A RETURN TO THE EVIL EMPIRE?

In recent days, I’ve been sent several items relating to Electronic Arts and the work environment they subject their employees to. The links I’ve received range from a blog from a former employee, a blog from an EA spouse, to new articles about an impending class action lawsuit.

When I read these items, there were only a few surprises for me to discover. Sadly, huge amounts of overtime are the norm in the videogame industry. Though, from what I read, some projects exceed what I saw when I worked for EA.

I guess some of you are wondering would I go back to EA and work for them? The answer for now is yes. It was definitely yes when I started grad school and I’ll tell you why. I started working at EA in 2000, some three years after finishing my undergrad degree. By then I was looking for a new direction career-wise. In a social sense, I had no life. I was three years removed from the university environment. In that time, I had been living with my parents to help pay off my debts faster. Being away from school and about an hour’s drive from what friends remained, my social circle slowly shrank to almost nothing.

So then, EA came along. I loved video games, so this was a dream come true. When the projects required overtime, I didn’t hesitate a minute to go along with it. Why? First, I really wanted to impress the higher-ups with my dedication. Second, what else would I do? By that time, I usually spent most evenings eating dinner with my parents. I’d spent the rest of the night either watching TV or playing video games. I knew no one my age that lived anywhere closer to me than an hour. If my parents had a basement, I probably would have been living in it.

The alternative of course, was to spend time at EA building, surrounded by people my age, testing a video game, eating food that my parents didn’t cook, and getting paid overtime for it. Why the hell wouldn’t I do that? I’ll be honest, I loved working overtime. I had nothing to keep me at home, no girlfriend, no kids, barely any friends, no social committments whatsoever.

So, when I decided to go back to school, in the hopes of returning to EA (for a better job), I was still ok with working crazy hours.

Two years later, things are a little different now. I have a bigger social support network now. I can call many, many more people my friends now. I have an interest in maintaining these friendships. I can see why some of the other guys wanted to take a night off.

Like I wrote earlier though, I still want to go back to EA. I still think I’d enjoy working there. I still think I could make a good software engineer. I’ll admit some of the new stuff I’ve read is unnerving. Apparently, some teams were working seven days a week for five straight months. This was unheard of when I worked at EAC (EA Canada). Mind you, work loads vary from project to project and from studio to studio. So while nothing at EAC might be that crazy, some poor team over at EALA is having a nightmare. Sometimes it even boils down to what manager is running the project.

I recognize some things might have changed while I was gone. For example, when I was working at EAC, we were paid according to BC labour laws down to the minute. One day though, around provincial election time, there was an event in the EAC lobby. Then Liberal candidate Gordon Campbell was giving a speech to anyone who would listen. Clearly, this was a sign that the senior management at EAC was supporting Campbell’s pro-business platform. Of course, the Liberals won the election. The Liberals then changed the labour laws. Among other things “high-tech” workers are exempted from is being paid overtime. Now, why do you think the management at EAC was so behind the Liberals? It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.

So there are some definite drawbacks at returning to EA. Overall though, I still want to take another shot at it. Even now, I’d consider myself very lucky to get a job there. Let’s say I do get a job there again and I don’t like it. There are always other opportunities out there. For now though, I’m still chasing after a dream.

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