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Sunday, November 07, 2004

EA Spouse Speaks Out Against Game Industry Practices

  1. HIT Ctrl + End to jump to end of post for most recent news
--

(NOTE:
All new updates on this issue are at bottom of post. You can also
follow updates via -Paul)

"EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 200412:01 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? "

(The rest of the commentary of the EA Spouse is linked at bottom of post.)

My thoughts on this? First, read the whole EA Spouse post, and all
of the (at current tally on this Wednesday night) 187 comments to
the anonymous post. It is worth the read.

I think it's sad. I've been in the CG movie/tv industry for a
little over 7 years. All companies have their ups and downs in
projects, and I've had to work crunch times before, especially
early on. A lot of in the industry call it 'paying your dues'
to get good experience on a project that can propel your demo reel
(and your career) to the next level.

Showing appreciation really does go a long way. Keeping morale
up doesn't take a lot of money, and the dividends it pays in the
long run really are worth it. Some companies do this well, some
don't. The same can be said of a lot of industries.

Lots of little perks add up. If you can land at a company or
studio that offers flexibility in work hours, good pay, and round
it off by keeping tabs on employee welfare, then you are doing
better than most. When I hear of stories like the one listed by
the anonymous spouse of the Electronic Arts employee, my heart
goes out to them.

The CG/animation industry artists (games, TV, movies, online)
have to make some hard decisions:

- Take work for a high profile company; great for your demo reel,
but take the risk of getting treated like cattle.
- Continually be the 'traveling gypsy' shuttling between studios,
always a step away from getting laid off.
- Stay longer and longer hours, because you never know when they
are going to outsource the animation or effects work to China,
India or Korea.

It really is a shame, maybe there are some politicians somewhere
that will take notice and take a good hard look at workers rights
in this industry.

Probably not. But one can always hope. Politicians listen to money
and votes. Sounds like a good grass roots issue.

UPDATE: There is a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT against EA

(This is a post in the original EA article)


UPDATE: More
discussions on this issue at:


Animation Nation
CG-Char
Slashdot (a ton of comments there)
Darren Barefoot


UPDATE:
The original EA Spouse post is up to 665 comments so far, and getting
heated in places. I award a gold star to this post on page 11:


Shove it up your @$$
(Anonymous)
2004-11-11 22:53 (link)
Boo-hoo indeed. How dare anyone complain about their working conditions!
I mean, someone else is guaranteed to have it worse! Instead, lets all
just keep our mouths shut, and make it even easier for a few people to
become millionaires on the hard work of others.

Give me a f**king break. You people are absolutely ridiculous. I work
in a call center, making crap wages, wishing I could get a job at a game
dev studio. And I still have empathy for these people.

So either give a damn about other people, or take your selfish attitude,
follow the subject, and put in an application for management at EA. I
hear they like to hire assholes.

(Reply to this)

--
UPDATE: Up to
770 posts on the original 'EA Spouse' post. Here's a sample from page 12:


This practice
is rampant in the game development sector, even in small studios.


My husband works for a studio where a guy recently had a heart attack,
and instead of letting the poor man rest, the management kept in touch
with him telling him how behind they were getting, and how it would be
really great if he could come in and work. It was disgusting how they
were trying to guilt him into working hours when he was suppose to be
resting. This is what they do best. They make you feel like you are a
disappointment to your team. That the game won't ship because of you,
and you'll start losing them contracts.

Divorce and families troubles are common, workers have gotten into
car accidents due to falling asleep at the wheel. Workers have had
strokes, ulcers and other stress related conditions. This is a
relatively young work force too. Most of these men are in their
20's and 30's.

Something needs to be done, and I think your approach of public
awareness is brilliant. Thanks for being so brave.


--
UPDATE:
The Letter notifying of the EA lawsuit:


> On July
29, 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed against Electronic Arts Inc.
("EA"). This communication responds to earlier email
communications from EA management regarding the litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that EA improperly classified some of its
employees, including "animators," "modelers," "texture artists,"
"lighters," "background effects artists" and "environmental artists"
as exempt from overtime, and therefore failed to pay those
employees overtime compensation. Plaintiff's action seeks
statutory penalties, damages, restitution, and injunctive relief.
EA denies plaintiff's claim. It
is EA's position that it treats its employees fairly and lawfully, and
that it has properly classified its employees within the meaning of the
law. (rest of the letter here.)

--
UPDATE: CNET News has just
released an article covering this, some good info here.

--
UPDATE: The 'EA Spouse' post
has a link that gives a breakdown on California's laws concerning overtime.

(link to post on this subject.)

--

UPDATE: Story covered at IGDA (Intl' Game Developer's Association)
with links to the following resources:
Joe Straitiff's LiveJournal post
Original article at LiveJournal
Comments to original article at LiveJournal


--

UPDATE: I just checked some of
the Slashdot coverage of this issue,
I can say a lot of people in our industry will appreciate
the support that is being shown in this post:

First of all these hours are insane, voluntary
or not. This practice ensures the end product is going to be utter
crap, that everyone will leave if they can and that precious experience
will go down the drain, ensuring that future products will be crap too.
Now EA is also getting bad press.

This is terrible management practice.

Second of all I'm a bit sad of the "stop whingeing" reactions and
general lack of empathy in this forum. There are reasons why there
are labor laws and why they should be applied. In this instance EA
is exposing itself to consumer backlash and possible lawsuits,
hardly something smart. This reeks of 19th century mining company
practices.

People shouldn't be forced to work long hours for extended periods of
time, period. Some people might choose to do it if they are able and
have the motivation in return for appreciable benefits, but to *force*
people to work in this fashion for nothing invites very real negative
effects such as poor health, divorces, possible violence, accidents
in and out of the office, etc, all of which have costs for the entire
society associated with them.

We know corporations have no morals and don't care about the above.
This is precisely why labor laws exist and must be enforced.


--
UPDATE: Coverage is reaching overseas:
--
UPDATE: Healthy discourse helps spread information and ideas.
Discussions continue on CG-Char. (recent from Keith Lango:)

The entertainment business, by its very nature, attracts
the willfully self destructive. Artists constantly struggle with
self worth and affirmation, being wanted and needed. It's what makes
us good at what we do and what makes us easy pickings for
exploitation. It's made me one in the past, I know.
Ed is right- it's business economics 101. Don't get mad at him for
saying the truth plainly. The number of students, hobbyists and
under-employeds on this site and others online prove it to be true.
Cg-Talk has a registered membership of over 40,000 people. That's a
lot of texture junkies, poly pushers, so-so keyframers and GI light
button pushers. The quality of the CG work being done overseas in
developing markets like India is improving at an astonishing pace.
They can throw more bodies at the work for a ton less money. The minute
they figure out how to build a really solid pipeline expect it to get
even crazier. The supply for "production artists" FAR outweighs the
demand. (although the supply for experienced, high end creative
leadership is pretty thin). I don't believe that there are any easy
global solutions to the problem, only personal ones. There is a point
at which each man or woman can make the decision to either continue
to live one way or to change and do something else. There's more than
one place to draw a paycheck in this world. It all depends on what
you value more out of life. If you're good enough to get in at the
top end of this biz (EA being considered highly among the game folks)
then you probably have the chops to test your market.

One consolation- these things have a way of
coming back home to roost after time. No business can improve
efficiency enough and the talent base is not improving fast enough at
the entry levels to survive a 30-50% annual turn over rate for very
long. The churn and burn mentality of some in the business does cost
the studios greatly as they lose qualified, experienced people while at
the same time the expectations for quality keep rising. So there is an
economic stick in this battle, but it's weilded not in a collective
mighty blow so much as a slow bleeding from a thousand small cuts as
each person individually determines that this is not how they want to
live and they up and leave. Eventually that catches up to a business
and it impacts their ability to deliver products that the marketplace
is willing to buy. The business will either adapt or perish. I think
it's worth noting that in the film business the studios that
consistently produce the best work compensate their people for their
time, manage to generally treat their employees as valued assets and
work to retain them for the long haul. As such their products show an
exponential improvement in quality as they retain their brain trust and
experience, building upon yesterday's successes with newer innovations
instead of constantly teaching a new raft of employees the basics of
accomplishing yesterday's successes. So good corporate behavior has
it's rewards. Conversely, shabby corporate behavior has it's
consequences.

In this day and age of outsourcing, it seems the
pragmatic recourse is an individual one. In relation to those you work
with: be good to everybody, be a team player, be cool, take direction
well, do your best and deal with people with decency. In relation to
your employer: keep it professional, but keep it business. If the
balance gets too far out of whack, feel free to do something about it
without guilt. When the time comes to walk away, just remember it's
nothing personal, its just business.

(More discussions on the 'EA Spouse' situation at CG-Char)

--
UPDATE: Coverage continues to spread: Post at Boomtown. (via Ferrago)

Another former Maxis/EA employee explains how he was treated by the
company,
saying he was forced into working extreme hours and then
pressured into leaving
the company.

--

UPDATE: The discussions continue, another spouse of an EA
employee gives a viewpoint at Darren Barefoot:

I have to take issue with one or your statements:
"For my money, there's something kind of ingenuine that this
guy's partner is writing this piece."

As the spouse of someone who works at EA, I can vouch for everything
in the original article. I can think of 8 people off hand immediately
that have quit from my husband's current project within the past
6-8 months; is that 50%, I don't know, but it's a lot from a single team.

My husband hasn't had a day off since early October. Yes, that means
he's worked straight for at least 4 weeks. That's not just working 7 days
a week, that's being worked like a slave.

He's gotten home around 2am for the past week and a half. Before
that he was working from 9am until 10:30pm (6-7 days a week, only
occasionally getting a Sunday off), for the past 3 months. [sarcasm]
hat wasn't too awful.[/sarcasm] We haven't been able to go out to
dinner or a movie or do anything remotely resembling time together
since early summer.

So yeah. His wife wrote this piece. You know why? Because her husband,
like mine, is at the complete edge of mental exhaustion. He's probably so
exhausted he can barely form a coherant sentence, never mind writing
something as moving and important as what she wrote.

Like her, I'm pissed as hell. We have a right to be. Our husbands
have the right to work in the gaming industry (which they really
want to do, so being told "Get a new job" isn't very helpful) without
being pushed to a point that damages their health, their families, or their marriages.

Posted by: Big Brother is Watching at November 11, 2004 09:00 PM
="line117">

--

UPDATE: The original 'EA Spouse' posting
is up to 1037 comments as of this morning.
Here's a sample from page 15:

Shameful -

I'm a National Guard Reservist newly returned from Iraq (missed
Fallujah by a *that* much)and returning to my job in visual effects
in the film industry. I'm embarassed that some knucklehead has the
balls to say 'blah, blah well at least your spouse isn't on the front
lines in Iraq, etc...' I love video/PC games and they're one of
the best ways that myself and my buddies would unwind from weeks
out in the field rather than the more unhealthy ways that usually
involve alcohol. While the dilemna that ea_spouse finds herself
in is not on the same level as the horrors of combat on the front
lines, it sickens me that EA swindles and plays shell games with
their employees and their families' lives. I quit buying EA's
bloated, overlicensed and overproduced crap years ago. I suggest
other people do the same. If EA wants to pretend that they're in
the same league as Hollywood, they need to take a cue from them
and spend their time in preproduction wisely. This shooting-from-
the-hip mentality that EA developed because crunching is their
cure all is the quickest way to get fleeced and left huddling
in a fetal position in the back alley of Wall Street.

This is America. We can do better than this folks.

(Reply to this) (Thread)
Re: Shameful - (Anonymous), 2004-11-12 11:42:06



Welcome Home! - (Anonymous), 2004-11-12 14:39:50

--

UPDATE:
Coverage spreads, discussed on a forum at Pocket PC Thoughts:

What a depressing story. I've been reading about the closure of
many small development houses over the last year or so with
growing dismay, if only because the trend in games these
days seems to be to milk a title dry with multiple updated
versions or to simply cash in on movie tie-ins. As someone
who grew up in the 1980s, the era of Spectrums and Commodore
64s, I fondly remember stories of bedroom coders and their
innovative games but, as was inevitable I suppose, the games
indutry has grown up and titles such as Halo 2 generate more
revenue on their first day of release than many movies do.

I hope that the family in the main story manage to break away
from EA and if I can offer any hope at all it is that I am a
software developer myself and I am now working for the most
fantastic company whose main goal seems to be to have happy
employees rather than worrying about pushing everyone to
generate the maximum amount of profits. It is only a small
company which may be the reason for the difference but
there are good employers out there and taking the risk to
find one is well worth it in the end.


--
UPDATE: A blogger who goes by Samus posted her thoughts on this:

--

UPDATE: The comments on the original 'EA Spouse' post continue,
now up to around 1049 comments as of this update.
Here is a post from page 16:

Yep, EA Orlando (Tiburon) is THAT plus a whole lot more!! :)
I worked there (EA Orlando) for FOUR years. Everything in the
article above is 100% true. I remember when they even frowned
upon hiring people who were married because they wouldn't
have the employees devotion. Unreal.

Here's what they like: Hire a someone right out of college,
ship him in, he has no friends outside of work, he has no
outlet to meet new friends because he's always AT work, so
he makes friends at work, so why go out and meet people to
have fun because everyone he knows is AT work. It TRULY
becomes a sort of brainwashing and you are COMPLETELY
frowned upon if you leave work "on time".

The most ridiculous work environment I've EVER worked in.

Oh yes, and to top it off, there is MIND NUMBING politics,
back stabbing, and brown nosing you gotta deal with too.

I left 5 years ago and NEVER looked back :)


--
UPDATE: A new post on Slashdot on the EA issue:

As a follow-up to yesterday's story about a frustrated EA
employee's spouse, several readers wrote in to report that
EA is now facing a possible class action lawsuit from
disgruntled employees. Besides the Gamespot coverage,
Kotaku has a discussion of it as well. To add to the
"frustrated EA worker" momentum, a former employee named
Joe Straitiff has posted about his experiences as well.
From his post: "So I'm posting under my real name -- you
have to stand up to this type of thing or it will continue.
And every company will become EA so that can compete...
Remember, you can't spell ExploitAtion without EA."

--
UPDATE: Gamespot article on
EA class action lawsuit:
A lawyer representing the plaintiffs addresses a proposed
class-action lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime from the world's
biggest third-party publisher.
(full article here)

--
UPDATE: From Penny Arcade (2nd item):
In other news EA grinds up babies to
make their games. Well maybe they aren’t that bad but they do
totally fuck over their employees. I’ve heard about shit like this
from my friends in the industry for years so it wasn’t a big surprise.
What was surprising is that the employees banded together and
fought back. It will be interesting to see how this turns out
and if it has any effect on the rest of the industry.


--
UPDATE: Another discussion started at Sherman3D's Industry News Forum.

--
UPDATE: The original 'EA Spouse' post is up around 1183 comments.
Here is one from page 17:

I used to work for EA, and honestly, this woman's blog does
not even cover all the atrocities we all put up with at EA.
EA is the worst game company to work for in the industry, period.

Is this class action lawsuit retroactive for people who used
to work at EA and endured the 12 hour days 7 days a week torture
and other things? If so, anyone know how I can participate in it?
Our "crunch" lasted MONTHS AND MONTHS. In fact the whole project
was one HUGE crunch, and let me tell you, this is across EA as
I was not even a part of the Sims, but a part of another project.

Oh the stories I could share about EA, this blog is tame in
comparison. But to share them would give them a method of
identifying me, and so, unfortunately, I cannot.


--
UPDATE: The coverage continues.
It has been picked up at Cinescape's online site: Electronic Arts:
Guilty or Innocent?


--
UPDATE: Let Congress hear your voice.
Contact info for California
Senators
:

The Honorable Barbara Boxer D - CA
112 Hart Senate Office Building (202) 224-3553
Washington DC 20510 email

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein D - CA
331 Hart Senate Office Building (202) 224-3841
Washington DC 20510
email

--
UPDATE: More EA backlash coverage
at Guile's World, specifically calling for consumers to stop supporting
EA products. Guile's also notes discussion coverage at Shacknews.

--
UPDATE: Another post at the Joe Straitiff LJ page,
heated discussions continue, it's the way of the Internet:

ROFL... if you work 12 hours days,
6 days a week without getting paid for more than 40 hours -
you aren't some kind of tech god, you're either a clueless
idiot or happen to have a circumstance which isn't allowing
you to leave.

You sound like the former, honestly... nature of the beast?
Perhaps, but who was it that determined the games industry
must be a beast?

As long as there are 19 yr olds who download a warez copy of
max and walk out of ITT Tech with a "degree", EA will continue
this idiotic cycle. There's just too many students in the world
ready to work for nothing, and green enough to think it's
"the way things are, and therefore the way they should be".

BTW, i've been a digital artist (photoshop, compositing, 3D)
for the past 8 years. 9-6pm. I get paid overtime when it happens.
I'm paid a good salary, AND i have a life.

Guess what - it rocks.

Kudos to the artists here speaking up for themselves.


and this (there is more than one way to protest
bad corporate behavior):

I just dumped my ERTS shares. I've had it for about a year,
so I took a small loss.

I'm a software engineer and a gamer, and I sympathize
with you Joe. The punishment I have for EA is dumping their
stock, and not buying any EA games this Christmas season,
for myself or anyone else.

Working long hours in software engineering is common, and
I often work crunch times without complaining. But, I have
a home connection for work, so I'm only at the office from
9 to 6, and can work from home when crunching is necessary,
so I can still spend time with my family. The company I work
for also understands that crunch time is not all the time.
And you can do a 60 hour week on Monday through Friday.
Don't mess with the weekends.

Good luck to you Joe. And to any company that hires Joe,
I'll buy your company's games just out of principle.


--
UPDATE: The original 'EA Spouse' post's comments are up around 1233,
with more bad stories being revealed from ex-employees:

My husband and I are both ex-employees of EA.

My husband worked at a small but successful studio which EA

acquired a few years ago. While at the studio he LOVED his
job doing support for the on-line game. He enjoyed himself
so much that he liked staying at work and performing overtime
everyday. I decided this sounded like a great environment
and applied to work there just after EA took over. Before
any of the changes began. Within weeks of my start date the
changes were in full swing. The call queue for support was
significantly altered. No longer was customer service the main
priority but rather clearing out the queue as fast as possible,
taking as many calls as you can in as short of time as possible.
Ten hour shifts were the norm and lunch was not allowed. The
I was diagnosed with a disability that made it so I HAD to eat
five times per day. Instead of relaxing the new "no eating
in the call center" policy, I was told I could take longer
breaks to eat. When I got written up for not having the same
production as other workers I was told I could stay over after
the work shift as long as I needed to make up time for any breaks
taken. So a ten hour no break work shift has suddenly progressed
to close to twelve hours. Since there was muttering whenever the
upper management saw me in the lunch room and the metrics were
more important than the fact that the employees were all exhausted
I gave my 2 week notice. Before my two week notice was up I was
told that they "did not want me to return".
A short while after that it was time to layoff employees due to
more bad decisions made by upper level management. The first
round of layoffs came and went and my husband still had a job.
A little bit later everyone on his shift was individually
written up. The majority of them were written up for
"sexual harassment". I can understand that some work places
have problems like that where everyone is sexually harasing
one employee or one employee feels persecuted, but in this
case the charges were obviously a way to get rid of the
night-shift staff, the ones with whom noone else interacted.
If the second round of layoffs hadn't happened so soon
following the first, I am certain anyone who had been
written up for even the smallest infraction such as being
tardy by five minutes, would have been fired. As it was,
every person on that shift was laid off.

Electronic Arts needs to treat its employees
with decency.


--
UPDATE: CNET News posts another new article on continuing
story of overtime lawsuit against EA.
(snippet of story)

Just as a Web log posting this week has triggered a hail of
criticism about harsh work conditions in the game industry,
game-publishing giant Electronic Arts is being sued for
allegedly failing to pay overtime wages.


--
UPDATE: Further comments posted at Darren Barefoot.
(last post: concerning unionization of game workers
similar to film industry)

--
UPDATE:
New discussion area opening here on this story: od[force].net

--
UPDATE: Considering the
circumstances and high emotion of today's topic, this is
appropriate levity to pass along, all considering.
I highly encourage disgruntled employees everywhere
to check this out. :)


SPREAD ANGUISH!
CREATE UNEASE! GET YOUR ARSE OUT OF THAT CHAIR!

Download the posters below, print them and hang them in your office.
Put them in normal places, where no one will suspect they're fake.
Fellow employees willl be angry and frustrated feeling
the unbearable weight of tiranic management on their backs.
Managers won't dare remove them because there's always the
possibility of it coming from someone higher than them.
It's the ultimate office fun!

So, help the revolution and put your poster up today.
With any luck we'll get enough people angry so something
interesting happens soon enough.


(clipped from del.icio.us)

--
UPDATE/7:49pm Central: Another recent comment on former EA employee
Joe Straitiff's LiveJournal site:

As a former Maxis employee who went through the EA acquisition,
I am sorry to see that things have not changed there. I left
EA in 1999 when it became obvious that they were hell-bent on
destroying the Maxis culture, and completely uninterested in
being honest or fair to their employees.

For a variety of reasons, I would have to say working for EA
was the worst experience of my career. I have yet to work in
a more backstabbing environment. Friends of mine from Maxis
put on probation (which meant you were going to be fired in
30 days) because their work was "sub-standard", but when they
asked what work of theirs had been "sub-standard", they were
told that it was in the past and they just needed to do better.
How can you improve if you aren't told what you are doing wrong?
I am quite sure there was nothing wrong with the work these
people were doing, and that the firings were politically motivated.

During my last year at EA, I saw the producers hire people,
blame projects slipping a ship date on the new person, and
fire them. The other tactic was to blame all the problems on
someone who had left the company during the project. I saw
them fire numerous people the day after they left for vacation,
only to inform them that they'd been fired two weeks before
when they returned from their vacation. People became afraid
to go on vacation.

I personally left the company when I was told that my Maxis
yearly review (and raise) were being put into the EA review
cycle, and I would not receive a review (or a raise) for 1.5
more years. The straw that broke the camel's back: they
decided to hire a junior person who I would be responsible
for training, and the junior person was going to be paid
more than I was. I applied elsewhere, was immediately
offered a 100% increase in pay, and happily turned down
EA's counteroffer. They were forced to bring in a
consultant to replace me, and it cost them far more
than paying me a fair salary would have.

I have never seen a company treat their employees in
such a rotten fashion.

It was the all the more heart-breaking because before the
EA acquisition, the Maxis office was the most enjoyable
place I have ever worked. I worked many 60, 80, and even
100 hour weeks on various projects and had fun in the process.
I still remain friends with a lot of people I worked
with during this time, and remember some amazing ski &
rafting trips, nights at WPLJ's, and other good times.

-Russell Johnson
Former QA tester and eventually IT Network Manager at
the Walnut Creek office.
someotherperson@yahoo.com


(Reply to this)

UPDATE/8:05 PM Central:
You can also
follow updates via

--
UPDATE 8:12PM Central: The original 'EA Spouse' site now
has 1336 comments posted. Here is one from page 19.

... Wow. So much noise.

I was there. An engineer. 4, almost 5 years ago.
6 months of crunch. The entire project was crunch,
new platform on an abbreviated release schedule.

16-37 hour days. Many, many days were a quick nap
in the chair was more worthwhile than going home.
One man's wife had a cot that she left in his cubicle,
so that she could see him sometimes,
and even... sleep near him.

I remember having an argument over whether it was better
to sleep in the chair, or under the desk.

Sam's club cereal and milk always in the kitchen.
Any beverage you could want. Dinners were always ordered in.
The food was free. So that you didn't have to leave.

The cleaning crews would come in at 3 AM sometimes.
They'd turn on the lights. You could hear screams and
moaning from the engineers who were accustomed to the
soft lighting the rest of the day, and just the glow of
their monitors on top of that.

I thought it was a joke in the beginning.

I got reamed once for sleeping on a wednesday. All wednesday.
I don't even remember how long it had been since I'd actually
been home for more than 2 hours straight. I had wanted to
take a nap in my bed. My (now ex)-wife had gotten up for
work, left and apparently had a conversation with me before
leaving. That part of the morning is forever gone to me,
I can only take her word for it. I slept through constant
phone calls. I slept through her trying to wake me up for
hours after she got home from work, and got all the nasty
messages on the answering machine. They didn't care that
I was sick, so exhausted that I simply could not attain
consciousness, despite someone's continual efforts to get
me up. I never heard those messages. I went straight to work
once she managed to get me up.

By the end of the six months, I knew that the screams and
moans were no joke. The light hurt. The light blinded. All
you could see was a white fog, where before, there were
colors on the monitors, and in the darkness of the cubicle farm.

I stopped caring. I stopped being able to think, to reason,
to put the processes together to be able to program. I
became a whiz with the wheel mouse when I could no longer
code. I could pack thousands of textures and models into
the appropriate places within the appropriate tools in no
time flat. Even though those tools were nightmareish
(5 nested scroll bars was not an uncommon sight).

The next job I worked when I woke up from the zombification,
was at a diagnostic imaging company. The vice president
asked me what the hell I was still doing there after 8
hours on my first day. I've been here for close to 5 years now.


--
UPDATE 8:36pm Central:
News continues to spread. Tons of links related to the 'EA Spouse' issue:

Lawyers join ea_spouse 1 hour 27 minutes ago

limshengming.com

EA Spouse Story 1 hour 38 minutes ago

no status quo 1 link Core Dump, Nov 12. 3 hours 42 minutes ago

Core Dump 2 links from 2 sources

links for 2004-11-12 3 hours 55 minutes ago

A Whole Lotta Nothing 1201 links from 849 sources

Don't Work For EA 4 hours 41 minutes ago

suberfantacularizzle

This Just Sucks.... 4 hours 59 minutes ago



Ramblings from My Mind 0 links

Boycott EA Games 5 hours 39 minutes ago

Skor Grimm 1 link

Fear and loathing at Electronic Arts 6 hours 7 minutes ago

Kotaku

Former EA employee speaks out under real name 6 hours 7 minutes ago

Kotaku

p i n g z . c o m, Nov 12. 6 hours 15 minutes ago

p i n g z . c o m

EA Employees Unhappy, Attempt Class Action... 7 hours 15 minutes ago

Forever Geek Nerds Are For Dorks 150 links from 104 sources

Darren Barefoot - Technical Writer, Playwright,... 187 links from 152 sources

Last on the wagon, Nov 12. 7 hours 32 minutes ago

Last on the wagon 0 links

Lunabean.com - Your Video Gaming Community, Nov 12. 7 hours 36 minutes ago

Lunabean.com - Your Video Gaming Community 121 links from 15 sources

EA is a programming sweatshop 7 hours 44 minutes ago

interesting drug 5 links from 5 sources

Another company that needs a good... 7 hours 52 minutes ago

Thinking Out Loud 0 links

EA Spouse: The Human Story 8 hours 9 minutes ago

cape's world

When it rains, it pours... 8 hours 25 minutes ago

Harold's Venting page

The power of Blogs 8 hours 33 minutes ago

Blog247.Blogspot.com 0 links

Challenge Everything 8 hours 43 minutes ago

longklaw.com

(info via Technorati)

--

UPDATE 8:56pm Central: CNET News Discussion - Developer from the UK

--

UPDATE 10:25pm Central:

Quality of Life in the Game Industry: Challenges and Best Practices

About the IDGA White Paper:

The 90-page "Quality of Life in the Game Industry: Challenges and Best Practices" white paper was prepared by the IGDA's Quality of Life Committee, representing a wide range of game development professions and companies.

(full post here.)

--
UPDATE 10:42pm Central: In this post's comments section, someone passed along a link to Mischievous Ramblings:

It’s Not Just Abusive. It’s Stupid.
Evan Robinson

By now, we’ve all read that cathartic LiveJournal entry by an angry EA widow who has had her husband, her family life, and her own career co-opted by the hellish product development environment that has become the norm at Electronic Arts. (If you haven’t read it, follow that link above, read it, and come on back.) Most of us in the business know, right down deep in our ulcers and migraines, exactly what she’s talking about. Too many of us have been caught in “normal” development cycles that require overtime as a matter of course; and have been at the mercy of abusive managers who ratcheted us up to several months of 13-hour-a-day/7-day work weeks. Perversely, these managers always claim that this is what’s required to make the schedule – and (the mendacity of this part is always breathtaking) to prevent our work hours from expanding even more in the future.

(link to full post)

--

UPDATE 11:19pm Central: The original 'EA Spouse'
site now has 1423 comments posted.
Here is one from page 20.

another wife...
(Anonymous)
2004-11-13 02:36
(link) For 12 months, I held on to e-mails to Fortune Magazine
(responding to their 2003 article) when I shared my
stories of being a wife of an EA employee with them,
and I can't tell you how grateful I am that your
voice is being heard. I describe it to my friends as
"the time during which EA ruined our marriage." When
I first starting reading these comments, I felt all
the anger and bitterness, frustration and hatred
that I felt while I was waiting for my husband to
come home (or driving to the office at 2AM so I could
spend time with him.) Now, I just feel sad that so many
other people's lives have been ruined - ok, there's
still some anger there too. Some of the most vivid
memories I had were:

-hearing that "some countries celebrate Christmas in
February" with regard to a winter holiday being
told that some family events such as weddings and
funerals fell on "inconvenient days" and that they
should still come in to work
-being bought off with flowers, promises of bonuses,
and other electronic gadgets
-welcoming my husband home at 5 AM as I was getting
up to go to work
-throwing "congratulations" parties to co-workers
who left the company (too bad my husband couldn't
make those parties)
-eating dinner at the company...after all, why should
I cook when it's just me at home?

Anytime
I hear anyone considering working there, I tell
them to run away whilethey still can. It was so
sad to see such a hard-working group of
people I respected and admired treated so poorly.
As I read the other postings, I wish they were
exaggerated, but know from experience that
they are true.
--



--

UPDATE 12:00am Central:

RSS feed for comments at Mischievous Ramblings on:
'It's Not Just Abusive. It's Stupid.'

--
UPDATE 10:18am Central:

Posts get a little heated on page 4 of the comments on Joe Straitiff's LJ page:

Re: Have you tried contacting the media?
(Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:24 (link)
EA employee here....heads up to everyone who gets all gung-ho and ready to take sides...not all EA employees are having difficulties as this ex-EAer had. In fact, odd how only ONE had problems.

My EA experience has been great so far (been here 8 years) and still keeps getting better.

And to be honest, after reading the letter a few times, you had more excuses (someone lied, someone misinformed, proper manager wasn't in) to cover your ass.

The only reason I can see you staying until 4am is if you were screwing around on your own time.

But hey, just my opinion.




(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Have you tried contacting the media?
(Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:41 (link)
You're obviously not in testing.

You sound like a producer worried about nothing but your next milestone bonus.

(Reply to this) (Parent)

Re: Have you tried contacting the media?
(Anonymous)
2004-11-13 03:46 (link)
Only one person at EA had problems?

http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/11/11/news_6112998.html

http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/04/11/12/0537234.shtml?tid=123&tid=127&tid=156

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/industry-news/ea-faces-class-action-suit-025524.php

http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/

You wouldn't happen to be an EA project manager?

(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Have you tried contacting the media?
(Anonymous)
2004-11-13 04:23 (link)
lol

uhoh...someone disagrees with you? better label him "the MAN".

No I'm sorry to say I'm still in the trenches...live by the code die by the code as I've heard.

I'm not a manager and never been asked to be one or been interested in one.

But you really should look over your links. I made a mistake, it's ONE person and ONE person's spouse BUT all 4 links point to the same TWO people. Four links doesn't mean four people...besides of which even if you posts counted for a person it would have only been 4 people :)

Either way, I'm saying don't jump on the band wagon because one or two people start waving the torches.

IT is not a 9-5 job nor is it easy, but it has it's rewards in many different ways. The gaming industry is no walk in the park.

He signed a contract and agreed to whatever his contract was...time to put up. I've been a coder for 8 years and I have yet to see staying til 4am every night during "crunch" time.

Plus any of the 'testing' jobs clearly state no benefits and a wage of 11/12 and hour (more or less depending on location,etc). Testing is basically being able to play games for a temporary job and test it out.

But whatever, can't get through to some people who just want to wave flags and complain (especially if you disagree with them) so believe what you will!

;D

(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Have you tried contacting the media?
[info]joestraitiff
2004-11-13 06:53 (link)
So what's your name? What studio are you working at? What games have you worked on/are working on?

What I've seen in the comments here and for ea_spouse are TONS of EA people confirming our stories -- to me you seem to be the one dissenting opinion.

For the record, I know many people who love their jobs at EA and some avoid the crunches by not being on a game team. It's possible to jump from prototype to prototype and never be put through the hell.

However, if you had been at Maxis and been on Sims 2 or on The Urbz you would be singing my tune. I know a couple hundred people who can confirm my story -- they're just too scared to do so because the policy of fear EA creates.

I hope you continue to have luck at EA, more power to you and I wouldn't wish what happened to me on anyone. What I wrote was a raw dumping in the order I experienced it, with my thoughts trying to understand what was happening at the time without getting all emotional and attempting to be objective. There were no excuses -- my work stands for itself and if we'd ever worked together you'd know that.

I'm sure that you know at least one person who knows me -- ask them. Or at least a friend of a friend knows me, the industry is too small.

So believe it or not. Be skeptical, I would. But do some research and pay attention to the teams around you before calling me a whiner. I'm mearly relaying my personal story to help lend credance to ea_spouse's and I added my name behind it for people to verify.

(Reply to this) (Parent)


--
UPDATE 10:31am Central:

Lockergnome coverage - EA: The Human Story - EA Spouse Reveals Chilling Info
The F Stop Blues - Slave Labor for Video Games?

--
UPDATE: 11/13/04 1:20 pm CST: EA Management Motivational Posters

--
UPDATE 11/13/04 1:42 pm CST:
"EA Spouse' LJ post up to 1536 comment, here is one from
page 22:

Jamie Kirschenbaum vs. Electronic Arts, Inc.

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 3:00 pm CST:
More sites covering:
dotnetjunkies
Micro Persuasion

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 3:34 pm CST:
2 New 'Motivatonal Posters'

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 3:54 pm CST:
More foreign coverage of the 'EA Spouse' story
I have no idea what they are saying, but I saw a
'smiley' at the end of the post.


--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 3:56 pm CST:
The original 'EA Spouse' post has 1652 comments, here's
one from page 23:

It's sick and wrong when employees feel that they have to take mood enhancers/anti-depressants just to make it through. I think it'd be interesting to see what EA employees have in their medicine cabinets--and what any therapy bills are (if they've got time to see a therapist). I'm imagining a lot of Prozac, Wellbutrin, and other, similar, prescriptions.

The man that I love has been working in games for years--and has consistently gotten screwed out of time, money, and any semblance of a life outside of work. His health has suffered (pre-diabetes, weight gain, depression, stress, emotional instability). He's moved across country and across continents, sacrificed time with his beloved grandfather, his family, his friends, and me. He's gone from being a caring, generous, giving man to one who believes that there's no one more important than himself. That sense of alienation and isolation isn't healthy. It isn't right. I see his humanity being stripped away by an industry more attuned to raising a buck than remembering that, in the end, it's people who really matter. It makes me cry--because I know what he can be.

Perhaps we could remind the stockholders/poobahs that it doesn't matter how many little, green pieces of paper that they amass--they're still going to die. Ain't no one, no how, on their deathbeds, ever wished they spent more time at the office.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to changing the situation is the collusion of the employees into the culture of machismo. It's like the attitude of young residents in hospital. It's all one-upmanship. So, they say, you worked 72 hours straight? Pussy. I worked 117, with a hernia and an exploding spleen. I've heard conversations like these among games people--from all facets of the production process. This isn't limited to programmers, or artists, or QA, or anyone in the business.

If only we could remind people that there are more of them than there are of the poobahs that sap their lives. If only we could remind people that a collective voice rings more loud and more true than lone voices in the wilderness.

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 4:06 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' continues to make an impact in the blogosphere
with EA consumers: (from blog.dreampro)

EA: White Collar Slavery

I always wanted to be involved in making games, unfortunately I never had the time to commit and learn some actual skill. Anyways, a spouse of someone who works at Electronic Arts in LA wrote quite an amazing article on what is actually going on there on a regular basis. I always take single posts like that with a grain of salt, but the comments that follow the article seem to confirm it. I myself have a few EA games for the Xbox but I have to say that next time I might think twice before buying one.


--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 4:34 pm CST:
2 new 'Motivational Posters'

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 10:00 pm CST:
post from CG-CHAR discussion:

A professor at Carnegie Mellon University has written a white paper on EA.
Direct Link.
And the discussion at Slashdot.
It should be noted that this paper was approved by EA.


--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 10:28 pm CST:
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters'

--
UPDATE Sat 11/13/04 10:54 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' story comments on Fark

2004-11-13 11:14:47 PM Figaro

Sims 2 - Sweatshop Edition!

That was my headline for this story two days ago. I feel so disenfranchised! Rev. Al where are you?

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 8:10 am:
'EA Spouse - The Human Story' - Comment from Thur Nov 11 on Slashdot:

Complain..... (Score:2)
by CharlieG (34950) on Thursday November 11, @09:41PM (#10794845)
(http://www.thegallos.com/)

WAY back when (22 years ago) I worked for a mid sized electronics company that was playing overtime games with their electronics techs (same kind of games that are being played by EA). Well, I was with the company, oh, 6 months or so, when all the techs were called into the office. In the office was someone from the state labor relations board. It seems a couple of months BEFORE I started, someone had dropped a dime on the company to the state labor board. They didn't just fix the problem with that guys pay, but they went back something like 5 YEARS, and fixed EVERYONES pay, plus a penalty. They explained in the meeting what our rights were, gave us a phone number to call if there were any more problems, and watched our CEO had every one of us a check for what we were due

I'd say EA is skating on VERY thin ice - particularly with the clear $42/hr law in CA. If you get it to the right folks - they could end up owing all their developers back pay, with interest, and a penalty
-- 73 de KG2V For the Children - RKBA! PGP Key on the servers



--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 9:02 am CST:
The story continues to spread throught the blogosphere. A viewpoint is
offered at 'The Business of Animation: A Commentary'.

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 9:34 am CST:

(Click pic for full comic, image from a comment link on page 25 of the original 'EA Spouse' LJ post)

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 11:00 am CST:
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters'

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 1:05 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' continues to spread through blogosphere at FirstAdopter.com

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 1:35 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' comments now up to 1968 total, here's something
recent from page 26:

You made gamespot news.

And then fark.com.

And a friend of mine who had been contacted by EA has just been informed about this situation.. and mostly like will utter the words "fuck that" or something to that extent.

Hope things work out for you and your husband. :)

--
UPDATE Sun 11/14/04 4:55 pm CST:
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' up.

--
UPDATE 11/14/04 6:30 pm CST:
Another recent comment from Animation Nation:

Can someone explain to me how a studio can get away with not paying people for the hours they work. I have always worked union MPSC 839, so I have not had to deal with such things. I find it wrong that any studio would do that, I know a workplace can have you work and pay you a set salary but they need to compensate you in time off, say you worked 40 hours of OT without being paid then they owe you that time off with pay, I think, dont quote me on that. Even working union there have been questionable things like the time at DreamWorks when I was an assistant animator and I was told they wanted me to stay on til the end (another 2 weeks) but I would need to be an inbetweener with less pay in order to be kept, so I said ok cause I was buying a house and I still did assistant work, fine with me but why pay me less and it was like $300 bucks less a week. So your telling me DreamWorks couldnt afford $300 more a week, I doubt it. Animation is a great thing but studios do whatever they can but out right not paying you and having you work insane hours is just wrong.

--
UPDATE 11/14/04 7:00 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' continues to march across the net at Blues News (52 comments):

EA Class Action Suit Coming? [November 12, 2004, 09:11 am EST] - Viewing Comments
EA workers readying class action lawsuit against EA on GameSpot has word of planned legal action following up on yesterday's editorial on working conditions at Electronic Arts (story). The story publishes what may or may not be an authentic internal email on the topic, and describes the uphill battle this lawsuit will have to be certified as an actual class action.

--
UPDATE 11/14/04 7:35 pm CST:
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' up.

--
UPDATE 11/14/04 9:20 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' post up to 2053 comments, here's one from page 27:

I used to work for Disney in Orlando, and our department was layed off a little over a year ago. Many animators, and some upper management including art directors were let go. When this happened many ex disney exmployees looked for other art jobs in orlando. It turns out EA was looking and swept many Disney artist in. Ea hired over 15 ex disney animators.
A year has almost gone by and my friend still works for Tiburon. I have had many conversations with him about his compsensation verus disney. The one topic that always comes up is that Disney used to pay him for extra hours put in. We would get compensation for any additional work we did outside our normal 40 hours. Well when he got to Tiburon he was happy with the salary as it was more then Disney, but the bs non paying overtime he has put up with is not worth it. His stocks which are a form of compensation for overtime, are worthless unless he is at EA for four years. He had just put in a month of 80 hours weeks for a video that was soley directed on selling a new product to executives. The video required him to put in 200% extra work hours, only becuase it was a rush to get it out the door. If the video had begun a month ealrier then no problems would have arrived. He was and is still pissed about his decision to join EA. I also know many other ex-Disney people whom feel the same way and many of them are looking to move on. Just my sense as i was fowarded this link from another Disney animator. Good luck to all of my fellow ex disney animators and there new career path............

2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' up. (archives of previous posters I made are here.)

--
UPDATE 11/14/04 10:15 pm CST:
More coverage from the Net on 'EA Spouse':

The Sims Zone :: News Archive: "Some employees of Electronic Arts, including members of the Sims 2 team, have filed a lawsuit against the company. The employees have had to work overtime during crunch-times (rushes before the major deadlines), which meant working 12 hours a day 7 days a week, with occasionally the Saturday evening off. The group of employees claims they didn't get paid for the extra hours they worked, nor did they get extra hours off, or extra vacation days in return. EA's attitude towards this is said to be 'If they don't like it, they can work someplace else.' The details are revealed by the spouse of an EA worker, in a blog post. 'This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.' The spouse claims EA's actions to make employees work too long - almost 90 hours a week - is 'unethical' and 'illegal.' Another part says the turnover rate in engineering at EA is approximately 50%, which means a lot of people leave the company constantly, and new ones join.

GameSpot further investigated this issue, and brought up that Attorney Robert C. Schubert, partner at San Francisco law firm Schubert & Reed LLP, has 'initiated legal proceedings to start a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of EA employees.' EA claims the employees fell under the Californian exemption law, Senate Bill 88, which does not apply to the entertainment industry and only to specialty employees earning at least $90,000 annually. The claim 'Jamie Kerschenbaum vs. Electronic Arts, Inc.' was filed 29 July of this year. Jamie was part of the Sims 2 design team, although his current employment status is unknown. 'EA will not retaliate against employees for exercising legal rights, including by participating in the proposed class action.' More about this can be read in the GameSpot newspost or the EA Spouse blog.

[Update 22:20] More posts by former EA employees have been published. See the read more area (or read on below) for the details about those."

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 8:21 am CST:
Good morning, citizens! 2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up, 2 more again around 12 noon CST:

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 10:04 am CST:
Another comment on 'EA Spouse' at Darren Barefoot.

Evan's article is terrific.

I work in the consulting industry, and I have had to make an active choice and sacrifice earning potential to avoid working for firms where "crunch mode" is the norm.

There are so many people out there who are parroting the whole "work/life balance" line, but why is it always the middle managers who are bold-faced hypocrites about it?

Posted by: Sue at November 14, 2004 12:20 AM

2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up this morning, 2 more again around 12 noon CST.

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 12:10 am CST:
The 'EA Spouse' post on LiveJournal is still rolling, up to 2141 comments as of this post.
Here is a current one from page 28:

No offence, but aren't lawyers who work hard able to garner respect and seniority down the road? Is there not an unspoken code of ethics in the legal profession? A respect for one's elders and one's accomplishments? There is from what I have seen. And that is a GOOD thing.

Not so in the gaming industry! The older an more experienced you get, the more likely you'll either drop dead, or get discarded; replaced by a fresh crop of non-threatening kids. And the hours don't let up. Ever. You're looking at the same hours for the rest of your life- because the way things are now, you'll never claw your way up into management ranks. It's like that all over in entertainment these days.

The same rules just don't apply here.

As promised, 2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up @ 12 noon CST.
--
UPDATE 11/15/04 1:27 pm CST:
As I suspected from being in the CG industry for a while, this problem is widespread, even affecting those in gaming here in Texas: (from comments on 'EA Spouse' coverage here on SnarkySpot (end of page).)

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous said…

I work for Atari in Dallas, Texas. Our last three projects have suffered from the same 'death march' crunch that was described in the ea_spouse blog entry. It's almost as if management from the different gaming companies got together to decide how to 'manage' their people. 13 people were laid off from here about a month ago. Many of them vocally opposed the hours policy. The subtext to the firings was clearly 'shut up or loose your job'.

Thanks for the updates.



The same rules just don't apply here.

As promised, 2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up @ 12 noon CST.

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 3:00 pm CST:
EA lawsuit could change face of gaming industry.

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 7:30 pm CST:
From page 28 of 'EA Spouse' comments:

This was sent out 6 months before ship...shit, the game was just announced. It's even title "crunch definition"........

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 4:54 PM
To: MOH4
Subject: Crunch definition


In an effort to get us all on the same page as to what is crunch… here are the MOH4 expectations going forward.


3 late nights a week. You choose ‘em. A late night is defined as a day that you leave after 12 or more hours after you arrive. If you get here at 10am then you leave after 10pm. And so forth.
The non-late nights will be defined as leaving 9 hours after you arrive. If you get here at 10am then you leave after 7pm. Just like the bank.
1 weekend day. You choose. Saturday or Sunday. If you don’t care then please come in Saturday. There will be some exceptions where we need key people to rotate their days so we have full coverage both days. Check with your DD if think that might apply to you.
Everyone out by 11pm. Working in to the wee hours of the morning only gets one thing accomplished: creates a fried developer who has difficulty being back by 10am and is anything but mentally sharp. Get out of here, get a good night’s rest and get back in here.
Let your DD know what your default late nights and weekend day will be. This will help ensure balanced development teams. We will remain flexible as special events arise. But hopefully your default schedule will remain so most weeks.
Finally, expect exceptions to this generic definition. We will continue to have exec demos and big end-of-milestone pushes where we will ask people to put in a little extra to get us over the hump. But, hopefully, those will be exceptions and the flexibility built into this definition allows you to maintain a better outside of work life.

That’s it. Please let me know if you have any questions.

-jsc


--
UPDATE 11/15/04 8:50 pm CST:
From the forums of penny-arcade:

Electronic Arts Overtime Litigation

On July 29, 2004, Jamie Kirschenbaum, an Electronic Arts, Inc. (“EA”) employee, filed a class action lawsuit against EA, claiming that EA has failed to comply with California labor laws requiring it to pay overtime. Kirschenbaum seeks to represent a class of employees including “animators,” “modelers,” “texture artists,” “lighters,” “background effects artists,” “special effects artists” and “environmental artists,” who worked at EA at any time from July 29, 2000 to the present. The complaint seeks to obtain past due overtime compensation for these employees, as well as statutory penalties. In addition, the case seeks to require EA to pay these employees for overtime worked in the future.

Please here click to view the complaint in Kirschenbaum, v. Electronic Arts, Inc., et al., Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Mateo, Case No. 440876.

If you are a current or former EA employee who would like to participate in the litigation, or if you have questions about your legal rights in the litigation, please contact one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this litigation:


Miranda Kolbe
Schubert & Reed LLP
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1660
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 788-4220
EAovertime@schubert-reed.com


Todd Heyman
Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP
53 State Street, 37th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 439-3939
EAovertime@shulaw.com

Additional information about the lawyers prosecuting the case is available at www.schubert-reed.com and www.shulaw.com.

-
More 'EA Management Motivational Posters' on the way (as soon as I can make them up, haha.)

--
UPDATE 11/15/04 10:00 pm CST:
2 more 'EA Management Motivational Posters'.

Also, the 'EA Spouse' word spreads further into EA's territory, now talked about on Sims 2 board:

This guy has a continually updated web site about what is happening with EA

http://snarkyspot.blogspot.com/2004/11/ea-spouse-speaks-out-against-game.html

Well worth checking out for up-to-date info on the issue.

And here is a link to some EA motivational posters:
http://snarkyspot.blogspot.com/2004/11/ea-management-motivational-posters.html

On another topic, I started my new job today as a Coffee Braster (I took this instead of following a career in animation, I'm going to wait until this whole issue about work hours and pay gets sorted out, then we'll see)

--
UPDATE 11/16/04 12:42 am CST:

'EA Spouse' original post now has 2313 comments, news on page 30:

NEWS AGENCIES INFORMED

A copy of the below has been sent to the following email addresses:

Letters@newsweek.com

letters@msnbc.com

TechNews@MSNBC.com

Today@NBC.com


Nightly@NBC.com

niteline@abc.com

abc.news.magazines@abc.com

2020@abc.com

forbes@foxnews.com

newswatch@foxnews.com

oreilly@foxnews.com

Colmes@foxnews.com

cavuto@foxnews.com

newsroom@marketwatch.com

headlines@marketwatch.com


*contents of email*

Copies of this email have been sent to CNN, MSNBC, ABC news, CBS news and USAToday. I think that the labour practices of this and other software companies are comparable to those of third world countries. Sadly this is happening in California not China.

http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/11/11/news_6112998.html

http://www.eaovertimecase.com/

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/12/0537234&tid=123

http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/

http://www.livejournal.com/users/joestraitiff/368.html

http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1213869

http://www.penny-arcade.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=81073&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0&sid=91144d8243cbc8549189d69a0f739075

(Reply to this)


Also, 2 new '
EA Management Motivational Posters' @ 12 pm CST here on SnarkySpot later today.

--
UPDATE 11/16/04 9:00 am CST:

"Today, the customer is firmly in charge." 'EA Spouse' story noted on
'The Social Customer Manifesto'.

-
There are rumors that The New York Times is prepping a story on 'EA Spouse'. Still have to verify, we'll keep updating as things develop.

Also, 2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' @ 12 pm CST here on SnarkySpot.

--
UPDATE 11/16/04 11:00 am CST:
'EA Spouse' post is up to 2,368 comments, here's one from page
31:

Just A Gamer in South Africa

I know I'm a country and one or two oceans away, but we still get EA games down here and having played some of them, I'm going to throw my two cents in.

As an end consumer, I had a feeling something like this was happening. I'm involved in the advertising for a large retailer here in South Africa and an EA spokesperson came down here to give us all a pep-talk on punting EA products and what makes them "special": Licenses. Not that I didn't know they were full of shit before this but *shrug*

Anyway, the actual games themselves, NFS, MOHAA etc... are all, at face value, really good games. But it always feels like there's something missing. And I guess this article blows it all wide open: love. There's no love in the games. In the same way that if I'm busy writing copy for an ad and I don't enjoy writing it, I can garentee you no one will enjoy reading it. I'm sure the staff at EA are wonderful people and this isn't an attack on them and their efforts, it's an attack on the people who do this to them and force them to hate the things they onced love: making video games.

There is soul in video games. But not, apparently, in EA.

I for one will not be purchasing or doing any bussiness with EA until I hear of a fair resolution to this matter.


--
UPDATE 11/16/04 12:00 pm CST:
2 new '
EA Management Motivational Posters' are up.
-
There are rumors that The New York Times is prepping a story on 'EA Spouse'. Still have to verify, we'll keep updating as things develop.
--
UPDATE 11/16/04 2:05 pm CST:
Insider viewpoints on 'EA Spouse' at Game Girl Advance:

(Here's the opening snippet go to above link for full post)
Close to Home


So, as I've said many times before, I work as a game designer for Electronic Arts, where I recently helped put the finishing touches on The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, which was perhaps comperable to a lonely ocean voyage.

--
Check out the'EA Management Motivational Posters'.
-
There are rumors that The New York Times is prepping a story on 'EA Spouse'. Still have to verify, we'll keep updating as things develop.
--
UPDATE 11/16/04 5:55 pm CST:
EA Employees Unhappy, Attempt Class Action Lawsuit

Much of this post is re-hash of current news on 'EA Spouse', but I thought this comment was interesting:

A colleague once told me about a friend of his that owned an art gallery. She had great art and a great location, but couldn't make any money. She sold the business to someone else, only to watch it flourish and make those people tons of money, with the same location, same products, and same staff. She later bought the gallery back, only to see it completely fail again. The only main difference was that she paid the employees $6 an hour, and the other owners paid them $10 an hour.

Happy employees equal productive employees, I suppose.

Derek (http://www.nashvillesrock.com/)


I would tend to agree with what he wrote. Although I do realize that salaries can be some of the biggest overhead a company (large or small) faces, there is definitely a low-end salary level you can reach and see negative effects on workers. Free time away from work is increasingly valuable to everyone, and if you force that away from people without any form of compensation... well, EA is now seeing the end result of that practice. -Paul
--
Check out the'EA Management Motivational Posters'. (2 brand new motivational posters up sometime tomorrow (11/17/04) morning.)
-
There are rumors that The New York Times is prepping a story on 'EA Spouse'. Still have to verify, we'll keep updating as things develop.
--
UPDATE 11/16/04 10:00 pm CST:
What the hell. Here are 2 brand new 'EA Management Motivational Posters'. (2 more up tomorrow (11/17/04) morning before noon CST.)
--
UPDATE 11/17/04 10:00 am CST:
'EA Spouse' LJ post is up to 2,560 comments. Here is an open letter from the
IDGA commented on page 33.

This is only the beginning and we're still forming plans. We encourage
everyone to get involved. We ask that you contact us (qol@igda.org) to
volunteer, provide ideas, success stories, resources and any other relevant information.
In particular, the IGDA is requesting details on active and pending lawsuits
to add to our reference list online.

We have no doubt that with everyone's help and contribution we can save
the industry and art form we are all so passionate about.


Note: This letter is also available online at
http://www.igda.org/qol/open_letter.php
and can be easily forwarded,
anonymously if desired.


The IGDA Board of Directors,

Bob Bates
Jason Della Rocca
Alex Dunne
John Feil
Mitzi McGilvray
Brian Reynolds
Jesse Schell
Kathy Schoback


Related Links and Resources
===========================

White Paper: "Quality of Life in the Game Industry: Challenges and Best
Practices"
http://www.igda.org/qol/whitepaper.php


Event: Quality of Life Summit: An IGDA Think-Tank
http://www.cmpevents.com/GD05/a.asp?option=C&V=11&SessID=4063


IGDA Quality of Life Advocacy Site
http://www.igda.org/qol


Winning Workplaces - Competitive Advantages
http://www.winningworkplaces.org/library/research/advantages.php


Article: "It's Not Just Abusive. It's Stupid."
http://enginesofmischief.com/blogs/ramblings/archives/2004/11/11/643


Article: "Joe Straitiff's Journal"
http://www.livejournal.com/users/joestraitiff/2004/11/10/


Article: "EA: The Human Story"
http://www.igda.org/articles/easpouse_qol.php


Great Place to Work Institute
http://greatplacetowork.com/


Article: "Employees readying class-action lawsuit against EA"
http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/11/11/news_6112998.html


Article: "Developer working conditions hide a cancer in the games industry"
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?section_name=dev&aid=3721


Article: "Programmer Sues VU Games Over Excessive Work Hours"
http://games.slashdot.org/games/04/06/30/1558238.shtml


Top 6 Work-Life Balance Books
http://humanresources.about.com/cs/worklifefamily/tp/worklife.htm


IGDA Global Chapters Index
http://www.igda.org/chapters/


Production Special Interest Group
http://www.igda.org/production/


Human Resources Special Interest Group
http://www.igda.org/hr/
--
UPDATE 11/17/04 3:50 pm CST:
The 'EA Spouse' mantra continues it's spread, now being spotted at:
Totalgaming.net
Room 101 Blog
IGDA 'Quality of Life' Forums (some good posts here, 6 pages worth.)
fuckedcompany.com (these are just troll comments, nothing relevant, unless you're a troll...)

gamasutra.com
-
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up this as of this morning.
--

UPDATE 11/17/04 5:05 pm CST:
IGDA blasts industry's "horrible working conditions"
--
UPDATE 11/18/04 10:35 am CST:
A new comment was added around 5am this morning to our 'EA Management' posters:


Great work! I hope to soon see enraged *former* EA games buyers with picket signs and a bullhorn in front of EA Corporate HQs. Just the thought gives me wood ;-)

I'm glad peeps are enjoying them, so I've added 2 brand stinking new 'EA Management Motivational Posters'. I have several more in the pipe, so I'll just keep on popping them out there until this blog virtually crumbles under the sheer weight of dark, bitter, truth-tinged sarcasm. :>

More discussions are popping up on 'EA Spouse'. Here is one with a lot of comments:
The Next Level Forum
--
UPDATE 11/18/04 12:15 pm CST:
'EA Spouse' continues to stomp its way across the net, now at:
Toykiopia.com Forums
QUOTE (Phatty D @ Nov 12 2004, 08:55 AM)
Read this yesterday. Definitely sounds real.

This sounds simply like a very poorly run project. I have heard plenty of horror stories about working at EA, but this particular scenario seems like it could have played out just about anywhere under the right (read: wrong) circumstances. (...)

It sounds quite feasible as well, considering the people that I know that work there. Apparently there are some studios that aren't run this way, though the Straitiff journal to which Waka linked is a Sims franchise under Maxis, and I'd thought Maxis was exempt from this kind of stuff. It's all pretty scary.

Reading through the EA_SPOUSE livejournal's comments, there are some interesting things about Cali's "exempt" law about which I'd like to know more. Primarily that the exempt positions require that there is a minimum salary that works out to a healthy hourly rate. and that the exempt roles have not applied to other analogous roles in other entertainment industries.

In short, it is possible that EA may face drastic repercussions if these turn out to be legally enforceable, *and* if enough of their employees organized to act on it.

--
UPDATE 11/18/04 6:00 pm CST:
EA Not One of the 100 Best Places to Work?
--
UPDATE 11/18/04 7:30 pm CST:
Reality Panic: Sad Irony of Working Conditions
"I have to laugh at myself a little since it's almost 2am and I'm doing research on overtime pay, work/life balance, unionization and labor law... Given the complete frenzy over the ea_spouse post (which I'm guessing every game developer on the planet has read), I just had to do more research on union pros/cons, etc." (rest of article at link above.)
--
UPDATE 11/18/04 10:05 pm CST:
2 New 'EA Management Motivational Posters' added.

--

(Click pic for larger image. Software developer Joe Straitiff says computer game giant Electronic Arts recently fired him in part for refusing to work 80 hours a week for months on end without proper overtime pay. He now spends more time with his 20-month-old daughter, Autumn.)

To Joe Straitiff, it was clear that video game giant Electronic Arts expected its employees to more or less live at the office.

His manager hung a neon sign that said "Open 7 days" and "constantly sent out e-mails to his whole team, saying that he'd see them over the weekend," said Straitiff, who worked as a software developer at EA for about a year and a half until being fired a few weeks ago. Straitiff says his termination owed partly to his refusal to put in 80-hour weeks for months on end.

(full article here.)

--
UPDATE 11/19/04 10:40 am CST:
Bigkid: EA Spouse Protests Exploitation
--
(UPDATE 11/19/04 8:40 pm CST: 2 new EA motivational posters added.)
--
UPDATE 11/20/04 10:15 am CST:
The 'EA Spouse' post on LiveJournal has over 2,800+ comments now, here is a link on one of the recent comments that points to a slew of online coverage.

Also, here is a recent article at malevolent.com called 'suffering for their arts':
Similar issues pervade any software company where management has overlooked (or chosen to ignore) the key fact about their industry: producing software is a creative process. A few talented, experienced, motivated people will always outperform any number of underskilled muppets; good staff aren’t interchangeable ‘resources’.
--
Atmospheric Musings has a post on the EA story, and a link to a LA Times article. Since the Times requires registration, here is a copy (with help from bugmenot.com) of the article from the L.A. Times:

Working Too Hard in an Industry of Fun and Games
*As budgets and expectations at video game firms explode, programmers feel the crunch of long hours and little rest.


By Alex Pham, Times Staff Writer

Carnations and lilies were the final indignity.

The bouquet, which arrived at her door on a sunny Saturday in September, were from her fiance, a video game programmer who was working his eighth consecutive 72-hour week.

Far from being flattered, the woman poured out her anger and frustration in a 2,000-word essay that she posted on the Internet under the pseudonym "ea_spouse."

"The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach," she wrote. "My happy supportive smile is running out."

Within 48 hours, ea_spouse had received more than 1,000 sympathetic responses — from colleagues of her fiance at Electronic Arts Inc. and from men and women across the fast-growing $25-billion video game industry.

Links to her plaint rocketed through in-boxes at game studios nationwide and touched a nerve among the young, mostly male programmers whose engineering prowess brings ever more elaborate monsters and car chases to television screens and computer monitors.

"People regularly joke about forgetting their wives' names, but it's not funny," said one senior developer, who asked that his name not be published. "When I read ea_spouse's article, it just hit me."

Since its founding as a garage industry in the mid-1970s, the video game business has been fueled by a dicey mix of testosterone and caffeine. Programmers routinely boast about napping under their desks or of forgoing sleep for days on end. Now, as those workers mature along with their industry, many are grappling with failed relationships, neglected families, weight gain and anxiety attacks. They complain that as budgets and expectations for games explode, so do the workloads for those making them.

Game companies don't dispute that their employees put in long hours but contend that the workload is balanced with good pay, benefits and perks.

"Everyone who works in a game studio knows that the hard work that comes with [finishing] games isn't unique to EA," said Electronics Arts spokeswoman Tammy Schachter. "As the industry leader, EA generates a lot of attention on issues common to all game developers."

Nonetheless, more than half of game developers expect to leave the industry within 10 years, according to an April survey by the International Game Developers Assn. Nearly 60% of those questioned said crunch periods were normal, and 47% said they weren't compensated for overtime hours. Only 3% said their employers counted all the overtime hours they had worked.

"For game developers, never has the pressure to work hard and fast been stronger than it is today," the report concluded.

That ea_spouse lashed out at Electronic Arts is, in part, a function of EA's size. With 5,100 workers, the Redwood City, Calif.-based publisher is the world's biggest. But it isn't the only company that expects its developers to work 60 to 80 hours a week in the weeks and months leading up to the final release of games — referred to as crunch time. Developers from other companies tell similar stories.

Their descriptions of life behind the computer contrast with the image promoted by big game companies and popularized during the tech boom of the 1990s. True, 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."

Although ea_spouse has become the online standard bearer for games workers, the battle actually began in July, when current and former workers sued EA over allegations that they were owed overtime pay. The company declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"Unfortunately this kind of thing is prevalent throughout the industry," said Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Assn. in San Francisco. "There are a handful of studios that put an emphasis on work-life balance, but those are few and far between."

What irritated ea_spouse most, she said, was that Electronic Arts appeared to exploit her fiance's love of video games. Like many now working in the industry, he grew up as part of the first generation to start playing video games at a young age.

"It's so difficult, because we love the game industry," ea_spouse said during an interview. "Games have been a part of our lives for so long."

But, she said, "he hasn't been home for dinner to stay for months. It's a constant stress. I can't see him suffer without suffering myself. I noticed a change in him. All his interests have gone away. He's constantly on the verge of getting sick. He's pale and unresponsive."

For months, she kept a meticulous record of her fiance's hours and work habits.

In neat handwriting, she jotted entries like "August 28, 2004 — Going home early, 8:30 p.m."

She acknowledged that both she and her fiance understood long hours came with the job. Neither, though, was prepared for what they said were weeks on end without a break. "They increased the mandatory hours to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., six days a week," ea_spouse said. "Then it went up to seven days. They were just so pompous about it."

Part of the industry's work ethic grows out of its early days when solo programmers regularly pulled all-nighters to bring their games to life.

"There's a cowboy mentality and a bravado about working 60 to 80 hours a week, drinking Jolt Cola to stay awake and being a game development machine," Della Rocca of the game developers association said. "Some companies exploit that and pressure people to work long hours. The implication is that if you're not willing, there are 10 other people lined up outside ready to take your place."

The pressure on game publishers to churn out hits has increased too. Most big game publishers are publicly traded firms that have to meet ambitious Wall Street expectations. As games become more sophisticated, they can cost millions of dollars to produce. Also, many games are based on expensive movie licenses that limit publishers' time to develop titles.

Some contrast the non-union game industry with the heavily unionized movie business, which often employs former game workers to produce digital special effects and computer animation work. The Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., and Warner Bros. have labor contracts that require them to pay overtime for every hour worked beyond 40 hours a week.

"In computer graphics for feature animation and television, pretty much everybody gets overtime," said Steve Hulett, business representative for the Animation Guild, a union for television and movie animators. "The difference is that we have labor contracts covering motion picture work but the game industry is relatively new. And labor law is so badly written that they fall into a gray area."

Indeed. Most programmers at EA are classified as salaried employees exempt from overtime pay. The lawsuit filed in July disputes that categorization, saying that game developers should be paid on an hourly basis because they don't have managerial responsibilities.

Instead, many game companies lavish other goodies on their workers, mostly free food. For example, the flowers sent to ea_spouse were part of a company-paid effort to boost morale: Employees were given a card from a florist and told to pick from four bouquets to send to their wives or girlfriends.

"What got me mad was that the flowers were so random," said ea_spouse, who still plans to marry the EA employee. "Instead of giving their workers time off, they try to buy them off with frivolous things. I didn't want flowers. I wanted my fiance."

--
UPDATE 11/21/04 1:20 am CST:
2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' are up this morning.
--
UPDATE 11/21/04 7:00 pm CST:
Rotten Tomatoes Forums - EA: The Human Story
MIT Tech Review - Gamer Overtime
--
UPDATE 11/21/04 7:50 pm CST: 2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' added tonight.
--
UPDATE 11/21/04 8:20 pm CST:
Slashdot: New York Times on EA Games (click link for full Slashdot coverage)
"The New York Times has a story investigating the EA Games accusations that we reported on before. They use the phrase "toiling like galley slaves" to describe EA's programmers, and note that EA has a formal policy of hiring young, naive people who are willing to work long hours for low pay."

2 new 'EA Management Motivational Posters' added tonight.

--
UPDATE 11/23/04 3:20 pm CST:
More chatter on the 'EA Spouse' story on a Medal of Honor:Pacific Assault thread.
--
UPDATE 12/07/04 3:50 pm CST:
Slashdot | EA Reconsiders Overtime Position

==

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

6 Comments:

  • At 3:26 PM, November 11, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    and you live in a non-union state. Goooooo Tejas!

     
  • At 7:36 PM, November 11, 2004, Blogger Monkeyman said…

    lol. True. But federal labor laws still apply, I would imagine.

     
  • At 10:06 PM, November 12, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    An additional article on the stupidity of crunch mode can be found at Mischievous Ramblings

     
  • At 1:24 PM, November 15, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I work for Atari in Dallas, Texas. Our last three projects have suffered from the same 'death march' crunch that was described in the ea_spouse blog entry. It's almost as if management from the different gaming companies got together to decide how to 'manage' their people. 13 people were laid off from here about a month ago. Many of them vocally opposed the hours policy. The subtext to the firings was clearly 'shut up or loose your job'.

    Thanks for the updates.

     
  • At 2:18 PM, November 15, 2004, Blogger Monkeyman said…

    Thanks for taking a moment to share your experiences. This is a very widespread problem. Later today I will post contact information for Texas State Senators, letting our government know how we feel can't hurt.

     
  • At 10:02 AM, April 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have only just started out in the games industry, as Art Director & Main Conceptual Artist for a small videogames company. Like everyone else on this board, I grew up playing games, I've dreamt of one day working in the videogame industry and I've worked my ass off to finally live that dream and the young(ish) age of 23.

    Horror stories about bastard management practices in companies such as E.A. are things I thought I'd never see. As it has been stated already, people in this industry work here because its something they love to do. I'm glad the employees of E.A. are voicing their frustrations with the company and the industry. It has hit a nerve with a lot of people, and like these people I'm also taking a stand on the matter.

    I, too, boycott the products made by E.A. until I hear a positive resolution of this problem. Down with these bastards turning people's dreams and hard work to hell. We haven't worked hard to get to where we are, just to have some scamming company screw us around.

     

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