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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
ea_spouse
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?

Right?


===

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 07:14 am (UTC)

I worked for EA experienced the same thing

7 days a week 12 hours a day for 6 months... that's what a memo I recieved from an EA VP Jerry Bowermen when I was working for EA a few years ago.

Of course we shipped the game on time, and the studio was shut down and 99% of the people laid off the day after we went gold.

EA is quickly earning a horrible repuation with talented developers, and talent is still the most important element in the industry.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: unionjosh
2004-12-16 05:06 pm (UTC)

Re: I worked for EA experienced the same thing

Do you still have a copy of that memo?
Josh Pastreich
unionjosh@hotmail.com
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: pipewrenchguy
2004-12-16 02:33 pm (UTC)

LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN

I would like to start by offering my condolences to EA_Spouse for her seemingly missing fiancé. I worked at EA and narrowly escaped with my sanity.

I am organizing a letter writing campaign to raise awareness in Sacramento to the dimly-written labor laws as they pertain to the software development industry, specifically, the definition of the term "Exempt Employee".

This will not only help people in the industry, but hopefully it will help people throughout California who find themselves in similar situations in other companies.

EA_Spouse has suffered enough and to quote what she said after EA sent her flowers as a buy-off; "What got me mad was that the flowers were so random. Instead of giving their workers time off, they try to buy them off with frivolous things. I didn't want flowers. I wanted my fiancé."

In an article from the Los Angeles Times, (November 17, 2004 - By Alex Pham, Times Staff Writer), the following rings true regarding the frivolities that EA "lavishes" upon their workforce;

"...office campuses boast gleaming gyms, expansive swimming pools, gourmet cafeterias and volleyball courts, but, as one developer put it, "these things just sit there and mock us."

"It's ironic because we have these shiny new things that nobody has any time to use," said the developer, who asked not to be named. "The best use of the swimming pool so far was by someone who jumped into it and started flipping off his managers on his last day of work."

With that said, I want to support EA_Spouse and all who are in her shoes by drafting a powerful letter to Governor Schwarzenegger which highlights the parts of the labor law which allows companies such as Electronic Arts to exploit their employees by instituting fictional "crunch times" and mandatory 80-hour work weeks with no compensation in the form of time off for the family.

Also, part of this letter will include suggestions regarding a "Maximum salary cap" for CEOs and other lofty officers of multi billion dollar companies. If exorbitant salaries went back INTO a company, perhaps there would be more money to hire more talent, and pay them for their blood sweat and tears - three things I'm sure we all know that EA_Spouse has shed far too much of recently.

If you are on-board, or if you happen to be a lawyer reading this and want to help, please feel free and contact me.

Nothing says "LISTEN TO ME" like a huge sack of mail. Who knows, perhaps Maria might catch wind of this.



(Reply) (Thread)
From: unionjosh
2004-12-16 05:12 pm (UTC)

Re: LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN

where do i sign?
our union helped push through legislation that specifically exempted anyone in the movie industry from these abuses. i wonder what it would have taken to extend that to people in games.
Josh Pastreich
IATSE Local 16
unionjosh@local16.org
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 03:56 pm (UTC)

GO DIGITAL IILUSIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, if the rest of the industry will quit selling out, we can all take on these bastards together
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 07:10 pm (UTC)
There is a talk that some EA middle managers are posting on this forum under anonymous to descredit,troll, bait, and belittle the thread. When I asked my friend if he has any proof, he said no, but he said few times he heard discussions about it. Possibly HR personal involved as well in trying to do damage control (astro-turfing) coupled with few agitators to boot.

Hey EA HR I know you are reading, I hope you enjoy your cafe cause my friend said he spits in it when he gets a chance. Ohh and the game which is about to come out, has a nice eastern-egg in it, on how you treat your employees. Goodluck finding it ass-hats.

Ignore the trolls who say "we whine" those are the same people who said "slaves are whiners too, and should shut up or be shot (fired)" How little time has changed. I can't wait for sex descrimination/race suit to hit EA as well.

Ea_spouse the PR war is on you, I hope you know that, and don't bother replying to all those who post. Set up a website, documenting the abuses and etc. Put a 'donate link" so people can put into your fund, so your story is heard by all, and not be distorted by Spoke-holes from EA.

Cheers





(Reply) (Thread)
From: ravidrath
2004-12-18 02:17 am (UTC)

IP Tracking?

I've always considered this a possibility, but sort of gave EA more credit than that. Of course, it's possible that these middle managers are doing it themselves and not as part of a company directive, as their individual practices are being lambasted here more than anything.

Does LiveJournal have any kind of IP-tracking features? It would certainly be interesting to see which anonymous people are writing from where.

-Peter
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[User Picture]From: jerbear214
2004-12-19 12:57 am (UTC)
I support the developers, programmeers, and everybody who actually lifts a finger to create a game and to make a game better. I tried to make a game once, and that failed... I tried at one point to start a game rpdocuing company with some friends who knew programming and design... Yah, that didn't work. I support the people who make the games, and who started the game companies to begin with... However, no more do I support companies like EA. Mainly because of their employee's abuse. Over-worked exhausted people make many more mistakes. I love games, and I love good quality games even more. I definatly think some GOOD labor laws would help out with this. If these people who make the games worked 40 hours a week... maybe 45-50 when they so choose to spend more time on their project (and I do stress that this be on each persons own choosing) then I think more games will be of better quality. I may not be a lawyer and I may not beable to help out with any legal stuff, but where the hell do I sign up for the picket line!?

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-20 04:37 am (UTC)

EA is THE BEST ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY !!!

Period!

Every successful company gets vilified when it does very good. EA makes the best games of any company, thats why they do so good. Lots of people work for them and work hard and when some don't do there job right they have to stay late to make up for their mistakes. When you do your job good you get to go home on time and not work weekends. Just because EA is committed to making the best games ever doesn't mean they are evil because some people make mistakes and have to stay really long. People who complain for staying working long and don't quit know EA is the best and they don't want to lose that so they stay working to fix mistakes and not get fired. EA spouse is just upset because there are no better other places to work for. I bet if they did not goof up so much they would see his family. EA is a big smart company or they would not be so big, they know what has to be done to be great and expect the best from its people working for them. I don't know why every one doesn't get that?

EA, you are awesome keep making the best games ever!!!!!

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-20 06:14 am (UTC)

So clueless...

"Just because EA is committed to making the best games ever doesn't mean they are evil because some people make mistakes and have to stay really long."

See... the problem with this statement is that, well... often times the "some people" that "make mistakes" are not the same as the "some people" that end up paying for those mistakes and "have to stay really long".

Yet another ignorant poster strikes again.
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Re: So clueless... - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: So clueless... - (Anonymous) Expand
BIGGEST - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-20 10:27 pm (UTC)

slowing down

With the exception of a few ignorant morons, seems everyone within the industry or connected with it in some way, shares your anguish. So almost 4000 posts later and just one fairly non-commital statement from HR, all seems to be slowing down. Has anything changed? Will anything change?
With a whole host of projects undoubtedly gaining momentum for 2005 release, what action are you people taking to ensure that this doesn't just become last years news?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-22 07:17 am (UTC)

Re: slowing down

What has changed is awareness, and that change is more critical than one might think. It is clear to me now that all of this was coming to a head, and the recent discussions will simply speed that momentum. The industry is headed for a change, but that change itself is a continuation of a constant evolution.

Those in the industry will have probably already noticed small changes. We can't fix this overnight. Most of the movements that lead to real change and progress are not going to be exciting enough to make newspaper headlines. Lawsuits take time, and so does most anything if it's done properly (including, for instance, a quality video game). The real work is in the long haul, but the gears have already started to move. I realize that this probably doesn't tell you much, but the essence of it is that you are unlikely to see any major events on a short timeline that you can point to and say "there, they changed that," but the end result will be a more mature industry.

Right now most companies are in a period of dormancy leading up to and immediately following the winter holidays. Massive crunch leads up to the area just after Thanksgiving, and then most everyone falls over for awhile and recuperates -- this is, in part, why things have gone quiet. But things are happening, and if you speak to folk working in the industry I think you will hear that the changes have already begun.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
Not Slowing Down - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-21 12:27 am (UTC)

Ubi Soft

EA just bought 20% of Ubi Soft in a hostile manner. They will monopolize everyone, especially the companies doing cool stuff. This is bad news.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-22 04:29 am (UTC)

Re: Ubi Soft

Yeah I just read about it on Gamasutra.com My favorite part is the quote from an analyst saying EA is not likely to stop at the 20% threshold mark. And they're also trying to gain control of DICE, another company.

EA is just going to buy out the competition and originality is going to fly out the door because of the lack of competition. What a shame...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
Re: Ubi Soft - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-26 05:05 am (UTC)

To you, condolences and accolades are in order.

I can only pretend to imagine the immense stress and pain that must come with having your partner working such slavish hours. You've done a good thing by starting this avalanche of response, and I only hope that your life will be affected by it in a solely positive manner.

Please receive my sincerest condolences and accolades.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-26 08:12 pm (UTC)

Juliano

KILL THEM ALL! (EA SUCKS)
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-29 03:00 pm (UTC)

Everyone loves EA

The general public will continue to buy from them because they don't know anything. They don't read gaming magazines or download demos before they buy games. The general public likes football.

That's really all EA has. Football.

Quick. Somebody make a better football game.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-29 03:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Everyone loves EA

Granted, it would be easy to do. The last Madden had so many bugs, I started playing 2003 again.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-29 09:02 pm (UTC)

Care to comment?

I was doing a little research this past holiday weekend on EA and found this bit from Fortune magazine's web site:

"At videogame developer Electronic Arts, employees are invited to wander at an on-site labyrinth - which measures 81 feet in diameter - and amuse themselves during those stressful moments when creativity levels are running low. 'Most creativity comes at one of two times: when your back is against the wall or in a time of calm,' says senior vice president of human resources Rusty Rueff, who came up with the idea. 'Since we have plenty of the former at a growth company like EA, we wanted to be sure that we had ways to find the latter.' Game developers can also refresh their energy with free espresso or by playing volleyball or basketball. If all the fun becomes too much, seven-week sabbaticals are available after seven years with the company, and 12-week breaks after 12 years." -- Christopher Tkaczyk

from the January 20, 2003 issue

Just wondering: did anyone who was at EA in 2002 talk to this reporter with the eye-chart last name? Did anyone with Fortune magazine talk to employees about Rusty's amazing labyrinth? Is there really truly a Rusty-designed labyrinth, and if so, did running it help you with, in Fortune's words, "those stressful moments when creativity levels are running low"? After running Rusty's Amazing Maze, were you "amused?"

I'm just asking, and not only about that.

If EA employees burn out after 5 years or less, then what good is a seven-week sabbatical that's only available to employees who have been with EA after seven years?

After reading ea_spouse's testimony, then reading what's printed as gospel in Fortune, I just had to ask.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-05 06:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Care to comment?

7 weeks after 7 YEARS?????

AHAHAHAHA!!!

Yeah. Ok. Newsflash - Europe (at least where I am), I get 5 weeks off per year starting from Day 1, on the job, paid in full. Wake up, North America. You may have had a head-start in productivity since WWII but, in the words of Malcolm X, "the chickens are coming home to roost, y'all".
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: fathoms_deep
2004-12-31 06:04 pm (UTC)
I don't think I'll buy any more EA games... I feel bad for the workers.... and it'd probably do them good to know all their hard work was appreciated by SOMEBODY.... but... *shakes her head* I"m not going to reward a heartless company like that!! Assholes!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-09 08:52 pm (UTC)

Great idea

Don't fund the next project that guy/girl is going to be working on so they have to be laid off. That's an awesome idea, then they can rest at home collecting unemployment. Someone call Larry.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-01 11:38 pm (UTC)

boycott info

For those who want to boycott EA, here's a list of addresses of corporate headquarters for major retailers and their CEOs/Board Chairmen.

If you want a boycott to have an impact, then let these guys know about it. Tell them straight: If they sells EA games, then you won't buy from them.

Circuit City
9950 Mayland Drive
Richmond, VA 23233
fax (804)418-8248
phone (804) 527-4000
CEO - W. Alan McCollough

Best Buy Co., Inc.
Corporate Headquarters
P.O. Box 9312
Minneapolis, MN 55440-9312
CEO - Bradbury Anderson

WalMart
Bentonville, AR 72716
CEO - Lee Scott
(Note: I realize this address looks skimpy, but when you consider the size of this Arkansas town, and then the size of WalMart, then this may indicate that the only thing in Bentonville *is* WalMart's HQ.)

KMart
3100 West Big Beaver Road
Troy, MI 48084-3163
CEO - Aylwin Lewis
Board Chair - Edward Lampert

Sears
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
CEO/Board Chair - Alan Lacy

(Note: This gets interesting. KMart purchased Sears in Nov. The companies will formally merge operations in March 2005. According to most recent news, Alan Lacy will be CEO of both companies and Edward Lampert will be Board Chair. The Hoffman Estates address looks to be HQ for both companies.)

Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Corporate switchboard (612) 304-6073 8am - 5pm (CT) Mon - Fri
email - Guest.Relations@target.com
CEO - Robert J. Ulrich

Wherehouse Entertainment
19701 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 200
Torrance, CA 90502-1334
CEO - Jerry Comstock

Now, for companies that have financial deals with EA:

NFL
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Commissioner - Paul Tagliabue

Reebok International LTD
1895 J.W. Foster Blvd.
Canton, MA 02021
CEO/Board Chair - Paul B. Fireman

Proctor & Gamble
1 Proctor & Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati, OH 45201
(513) 983-1100
CEO/President/Board Chair - A.J. Lafley
email - go to www.pg.com and click on "Get In Touch With Us"

(FYI - I'm not sure if this is ongoing, but last year, P&G linked with EA to help revive one of its products: Old Spice deodorant sticks. To market to the 20-something crowd, P&G came up with Old Spice Red Zone, and EA incorporated the phrase Red Zone in their NCAA 2004 Football games. So, if this is correct, and if you want to send P&G your half-used Red Zone, you now have an address. That, and you can tell them that you won't buy their product in the future.)

Anyone is welcome to add onto or correct this. I tried to find email addresses when possible, but it was a pain.

Hope you have a better 2005, ea spouse.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-02 04:06 am (UTC)

Re: boycott info

Dude, get a life and give this a damn rest. This was interesting for a while but it's yesterday's news now.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-03 12:20 am (UTC)

From the views of an EARS tester

I'm just going to tell about the practices and treatment I've observed as a newb to the game industry who worked at EA as a tester starting in early 2004. No one could tell me anything wrong about EA, as my head was in the clouds. Then the storm came rolling in.

Some of the testers have significant others and friends working in production or development over in the 250 building and some in the other two buildings, etc. Talking and listening to them being upset about not getting to see their friends/spouses/bfs/gfs hardly at all and about them having to literally live at work for almost a week or more at a time was just overwhelming for me. Being together with your team so close for months and months, you're gonna share your life with them, because you've made new friends with fellow gamers who aspire to be something more in the games industry. One example: a friend had to bring their significant other (in the production dept for a major title) clothes to change into after they had been at work for 3-4 days. I guess thats why EARS has showers on property, right?

Things like this occured constantly during 2004. I kept thinking to myself: "Why are all these people so negative?" (the testers). Sadly, now I know.

When I say I was lucky to work with the great people I did, I really was. I did OT on a few other games that were released last year, as well as my main one, but had a decent ride along the way and learned alot. Don't take this as whining, because testers are paid hourly, so we get paid for worked hours, but are not treated as people, IMO.

But other people (testers AND developers) did OT for most of their test schedules and contracts for the EA and EAP games released last year. My co-workers that just started on their game, about 3 weeks in, OT was started on Saturdays, and longer days during the week. Getting off at a normal hour on Saturday and being off Sunday was considered a "gift". Just about every game EA released last year, had OT for the test department almost as soon as the teams were formed for the duration till the game shipped and after for patches.

From the other testers I talked to, this was the norm, this info from testers who have done this for many years as repeat contractors (victims) for EA. I asked why they kept coming back. Some were hoping to move up. Some were just doing it as a side job to school or another job. Others have actually been in alot better positions in the game industry and other entertainment industries just to take a break from things, or to think about getting into/back into the game industry. Then there were the newbs like me with dreams to make fun games because of the art and love for it, no matter what.

What a reality check to those dreams. I haven't been discouraged, and I am not going to stop working on my goals and dreams. I just don't feel the creativity and vibe that I thought EA had, at EA anymore. From enjoying EA games as a kid (Starflight, Syndicate, Populous, Mutant League Football/Hockey, General Chaos, etc.) to actually getting to be at the center of my gaming universe by working for EA, all I see is the dark green black hole of greed. Listening to EA executives and full time employees at quarterly meetings, lunch, around campus, etc; it is all over.

Does anyone else not have a problem with this type of thinking? Does a company really care that little about ANY of their employees to treat them like cattle?

EA is not a game company. They are a software factory. I understand the need to make money, which takes money. But the love and passion for making fun games which others are drawn into, just doesn't seem to be on the radar for EA anymore (and hasn't been for a long time) and some other big game companies as well. EA's marketing people are the best in the industry. If EA ever loses them, they are screwed. I sincerly believe how EA is percieved among the average consumer by EA's marketing pros is what soley keeps them profitable. Sadly, there are people in OT now who are at the beginning of new product cycles for 2005.

Just make the best games you can, and do what's right for your family and happiness!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-04 06:27 am (UTC)

Re: From the views of an EARS tester

EA is not a game company. They are a marketing company. Games just happen to be the "widget" that they are marketing.


People are not human to EA or most other companies for that matter. They are a "factor" (input) of production that creates an output. They are like the yeast in a loaf of bread -just one cog that is neccesary for the product.

x(InputA) + y(InputB) + Z(InputC) = output

A = artists
B = engineers
C = designers
output = the game

I am a lead(aka manager) at a competing studio


(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
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