The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'electronic arts'
The next version of SimCity will include global warming, brought in in collaboration with oil company BP. Players will be able to choose how to power their cities; if they choose cheap, dirty, carbon-intensive forms of energy, their carbon ratings will rise, and eventually bring about natural disasters. However, players can avoid that by using various BP Alternative Energy-branded low-carbon power options. Nice bit of greenwash there.
Rumour has it that the subsequent version of SimCity will tackle the obesity crisis, by causing your city's obesity levels to rise and health costs to spiral unless you build McDonalds Healthy Eating™ restaurants.
(via Boing Boing)
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.
Players of The Sims 2 have been swapping houses on a website, and have discovered that Sims hacks are contagious; an object infected with a hack will affect everything else in the installed copy of the game, which can often bugger things up.
The hacks are easy to install, but they aren't for everybody. Many are cheats that eliminate challenges and obstacles in the game, while others modify fundamental behavior of the virtual people that inhabit the Sims 2 world. The "No Social Worker" hack, for example, allows Sims to neglect their children without the state getting involved. The "No Jealousy" patch lets them keep multiple lovers without getting slapped all the time. Another hack allows teenagers in the Sims 2 to get pregnant. As the game is sold, they can't even have sex.
(Actually, the "pregnant teenagers" hack is not a hack, but rather an official localisation for the British release to make it more authentic. Especially the part where they start wearing hip-hop hoodies and smoking like a coal-fired power station.)
At one point as many as three-quarters of the lots on the exchange contained hacks, estimates Suzanne Walshire, a 57-year-old Sims 2 player from Pflugerville, Texas, and an early victim of the phenomenon." It's extremely widespread," Walshire says. "Someone at Electronic Arts was really shortsighted not to have thought of hacked objects spreading this way. If they knew that their own objects would download with a house, they would know that other objects would download with a house also."
Perhaps EA's programmers were too exhausted from their 80-hour work weeks to notice such a flaw in their design?
The spouse of an employee of computer-game behemoth Electronic Arts writes about their Dickensian working conditions; there, the company budgets for development to be permanently in "crunch time", and employees are obliged to work 13-hour days, 6 days a week. And, thanks to California's business-friendly employment laws, they don't even have to pay them for the extra hours. And if that wasn't a neat enough trick, there's no danger of employees rebelling, forming unions or refusing to work 85-hour weeks, as for every employee who leaves or burns out, there are ten wide-eyed novices straight out of college who would love to have the privilege of working in video games. From what I heard, these sorts of conditions are more or less standard in the game industry, with EA perhaps being an extreme case.
Mind you, as fatigued employees' performance (and health) declines, perhaps the quality of EA's product will do so as well, giving free-range game studios a chance to pick off their market share. Though at what human cost?
(Also, I wonder how long until India and China (or, for that matter, Eastern Europe) start making high quality video games, undercutting Western development costs. Certainly, the pop-cultural nature of games may be a barrier to entry, though in the age of cultural globalisation, young urban Chinese and Indians are increasingly exposed to the same trends as Californians. Don't China, India and such already make a good proportion of mobile-phone games (which are less nuance-sensitive than the latest Xbox epics)?)