to the big companies before working with them. It will starve us probably for a while, which sux, but in the long run they will be forced to re-hire you guys but wont be able to since you hate them, and will have no other option but to concede to our demands. I don't know how well I can convince students to listen to this, or actually if this is a flawed idea. But if its logically sound, heck why not.
Anyways, thanks again! I'll be sure to spread the word!
2004-11-19 07:36 am (UTC)
With respect to contacting the Mercury News, bear in mind encouraging folks to "call in anonymously" is not generally considered fair journalism, especially if the subject matter alleges illegality. I'm not saying individuals should go on record and jeopardize their job, however, it sets bad precedence to cite Anonymous comments as a basis for "news".
The Washington Post says this on the matter:
‘Before any information is accepted without full attribution, reporters must make every reasonable effort to get it on the record. If that is not possible, reporters should consider seeking the information elsewhere. If that in turn is not possible, reporters should request an on-the-record reason for concealing the source’s identity and should include the reason in the story. In any case, some kind of identification is almost always possible - by department or by position, for example - and should be reported.’
2004-11-19 08:06 am (UTC)
Re: Anonymous sources
Well, it's plainly obvious that the person posting the Mercury News contact info a few posts ago is not actually the person writing the article, so don't try to make it sound like Dean Takahashi is the one encouraging people to call in anonymously. I'm sure he's hoping that some of those contacts will give him permission to use their name, etc. And at this point, I'm sure he's merely engaging in early research...so no need to get your panties in a twist.