2004-11-24 05:13 pm (UTC)
A wakeup call:
How am I mirroring EA's behavior by pointing out that some spoiled boneheads didn't take the time to read before they responded? By sticking my neck out and risking this backlash just to try and educate others about the pitfalls of selfishness and ignorance? Because they weren't listening to the nice stuff... and because tolerance is the most valid lesson a human can learn.
If people can't take a little ribbing; a little criticism-- they have a lot of growing up to do. I have no problem with taking criticism, but only if it's genuine criticism coming from someone who took the time to read and consider my words and my actions. After all I've been through in my thirty years, (and trust me, it's probably WAY more than most of you will see in a life), I _am_ able to recognize _genuine_ , _objective_ criticism. I welcome it.
You know, as I type, I have two children running under my feet, begging me to read them books, to pay them attentions, laundry piling up around my ankles. Because I take care of my own kids. My ten year old has been doing the dishes for me for over a week now so I can continue to try and help people move forward. But all I see are people trying to drag me down and step up on my efforts. Not one of you has even tried to imagine what time this is taking me-- what I might be giving up to type here for you all. How sad is that? But you know I expected it. That's how it always is in a group where everyone is self centered; where carrot and media dangling of bonuses and hand held gismos has conditioned us all to put #1
When this movement began to slow down, I kept posting. Because I felt I had some life experience to contribute to a crowd who thought I was a big dumb nerd because I don't play video games. Newsflash: we don't even get cable. We don't watch t.v. How weird is that, huh? We read books in this family. I didn't get all offended and sulky because you all thought I was a misfit. I took it in my stride because I realized there were bigger issues than me, and I felt I had something you all could use. So I gave. Not for personal gain, but because I care. I really care. And so does my husband. We care if a whole pile of people will never know the boundless joys we've had as a family with children. A family who eats and plays together often.
I am also juggling production on our personal work here, which is behind deadline and has been going a lot slower since this began. We've got subscribers, folks. I also operate a yahoo group for parents who's been left hanging for over two weeks. They love my insights, and even when they don't, they know how to use the delete button like mature adults ought to. But this movement is bigger than me; bigger than all of us. I've read EVERY SINGLE POST on this journal. I've sweated every single sad story, hoping people would find the courage to unite; to recognize the time.
So to those of you who want to throw all my dedication back into my face, go right ahead, but there's no hope for you then. Because you don't have the ability to differentiate between abuse and concern. And if you are that confused, you'll most likely never find common ground. Especially if you get jealous when someone has the spotlight because THEY EARNED IT. Get _over_ yourselves and you might get somewhere. Then maybe some true leadership will stand a chance in all this.
2004-11-24 05:13 pm (UTC)
You're on your own now. I'm going back to my work. My son is hungry- he's on a growth spurt and these days he's always hungry. I remember when not so long ago the fridge was almost bare, and I had to ration milk for my daughter, but these days, it's a bit better. And I am off to feed them, to put the rest of my laundry in the machine. It costs $16.00 every time we do laundry because the landlord's stuck up wife needs a silver mercedes. Then I am going to pick our bed off of the living room floor and stick it back in the sofa, vacuume up the fallen fronds of my neglected ferns. They are the true victims of the time I've spent here.
You know, I never had a father growing up, so damned if some blood sucking board of directors or dumb jock, clued out manager is going to rob my children of one now. At the end of the day, I am just grateful that we can see our father when he is finished work. Because our time with him means more to us than any stupid video game, fancy ass car, or bullshit poser MTV attitude.
And he feels the same way.
2004-11-24 05:18 pm (UTC)
Lady you need professional help...
2004-11-24 05:21 pm (UTC)
It's amost over.
This post will fade away like it came.
The lesson here is work your ass off and one day if you put enough efforts you may get a salary like Larry or Don because those guys have been putting the hours for EA for the last 20 years.
If you don't like it or think you should be payed the big bucks at 40 hours a week, then my friend you are dead wrong and move on.
In life you can get it all if you want to put the time and efforts or as little as you need if you want less challenges, pick your battle and stop the tears.
2004-11-24 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: It's amost over.
They pay people to work. Let's not get confused. It's not over.
Many have joined the union and many more will. EA is NOT a wonderful utopia for the thousands who want to work overtime. EA is a sweatshop. They exploit people.
Karma. Law of substitution. Newton's Law. Jesus.
Whatever you believe in, change will come. All the people who got mine will get theirs. Believe it.
With 38 pages of responses, I doubt I will get a personal reply to this, but wanted to share my sympathy with you by providing some anecdotal info.
I too worked for a large, third party publisher - Atari\Infogrames specifically. Very similar conditions - mandatory 60 hour work weeks, 90 hour work weeks were common. I watched myself and a lot of my co-workers spiral into depression and bad health after YEARS of these kinds of working conditions. Besides health problems that I had as a result of overworking, bad diet, and lack of rest, I also totalled 2 cars from falling asleep behind the wheel. We worked holidays, weekends, nights, overnights, etc.
Although I did get paid for overtime, we were never really given more than state law required, and eventually, they closed down the Qa dept I worked in. As a result, I no longer work in the gaming industry, as from reading things like your post and my own personal experiences, I made a decision to stick to something that afforded more time to have a life. Most of the people I worked with have done teh same. And it's a shame too, cause like you said - we are all intelligent, creative people, and the industry was lucky to have us.
Just wanted to let you know yer SO is not alone - alot of us have gone through it. I might suggest that he move on to applications, but that is ultimately a decision you guys have to make. Be well
2004-11-30 06:12 am (UTC)
Re: < sympathizes >
It's taking me a little while, but I'm trying fervently to respond to all posts that ask for or imply asking for a response. =) And I have to admit I've fallen behind reading all of the threads -- I had to turn off comment notification pretty early on in order to spare my hotmail account.
Thank you for posting your story. Your comment about the car still gives me chills even now. I started driving my SO to work because I was extremely afraid he would drive the car into a pole during crunch. Yours is not the first story I've heard like that -- several people have emailed me with tales of cars dented or destroyed in accidents in the wee hours of the morning coming home from work. I'm just thankful none of them are about anyone getting seriously hurt this way.
2004-11-24 06:39 pm (UTC)
EA is a CORPORATION
I am average game developer Joe. I want to make games, so I take a pay cut and join the industry through a friend of a friend. I'm working at a start-up, so all the royalties and bonuses promised me don't get handed over because the company didn't make as much money as they thought they would. Why? EA put out an inferior game with millions in marketing behind it.
We get the call. EA wants to buy our studio. This could be cool. Making money we were promised for a change, making games that sell despite their quality, and working with industry leaders. Sounds great. Under a big corporate umbrella, I should have a more organized, stable role in development. I'm ready. Let's do it.
Wow. We're doing a cool new title based on the one we just finished. That's kind of cool. EA must have really liked our idea. Who's on the phone?
What does he mean, "more blue?" I'd ask him but he's too busy and important to respond. Well guys, I guess the man wants it more blue so let's get to it. We might have to work a little extra, but we can pull it off.
Another call. This time they're coming to visit. This is cool, we're almost done with the plumbing work, and the game is functional, so all we have left is art and story content, which shouldn't take more than 5 months. That should put us with a solid 3 months left to polish the game and make it great. This game is actually playing loads better than the first, and everyone is having fun playing it. Now it's going to have EA marketing behind it. This is great.
Now let me get this straight. You want to make the game more "green" now? What happened to "blue?" And by the way, when you say "green," what exactly do you... Oh, okay I'm sorry I know you're busy. Keep on signing those checks! Wait, have you even played the game? No? Let me send you a copy. Oh, you're too busy?
Ok guys we really have to scramble. Guy says he wants it more green and there has to be turkeys in the game now. I know it doesn't make any sense, and it'll probably make the game look stupid but let's go to it anyway. Since he's coming down next month, we're going to have to work extra hard to get it done. 10 hour days for everyone.
Oh shit he's back again! Well, we've got the turkeys in, sir, but we haven't finished implementing the green. What? Uh. Okay, I was sure you said green, but if you want orange then I'm not one to question. What do you mean you don't like the turkeys? Wombats? Sir, that's just retarded. I mean, yes sir I do like getting paid. Yes sir I'll never speak to you like that again, sir.
Sorry guys we've got way too much work to do. Because I spoke up now we have to have monster trucks in the game. Along with the green transition, and the turkeys, I mean wombats, we will only be able to ship this game if we work 12 hour days for 6 days a week. I know you guys have been kicking ass and will keep doing so regardless, but right now I need you to kick a little more. Now is the time for heroes.
Hello? Yes sir, you can certainly play the game. We've got the wombats driving the green monster trucks on several levels now and we feel... Huh? Yes sir. Yes sir you can come play the game in our office.
Ok guys. The big man himself is here. Don't question him. This guy sucks the dick of the guy who writes our checks, so no outbursts, ok?
Why hello! Yes the game is almost shippable! Certainly! Have a seat right here! Yes sir I'm taking notes. Red. Got it. Salamanders. Got it. Airplanes. Check. Basketball!!?!??
Shit! We can't miss our date or we don't get bonuses and we could get fired! Ok guys now we have to work 7 days a week and really crunch it this time cause the big man wants chickens and salamanders and oh my god what is it now?
Yes mister man. Thank you for the extention date. I know you had to pull some strings to get it to us. We are so grateful.
I can't even tell if the game is fun anymore. I have a sneaking suspicion that it isn't. How come all the levels have "fuck EA" written in the terrain? What's going on here?
Crunch crunch crunch... All work and no play makes Joe a game developer that doesn't give two shits or a piss what kind of game EA ships.
Challenge yourself, chickenfuckers. I quit.
2004-11-24 07:41 pm (UTC)
EA's games really suck. But they're fun for the first level.
2004-11-24 08:56 pm (UTC)
The ultimate goal here...
I don't think anybody pretends that EA is the only company in the world that engages in treating their workforce like garbage and enforcing long hours. And I know from experience that this is nothing new either on EA's part or on the part of many other companies.
It's possible that EA is not even the worst in the world. If anything, I'd expect the little tiny studios to be worse in terms of worker conditions. But when a company as large as EA does it, it hurts that many more people, especially considering how many people might otherwise be attracted to work there so that they could say "hey, I worked for the juggernaut of the industry."
There's a difference between the crunches, which you see in all studios (like the example you bring up of Xmas)... the long hours that need to be put in as you get closer and closer to a deadline. There's the days of long hours that individuals put in for the sake of finishing or polishing up what they were last working on... all that's fine. These are things that are the results of poor planning (of various scale and scope) and rushed schedules.
Now you have the cases of what goes on in Japanese studios where people do work long hours almost all the way through the project, but there are still some key differences here. One, the hours worked through the course of the project are pretty consistent. Two, there is long down time and post-project vacation time (which EA has stated is something they are going to remove from their policy after this year). Three, while the workers are not often paid overtime, they are often paid for every hour they log, if they log their time... Can't say this is true for *every* studio. Four, and this is the big one, there's a huge cultural difference here -- long hours are not just in the game industry over there, but almost every industry, and even in elementary and secondary schools... People are simply raised on that kind of work ethic throughout the country. Five, as much as there are long work hours, there is also a lot of work put in for worker retention and turnover rates are pretty low. Six, a lot of these things have already been addressed throughout various studios in Japan a long time ago. We just never heard about it because it never affected us in North America.
In the case of EA or Atari and such, you see the company deliberately working crunches INTO the schedule and demanding long hours without overtime for no reason other than the fact that they can. I especially have stories about this in regards to Atari, who keeps a lot of their studios in Texas, because Texas labor laws do not require any company to pay overtime to any employee. They're so loose that almost everything is perfectly legal.
When you have a small studio which is on stringent funding constraints and can't afford to pay very many people very high gross salaries, that's one thing. When a big multinational corporation that owns a half dozen studios and employs 10,000 people looks for legal loopholes to try and avoid paying overtime, that's exploitation. Bear in mind that no matter how you want to color the argument or interpret the law, exemptness from overtime pay is not a reason; it's an excuse. It'd be one thing if everybody on your staff was making 6 figures, but that won't happen until inflation puts 6-figure salaries in the poverty line.
2004-11-24 08:58 pm (UTC)
Re: The ultimate goal here... (cont'd)
At my last company, our employer tried deliberately to hire Indian guys for the programming staff as much as possible. Why? Because like Japan, in India, people are raised under a certain extreme work ethic, and the assumption is that they would bring that with them to wherever they work. By in large, this is absolutely true. And I'm no exception. It's one thing to find a lot more Indian guys qualified for the positions and coincidentally hire them. But when you seek them out because you know you can get more free work hours out of them... that's exploitation.
Another story... we had a programmer go off on medical leave to have some surgery done. The day after he left, our employer canceled his health insurance. Reason? Because while the guy's on leave, he's not on payroll anymore, so it's not fair to provide any benefits during that time either.
Chances are, EA never did anything like that to their employees. The thing is that as much as you can talk about how bad it is in some tiny little microstaffed indie developer shop (and there are probably such studios that are worse than EA in every aspect), what sort of effect do you have on the industry by rectifying the problem at that level? Like so many have said in these comments, this is a problem that covers so much of the entire industry. It's only going to get worse as development takes longer and costs more and the industry gets more media attention. Creating a vicious cycle or leaving it alone to create itself does nothing. If anything, the fact that there IS all this attention and notoriety placed on the shoulders of a big corporate monster like EA, it sends a shockwave throughout the entire industry. And if you can enforce a change on a big company, it sends the message that the workforce is dead serious about being treated properly, and no one is "exempt" from that.
2004-11-24 10:45 pm (UTC)
I couldn't cut it
I couldn't put up with the hours at EA because I, myself, am less of a person than the people who work there. Somewhere in my life of ease, of only working 85-95 hour weeks, I did something selfish instead of coming in to work.
If only I had put more effort into what I was doing, maybe the people there wouldn't have saw fit to make decisions that would cause me to redo it multiple times. It's my fault, really. My lousy art that got recycled several times before finally being put back into the game just wasn't good enough the first time.
My designs were horrible, I admit. Though the game ended up almost mirroring my initial designs, sometimes you have to take risks and redo lots of work seemingly needlessly in order to make any real progress. I redid the design 6 times, and when I finally showed the first one again, just as a joke, it was heralded as the best of them all. It was just a test, to see if I really knew what I was doing. Boy, I hope I did ok.
My audio work was so sub par. Even though I screamed about running demos in rooms with obvious acoustic problems, and despite my constant assurances that the average gamer has a two speaker system, I was, justifiably overruled. Perhaps it was my attention to detail, or testing the sound system in my own office, or perhaps I had the volume at a reasonable level. I'm sure it was my fault.
My stupid coding could have contributed, nay, could have caused the problem. I know that the design was changed six times over the course of the project, but it was my job to redo that work six times, even if I had only been scheduled to do it once. I know that the work on the main system and units was for demos and that you assured me that the demo work would be scrapped and time allotted to redo it. Even though you lied to me outright constantly, it was my job to look past your deception and work 32 hours a day to do it correctly the first time. It was my job to make thousands of independant systems synergise without any testing or practical use. It's my job, that's what I do.
Perhaps it was my development direction. I tried to schedule things and make plans and provide people with constructive work to do, but somewhere along the line I got sidetracked. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time on the demos you told me were so important. Maybe I should have stuck to my plan even when you told me that gameplay didn't matter and that we would work out the kinks in the system later.
I finally realize the problem here. If I work really hard 32+ hours a day, maybe I can get something accomplished. Fie on your plans and schedules. I don't need them. I've learned that the only way to run a business is to work tirelessly and constantly.
But why didn't I get a bonus this year, or a significant raise? Oh, I see. The company is in a state of transition. We spent a lot of money on this new facility I'll be enjoying. Also there's a new console coming out. Times like these are scary, we don't know what might happen. I'll gladly contribute my share and my piece of the pie to the company, who obviously knows how to spend it better than I, anyway. After all, our company plan is to double the size of the studio and the company within the year. Hopefully my $1500 bonus can help out.
So you see, the problem is with me, the employee. I didn't work hard enough. I can't cut it. My managers and EA marketing obviously know what they're doing. After all, look how great EA's games are selling. Of course when you play them, they aren't all that fun, but fun isn't what counts in games, is it? It's making Lawrence Probst money, right?
2004-11-25 12:42 am (UTC)
Re: I couldn't cut it
This better be a goddamn joke.
2004-11-25 12:40 am (UTC)
No wonder NHL 2005 sucked ass!
Typical corporate practices. Interplay did it, Acclaim did it (and they both went bankrupt).
Man, I really wanted to break into the industry, and I still want to. I'll just stay away from EA. Thanks a lot for your story and opening our eyes to the darkside of the business.
I say we all STEAL EA's games instead of buying them. I mean if they treat their employees like this and give us inferior products. They deserve it.
2004-11-25 01:57 am (UTC)
There are some broader points here. EA has become a conservative, risk adverse corporation. Ian Fleming died in 1964 and he we are in 2004 and EA is still releasing title after title based on that material. At least Dreamworks will throw the community the occasion "American Beauty" even if their slate of films is relatively routine. Tolkien published the Hobbit in the late thirties and developed his cannon of work largely in the 40's, with respect to Middle Earth. Even Peter Jackson, director of LOTR, had the courage to give the world "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive" before lensing the Rings films.
I just don't understand where the hard-on is supposed to come from when talking about the big "serious" numbers the game industry is tossing up. It certainly hasn't been from the fertile minds of the creators of these game titles. Unless licensing material, broad middle-America content, is what constitutes achievement. Or earnings per share.
In this vast creative gulf, the fact that artists and designers etc. are treated as expendible communities, says very little about the viability of the games industry as a serious career choice.
Perhaps there is some gratification to be had by cleaning up the mocap data for Allen Iverson year after year, season after season, title after title. Perhaps there is some satisfaction to replicating american war history on consoles, over and over again, battle after battle, dead Nazi after dead Nazi. Or Vietnam, or the Gulf, or some other radical "terrorist" faction to stare down the battle of a weapon.
I applaud the forward-thinking developers. The units that put new, fun games out on the market. Like Ratchett and Clank. Or Jak. Or Zelda.
Beyond those few examples, this industry has become a big, tired fucking wheel. Churing out licenses that have been dead in the film industry for years, even decades. Fucking innovate if people are going to be worked into the ground. Actually check that, it's never worth grinding people into the ground.
2004-11-25 02:16 am (UTC)
EA: The Human Story
Ever heard of a union?
2004-11-25 05:59 am (UTC)
Trying reading some of the posts....
I suppose now would be a good time to draw to the attention of the many that EA is rumoured to have set its sights on the RP gaming giant, Square Enix, as its next assimilation into the company.
Square, unlike these private firms that tend to have a small amount of employees, is enormous. It grosses millions a year from its US market alone, which tends not even to be its greatest source of revenue. I believe an EA boycott would be suitable not only to campaign against the labour conditions under which the company's employees are forced to struggle, but as a voice that we don't want Square sucked into the same regime. Although, I'll admit, the Japanese are busy bees when it comes to work, anyway. :)
2004-11-25 03:20 am (UTC)
Suggestion- stand up for your rights
I'm interested to see how life is in the Games world! I'm a well paid, high-tech employee as well, but we make test equipment in my industry. I had the privalege of taking over a coworker's project who was being laid off. Today, I got a bonus due to our outstanding sales of the new product (too bad my coworker couldn't share in the rewards).
I'm pro-labor rights because I don't see a reason why they won't do unto me, what they did to my colleague. I raised an interesting question with the National Labor Relations Board to see if I could use my company’s intranet and email system to organize. The case is pending, but the trend is if they allow other non-work email, they can’t discriminate against email that is pro-union. Check out the Mercury News article:
I don’t know if I want a union yet, but I figure it’s like a fire extinguisher. You don’t want to use it because you’ll screw up your couch, but if your couch ever catches fire you want one handy. See how my group is going about securing our rights in anticipation of a future need: http://www.agilepeople.org . You might be able to borrow some of our strategy to set up an employee association to be ready if your company doesn’t start treating you right and you do need a union.
2004-11-25 04:51 am (UTC)
I'm joining the boycott too
This is despicable... I myself am taking a stand against EA Games and will not be buying their software in the forseable future.
2004-11-25 06:21 am (UTC)
Now I know why there are tons of pirated video games
After reading this, now I know why there are tons of video games available for download. All those disgruntle employees