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LA Noire developer responds to accusations of exploiting workers

LA Noire developer responds to accusations of exploiting workers

Game development isn't a nine-to-five job, says Team Bondi boss Brendan McNamara.

Brendan McNamara, boss of LA Noire developer Team Bondi, has responded to accusations of exploiting his employees at the Sydney-based studio.

Instead of downplaying the accusations, which involve excessive working hours and a thankless working environment, McNamara defended his management style.

'I'm not even remotely defensive about it,' McNamara told IGN. 'I think, if people want to do what I've done – to come here and do that – then good luck to them. If people who've left the company want to go out there and have some success, then good luck to them. If they don't want to do that with me, that's fine, too.'

Other reports suggested that 130 people involved in the seven year-long project hadn't been included in the game's credits, leading to the creation of an independent site designed to properly credit the game's contributors. Meanwhile, some workers claimed to have been forced to work for over 100 hours a week with little compensation.

Some accusations were also aimed squarely at McNamara himself, with one worker claiming he was the angriest person they'd met, and that he'd regularly scream at people in front of their colleagues.

However, McNamara claimed that everyone in the studio worked the same hours, including himself, adding that 'if you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you'd be in another business.'

Defending the need for long hours, the Team Bondi boss also said that the developer was 'making stuff that's never been made before. We're making a type of game that's never been made before. We're making it with new people, and new technology. People who're committed to put in whatever hours they think they need to.'

What do you make of McNamara's comments? Were his actions justified or is this a classic case of poor management skills? Let us know in the forums.

24 Comments

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shadows 28th June 2011, 09:27 Quote
Typical of the games industry, it is one of those industries where the hours aren't 9 to 5, its highly stressed but can be highly rewarding.
memeroot 28th June 2011, 09:35 Quote
People sell their time - if they are not happy then they can move somewhere else just as a company should be free to choose who they employ people should feel free to choose who they are employed by.

having said that not giving due credit is a disgrace.
Stotherd-001 28th June 2011, 09:37 Quote
I work in financial software, and the policy is fairly similar, less screaming from the manager, but you're expected to work more than your contracted hours, which are already fairly ridiculous.
Bonedoctor 28th June 2011, 09:56 Quote
100hrs is a bit much - I'm a doctor and have done a few 110+ hour weeks and they aren't fun. Neither are they always recognised. Having said that, at least in the software industry they get to tke their recognition back.
PingCrosby 28th June 2011, 09:56 Quote
Garcia Hotspur wouldn't put up with this nonsense.
r3loaded 28th June 2011, 10:20 Quote
100 hours is ridiculous. More hours =/= more productivity. Quite the opposite in fact. Devs need time off to consolidate their thoughts, possibly coming up with solutions and being alert at work. Any doctor or medical researcher will tell you that lack of sleep is bad, and leads to all sorts of disorders and problems. Coming to work tired is often worse than coming in drunk.

In short - a manager can't expect their employees to be productive if they're nodding off because they've worked too long.
aleph31 28th June 2011, 10:20 Quote
I'm working in the software industry (but not into videogames) and I've also faced 100+ hours per week for months (with no extra money nor recognition). At the end I quit (after facing several health issues), and now I'm happy with my fixed 40 hours per week. I don't get pluses either, but at least I don't give my life for nothing in return. I think western world jobs conditions are becoming more and more like Middle Age servitude or plain slavery (maybe because of the competition with China?). I think that the only way in software industry to do something where you feel fulfilled is to create your own project and be your own boss...
WarrenJ 28th June 2011, 10:24 Quote
If they're paid for the 100 hours where's the problem? In this financial climate, every hour counts.

However, his management style sounds like its no fun.

I'd put up with it if the money was right.
SexyHyde 28th June 2011, 10:35 Quote
His reaction is typical of a manager. Most managers I see today are not qualified or experienced enough to do a their job. It's because companies are only working and thinking about their shareholders.
aleph31 28th June 2011, 10:38 Quote
@WarrenJ: it seems that " some workers claimed to have been forced to work for over 100 hours a week with little compensation". I see two problems in this statement:

- Little compensation: of course, everyone sees this with a different perception. But the typical scenario should be to be paid at least x1.5 of a regular work hour.

- Be forced to do overwork. That's ok for a small "crunch time" (say 1-2 weeks). Otherwise, it is bad management and/or lack of resources, so you redirect your burden to the current employees. Overwork should always be an option for those who want to earn more, not an obligation.
borandi 28th June 2011, 11:29 Quote
Let's take Google into consideration. 40 hr weeks, and 20% of that they let developers work on their own projects. Their offices are comfortable, and they offer free soda and soft beverages for workers whenever they want. Most of Google's projects are great, and in fact most are born out of that 20% own project time.

Game industry fail, imo.
mclean007 28th June 2011, 11:36 Quote
@WarrenJ and aleph31 - I took it to mean the employees were on a salary and didn't get paid per hour or overtime at all. That's certainly how it works in my industry (I'm a lawyer) - you get a decent base salary but there's an understanding that you will regularly have to work over your contract hours without being paid overtime. If I hit my target for the year I get a modest bonus, but I've had a couple of years with no bonus where I've had a few killer months and a few dead quiet ones so missed my target for the year - needless to say in the quiet months I don't get to skip off home at lunch time :)
aleph31 28th June 2011, 11:52 Quote
@mclean007: whatever the schema, I think that the aim should be for anyone to feel that it is being properly compensated for the invested effort. If you are not comfortable with the situation, the correct solution would be to quit and go to a more decent company. Problem is that quitting is not usually an option, as the videogames industry is overcrowded, so there will be a lot of youngsters willing to take your place and be exploited (and the problem worsens with the current financial crisis). The hiring-burning chain can go on forever. Only option that comes to my mind is to become an entrepreneur and do your own stuff (on the indie arena, as AAA macro-productions are out of reach for a little startup).
mclean007 28th June 2011, 12:03 Quote
@aleph31 - that's capitalism for you. If you're going to try to make it in an industry which is a popular place to work, then you're going to have to accept competition for jobs. This represents a surplus of supply (of workers willing to work), which pushes prices (wages) down.
aleph31 28th June 2011, 12:15 Quote
@mclean007: you are right, supply and demand applies here. But the net effect is an intolerable worsening of the working conditions (intolerable as prolonged and forced 100+ hours per week may be). So I think that the solution should be to broaden the supply (companies, by creating your own project / startup or whatever) instead of pushing your health and happiness to the limit just to stay in place (as I mentioned in a previous post, the situation resembles too much the extreme exploitation conditions seen in too many places along History).
Ayrto 28th June 2011, 12:37 Quote
How can pushing people so hard in a creative industry ever be productive? Clearly they should hire more people and lessen the load on stressed staff. It's not an issue of finding people of suitable calibre either, when talented staff who do meet the expected grade could walk anyway.

I suppose you need targets and milestones, otherwise a game would never get finished, but 100 hours is likely to make people working on a game hate it by the time it ships- probably why lack of patches is an issue with many new games -everyone who worked on them has either left or wants nothing to do with them.
Nikols 28th June 2011, 12:49 Quote
Irish f@$ker
;-)
Phil Rhodes 28th June 2011, 13:33 Quote
But surely if you're a software engineer you do expect a nine-to-five working environment...

If that's not a standard office job, what is!?
memeroot 28th June 2011, 13:57 Quote
the work is not creative - it's a commodity - just like gold farming

(can I have another tree?)
BLC 28th June 2011, 14:10 Quote
About 10 years ago, I worked for a small computer retailer as a workshop tech. It started off as being 10-6pm, Monday to Saturday - pretty reasonable hours. Pretty soon that turned into 10am-8pm (store opening hours) - I got paid for the extra time, so that was fine. Not long after, that turned into 10am to 9pm and I got paid overtime for the extra hour. That turned into a 9pm finish with no overtime. Then it turned into a 10pm finish, again without overtime. It wasn't long before I was finishing between 11pm and midnight and coming in at 8am (particularly at Christmas) - without being paid the overtime.

At the time, I didn't really speak up because everybody else working there was in the same boat: two owners and one other workshop tech - we were all working the same hours. I left that place because at the time I felt like I didn't want to do that kind of work forever and felt like it was going nowhere. With hindsight however, I now realise that I was being screwed for all I was worth. The actual work was quite easy and I actually did enjoy it (and still do).

I have no problem in putting in the extra time when necessary - I've done an awful lot of that this year - but I expect that flexibility to go both ways. If my employer wants me to go out of my way to help out, then I expect them to suitably compensate me for it - even if it's only time off in lieu and not actual overtime.
jhng 28th June 2011, 16:06 Quote
Homework for everyone: go and read Chapter 10 of Capital by Karl Marx. It is titled 'The Working Day' and discusses at (great and ponderous) length the reasons why employers are always keen to squeeze as much extra time out of each employee as they can.

Marx was discussing the spinning mills of 19th C England but it applies just the same to a modern software house, to a Foxxconn factory in China or even to anyone of the everyday service industries most of us work in here in the UK. Read it.
thil 28th June 2011, 18:27 Quote
I particularly like how his own problem was that the Aussie government wasn't cutting him enough tax breaks.

Like I want to subsidise this arrogant *******.

The interesting thing is that we can see how this cycle of *******isation gets perpetuated: McNamara went through **** when he was starting out, and he thinks he's fine, so others have to go through it as well. He even says kids came into Bondi and left as men/women, like this is a rite of passage.
DarkLord7854 29th June 2011, 00:57 Quote
Don't like the hours? Quit. Simple.

As a programmer, my hours are never 9-5pm because sh*t happens, and not everything can be put off till the next day to be fixed and taken care of. If a server goes down or someone pushes bad code up and things break, it has to be fixed immediately, no exceptions.

I've pulled all-nighters before, worked through the weekends, worked day/night back to back. It's part of the lifestyle. I'm salaried, but the salary is more than worth the shifting hours and extra work is generally always rewarded with a bonus or something.
Bakes 29th June 2011, 01:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by borandi
Let's take Google into consideration. 40 hr weeks, and 20% of that they let developers work on their own projects. Their offices are comfortable, and they offer free soda and soft beverages for workers whenever they want. Most of Google's projects are great, and in fact most are born out of that 20% own project time.

Game industry fail, imo.

Yes, but Google don't have the same tight deadlines. Much of what Google is doing is effectively research - it revolves around individuals having good mathematical ideas and putting them into practice.

If you're overworked at a game studio, your output will usually be of a lower quality. If you're overworked at a company like Google, you simply don't have the creative ideas in the first place.
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