Nose to the Grindstone

Today’s exaggerated two-minutes-hate towards EA is starting to push the boundary of ludicrous. God forbid someone in the industry who understands what is going on makes a Wikipedia edit that is out-of-date and now, as such, untrue. No one at this studio is required to work eighty hours a week during normal development. No one. The statement probably wouldn’t even have been noticed if it hadn’t been worded in such an HR-like manner. If the editor was truly acting to delete any opposition, he/she would have removed mention of the lawsuits as well.

The edits I see in the comparison remove NPOV, out-of-date, and/or redundant verbiage and unrelated items. The statement the editor made about the NFL licensing is 100% true, but because the Internet loves to dole out the hate, it will continually be reverted no matter what the truth really is. If this was an article about Blizzard or Valve, no one would bat an eye.

No one realizes how frustrating it is – how difficult it is – to make games for gamers when gamers just want to criticize and destroy your efforts.

I’m reminded of a story one of the executive producers told me last week. He was to present at a local college’s game development program’s project day, talk a little about the industry and answer questions. As the presentation ended, the first question was along the lines of “Why do you work there when GameDeveloper called your studio the worst place to work in the industry?” He answered [I’m paraphrasing throughout], “For one, GameDeveloper didn’t say that. The article in GameDeveloper quoted a single person’s anecdotal reports that this was a bad place to work. That having been said, there has been a lot of changes to focus on work-life balance while at the same time meeting all of our obligations and still creating great games. But it can be hard to fit in everything one wants to do with limited resources.”

Later, he was asked to review the student’s game project. He did and found it underwhelming and incomplete. He asked, “So how close are you to being alpha?” The students looked at the producer quizzically and said “3 more days. We’ll be alpha on Monday.” He laughed and said they would never be alpha on Monday because the game was still missing such and such and this and this. So he asked, “Given all that is missing, how will you be Alpha on Monday?” They genuinely thought what he was saying was valid and got that fire lit behind the eyes where determination breeds. “We’re going to work all night and Saturday and Sunday from 9am-4am until we get it done!” And they were excited and literally high-fived each other.

My former boss nodded and said, “Remember an hour ago when you criticized my studio for its work-life balance? Here you are with a class project with no budget, with no real stakeholders beyond yourselves, no communication issues when you only have to meet with the other couple people on your team and yet you plan on working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week just to get it done. Now imagine my teams. We are working on much bigger projects that have incredible levels of contingencies. We have budgets in the eight figures. We have stockholders. We have relationships with suppliers and retailers that we get done by certain dates. We have expansive marketing budgets where content has to be ready for simultaneous delivery with the product. How can you criticize us for wanting to put out a decent game by working copious overtime, when you freely decide you want to do it on your own?”

I thought it was a great story.

And I haven’t worked a weekend in almost a year.

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