The Null Device

ea_spouse epilogue

In 2004, an anonymous writer calling herself "ea_spouse" posted a letter detailing sweatshop-like working conditions at video game company Electronic Arts, at which her partner worked, complaining that the company deliberately kept schedules in "crunch time", obliging employees to put in 85-hour weeks with no paid overtime, and thus that her partner came home physically and mentally fatigued. Now, ea_spouse has revealed her identity; she is one Erin Hoffman, married to former EA developer Leander Hasty. If you've ever played "Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth", you have experienced the fruit of this chap's gruelling labours:
On Hasty's second day of work, the team was sucked into a six day-a-week "crunch,'' an intense work period. By September, the team had to work 13-hour days, seven days a week.
The exhausted team members started making mistakes and getting sick. For Hasty, the stress triggered an allergic reaction that resulted in stomach problems and chronic headaches. He dropped 10 pounds and turned pale.
They desperately wanted to ditch EA. But they didn't have the $5,000 to repay the signing bonus.
The good news is that the essay led to a class action by video-game industry employees against EA, which has apparently resulted in working conditions in the industry improving. (It doesn't say how much they have improved by, though, and whether anybody in their right mind would be drawn to the industry if they knew about it works now.) Hoffman and Hasty (who now work at an independent game studio) are continuing their activism for video-game developers' rights, and are setting up a web forum for developers to discuss issues at their workplaces.

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