Long story short is that EA makes you work over 80hours a week with no overtime pay, no comp time, no real benefits at all when the game is far from done... and when it is on to the next.
And here's my take... the MIDWAY SAGA!
Ok I want to put a 2nd tier to the EA Legacy of shame. One aspect of the industry that gets even more abuse than the people mentioned in the article is the production team down to the testers...and they get even less respect. I am a former employee of Midway Home Entertainment earlier in this decade. I'd like to share with you the rotten tactics of their hiring setup, but moreso the backbreaking hell they can make you go through to keep the job.
In this bit I will use names, yet not my own since I did have to sign a NDA and I'd rather this not come back to haunt me. If you'd like to respond back to me, want more details, or care to use this if you have some story brewing go ahead and email me back. At the least if you'd like to tell me your own personal two cents in the matter I'd appreciate it. Thanks.
In the San Diego office of Midway in the testing department there is the test manager Rob Sablan. When you interview you first do a bit with a supervisor, ask you a few things, make you write some stuff down as a test for aptitude. If all is kosher and you're not a dimwit, it is on to Rob. Anyways, one of the many questions they ask is that if 'you are ok with and able to do overtime?' To which I had answered it shouldn't be a problem, and 'what kind of overtime could there be?' And the skinny of it I was told that you could have some late nights when the projects get into the beta phase heading into final. This all seemed fair and logical. Things though weren't fair I learned quick into my first project. Midway as a policy hires production people on the lower end just as a temp. As a temp in 1yr time you get benefits and status, but only by other means are you made a full employee with (really necessary needs) email, cards, and a phone for your projects. Trick is, how is one to not be a temp anymore when they only allot so much of a percentage of the whole? Well, this is the lie. While the doors open at 9 officially and closed at 7 with a 1hr lunch, it was anything but that. With the threat of layoffs at some point, or reviews in the air you had to consider this: Midway now owns you and if you want to be a 'real' employee, you must prove yourself. How? Easy. Once your game was done at 7 if you weren't into overtime already, you then go and 'offer' to help another team. Their idea of help really is basically this. You do 9-7 as paid, but then you really stay as long as the OT team needs you. If it's til 8, find another team, if it's like 10 or midnight that's preferred. If your team isn't doing weekends yet, offer to another, be there every day of the week... work that full day saturday and sunday, and be expected to come back objective and fresh for YOUR team on Monday at 9am sharp.
Stepping forward a bit I'll take a game as a reference point. Since the team consisted of 16 people I can keep things fairly clean here, that was the Playstation 2 game Legion: The Legend of Excalibur. Anyways, long pre-story short the game was in and out of the lab twice as it was having problems. I had come into the project off some other projects beforehand. At first things were straight and we were there just from the 9-7pm period, and as I said above if we ever wanted to be made 'real employees' we'd go help out another group. But hey, it gets even better because the time I was on the game was coming up somewhere on a year before it was done. For over 1/2 the time they started having us stay until 10pm everynight M-F, yet they'd still like the old 'team spirit' helping others on the weekend. Then we'd ramp up again and now be there M-F 9-10pm then 1/2 the team on Sat other on Sun full shift... even later into it, then NO ONE got a damn day off. The only time off in the end we'd get is the 9 hour rule. If you work passed midnight you get 9hrs off until you return... not much solice in that eh? Yes, some of us had to pull 24 hour shifts, sometimes more than once in a week and have to be back just 9 hours later which makes me tired thinking about it. Yes it was nice seeing a good lump of cash on a paycheck for two weeks after taxes, yet you didn't get the enjoy the money nor feel it was worth it being worn down to a heap of wasted jell-o in your chair. People on our teams got tired, achey, twitchy, a bit crazy, and often sick, even at one time half the team was out with something legitimately.
Now if this doesn't seem like enough there was one more layer to the love that you were basically asked to do (if you were lucky enough to be asked), and that was to travel to the 3rd party developers place to assist on site. This seems like it would be a lovely time to take a trip, use the night and visit an area... WRONG. They'd send you on the verbal contract of being two weeks. The Legionaire's who went to Seven Studios office though, they stayed there for months and months. And due to being on site, they tested even harder, and with even LONGER hours and more scrutiny to a 'version' before it was FTP'd down to the rest of the collective.
If you were a good boy or girl, and you did all your hours on your own project, and even did a stint away it did NOT guarantee you losing the temp status. What did though would be working a 6-7day shift, 9am-10pm(or midnight), and being a happy flyboy/girl if asked. Does this seem fair? Under the law it isn't, but no one could DO a damn thing about it because they'd format it internally that we'd do it by our own choice because just like others policies 'if you don't like it, go work somewhere else.' It could have been a bit worse though, Sony's US office just down the street, they'd force you into OT with the knowledge if you skipped out on OT at all, once your game was up your name wouldn't be on the roster for the next projects and you'd be silently let go. So a rule to the wise, hobby, love it, whatever... research as much as you can online so you don't end up working at places like these... that is, unless you have no life of your own and depravation rarely ever sets in.