It's not easy working on a highly anticipated video game. Ask any seasoned developer — long hours and intense deadline pressures are to be expected.
But how much is too much? And when does an employer cross the line from demanding to abusive?
These are the questions being asked now as the International Game Developers Association — a professional organization for game developers — launches an investigation into claims that employees who worked on the hit game "L.A. Noire" at Australia-based company Team Bondi faced abusive conditions.
"L.A. Noire" took seven years to make and those who worked on the game told game site IGN of enormously high employee turnover rates, misleading contracts and working sometimes 110 hours in a week with no overtime compensation. And they described Team Bondi founder Brendan McNamara as a nightmare of a boss.
One employee described McNamara as "the angriest person" he'd ever met. "It's one thing for him to be angry behind closed doors, but it was incredibly common for him to scream at whoever was pissing him off in the middle of the office."
Another employee who left the company in 2008 told IGN he finally quit because of the stress. "The trigger was this: I received a reprimand for 'conduct and punctuality' for being 15 minutes late to work," he explained. "I arrived at 9:15am — despite the fact I had only left work around 3:15am the same day, and paid for my own taxi home!"
Adding further fuel to this growing fire, some 130 employees who worked on "L.A. Noire" have told The Sydney Morning Herald that they were not included in the credits for the game. The list of omissions included one lead engine developer who had worked on the game for four years.
Those employees have created the site LANoireCredits.com to draw attention to their plight.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, an anonymous source with dirt on Team Bondi took to Twitter to unload a host of accusations and revelations about unpleasant and disorganized working conditions at the company.
Brian Robbins, chair of the IGDA Board of Directors, has told Develop magazine that the association will be investigating the matter.
"... certainly reports of 12-hour a day, lengthy crunch time, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and harmful to the individuals involved, the final product, and the industry as a whole. We encourage any Team Bondi employee and/or family member to email email@example.com with comments about the recent past and current situation — positive or negative."
Meanwhile, McNamara has defended his management style and his studio's work policies.
"We all work the same hours," McNamara told IGN. "People don't work any longer hours than I do. I don't turn up at 9 a.m. and go home at 5 p.m., and go to the beach. I'm here at the same hours as everybody else is ... If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you'd be in another business."
He went on to imply that perhaps the real problem was the unrealistic expectations of Australian game developers.
"The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself; well, you can't," he said. "Whether it's in London or New York or wherever; you're competing against the best people in the world at what they do, and you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do to compete against those people."
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