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NYT on EA Games 651

Posted by michael
from the save-a-buck-or-two dept.
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.
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NYT on EA Games

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  • most companies? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @05:54PM (#10882915)
    "EA has a formal policy of hiring young, naive people who are willing to work long hours for low pay"

    Isn't that how most large companies work?
    • by Random_Goblin (781985) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @05:57PM (#10882945)
      nice to see that the new york times is keeping up with last weekends UserFriendly [userfriendly.org]
    • Whose fault (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:17PM (#10883105) Homepage
      Who is at fault here, the company for paying low wages or the people for accepting them?
      • Re:Whose fault (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jugalator (259273)
        Who is at fault here, the company for paying low wages or the people for accepting them?

        You mean...

        Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? :-)
        • 1.) When the front cover athlete for EA sports game always end up in career-threatening injuries. It's like god's way of disapproving EA's practice.

          2.) The classic Electronic Arts as we know it has been gone for a long long time. EA is just a rich marketing force slaving over all the little companies.

          3.) EA has a very microsoft-ish marketing tactics. EA has tried hard many times to lock in sports association licenses so that non-EA sports games can't use authentic players. Luckily they failed.

          4.) Com
      • Re:Whose fault (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:53PM (#10883725)

        It is easy to say that people should not accept a job, or that they can quit. However, if they have a family to support, or have a medical condition and need the money or insurance coverage, not having a job for a few weeks while they find a new one might not be an option.

        • Re:Whose fault (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Then they suck it up, take the job and live with it just like everybody else has too.

          If that's the best they can get then they have no room to complain. It's not like people taking jobs at Home Depot expect any different.

          If they CAN get better then take the job and search for a new one while you work at the shitty one.

          You gotta do what you gotta do. Complaining about it does nothing.

          What makes programing any more special than any other job?
          • Re:Whose fault (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556) *

            If that's the best they can get then they have no room to complain. It's not like people taking jobs at Home Depot expect any different.

            Except if Home Depot made me work 80 hours a week unloading trucks I would be entitled to time and a half for my troubles.

            What makes programing any more special than any other job?

            So your lumping programming in with flipping burgers? That's all well and fine. Last time I checked the chick at Wendy's gets overtime if she works more then 37.5 hours a week. Anyone th

        • Re:Whose fault (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @10:01PM (#10884410) Journal
          The whole point is they are passing up higher paying programming jobs simply because they love games. The job market for game programming is more competative than many many others which are available and won't make you work 80+ hour weeks.
        • Re:Whose fault (Score:5, Informative)

          by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:00PM (#10884675) Homepage
          not having a job for a few weeks while they find a new one might not be an option.

          In economics, "search models suggest that all employers enjoy some monopsony power because workers require time to find better jobs." This article [eh.net] from the Economic History Network encyclopedia goes into more detail, including how the rate of exploitation will be the reciprocal of the elasticity of the labor supply. If the labor supply is elastic (and highly sensitive to wages) there won't be as much exploitation of workers, but if it's largely inelastic (as one might expect from the "naieve young programmer" demographic) then exploitation will be significant.

        • Re:Whose fault (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wavicle (181176) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:42AM (#10885175)
          However, if they have a family to support

          If you have a family, you're probably not working at EA Games. Why would your significant other put up with your 7 days-a-week work schedule for below average pay and modest benefits? Like the article said, the company preys on the young and naive. The truth is, most of them could get a better paying job in an area with lower cost of living. But they are so enamoured with being a games programmer, they stick it out.

          or have a medical condition and need the money or insurance coverage

          If you have a medical condition, you probably aren't up for 80 hour work weeks. So you're probably not working at EA games.

          I worked as a programmer in the computer games industry for five years - when I was young. It was a lot of fun, but I am glad I eventually grew up and left. It's really weird when you go into a different field and find it is challenging, fun, pays better and requires fewer hours. The adrenaline rush of being able to enjoy my life with someone else far exceeds the adrenaline rush I got when that last CD-ROM got burned and shipped off to duplication.
          • Re:Whose fault (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Idarubicin (579475)
            If you have a medical condition, you probably aren't up for 80 hour work weeks.

            I beg to differ--there are a number of medical conditions that may require regular and costly upkeep, but don't render the programmer unable to work. Diabetes, for instance, requires regular blood tests and (for Type I diabetics) insulin injections.

      • Re:Whose fault (Score:4, Insightful)

        by madprof (4723) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @08:04PM (#10883786)
        The games industry can pay low wages and make people slave because it's "cool" and people want to be in it.
        Sad really.
        • Re:Whose fault (Score:3, Insightful)

          by imkonen (580619)
          " The games industry can pay low wages and make people slave because it's "cool" and people want to be in it. Sad really."

          Sad...or just basic economics? If the job is "cooler" by its very nature it will naturally compete for workers more effectively than a boring job, and be able to attract good workers for lower wages. And it naturally attracts programmers for whom the coolness factor is strongest, because they'll take the largest pay cut just to be a games programmer. That's a pretty basic concept of

      • Re:Whose fault (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @08:09PM (#10883819)
        Who is at fault here, the company for paying low wages or the people for accepting them?
        That depends. Is EA being upfront about what new hires are in for?
    • Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:59PM (#10883384)
      Most companies are looking for people with experience in their field. It's only in certain fields where fixing errors doesn't mean lost materials that young and naive and working 80+ hours a week is prefered.

      Consider a cabinet company who hires young and naive workers. Even if they're putting in lots of hours, the errors they make eat up the lumber which means lower profits for when the product finally does get out the door.

      With software, as long as it meets basic functionality and ships on time, it doesn't matter how many unpaid overtime hours or how many electrons were used.
    • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:48PM (#10883702) Homepage
      In my second job, I cheerfully slept under my desk once, and worked really long hours all the time. I remember bragging that I had our IT manager beat wednesday night - she'd worked 42 hours since Monday. I was young, and in my time off I just programmed hobby projects anyhow. The company was on track to IPO, I had shares, and I was collecting big raises frequently.

      Anyhow, I don't regret that at all. Now that I'm older, have a daughter and different priorities, I hate that young people are still willing to do that, because it makes me look like a less desirable employee.

      The problem with EA, however, is not the way they work their employees with long hours, but the way they deceive people to get them and keep them before turnover finally claims them. If EA said: we're going to pay you $25k/yr base, but work you 100 hours a week, so you'll make $85k with overtime, then there would be no problem. (And, quite possibly, no people accepting jobs there)
    • Re:most companies? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frizzle Fry (149026) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:53PM (#10883728) Homepage
      No. I'm not sure why it was modded insightful because it isn't at all how most large companies work. They generally perfer people with experience relevant to their job. This isn't to say that it is impossible to get a job straight out of school at most large companies, but they certainly don't usually have a "formal policy" of trying to hire the young and inexperienced. Whenever you graduate from college and try to find a job, just try calling up a typical Fortune 500 company and saying "I may have no experience but... I'm young and naive!" and see how far that gets you.
    • Re:most companies? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JavaLord (680960)
      A has a formal policy of hiring young, naive people who are willing to work long hours for low pay.

      Well, I'm young and willing to work long hours for low pay. Hire me EA. I'd gladly take a pay cut to make games instead of cheesy Java/SQL database apps. Say what you will about EA's hirings, getting into the video game industry and having EA on your resume is well worth the low pay for a little while.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    uh, mcdonalds, walmart, etc
    • by BrookHarty (9119) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:30PM (#10883193) Homepage Journal
      how is that different from other companies

      Umm, you work at mcdonalds/walmart while you goto school, you dont make that your career.

      The problem is EA is abusing people who already worked their way up. This is a multiBILLION dollar company paying less than other companies in the same market. Its the black sheep of the entertainment employment.

      • They aren't abusing anything. I'm a comp-sci major and half the idiots in classes want nothing but to program games. This means the market is flooded. If they are willing to work for jack shit in order to get to do something they love, how can EA be blamed for paying them the minimum that they will accept? Its not like EA is forcing it on them. Now, as to whether or not coders should get overtime hours put in to law.. thats an issue for you and your state government, its not something EA decides.
    • by Amata (554796) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:53PM (#10883350)
      Walmart/McDonalds/factory work can consist of entirely OJT. You don't need the skills coming in. You can bounce around all the time and still move up the food chain because of your prior experience.

      In programming, and IT in general, you need some form of experience before you even go in. Chances are, you've already paid a buttload for training, too. College, certs, something.

      That and, as mentioned, because IT work is being considered "white collar" these days, those extra hours you put in mean jack when it comes to your paycheck. I've seen companies bend over backwards to arrange "blue collar" workers' schedules such that they will *not* have to pay overtime.
  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cookiepus (154655) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @05:56PM (#10882938) Homepage
    has a formal policy of hiring young, naive people who are willing to work long hours for low pay.

    Isn't that good? People often bitch that no one will hire you unless you have some industry experience, and how are you going to get that if no one hires you without it?

    • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And within a few weeks of work you become a angry me first programmer. It's the last thing industry needs to do with it's young stars.
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:08PM (#10883029)
      When I started in my first job I worked unbelievably long hours BY CHOICE. I wanted as much experience as possible as fast as possible, and got it. It's served me very well.

      If I was entering the industry today and had a crack at EA, I'd be first in line to take on those crazy hours for 'low pay'.

      Take a close look at what that 'low pay' is. It ain't so low.
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PoderOmega (677170) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:20PM (#10883127)
        If you are refering to the $60,000 not being low it is all relative. In Chicago 60k is a decent amount, but is totally not worth it if you work 80 hours a week a week. I don't know what the cost of living is by the EA offices but I'm not sure it's not the same as bumblef*ck, iowa. And you figure that $60,000 / 80 hours * 50 weeks in a year (assuming 2 weeks vacation and holidays in there), you are only making 15 bucks an hour (plus benefits). I guess it is your opion of 15 bucks an hour worth it considering your only free time involves sleeping.
        • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

          by leighton (102540) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:03PM (#10883410)
          Uh...as a researcher, I work 60-80 hours a week and make more like $40k. In Los Angeles. And I don't get the free goodies that these guys get.

          Somehow I cannot sympathize too much. If the author actually understood what sweatshop conditions are like, or how galley slaves actually lived, I might sympathize.

          One day these guys will win a big "victory" from EA that gives them overtime pay, benefits, etc. That's the day that they get outsourced to India. Then they'll be bitching about how evil the corps are when it's really they themselves who made it advantageous for the corp to do so.
  • Chicken Run (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fembots (753724) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @05:57PM (#10882942) Homepage
    In a chicken farm, the owner doesn't really care if there's enough head room for the chicken, or whether they have enough exercise or eat healthy food. The owner only wants these chicken to grow fat, fast, so that he can put them out on the market as soon as possible.

    What happens when one of the chicken complains about the living condition, maybe by mean of fasting-protest (so that it doesn't grow fat enough in time)? Well, the owner will just find another chicken to replace this naughty one, because there are so many more chicken hatched and ready to grow.

    What if this bad chuck told 999 of his mates to do the same? Well, in a farm of 3,000, the owner will simply replace these 1,000 bad apples as long as the rest still grow fast enough, and the 1,000 replacement grow even faster to make up time.

    What about the free range chicken? Well, they have found a good owner, who has a consumer market that demands free running healthy lean chicken. With that demand that the owner cannot ignore, he's set to exercise his chicken, offer plenty of land for them to run about and feed them only the approved corns.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:02PM (#10882988)
      This is slashdot, analogies are too complicated. Does this mean game programmers are chickens? Hmmmm...

      Where are the eggs??? That could solve some very important nutrition problems in the cubicle...

      Wait, ew, gross... eating your own eggs??

      OK That's great, now I don't think I can eat dinner tonight. BTW, do chickens in cages get to leave to go to the bathroom? Because that would be gross if workers couldn't leave a cubicle to do that. But, the way some cubicles smell, maybe you couldn't tell the difference...

    • Re:Chicken Run (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damiam (409504)
      That's really a pretty crappy analogy. Chickens don't unionize or seek out their preferred owner.
  • As an IT Guru (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybrthng (22291) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @05:59PM (#10882966) Journal
    I hope the NYTIMES keeps hounding on these issues. While i'm not a Game programmer I am a consultant and I get shafted left and right with abuses of power like this.

    The *ONLY* thing that keeps me from working even more insane hours is to adjust my billing rate - and that is almost a catch-22 - surely to limit my hours but surely to get me replaced in the long run.

    I do Oracle financials, database and applicaiton server stuff. Its not just gamers, but "IT" in and of itself.

    Part of my issue is the H1-B workers don't have family here or bust there arses off to get enough money to go back home and retire early, so they don't have many qualms about the workfload.

    I don't see it as differences of trying to be a lazy american as much as other corp heads see it, i just see it as i'm busting my arse off to have a family life at home.. you know, pay my bills, buy my family dinner, pay my mortgage and have some cash left over to entertain and put my daughter through college.

    So please, NYTIMES, keep it up. Do your investigative research even further. Don't pull a fox/cnn/cbs/nbc news report and have it end at that - show the world what gets taken forgranted and show the world that us supposed "white collars" aren't necessarily all living it up high and dry doing nothing but pointing fingers like many assume.

    What really disgusts me is that people get treated like this and there is no "thanks". Work late hours and stay in a hotel? non-expensable, have a cell phone or pager they bother you on? don't try and expense it. Get stuck working remote? good luck expensing it. Just isn't what it used to be in taking pride in your workers..

    Good luck EA employees - i'm there fighting for ya and WITH YOU!
    • I don't know much about the games industry, but on the face of it it does not seem the place to be if you want to be earning the big bucks and living life the way it used to be before the dot com crash:
      1. Highly parallizable tasks requiring a low level of real world knowledge - wire frame modelling of chairs, swords, nubile breasts and the like - and thus open to the masses.
      2. Resulting massive competition for what is basically a pretty cool job for a geek with lack of real world knowledge - alternatives being
  • Quality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l@hotma i l .com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:00PM (#10882971) Homepage
    EA strategy seem to be : produce lots of expansion packs / sequels / add-ons that require no or little effort to implement, and throw a bunch of willing-to-work-hard newcomers at it, 'fire' them (if they don't go first) so you don't have to pay them more for experience (etc), and repeat.

    The Sims 1 and 2, with their gazillion expansion packs. Simcity 4. Sports games (Football, Hockey, Soccer, Basketball edition 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, oh god I must buy the 2005 edition!) Recently, NFSU2, which is (in my opinion) less polished / fun, even if its a sequel. Easy money. These game sells year after year, you only need to add a little content and a 30$ price tag.

    Clever business model I guess.
  • by skids (119237) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:01PM (#10882976) Homepage
    I can't help but get the impression that the way it got like this, regardless of the companies, is that the managers came from an environment where they had a bunch of extremely enthusiastic coders who really were hyped up on their projects, putting in volunteer extra hours because they liked what they were doing. Then they assumed that that's just how coders are, and that they could come to expect that from them.

    Maybe this is just wild speculation. But perhaps managers need to be taught to recognise voluntary additional work as just that, and not to count on it in the future -- especially, not to work it into their business models and work flow charts.

  • what else is new? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrLint (519792) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:02PM (#10882991) Journal
    I don't want to directly comment on the EA issue, but why is anyone at all surprised about these kind of accusations?

    Companies have long histories of over using and abusing employees. Its the primary reason unions exist. Would anyone need to collectively bargain if they got good hours, decent and safe working conditions?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...or many other consulting firms. Hire them fresh out of the frat, work them to death in the crappyest positions and pay them next to nothing. They use the on-the-job training in some enterprise software package and are soon using these positions on their resumes to move on to greener pastures or lucrative independent contracting. I'm sure EA has the same cache' for these gamers who use these slave positions to get better jobs as they move up in the world. If you don't like your job, get another or make yo
  • by voya (582627) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:03PM (#10882998)
    Having gotten through all the rounds of interviews for a game developer position at EA -- I am really glad that in the end it went to a dude with a Ph.D. with more experience than me.

    I was interviewed in Toronto for a position at the Vancouver (Burnaby) studio. I am glad I didn't get that job.

    The reason why they recruit young grads is because we are naive. I was naive. Afterall, it was my dream job at the time, an illusion now shattered.
  • by mboverload (657893) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:05PM (#10883008) Journal
    You know EA is just a factory when you play Need for Speed Underground 2. The Cingular "messenger" logo is on your screen all the time, a box pops up to tell you what song is playing and who made it, and there are at least 100 billboards in the world AND racetracks with ads for Autozone, Eclipse, and Cingular. There's no love put into the game, you can tell.
  • sweatshops (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jxyama (821091) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:05PM (#10883010)
    (mostly, but not exclusively) college students have managed to come together and hold considerable influence on improving the working conditions of sweatshops that sponsor their school, ex. Nike and many schools it sponsors.

    can the gamers come together to influence the EA situation?

    • Gamers could try to force better conditions from the companies they work at, but they aren't interested as a whole in the social issues. They are playing games, and EA provides them with games they like. They won't.

      Has the lot of the average coffee or cocoa grower improved with the Fair Trade movement? No. It has for some, but the odds are like winning the lottery.
  • by JamesP (688957) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:07PM (#10883025)
    This suggests that it needs to conduct a survey to learn whether a regular routine of 80-hour weeks is popular among the salaried rank and file.

    Next, EA will be conducting a survey to determine if employees like to be fed poison, being impaled or imolated...

  • by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowlNO@SPAMexcite.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:08PM (#10883028) Journal

    With the -rare- exception, companies will squeeze their employees for the most they will give for the least pay they will take. We wonder why unions are still necessary? Because companies don't look out for employees' interests, they look out for their own.

    If a single employee demands better working hours or more pay, he or she is replaceable. If five hundred of them do so, the employer will take notice. If five thousand do, the employer is facing a crisis, especially if these employees raise a large, public, well-founded stink. If you are being mistreated by an employer (tech or otherwise), chances are you aren't the only one. (If you are, perhaps re-examine your definition of "mistreated?") If this is common practice for the employer, your co-workers are probably just as pissed off, and sitting around waiting around for someone to tell them what to do about it.

    Maybe you should consider telling them!

    • by rlk (1089) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @09:34PM (#10884286)
      Employers should (for the sake of the business) try to get the most they can out of their workforce. However, at least in a typical high tech development environment, that doesn't mean the most hours of work. Practices such as those described suggest that either management assumes that there will always be some incremental gain in output for another hour worked, or have other reasons (such as a power trip, or some wild notion of "team building").

      My own take, when I was a manager at a large company you've heard of, was that I wanted people to work smart rather than merely working hard. Granted, there are rare times when it's necessary to put in more time (late nights, weekends, off hours) to complete a key short-term deliverable, but people working long hours constantly isn't a sign of good management, but rather poor management. Employees who get tired will start making mistakes, and that's expensive (remember that the later a bug is found the more expensive -- by a large margin -- it is to fix.

      The other key point here is that hiring (including the salaries of the hiring manager, HR, interviewers, and training) is expensive. In my experience, it takes a while in my line of business (system development) for even a very good new hire to really pay their way. It has also been said that the difference in productivity between a top programmer and a marginal programmer is 100 to 1. If you work from those assumptions, the way to extract the maximum useful output is to hire good people, encourage them to work efficiently, and otherwise treat them well.

      I like to say that if someone who reported to me accomplished everything they were expected in a high quality manner to in 10 hours a week I'd have no problem with it. My own experience is that some people like to work in quick bursts, some people really do like to put in a lot of hours, and some people simply work steadily. However they prefer to do so is fine by me. I do have a bit of a problem with people who do the same thing over and over again (often spending a lot of time on it) without trying to find a better way of doing it. I like to say that I'm too lazy to do the same thing twice. Computers don't get upset if they're asked to do the same thing over and over again, and I prefer to move on to something new.

      Obviously, there are people who don't see it that way. Rest assured, though, there are companies and managers who do take a reasonable approach to this, and that the whole industry isn't a sweatshop.
  • by dark-br (473115) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:08PM (#10883030) Homepage


    ...with specific rules for high-tech industry [gov.bc.ca] so ppl don't get to be fscked over by large companies?

    • by poofyhairguy82 (635386) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:51PM (#10883345) Journal
      So why the US don't follow Canada's steps with specific rules for high-tech industry so ppl don't get to be fscked over by large companies?

      Simple question, simple answer. The reason is that in America we don't pretend that we are actually running the show instead of companies. If we followed your lead and made it harder for large companies to screw over the IT crowd in the U.S.A., then those companies would say "damn, North America now costs us more, lets just move all our operations over to India or China where we can rape their local IT people any way we want."

      You might say "well if our laws haven't driven the companies away, why would the U.S.'s?" Again a simple answer: there is not enough money lost by the Canadian IT regulations to make up for how much it would cost for North American companies to move overseas. (much smaller labor market than the U.S.'s) Now if you locked up the largest labor market in North America with the same regulation, suddenly it WILL be cheaper for them to pick up shop and leave. Some are already doing it just because of the few labor laws we do have (compared to nearly none in India)

      The same thing happens in the drug industry. You know why you Canadians are allowed to control the price of drugs? Its because the companies make enough profit in America to make up for the fact that they make much less profit in Canada. I promise that if the U.S. drug market did not fill their coffers as they please, they would tell Canada "You know what, we don't want to give you the drugs so cheaply. Either pay up or we'll bail." Thats why they used their bought and paid for presidential administration to fix the loophole of U.S. people buying Canadian drugs. Its a lot better PR to just keep us Americans away from your cheap drug prices than tell your country "Well, we are going to stop selling drugs over here because the imports to America is killing our gravy train over there."

      We get screwed for you. If we don't get screwed, these companies will just go to a continent where the screwing can be much more intense.

  • by powerlinekid (442532) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:09PM (#10883043)
    He graduated RIT with a 4.0 in CS and EA offered him 50k a year with a 7k bonus. They helped him move to Florida (hes from NY) and put him to work doing the layout for Madden 2k4. He hates it since the games are essentially assembly line made. He does very little coding since EA has their cross platform tools and spent most of his time aligning menu items. Last I heard he wanted out. I remember how excited he was to get a "game development" job and was crushed to find out how that means tweaking stupid crap. Now he wants completely out of the game industry.
  • While the situation with these programmers is obviously pretty bad, why is everyone so appalled at the concept of putting in long hours at the end of a project? The so called "crunch time" has been around forever. When we were in college, how often were we given a paper to write with a deadline in two weeks, but we procrastinated for 12 days and then spend the last two days burried in the library cursing the professor for giving us this craptastic assignment? How would this be any different? I have a fe
    • Re:Crunch time (Score:4, Informative)

      by Fiveeight (610936) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:41PM (#10883278)
      The complaints I've been told about involve being told there's a crunch period early on in the project, in order to reduce problems at the end, only the crunch time is extended indefinately. The point is that months of 80 hour weeks are written into the schedule at the beginning and continue even when the project is hitting all it's milestones. That's not working 50% and making up for it later, that's EA managment deciding they'd rather have burnt out employees doing a bad job for more hours.
    • Re:Crunch time (Score:4, Informative)

      by akac (571059) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:17PM (#10883521) Homepage
      If you read the original sources of the article, you would see that "Crunch time" isn't so bad. Its when "Crunch time" consists of the beginning, middle, and end of the project and you're required to work 7 days a week 18 hour days the ENTIRE TIME.
  • Publicity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malicious (567158) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:13PM (#10883070)
    EA has earned a name of being that Company who pumps out the same sports title ever year, with updated rosters, milking the cow for everything its worth.
    EA is also the only company that literally FILLS it's games with billboards and advertisements.
    EA now is becoming notorious with mistreating it's employees.
    The problem is that this is a successful business model, and the only way to break it is to stop buying their games.
  • Possibly offtopic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AbsurdProverb (831079) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:14PM (#10883080)
    I realize that potentially unfair labor practices take presidence here, but people are quick to forget some of the great game/developer houses diminished & crushed by publishers like EA.

    I grew up on Origin & Westwood games so I'll use them as an example.
    Wing Commander
    Ultima
    Crusader
    Dune
    Command And Conquer

    EA chased out two creative minds like Chris Robert and Richard Garriot. Origin and Westwood have now gone the way of the dinosaurs.

    Hey but now we have the all the Sims games/expansions we can fit down our throats. Theres no Samurais and ninjas in UO (wtf?), and there a new/redundant sports titled every year. Nothing really creative, but plenty more of the same.
    Not to worry, if theres any money to be made from someone not in EA, EA/Vivendi will assimilate them and be sure to repeat the process.

    I really hope somebody puts the screws to these publisher's for their behavior. Even if the development and enforcement of a Programmer's Union could lead to increase costs placed on the consumer end.

    Somebody has to win one for Colonel Blair and the Avatar.

    • Somebody has to win one for Colonel Blair

      n00b. Back in my day, we had to crank our Rapiers and Claymores with a winch. When it got stuck in the snow, we had to get out and push it all the way to Kilrah and back, uphill both ways! We also didn't have any namby-pamby Mark Hamill playing our lead. No, sir!

      Man, Origin really did "not suck" before EA bought them. Ultima 9 sealed it for me: EA sucks. It's in the game.
  • Predictions? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:27PM (#10883169) Homepage
    Does all this bad press predict an employee revolt at EA? After all, the people who are considering employment at EA is the very same demographic as those reading this very forum so it's not like they'd be uninformed before entering employment. This could effectively lower the rate of new hires. So then retention would become a spotlight issue with EA and an employee revolt would then be very well timed so that people could get their employment contracts renegotiated to include specific work hours and specific days off guaranteed.

    There's no denying the capitalistic desire to get more for less. Every Walmart shopper knows this desire. Should we even go so far as to say there's nothing wrong with it? Maybe. But we are talking about PEOPLE, not products... employees, not slaves... and we are talking about some pretty abusive and inhumane tactics that clearly involve intentional deception on the part of the employer.

    In short, we clearly observe a situation where a company's management is willfully acting in an immoral way and I don't see where it matters one bit that it's a natural desire or that other people are also doing similar things. Wrong is still wrong no matter how frequently it occurs.

    But the thing here is now there is an opportunity for the employees to make a change. If a large enough number of people formed a strike, there's no way they could retrain replacements fast enough. It would be huge bad P.R., a relatively newsworthy event and a wake-up call to any new hopefuls.

    It's too early to predict an uprising, but I see great potential.
  • by crashnbur (127738) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:30PM (#10883201)
    I was unaware that stories had investigative ability. I want to see a story running around investigating things. That'd be some story!
  • Whew!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyingsquid (813711) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:40PM (#10883270)
    When I read this, I was worried that EA might be engaged in accounting fraud... however they are just exploiting people for profit. Hooray!

    That's my first reaction: I'm a stockholder, you see. Now my second reaction: shit, that's not very nice... It's interesting to see how your priorities shift and you start rationalizing all sorts of evil when you have a financial interest. I mean, a good liberal like me, and I often find myself rooting for the tobacco companies and saying stuff like "well, it's their own damn fault for taking up smoking".

    It's interesting though... we human beings seem to be able to have pretty flexible morals when it's in our own best interest to have them. It's weird , interesting and depressing to see how much your own solid convictions will shift when a buck is at stake. So keep up the good work, EA! Aw fuck, I can't tell if I'm being sarcastic or sincere or a bit of each... oh the moral agony of making double-digit returns.

  • by ILL Clinton (734169) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:42PM (#10883282) Homepage Journal
    How many times have we heard complaints about labor unions from people who don't realize the important role they continue to play in our society. "Union guys are lazy." "Unionized labor costs too much." etc.

    And especially young people who don't have a clue, have no idea that if it wasn't for labor unions, things like 80 hour work weeks and no weekends would be common throughout most industries.

    Obviously unions aren't perfect, and like any powerful entity, there are abuses and corruption, but the fact is that for the most part the game industry is not organized and as a result the workers are treated unfairly.

  • by iamwoodyjones (562550) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:49PM (#10883337) Journal
    "young kids don't know what's impossible."

    From first hand experience I would have to definelty agree with this and say that's the entire reason why they end up working long hours.

    At my company we began a huge project not too long ago with other remote sites. It was a great project and great work and we were fortunate enough to have expriened higher level workers with families. However another remote site had only young enthusiastic people who were no older than 25 (that includes their leadership)

    During the requirments and design phase, higher managment began cramming way too much onto everyone's plates. Fortunately our leadership knew how to scope and scale back. The other team didn't.

    During the end of reqs upper management came down on our site and said, "Everyone's giving us 110% and you guys are only giving us 90%! How dare you!" The response to this from our leadership during that telecon was so classic I'll never forget it.

    "We give you only 90% because the other 10% is going to be devoted to workers taking sick days, holidays, and when unforseen bugs crop up. If we were to give you 110% then what we would be saying is that not one single worker is going to get sick, not one single worker is going to take a vacation day, that not one single unforseen bug is going to stop us by more than a few minutes, and that we will be working extra hours. That's as likely to happen logically as it is to give 110%."

    Well as the project progressed you can guess what happened. We delivered on time and underbudget to boot with what we agreed to. The other remote site with the attitude, 'Nothing's impossible!'? Well, they're working overtime for no extra pay, have tons of bugs, a few of them have quit now, they're over budget, are not going to make their deliveries, they're in some deep hot water, and for me to quote one of them, "I'm in hell!".

    You can be the brightest mind comming out of college but unless you respect the wisdom of elders you're going to get screwed.
  • by cyranoVR (518628) * <cyranoVR@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:01PM (#10883391) Homepage Journal
    Take note: this is how labor unions got their start "back in the day."

    Eventually, the coders will together and realize that without them, senior management is fucked. And I don't want to hear any shit about exporting the jobs to India or where-ever. The studios making these games can't do it because the quailty would be worse, they'd lose control, etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, they are probably already working on a "pre-emptive" outsourcing, so coders better wise-up and organize before it's too late...
  • Stand your ground (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EEBaum (520514) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:19PM (#10883533) Homepage
    I've just finished an internship (hourly, not salary) working for a small game company. I left so I could finish college in a somewhat reasonable time frame. I never worked over 40 hours a week, rarely more than 25 during the school year, and only once over the weekend on a special request. Granted, many of my co-workers were consistently working quite long hours. I had been asked to work longer, and there was playful co-worker pressure, but I knew that I would burn out if I did (and end up getting LESS done), and they seemed to respect that, and have indicated that I am welcome back when my schedule eases up. Whether or not this is a rarity, I can't be sure. Personally, I'd gladly take a low-hours job, even at a lower salary. I was in it for the experience, not the money, which also seemed to help the dialogue.
  • by shirai (42309) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:21PM (#10883546) Homepage
    I don't necessarily agree with the way EA handles its employees but mandating EA's policies is not the way to handle this issue. Granted, if you are an EA employee, you might think so.

    I'm not trying to be patronizing if you understand what I'm going to explain but it is clear that many don't.

    1. The *price* of a going employee at EA is a function of the supply of employees and the demand EA has for these employees. With such a high supply of willing programmers who want to break into the games industry, EA can pretty much dictate the price of the employee. Please note that I *'ed price because price does not necessarily mean just a wage. In this case, it also includes working hours and work environment.

    2. Many slashdot readers are complaining that you cannot get a fair wage in the games industry despite working so hard, having to know so much, and basically not making what you are owed.

    3. Now the point is this: Your skills, your hard work and your knowledge are NOT what constitutes your value. Often they are related but not always. This is not what makes free markets work. The fact is, to make a better wage, get into an industry where the supply for workers is lower than the demand. You can probably find some great paying work doing business sytems. I'm only being slightly cheeky here.

    4. Which brings us full circle. A lot of programmers don't WANT to be in anything other than the games industry. This is why there is such an oversupply of talented game programmers compared to other technical talents. How sexy is programming a database after all? The point is, the cost of BEING a games programmer is higher due to supply/demand. If no-one wanted to be in the games industry, you can bet EA would be doing a lot more to attract game programmers with reasonable hours, better pay, better work environment, etc. Mandating that the government (or anyone else) get involved simply tries to cover up the underlying supply/demand issues.

    So, the solution to YOU getting paid better, is get out of this industry. They don't NEED another game programmer and every new one reduces the average compensation to each employee. Not only that, it ironically raises the value of employees in every other sector. So if you love game programming, be prepared to bite the bullet: lots of other people love it too.

    Mandating that EA treats employees better will have marginally better treatment (though in the long run, manipulating free economics almost always backfires), people will see that you can get into games programming (which they already love) AND be treated well, the supply will go up again, demand is (relatively) stable, and there will just be a bunch of unemployed games programmers.

    You see, when we complain about EA, people get scared of going into the industry, free economics works(!) Already a lot of people who may have considered going into this industry might have second thoughts.

    The mistake is to think that you should get what you deserve: you don't. You get what you are worth.
    • by barfy (256323) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @07:52PM (#10883723)
      "The mistake is to think that you should get what you deserve: you don't. You get what you are worth."

      The mistake is to believe that above sentance is a true and worthwhile premise. Truly free markets result in sweatshops (minimizing costs), and monopolies (minimizing competition), to maximize profits.

      Truly free markets do not take into account damage to environment, people, societies and economies. Some government is necessary to counter act the societal ill that is caused by "free markets".

      The supply of people that are willing to be abused to provide for themselves and family is reasonably large. The fallacy is that it is "ok" to be abused by your employer. And it is also a fallacy to believe that the only one who should be able to keep the employer from abusing the employee is the employee, and that the only way to keep from being abused is by quitting.

      No, just as with many things, there are some things that are wrong, even if there is a pool of people willing to do it. And the way to make it better for them, and for everyone else, and to raise the whole moral value of the pool is with moderate government intervention (like minimum wage, and overtime laws).

      If too much government intervention then there is a downturn in the economy, too little government intervention, there is also a downturn in the economy, and tremendous societal costs. The rub is finding the balance.

    • by davew2040 (300953) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @08:11PM (#10883832) Journal
      Thanks for the economics lecture. You might be surprised to learn that many Slashdot readers, many EA employees, and even many New York Times journalists have taken an economics course at one point or another, and yet don't see that as a reasonable excuse for EA policy of employee mistreatment.

      Here's the interesting fact: The United States (along with the rest of the world) doesn't operate on a free market. We tend pretty strongly towards capitalism, but not totally. Just like we tend pretty strongly towards democracy, but not totally. The framers of the Constitution established a system of majority rule with minority rights, since they knew that free-thinking people can't always be trusted to make humane decisions. In a pretty analagous way, the United States government has intervened throughout the years to amend egregious human rights deficiencies (coal miners, Industrial Revolution factory workers, etc.).

      This is really a fundamental prerequisite of social systems. A society that doesn't protect its members from extremes is hardly a society at all. It's an element of the social contract that defines the benefit for individuals of working within the society.

      The burden of competition should be (and easily can be, as it is in most other professional fields) on the talent of the employees, not on how brutally they'll willing to sacrifice their mental health. It's not a step I would recommend, but hypothetically, if the government were to mandate tomorrow that all employees in this industry aren't allowed to work more than 40 hours a week, then EA would probably stay in business. They'd have to make their organization operate more intelligently, by doing things like retaining experienced workers rather than burning everyone out before they have said experience. The game industry, probably even more so than the rest of the programming industry, responds well to intelligent workers.

      Your last statement is a little bit fallacious on a few levels. Firstly, as I hope I've indicated, you only get what you're worth within the confines of social edicts. Secondly, EA is not necessarily paying employees what they're worth or what they deserve. From what I've read, they're taking an approach of paying employees less than they're worth and making a concerted effort to make their employees think that they deserve even less than what they're getting. Economics doesn't justify this kind of psychological abuse.
  • Owe nothing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowlNO@SPAMexcite.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @10:43PM (#10884612) Journal

    Some of the comments I've seen here, to put it quite bluntly, are disgusting. I have seen it said several times now that companies "owe nothing" to those who work for them.

    May I have someone's logic on this? These people are working literally every waking hour, in some cases, so that the CEO of the company can be a millionaire or billionaire. Do you mean to say that that CEO owes nothing more to those people who put him where he is then to flip them the finger, pay them the minimum possible, and take his private jet out to his yacht to reap his rewards? Do the stockholders of the company not owe it to these people to insist that they are compensated fairly for making their stock profitable?

    Human beings live in a community, NOT in a vacuum. There are some rules to living in a community. It is not my belief that making one of those rules "Take as much as you can get away with and give back as little as you possibly can" is a guideline for a healthy community of any type, small or large. These workers do owe the company they work for to work hard and well, and they have done so, EA has come out with some excellent games. Now EA has a responsibility to make sure that they pay these people back for their hard work.

    The concept that a company owes its employees no more than the smallest paycheck they can give them, coupled with a boot out the door as soon as they aren't useful anymore, is sad, and a serious problem. A company (and a country) owes its workers a living wage, the security that their job will not be outsourced or eliminated unless the company is in dire financial peril, and some personal time to enjoy it. We are not talking about some type of freeloaders here, we are talking about people who went through college, have sought out jobs, and are now being told to devote every waking hour to that job or they will be replaced.

    I am not talking about "skilled" or "unskilled" workers, I am talking about those who work for a living, period. They are owed a decent existence. Construction workers and waiters are every bit as necessary as CEO's and accountants. Everyone who goes out every day and works deserves not to be in poverty, yet currently a 40-hour a week job at the minimum wage would place a person well below the poverty level. Something is very, very wrong.

    Most of the restrictions of living in a community are moral, rather than legal, obligations. If your friend, who has helped you move five times, asks you for help with the same, he cannot take you to court to force you to help him when he asks. But he shouldn't have to. You are under a moral obligation to help.

    I have no problem, however, tightening the legal restrictions and requirements on companies, since it seems evident that many will ignore their moral ones.

  • by popo (107611) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:14AM (#10885016) Homepage
    The more attractive the industry, the crappier the pay. Is this news to anyone?

    Want to work in film? Crap pay.
    Want to be an accountant? Not crap pay.
    Want to work for a video game company? Crap pay.
    Want to work for an insurance company? Not crap pay.
    Want to work for MTV? Reeeeally crap pay.

    Any questions?

  • by stevarooski (121971) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:18AM (#10885039) Homepage
    Before I toss my two pennies in, let me say that I too once wanted nothing more than to make video games. So, to see what it was like in the industry, I took an internship with everyone's favorite whipping boy these days, EA.

    With that in mind, let me say that this whole "EA is using young kids" schtick is one of the three major reasons why I think all computer science students should get out and work an internship or two for a company they might be interested in before graduating.
    1. The experience of having been in the trenches will make you more a much more desirable hire after graduation.

    2. You will know more about what you want out of your eventual job in industry, which means. . .

    3. You will have a far better idea exactly what's important to you, what questions to ask, and what to look for when interviewing for the job that will claim the majority of your waking hours for the next few years.

    Why am I saying this, and how does it apply to EA? I have no regrets about working there: the people there were by and large excellent and I learned a lot. However, I also saw EXACTLY what was expected of their new engineers, witnessed the turnover and the new college hires wandering around like zombies with keyboard marks on their faces, and returned to school a much wiser person for my experience. I assure you that I now take an entirely different spin on the "do you have any questions for us?" ending to your standard technical interview.

    So, in sum: empower your resume, your outlook on what your degree is preparing you for, and yourself by getting some experience before rushing into a job based on its outer sex appeal. Trust me when I say you will be thankful for it.
  • Dirty Silver Spoon? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr.Oreo (149017) on Monday November 22, 2004 @04:03AM (#10886154)
    I work for EA as a programmer.

    It's not as bad as some people here think. If you're working 80 hour weeks, I guarantee that you're either volunteering your time, a spineless moron, or in the process of looking for another job/quitting.

    This isn't just a problem at EA. This sort of stuff happens everywhere else in the games/IT industry, it's just easy to sling mud at EA because their a large evil corporation. The guys at Id software work the exact same schedules and I can assure you that they're not all millionaires.

    There are much shittier jobs to have. This is really a non-issue. Anyone who's thinking of quitting their cushy IT job, try working a 12 hour day on a construction site. When you pull a 14 hour day at EA, you're not mining coal or assembling BBQ's. You get free meals, video game machines abound, a beautiful lounge area. It's not a bad place to be at all for 14 hours a day.

    That being said. I work at the Vancouver studio, and I have to say that I'm not really feeling all this EA negativity. I work normal hours (40 - 50 a week), my project is on schedule, and I'm very passionate about the game I'm working on. I may be a special case, but this just isn't seeming to affect me? Any other EAC slashdoters care to comment?

    I think that a lot of this negativity is just sensationalism. I programmed games as a hobby many years before I started doing it proffessionaly, and I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. There are a LOT of people who are extremely happy with their jobs in the games industry.

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