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EA Games: The Human Story

Zonk posted more than 10 years ago | from the programmers-have-to-sleep,-remember? dept.

The Almighty Buck 1143

An anonymous reader writes "An Electronic Arts employee spouse speaks out against company crunch time practices. From the post: "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?"

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Quit your bellyaching (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787777)

If you don't like your husband's job, get him to quit or leave him. Plenty of people would kill for a job with a major game company.

Re:Quit your bellyaching (0, Troll)

FosterKanig (645454) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788020)

Sounds like the husband can't keep his bitch in line.

#gh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787782)

not in bush's America !!

Sports games (-1, Offtopic)

RandoX (828285) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787791)

I like watching sports, but I never understood the draw to sports games. Maybe it's just me.

Re:Sports games (-1, Offtopic)

millwall (622730) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787827)

I like watching sports, but I never understood the draw to sports games. Maybe it's just me.

These random sentences (that vaguely has something to do with the articles) that are being posted, in attempts to claim "first post" without trolling.

Re:Sports games (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787836)

It's all about living out your fantasies and being able to play your sporting hero.

Of course they're hopelessly unrealistic, there's no g-force when driving a racing car, there's no wind rushing through your hair while you run around a football pitch etc..

Re:Sports games (1)

rayde (738949) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787853)

it's surprising how well a sport like football translates to a video game... there is so much strategy involved in choosing plays that it makes for a very fun video game.

some sports don't seem to translate as well. I havn't played many soccer games or baseball games that are as entertaining to me as a football game. but perhaps it's just because it's my favorite sport to watch anyway.

ea_spouse (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787797)

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?


WHAAAAAA! (-1, Troll)

Flamingcheeze (737589) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787867)

I have a job, and it's hard!

QUIT! See how much you like the unemployment line. How many people here would kill for that job at EA? You make me want to puke.

I know some Slashdotters lean toward socialism, but this post is ridiculous.

Re:WHAAAAAA! (3, Funny)

richy freeway (623503) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787920)

It's a copy of the article numbnuts.

Re:WHAAAAAA! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787934)

QUIT! See how much you like the unemployment line. How many people here would kill for that job at EA? You make me want to puke.

Working 12 hours for 7 days a week for months. Yes, I certainly would kill someone if they tried to make me do it.

Re:WHAAAAAA! (5, Insightful)

RareHeintz (244414) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787979)

Here's a news flash: Humane labor practices != socialism. Jackass.

Play games at hom (2, Funny)

pranay (724362) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787953)

I know atleast one profession now, where people don't go home and play video games to relax. It must feel like they were putting overtime :O

George Broussard of 3d realms' take on this (4, Interesting)

celerityfm (181760) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787802)

Instead of working on Duke Nu^H^H^H^H-- Good Ol' George B chimed in the yesterday [shacknews.com] regarding this article and said "There's a lot of truth in there, especially when talking about large scale, corporate game development, which is most of it these days."

Interesting :(

Chinese Bosses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787821)

Electronic Arts must have many Chinese bosses. They tend to brutalize their workers.

sleep? (2, Funny)

unbiasedbystander (660703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787808)

What is SLEEP? Is that a new programming language? Does anybody have a link where I could look up some SLEEP resources, so I can get ahead of the game?

Serioously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787809)

if they dont start treating the software people better I'm going to intertrobe.


sports: (-1, Offtopic)

DMJC-L (800240) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787811)

crap in reallife, crap in a game! back to the computer playing ut2k4 and some random RTS! this is slashdot! nobody plays sport here!

always complaining (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787817)

They get to work at a game manufacturer stop complaining!

Why Can They Do This??? (5, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787823)

Cause every programmer at one point or another wants to make video games. Don't like your job? Leave... there are 500 people that want to be in your place, anyway!

That's why most of the industry is young. Us 'older people' with families realize that they can't be in the gaming industry. I have a wife, kid, and another kid on the way. I'm not about to sacrifice my family so that I can work on video games. Sure, it was a dream of mine, but that's what the industry is about. Long hours, low pay, no pats on the back. If you don't like it, there is hundreds willing to take your spot.

Re:Why Can They Do This??? (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787919)

Ahhhh... the innocence of youth... when the "paying for the baby/mortgage is due/wife's birthday/need a decent vehicle/dentist says 'braces'/house needs a roof/et al." comes along, they always sell out, it is so shweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Cartman: "Screw you guys, I'm goin' home!"

Re:Why Can They Do This??? (4, Interesting)

YetAnotherName (168064) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787951)

Cause every programmer at one point or another wants to make video games.

That's what got me. Classic Atari system, and then games on personal computers. I just had to get me some of that.

That lead into a computer science degree and then software jobs. But not a single one has been writing video games. There's been business systems, graphics, video, weather visualization, databases, knowledge management, embedded real-time, and a bunch of stuff in between. Enough experience to work on a game, but not one game, ever.

And after reading that article, I don't think I mind!

*yawn* (0, Redundant)

Audigy (552883) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787830)

This story is truly no different than most things I've witnessed in the game/software industry. Deadlines must be adhered to at any cost. The company will not hire additional workers, so they run their developers and testers ragged, especially toward the end of a project.

This is nothing new, as I'm sure many people here will attest to.

It's great that someone's able to speak out about it... but it won't change anything.

Re:*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787933)

Hell, what the article describes is no different than most people with FLSA-exempt jobs are subjected to. With status and higher pay comes a higher demand for your time and responsibility to finish your projects within a deadline without getting overtime pay. See, "salaried" means you're getting paid for what you do, not the number of hours you do it in. If you don't like it, get a nice hourly job that pays crap and quit whining about it.

Challenge everything? (0)

Lonath (249354) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787833)

To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you:

Haha funny. Well, sort of.

Re:Challenge everything? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787878)

Hey look, Lonath spotted something that should be apparent to anyone with half a brain!

Way to go, Kid!

Hell, the rat-brain-in-a-dish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787948)

Hell, the rat-brain-in-a-dish on the desk beside me busily playing Flight Simulator, pointed it out.

Game Quality (4, Insightful)

VistaBoy (570995) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787838)

Also, I'd rather wait a couple more weeks (or months) for a game than to get it right now but have to patch it because it's really buggy or missing promised features.

Take your time, EA, and make a really good game. The people will buy it if it's quality.

Re:Game Quality (1)

leonmergen (807379) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788042)

Take your time, EA, and make a really good game. The people will buy it if it's quality. Yes, but it will not increase sales, and the development time will be longer, ergo more expensive, ergo less profit.

What Type Of Story Is This? (-1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787841)

Any /. reader who has worked at a software company knows that these things go on before every major release. I glanced quickly at the article and noticed 8 hour days, 6 day weeks for a while before crunch time. That's 48 hours. How many Slashdotters work at least a 48 hour week EVERY week, with no overtime pay? Raise you hand. See all those hands... it's common. And crunch time? Even non-programmers face periods of time like this. My company is moving right now and we've had to put in long hours for the past month to get everything in order.

It's just an inevitable consequence of working in this industry, and most of us understood that even before going to school for it. Get over it... there's a lot of IT people that would LOVE to work at EA, even with the long hours. Hell, there's many that don't even have a job right now. If your husband doesn't like it, tell him to quit and find a different job. That simple..

you didn't glance hard enough (2, Informative)

jbellis (142590) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787907)

"Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad... When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm."

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (4, Informative)

KaiserSoze (154044) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787917)

Further down TFA you would see that the 8 hour, 6 day weeks were only the beginning. Next came 12 hour, 6 day weeks. Finally, that was upped to 12 hour, 7 day weeks. Now, I work on a major software product team, and even in our worst hours/days before ship we didn't have to pull those kind of shifts. Maybe a weekend, maybe a long night, but never multiple 85 hour weeks. Please RTFA and then post.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788015)

The fact remains that if they don't like the policies of the company, they can move on to another job. There's plenty of programmers out there without jobs right now that WOULD work those hours.

Another way to look at this. Since they consider 48 hours more than usual (the first crunch time), it's safe to assume they usually work 40 hour weeks. Let's say that's for 42 weeks a year. Let's say 6 48 hour weeks and 2 85 hour weeks (missing 2 weeks are vacation). That averages out to about 42 hours / week over the year. Not bad, IMHO.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787938)

He's been working 89 for some time (considering the odd saturday off at 6:30). The 48 hours didn't last for long.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (5, Informative)

ebh (116526) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787959)

No, ninety hour weeks are NOT an inevitable consequence of working in this industry.

45-50 hours, maybe. But >80 hour workweeks are usually seen only at startups where if a major deadline is missed, the company fails. And in those cases, the people put up with it because there's usually more than just a wage involved--working long hours at a startup can make you millions in the end.

Established companies pushing their staff that hard is not only morally wrong, it's bad business. Sure, EA makes a lot of money, but how much more could they make if they didn't have such high turnover?

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787967)

Get over it... there's a lot of IT people that would LOVE to work at EA, even with the long hours.

And a lot more people COULD work at AA, if they had any clue about human resources, management or planning.

This 'get over it' mentality is quite dangerous. Sure, you can stand by and watch how people get exploited systematically. Right up till the point where it happens to you. It's just not right for any job to make a family life impossible - and if it must, people should be compensated properly.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (1)

Audigy (552883) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787988)

This is the type of story that is spammed to everywhere on the Internet within 24 hours by said "ea_spouse" ... she was spamming all the LiveJournal gamer communities last night.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787998)

48 A hours a week..... HA HA!

When I worked for now defunct Acclaim I often worked over 100 hours a week during crunch time. And crunch would go for months... not weeks. My average for work week (averaged over a year and 1/2 of crunch time from one project to the next) was 75 hours a week. When we complained, we were told that a 60 hour work week was expected as normal for exempt empoyess. I went from crunch on one project, to crunch on the ports, to crunch on its sucessor.

We even worked crunch through 100 degree heat in the office as the studio was remodeled and the ACs were down.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (2, Insightful)

icedivr (168266) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788001)

Did you actually finish the article? The 48 hour weeks were merely the tip of the iceberg. Yes, 48 hours a week isn't that uncommon, but six full days a week? I think the point of the article is that "crunch time" was not the extraordinary circumstance we all occasionally endure, but a way to manipulate people's schedules without any additional remuneration. It was clear that "crunch" was standard operating procedure.

The 85+ hour weeks combined with the "take it or leave it attitude", that's insane.

Re:What Type Of Story Is This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10788011)

I've gotta tell ya, 48 hours would seem like a vacation. I worked for a prominent financial institution and regularly put in 100 hour weeks. During a large migration, I tipped the clock at 136 hours. Now I'm a government contractor and it's wonderful. I'm not even allowed in the building more than 60 hours a week!

The problem of crushing overtime hours comes from two things; (1) a failure of project management that set unrealistic expectations for what can be accomplished in a given amount of time, generally without any input from those that actually know what it takes to get a job done and (2) the willingness of those in the trenches to actually work those kinds of hours. If either of those factors was not present we would not see so many coders with so many dead houseplants.

I'm a project manager and one of the key metrics I keep for myself (though no one else seems to care about it) is Overtime Performance Index. How much overtime do the people on my projects have to do in order to hit deadlines or alternately, how much dead time is there where my resources are not being productive on my project. This should be as close to 0 as possible, with a +/- 4% margin.

And socialsim raises it's ugly head. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787846)

Get another job for gods sake, or get used to their boots on your back, but for the love of god and all things holy, stop your frigging whining!

Not surprised (4, Interesting)

Blackwulf (34848) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787848)

Being as someone who is currently in the software industry but not in the game industry, I've heard many things about the "crunch time" policies of game makers, especially that of EA. Every time I'm in an interview, the first question I ask is the "crunch time" policy.

At the last interview I did for a game studio (which I, unfortunately, did not get the job for) they asked "Oh so you've heard the EA horror stories, haven't you"...Granted they were a much smaller developer for cell phone games and their crunch time wasn't nearly as long as the whole project, but apparently what EA is doing is more of the norm instead of the exception.

Which sometimes makes me rethink the whole notion I had when I was in elementary school saying "I wanna write video games when I grow up!" I enjoy living, and there's a point where you have to choose either to "live to work" or "work to live" - I prefer the latter.

damnit (1)

crtfdgk (807485) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787849)

Livejournal...damnit! If this is on my cluster its going down for awhile...

ITS IN THE GAME! (-1, Offtopic)

Oct (821259) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787852)

ok, so many of you probably dont like EA Sports games, but personally, Im a sports fan/athlete and a computer geek. Odd combo...i know. Anywho, Ive been playing their Madden Football 2k5 for a couple days on franchise mode, and i have to say it IS better than in the past (i remember madden 64, that game was fun too i guess)...but there is something REALLY anoying about it....on every option that is new about the game...it says NEW in a big lettered yellow tag. It almost makes me wanna not play it. One other thing that needs improvement, the anouncing. Its like the John madden anouncing of console football games, oh wait it is :P

I don't know what to say. (5, Interesting)

scribblej (195445) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787859)

I've come to accept perpetual crunch time, unpaid overtime, and no comp days as "industry standard."

I guess that makes me part of the problem. Reading this article woke me up a little... maybe I should be getting those things. I wonder how many programmers are in the situation of having little to no 'crunch time' and paid overtime and comp days? Especially paid overtime -- who gets that? Anyone?

And the minute you complain... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10788044)

...about being slave-driven in a sweatshop, you'll be eliminated and your job outsourced to an Indian programmer who'll gladly work twice as long hours as you, and for less than a third of your pay.

Two solutions (1, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787860)

well, first of all, whing on the internet never achieved anything(or all /.ers, myself included would be overacheivers). As I see it, you have 2 solutions: quit or organize
It's not like the CEO is secretly stealing millions in retirement accounts or anything, yes he is making a lot of money, but you knew that before you took the job. You don't like the working conditions there, don't work there. I highly doubt that someone who works at EA games can't get a decent job somewhere else. My bet is that he works there because he loves(or loved) what he was doing. It's not like it's a 19th century coal mine or anything, he won't die at work, so I fail to see how these working conditions are at all opressive.
If he still loves the companyh but doesn't like it's ceo, then he can also organize a strike, let the company know you mean business. Though honestly you are unlikely to invoke much sympathy over a white collar worker's problem at a video game company....

Re:Two solutions (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787956)

It's worth noting that the company is in breech of employment laws and could be sued. (Either individually or as a class-action suit.) Many companies abuse salaried workers, because those workers don't understand that overtime is not necessary "part of the salary". If workers start fighting back by asking for employment laws to be enforced, the industry "standards" WILL change.

Boo Hoo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787869)

My husband with a salaried job in the U.S. has to work a long time and it makes me sad. Boo Hoo.

Why not, I don't know, get a new job?

you dont like how they treat their employees? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787875)

go work somewhere else.

btw, madden football rules. i've bought every year since 1995

Simple problems,simple solutions (5, Interesting)

Rocketboy (32971) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787881)

A. Incompetant management. No new story here, and we've all suffered under it.
B. Outsource the whiners to a country where, at least if they do whine, no one here will hear them. Also something many of us have lived through.

No, they aren't going to outsource management but thanks for the suggestion. In my experience, that's like throwing gasoline on a fire. You think the bastards in *this* country are greedy incompetants, wait till you see some of the lads and lasses Over There.

Simple solution? Don't do it. At one point in my career I was good enough at fomenting revolts that even the Indian and Russian contractors joined in. The key is to pick the part of the deathmarch where hanging management actually sounds like a reasonable solution. A few weeks of 12-hour days, seven days a week makes any way out welcome. :)


WTF?!?! (2)

Killjoy_NL (719667) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787885)

Isn't there some sort of government body in the US that regulates stuff like this??

Is this even legal to let people work for 12 hours every day ??

If my company here tried that, they would have a big fat lawsuit slapped on 'm before they could twist their nipples

Re:WTF?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787963)

Ever go to a hospital? Try 16 hour shifts with no
breaks. Ever go to the emergency room? Some of those people on there work 16, 24, even 36 hour shifts.

And you rely on these people for your LIFE.

If you are going to call your congressman/lawyer/senator, don't babble on about the gaming industry messing up hours, babble on about the fact that the next time you step into a hospital, the person treating you may not have slept in the last 24 hours.

Re:WTF?!?! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787999)

No. We in america are "free" to work as long as we can. Our employers are also "free" to make that a requirement of employment. Isn't it great in the land of the "free".

Re:WTF?!?! (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788014)

would that be a first or second degree titty twister?

BTW - if you 'sub-contract' you work the hours you need to; i do consulting and the demand outweighs the amount of capable people thus creating a "busy as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest" syndrome, where valued customers require emergency work, I will work nights and weekends, but they WILL PAY!

In the case of game programming as was previously stated, there are a number asses waiting for those cherished seats, and even if you're good, they will replace you in a heartbeat with 2 mediocre coders that will work endless hours for cheetos and jolt/bawls.

Re:WTF?!?! (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788021)

Essentially, yes it is legal. Exempt workers are just that. Exempt from overtime as a result of having to work more than 40 hours in a 168 hour week.

You could certainly sue, but you can forget finding a lawyer to take it on contingency. Hope you're already rich!

Negotiation skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787886)

Sounds like someone allowed themselves to get trampled with this job. I'm guessing that you wanted to work for a game company so bad that you allowed these guys to walk all over you just so you can keep your job. Do what everyone else does, if you don't feel like you're properly compensated for you job, find a new one.

Derek's view on EA... (1)

mbsurf (791581) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787890)

Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an softwatory productionist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an softwatory productionist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?

EA's response to this story... (4, Funny)

DragonPup (302885) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787891)

...would probably be something like this [despair.com]

better updates (1)

spangineer (764167) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787895)

I for one know that I would be more likely to purchase and play EA sports computer games if they would be updated less frequently - as former fan of the NHL and NFL series, I got tired of minor revisions and facelifts every year that resulted in nearly identical products. Give the software engineers more time so they can make real improvements, and then maybe I'll get back into sports games...

Games are no different that other software (1)

gosand (234100) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787896)

This happens in all kinds of software houses, although those hours do seem pretty excessive. I love how programmers deride "process" initiatives (like the CMM) but these are exactly the things that can help in situations like this.

Note that I said help, they aren't guaranteed to solve anything. But the point of models like the CMM are to better manage your projects. If you were up and running at CMM level 2, your senior management would have the visibility into the projects at a high level (via SQA). Of course, this is only if it is done properly, you can certainly fake good behavior just to get some type of CMM level assessment. There is also nothing to prevent said senior management to approve of burning out the employees, but at least then you will know where you stand. But managing your projects and processes effectively is a management decision, and if management enforces those kinds of hours, then you may be out of luck. I would take that kind of job as long as you can, then leave. It doesn't sound like there are any alternatives.

True, but the games _industry_ is different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787970)

I've worked in the software industry in various positions with small companies and large companies, and the people that I've worked with have worked in different places as well. One thing that I consistently hear is that the games industry is particularly tough with long hours, especially large houses like EA.

The games industry seems like the place to be... provided that you are a John Carmack or some other wizkid that gets to run their own company. Otherwise, it is 80+ hour work weeks.

Game industry (-1)

Unoti (731964) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787898)

For most software developers the game industry is like working in the movie industry would be for most actors. I don't hear actors complaining very often about their long hours.

Also, doesn't EA typically give their employees a couple of months off after such an extravaganza?

This person's husband could quite easily get a job writing scripts for Microsoft Excel or something less taxing.

You're still making $25+ / hour (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10787900)

$90+ k / year? And you're bitching? Poor baby. If you don't want the stress, take a part time retail or food service job.

Oh wait, you're making 20 times that much money, and you like it. Live with it.

good lord (2, Funny)

Sophrosyne (630428) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787901)

yet another reason not to get married.

Re:good lord (1)

Unoti (731964) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787941)

No kidding. How much do you want to bet his "significant other" causes more stress for him than working at his dream job?

Illegal (5, Insightful)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787903)

AFAIK you cannot be forced to work overtime. Thus employees could have said no. If there we dismissed then that would be grounds for a law suit. EA may treat their employees poorly but it seems that the employees treat themselves just as poorly. Stand up for yourselves.

Can't stand the heat? (2, Funny)

RasendeRutje (829555) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787904)

What's that saying?
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Maybe Mr. Moan should seek a job a MSFT. Where deadlines and quality seems non-existent?

Thanks Idiots! (1)

the0ther (720331) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787905)

Thanks to people like this guy we are all expected to grin and bear it when our 40 hour work week turns into 50 or 60 or 70 hours a week. Screw that. I'd rather be dead. I wish these overachievers would grow a pair and tell their employers to go suck eggs.

Not the only place (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787909)

I've seen that type of crunch at other businesses. Never a good idea. Funny thing is, it's more expensive to do things this way - you need to constantly be hiring and training - very expensive activities given they have no direct return on investment.

Oh, and paying your accountants enough to get the books cooked in case of an audit ("Yes, sir, we pay each and every one of them at minimum $90k, or they simply don't work overtime.") is probably not cheap, either.

While I appreciate ea_spouse's candor and warning, I have to wonder if s/he (not sure which gender) is taking the next step and talking to California authorities about an audit. Gotta make those accountants work for their money...

This is why I left the states (5, Interesting)

smutt (35184) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787914)

Call me lazy but working 80 hours of week while only getting paid for 40 is just stupid exploitation in my book.

Now I live in the EU where it's mostly against the law to make me work more than 40 hours a week without paying me for it. Of course I still work probably 50-60 hour weeks. Atleast it's my choise now and if I want to slow down I can.


Creative Commons Anonymous Attribution (1)

echocharlie (715022) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787921)

Interesting that this is distributed under the Creative Commons license. The license type [creativecommons.org] used is as follows:

By Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike

The author obviously wants anonymity, so why the attribution requirement? Just seems strange...

But you libertarian coders are too smart (2, Insightful)

jdcook (96434) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787925)

to form a union. Only the lazy and the stupid need unions, right? I'm sure that the free market will ensure you are treated fairly.

I haven't had this much schadenfreude since hearing about O'Reilly's loofah.

What's sad (1)

Tebriel (192168) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787926)

I totally sympathize, being a developer myself. However, what's sad is that they sit there and take it. Do something. If the working conditions are that awful, and the bosses refuse to change, then LEAVE. You owe it to yourself. Yes, it's a decent paycheck and such, but if you don't think you're being compensated fairly for what you're doing, you owe it to yourself to look someplace else for another job.

Doesn't Matter (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787930)

If they can't get American workers to work for 80+ hours a week with no overtime, they sure as Hell can get immigrant workers to do it for half the price either overseas or with the help of 'work' passports.

We should be thankful that they've not chosen to go overseas yet.

Just Say No (1)

notthepainter (759494) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787939)

A few years ago I interviewed at a Massachusetts company. Right on 128 in the thick of things. The interview went well, the work was good. Then I had my meeting with the VP of Engineering.

She said that she expected 60 hours a week from all her employees. I expressed some shock, at release time yes, I've even worked more than that. But every week? Yes, she wanted it every week and that "I'd pretty much find that the case at all the 128 companies"

You know, I've been doing this professionally since the very late 70s and I've never found it that way. I'm sure she was able to fill the position with someone, but that someone wasn't me.

Just Say No. (and yes, this can be hard to do, years later when I was dotcom'd and unemployed, saying no would have been pretty damn hard!)

OK, I'll challenge the blog (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787946)

It's posted completely anonymously. THe details are extrememly vague. If this is so prevalent at EA, I'm sure the blogger could come up with an example using a team other than her husbands and be more specific.

For all we know, the blogger's husband is off boinking his dept's admin until all hours and blaming it on "gee honey, these people are slave drivers". He even comes hhome exhausted.

That said, IMHO, anything over 72 hrs/week is inhuman.

I agree... (1)

PhreakMac (622082) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787950)

.. with her. Working 70+ hours a week takes a toll on anyone.

Imagine living at your work place with the same people every day and only leaving to go sleep, this is game testing during crunch time.

BUT I wouldn't trade my job for anything (I work at Activision Value Publishing) even though I have literally lived here the last four months. My work [mac.com]
I am the one hiding to the far left.

stating the obvious (0)

Greg@RageNet (39860) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787955)

If you don't like your job, work somewhere else.

If it really sucks then quit immediately and live off your savings while finding the next thing. You do have savings don't you? No, being able to pawn your big-screen plasma TV doesn't qualify as savings. And the shiny new (expensive) car in the driveway doesn't count as savings either.

Everyone makes their own bed, and at the end of the day must sleep in it. It's not like syberian labor camps here in the USA.

-- Greg

What's EA's Email (0, Flamebait)

a3217055 (768293) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787965)

I want to email it to the execs and managers at EA, they suck. Maybe we should give some one money via paypal so he can put up a big "bill-board" /poster over / near the EA headquaters with saying EA managers are nasty. PS I always keep my managers home phone numbers and addresses in case they cross my path and squash my toes. Never ever let anyone ever take your selfworth. Long live the revolution. EA programmers should leak out there source code to the OpenSource Community. what do you say EA.... EAt this bitch..

Find another job (1, Interesting)

Natchswing (588534) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787968)

I really can't have too much sympathy for the spouse if the husband keeps working at a place like this. If you're good at your job there will always be better jobs out there.

Working more than 40 hours regularly without overtime is simply unacceptable.

This isn't indentured servitude, he willingly works for this company.

Or as my chum said.... (1)

boogy nightmare (207669) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787969)

before he left after just 6 months...

EA.... challange Nothing.....

Probst Salary (3, Informative)

iamjim (313916) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787972)

According to forbes, as of March 2004, Probst was making $150k/yr and held $150M in stock.

Let's unionize software engineers (5, Insightful)

eyefish (324893) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787982)

I was wondering, if EA is engaged in breaking the law, and nobody does anything about it and the government doesn't seem to care, should software engineers unionize?

Think about it, if there are the screen actors unions and contruction worker unions, why can't there be Software Engineer Unions?

Maybe then we can make sure to work 40-hour weeks with extra pay. Maybe then will Project Managers put on themselves realistic expectations, maybe then will CEOs learn that software making is a profession as valuable as business management.

I lived through something like this myself during the first internet boom. I worked over-100-hour weeks every week of the year. I still remember having spent two new year eves working. All I had was two weeks of vacation a year which I had to take in one-week instances, and having provided a two-month advance notice.

I was not paid overtime, weekends, or holidays. I did it because I was young, naive, and trully excited about what I was doing, but when I think back I was definitelly exploited along with my fellow co-workers.

In the end I started my own company and moved to a country with better work practices. Let's only hope that those still toiling for the further advance of computer science get a better deal soon. Uninioze and I'll go back and join you. I know what you're going thru, and I will do all I can to support you.

Union (1)

Natchswing (588534) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787989)

Form a union! Get all the programmers together and go on strike.

Repetition (1)

Hypharse (633766) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787990)

You'll hear this a lot on this thread, but this is NOT just in the game industry. This is a problem with software jobs everywhere and it is only getting worse. Companies use job outsourcing to strike fear into employees and scare them into working incredibly wrong hours.

EA is correct when they say their are plenty of people willing to take their job if they can't handle it. This is because many still have the wrong impression about the computer science industry. A lot of people still think it is the booming place of the mid-late 90's when you did your 40-50 hours of work and came home a rich and happy man. Instead of the now when you work 60 hours a week and come home miserable.

I hopped into the CS degree program at my university at the late stages of the bubble. I was 2 years too late and am suffering for it. I was pretty much forced into graduate school because of a bad internship and bad stories from those I know in the field. 60 hour weeks are the norm and overtime is required rather than requested. It is a very psychologically damaging profession and unless someone in the government takes charge (which is quite unlikely with the corp-friendly republicans in charge now) a lot of people will suffer.

Many suggest unions as a solution, but it is almost a no-win situation. If you make it tough for the employers then they will just outsource more and instead of you doing the heavy overtime they'll make some guy in India do it a little more willingly. What is necessary is a widespread teaching by people in the industry of what programming entails and WHY you can't force unreasonable deadlines. Right now those that want the programs have no clue of the effort that goes into it. These are the people that think html is as difficult as programming gets. There is so much more to this, but I'm not in the mood to write an essay so I'll stop now.

Been there. (5, Informative)

LightningBolt! (664763) | more than 10 years ago | (#10787991)

I've worked at 3 different game companies, including EA. EA is the absolute worst for crunch time. I, along with most of my team, worked every single day for 4 months straight, 80+ hours a week, and were told by management that we had it easy (other teams had had mandatory Saturdays for a whole year). After crunch time was done, I mentioned my concerns about the overtime to management. This led to my being placed on a probationary "get your act together" period, one step away from being fired. Knowing that life could be so much better, I quit.

Interesting (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788002)

I completely agree with your post. Poor work conditions? Poor Pay? Poor Compensation.

Sounds Familiar [socialstudieshelp.com]

Union (1)

ATN (630862) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788007)

Looks like it's time to start a union :)

The real problem here.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10788008)

...is deception, not the practices per se. OK, crunch time is common--fine. Be upfront about it, and you at least earn some credibility points with your workers. Or, more to the point, don't lie to people.

Look, I do IT project management for a living. I'm given a resource budget, and my job is to put together a reasonable plan based on that budget. So, what resources are EA's plan being based on?

If their planning assumption is 40 hours a week, then they're pretty f$#@ing poor at planning if they have to resort to this every time to make a schedule. If they're putting plans together assuming 48 hours, OK, so that's part of the plan--be upfront about it, and don't call it "emergency unplanned overtime." And if they're planning based on 80 hour weeks, well, OK, then THAT'S the norm, and it should be expected.

Basically, the issue isn't whether it's bad to work overtime. It's telling the workers one level of work is the norm, but assuming a different level of work when you're planning.

I value time with my family way too much... (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788010)

...to work for a place like that.

No way. I would have quit after the first month.

Advice: save save save your pennies. There is no value that you can put on a year's salary in the bank (aka a Fuck You fund.)

sounds pretty typical (1)

kaldari (199727) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788013)

It seems the mantra these days is "increase productivity", not "increase jobs". What this really translates into is "increase worker exploitation" because these companies don't want to pay the exorbitant health insurance costs for extra employees. This problem has only gotten worse under Bush, who seems more than willing to bend over backwards for insurance and phamaceutical companies at the expense of Joe Worker. It's not like IT workers are going to strike after all. We seem to have a masochistic love for working 80 hour weeks without overtime. I guess it's better than having your job shipped out to India. Welcome to the new economy!

Where's the salary info? (1)

SplendidIsolatn (468434) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788022)

I might feel some sympathy if we knew the salary info...if this guy is making 45K a year and doing this, he's getting f'ed, but if he's making 95k a year, I'd have a lot less sympathy...

Do something or nothing will change (2, Insightful)

blether (817276) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788023)

As long as they are making huge profits, EA are not going to change their practices unless their employees or the law force them to.

If, as the article says, EA are acting illegally then the author should report them or sue them.

If not, the employees can organize or quit.

Doing nothing is not an option. No company ever changed because someone whined at them.

Wow (0, Flamebait)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788026)

After reading this i thought the author is very spoiled. Sorry to say. Many countries (including mine) suffer from high unemployment rates. Here's somebody who has a job, with a famous company, and complains about it. Ever thought about the alternative? Being unemployed sucks. I packed shoes for a couple of months, working 11 hours a day for an extremely low paycheck. I knew what the alternative was: no job = no money = no house = no life. Djeez. Grow up. If you don't like your job, for whatever reason, then find another one and quit this one as soon as you get hired for the other.

Oh, and anyone who signs a contract with a very vague statement like this (the working hours) doesn't have a right to complain.

I bet the spouse isn't complaining about pay (1)

maukdaddy (244282) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788030)

heh I bet the spouse didn't complain about any signing bonus or salary. In fact, I bet this spouse stays at home and doesn't even work. If the did, then the person working at EA could afford to quit and find another job. Instead of wasting time on LJ maybe this "concerned" spouse should get off their ass and find a job.

Welcome to Software Development (1)

AAAWalrus (586930) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788031)

Ugh. So many thoughts and feelings about this. Part of me sympathizes. I've been there and done that, and it sucks. But at the same time, video games have evolved into this multi billion dollar industry, and corporate interests want a piece of the pie. And there's little that can be done to stop them: big budget advertising, financial strong-arming, existing business partnerships - all tools that can be used to put a stranglehold on the industry. The cold hard truth is that game development is no longer the chic nerd job. It's no longer the job that people want because it's fun. It's become corporate just like everything else.

I work at EA too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10788033)

I work with this guy and crunch time finished three months ago. He just hates spending time with his spouse.

You can help fix human stories like this one (1)

ValuJet (587148) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788037)

By giving generous donations to the human fund on behalf of your coworkers at christmas

Whiners. (1, Troll)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 10 years ago | (#10788047)

No one forces him to work at EA. Wal-mart and McDonald's are always hiring. Unless you're too good to earn $7/hr.
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