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Suffering for Their Arts

Electronic Arts’ employment practices have had some unwelcome publicity over the past week. They’re facing an overtime lawsuit along with widespread coverage of similar complaints of unreasonable hours from the spouse of an EA employee, an ex-employee (Remember, you can’t spell ExploitAtion without EA), and many others.

In much of the games industry the piles of application forms from eager young (cheap) recruits mean all but a few superstar developers are considered dispensable resources from which the maximum output is to be extracted. Many companies are so poorly managed they’re in a perpetual state of crisis and deadline-chasing.

Similar issues pervade any software company where management has overlooked (or chosen to ignore) the key fact about their industry: producing software is a creative process. A few talented, experienced, motivated people will always outperform any number of underskilled muppets; good staff aren’t interchangeable ‘resources’.

Anyone keen to work on games needs to go in with their eyes wide open or try going independent. Projects such as Live for Speed and X-Plane (both of which are superb) have shown there’s a viable niche in simulation, but I reckon sports games also offer worthwhile opportunities. Sports fans have the kind of enthusiasm, community spirit, and dedication shown by the simulation buffs, and aside from licensing issues (to include real teams and players) there’s no reason why small independent teams can’t produce multiplayer sports games to rival giants such as EA.


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