The Null Device
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)?)