- So, we at the CMP Game Group have just published the June-July 2007 issue of Game Developer magazine, and you might notice that the frowny little guy on the cover relates to the cover feature 'For Better or Worse: A Quality of Life Update'.

This Paul Hyman-penned feature (sorry, not available for free online - subscribe now and support the mag!) takes a look at the effects of EA_Spouse's call to action (and the subsequent lawsuits) regarding long working hours in the game biz. As the synopsis notes:

"In 2004, a then-anonymous letter writer, “EA_Spouse,” penned an angry and outraged treatise to the game community chiding Electronic Arts for forcing employees to work egregious amounts of overtime. In the months that followed, development studios, the IGDA, and other outspoken individuals stood up and voiced their opinion of what it means to be in this obsessively dedicated line of work, with most of them calling for industrywide change, too. Nearly three years later, has any of it stuck? Or has the call to action petered out?"

Of course, since then, EA_Spouse has 'come out' as Erin Hoffman, and she makes plenty of comments in the article about how game company cultures (and EA in particular) has changed: "From what I understand, the Los Angeles studio has made a really big turnaround, for example. I've heard mixed comments from Vancouver, and I consistently hear bad things about Tiburon." We've heard that too, judging by a brief letter received after the article debuted, and some of the feedback on the GameWatch.org forums, set up by Hoffman to help discuss the issues.

But is it fair to single out EA? Absolutely not - all major game companies have (or have had) some degree of problems with working long hours, an edgy extension of a job that can require a lot of creative dedication. But it's when working 60 or 80 or 100 hours per week becomes corporately mandated or 'tribe'-impelled and management does nothing to stop the burnout that we get into trouble.

Anyhow, the GameWatch forums, though fairly quiet nowadays, have some good discussions in general, with other companies also coming up for scrutiny and even a 'Kudos' forum calling out companies from LucasArts through EA Chicago and Destineer for their good attitude to quality of life.

And UK-based Relentless Software's David Amor, who wrote an article on this very subject for Game Developer a few months back, also popped up with an excellent, in-depth look at the problem and some possible solutions. And as we discuss the issue more, I would hope that it's only going to get better.

[Have any (anonymous, if necessary!) GSW readers had experiences with quality of life issues being addressed thanks to EA_Spouse's publicity, or has it made little difference in your neck of the woods, I wonder?]