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EA Louse, you are no EA Spouse. Your pettiness is shocking

By on October 13, 2010

Yesterday, a number of media outlets reported on the blog post by an anonymous soon-to-be-former employee at EA Mythic called EA Louse.

EA Louse attempts to take the moral high ground. His (and I assume it’s a man) rant begins:

“I would think myself to be part of some noble cause, like the original EA Spouse trying to save her husband from a hellish work environment at EA.”

Fat chance.

Why?

Warhammer logo

Because EA Spouse was fighting for a noble cause. EA Spouse issued a cri de coeur that difficult working working practices were breaking up relationships, families and marriages. If you don’t believe me, go and read it. It is an eloquent, carefully explained, rational and heartwrenching plea for a company (and an industry) that is highly profitable to stop treating employees like serfs, to understand the toll that insane crunch rules are taking on real people and their families and to ask for change.

EA Louse’s piece comes across as the “I want, I want” ramblings of a spoiled, self-indulgent brat.

EA Spouse was dignified; EA Louse is petty, mean-spirited and vindictive.

David Jaffe’s response was typically forthright:

“What the fuck is it about making games where it brings out the worst, most immature, most obnoxious sides of certain types of people on a team?”

I agree wholeheartedly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There were people who survived the fall of RealTime Worlds (like Luke Halliwell, for example) who wrote thoughtful, insightful posts into their time there, with lessons for all of us. Startups frequently offer no-holds-barred analyses of their failures.

In contrast, EA Louse’s beefs appear to be:

  1. I got made redundant. Fair enough. This is a horrible thing to happen to anyone, and I feel terrible for everyone at Mythic whose jobs are on the line. Including EA Louse.
  2. He didn’t like his bosses. His producer was “the saddest excuse for a producer I’ve seen.” Project managers, studio bosses, marketing people – everyone was rubbish at their job. It is a litany of ad hominem attacks.
  3. No-one listened to EA Louse: EA Louse and his team would say “omg it makes NO sense, “ but the big bosses made them do it anyway.
  4. The game failed, so EA Louse got fired, but the bosses didn’t. Maybe fair enough, I don’t know.

I have worked with people like EA Louse. People who have no idea of the conflicting pressures of product development, administration, financing, marketing. They have no idea of the big picture. They think they know everything, and that everyone else is a jerk.

They are opinionated, ill-qualified know-it-alls who lack humility or understanding.

(I appreciate the irony of writing that arrogant, condescending comment about someone I’ve never met.)

This post doesn’t help people avoid the errors of the past (like Luke’s RTW posts) .It doesn’t call on EA to change its working practices to save people’s sanity, health and relationships (like EA Spouse). This post doesn’t even explain in any coherent way what went wrong at Mythic except “the bosses fucked it up”.

All that I learned from reading it is that EA Louse is a jerk.

For the sake of his future employment prospects, I hope that he is never unmasked.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • Grill

    To be fair amidst the hatred, he does talk about a) communication problems in the company b) poor team management in Mythic c) design conflicts between Games Workshop, Mythic and EA marketing d) the sacking of the popular community manager Sanya (who apparently can’t talk about it because of her own lawyer-imposed NDA). He’s also prompted interesting reaction in the comments from Mythic veteran Walt Yarbrough, as well as the item-creation team (two of whom post) who say that even basic tools weren’t ready and that they were working off Excel spreadsheets… and who don’t dispute his portrayal of the management.

  • Anonymous

    Actually Nick, I think you’re almost completely wrong here.

    You missed the end of his first main paragraph: “I do not expect a happy ending, so I’ll be personal and selfish, and this is just for me.”

    He lays it out pretty clearly that this is a gripe. So why would you expect anything other than a good old winge? He even calls himself EA Louse as a parody of how this is not a noble attempt at making things better.

    I’ve got some affinity with him, as a lad in my earlier years making games, I saw similar situations to the ones he describes (and have seen many examples since), but rather than buckle down we always stood up and took it to the managers themselves. I can see how a bigger company makes that almost impossible.

    I think you’re attack on him not seeing the big picture is really failing to miss his point. The big picture is that there was a failing management team, ultimately what is management if it doesn’t take responsibility for failure? Wether it is their own or their teams failure, I view management as ultimately responsible. These days I accept that my own responsibility is for not just myself but for everyone I’m managing, but I see plenty of examples where “senior” management don’t to the same.

    Sure he might come across as immature, but it’s pretty likely he is a grunt worker in his twenties, so I think thats fair. If you look past the vitriol, the sentiment is “why the hell do they have jobs and MORE responsibility when they were in charge of a project which has failed massively and which fundamentally was their responsibility to manage” and I think thats a damn fine question to ask.

    I could easily ask similar questions about politicians and bankers.

  • http://www.alanodea.com alanodea

    Nicolas he’s not a child that needs a public berating or spanking. He is a games industry professional and our peer. I would argue that he needs OUR support and he most assuredly needs an industry and peers that should support his viewpoint, his stance and his voice. He and all the many, many, many others like him deserve an industry where he should feel safe and free to complain and vent his emotions, anger and despair. It is our failure as an industry that he has to hide his name to simple state his feelings, he should be free to bitch and gripe in public all he wants.

    The guys clearly loves his company and the games he’s working on. He also very clearly wants to respect and admire his company, publisher and managers but they seem to be making that a hard task for him. The guys annoyed and pissed off and feels betrayed that something he admires, respects and has devoted so much of his time too has failed him.
    I’ve seen far too many reasoned post company/project failure stories, post mortems and measured articles and there necessary and make for interesting reading but they only ever present half the story. There’s a human side to every game company failure and that human story is not measured and reasoned it is the story of people that have been failed by managers, failed by publishers, failed by the very companies that they dedicate so much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears too and are then left without jobs, without believe, without respect AND they have a right to be pissed off AND they have a right to vent that anger and frustration on the Internet.

    This is the 21st century the age of the social graph, the age where each and every person has an equality of speech, expression and presence on the Internet. Where the online world is dictated by like buttons, sharing and status updates. It is an Internet defined first and foremost by the word Friend. It is the personalised web where an ocean of expression consists of the infinite diversity and immediacy of the individual voice.

    Let the guy have his voice. Let him vent his rage. He is not a brat. He is not a jerk. He is just a person that pissed off and he has my support and he deserves his industry’s and his peer’s support.

    I believe more people should be using the web to rant at the failures of the games studios, companies, managers and publishers they work for. I believe a generation of game industry leaders and managers have failed the companies they work for and the employees they serve. I believe these failures need another side of the story. Another, rawer, human voice that runs contrary to the measured reasoned business analysis from the usual, stalwart and risk adverse august body of industry experts.

    Our peers, our contemporaries, our equals should be able to say the things they feel need saying RIGHT or WRONG without getting slammed for being a jerk, be lessened, demeaned, or be seen lacking because he does not possess the deft hand of a practiced blogist, or provide us with some deeper hereto unknown insight to the business failings, or fail to provide us with a well structured post mortem of the full cause and effects of the lead up to these failures.

    Sometimes people are just people. Hurt, betrayed, stinging, bleeding, crying, screaming and angry at the world and its peoples and sometimes just sometimes pissed off son of bitches.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    I’m afraid to say that I don’t agree (not least with your comment that I’m risk averse :-))

    Sure, people are hurt. But actually, it is rare that bitching and ranting about it helps anyone. And by doing so publicly it makes his prospects worse (anonymity notwithstanding).

    His managers may have made terrible mistakes; they may have made good decisions for good reasons that turned out to be be terrible. I have no idea.

    I certainly think that there is a role for open, honest criticism. I wasn’t criticising the quality of his writing, far from it. It was the attitude that he knew best; management sucked.

    In my experience of many businesses, from banks to web startups to games developers to media companies, the ability of junior people to see the big picture is startlingly absent. Sure, it’s a failure of management not to make the big picture clear, but too often, I’ve seen people who don’t want to see the big picture, who don’t care about the compromises forced on game designers, chief executives or marketing teams by the constraints of market, budget, timing, competitive position or whatever.

    I am a believer in shining a light on the business practices of companies. I believe in helping *everyone* understand the big picture so they become better developers, better business people, even better consumers.

    And unlike you, I don’t think ranting at the unfairness of the world helps anyone.

    (Although, like Voltaire, I would defend to the death EA Louse’s right to say it).

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    I think it is a damn fine question to ask.
    I just wish he’d asked. The vitriol helps no-one, least of all himself.

  • Anonymous

    EALouse’s post is perhaps not eloquently written and goes into something of a ramble/rant at certain folks, but the lesson for studios should be that in the age of equal voices/blogs for all this sort of thing is bound to happen. While David Jaffe’s opinion on it is also strong, it’s clear from the invective (and may of the comments following on) that all was very much not right at that studio, or at many other studios.

    Time was it used to be private industry forums that held these (and many more) entertaining rants but I’m not at all surprised that the tension is starting to leak into the public sphere.

  • JJ Abrams

    Aaaaaaaaaaaand someone missed the point of the post completely…

  • Anonymous

    I dont know, I think unless you’ve spent years of your life working on something to have someone else cause it to fail and still walk away with a promotion, I dont think its fair to judge the guy. He’s clearly passionate and I can identify with that.

  • http://twitter.com/TheTrueReaven Jules E. Valls

    He may not be aware of the big picture, yet I think he has the right to rant about this working condition where they have no word, they must obey their boss even knowing that what they are doing is going to end in a bad game, moreover a game that is going fail. The best of all being that the ones getting fired are they, not the designer / manager these guys worked for.

  • http://www.alanodea.com alanodea

    Sure and I’ll be right there defending your right to not agree with him :)

    As they say I am not a man of the people but I am most certainly a man for the people:)

  • http://www.alanodea.com alanodea

    Yes I agree and I think the time to take those discussions to the public forum is now, and will as you rightly say be a trend going forward.

  • Bob

    Mr. Lovell, if you’re going to assume you’ve “worked with people like EA Louse” before then I’ll happily assume you’ve never worked in production. First of all, you respond to this letter as though it were written by a CEO. It’s not. I know you’re really into business and marketing and blah blah blah but try to understand how normal people think.

    The guy who wrote this was pissed off. In the first paragraph he says “This isn’t going to win any fans, so I’ll call myself EA Louse,” then you ream him for not writing a constructive postmortem. This is not a failed businessman trying to pick up the pieces, this is a guy who feels like he was jerked around by his bosses and employers and ultimately fired passively by a finance spreadsheet. It would be like a disgruntled bank teller writing an anonymous letter trashing his company for firing him while the bank owners took bonuses in the recession.

    Bottom line; obviously all EA Louse wanted to do was hurt his employers post-humously the way he was hurt. Maybe he did, who knows? It was petty and immature but he never claimed otherwise. Nobody covering the EA Louse letter has even addressed the fact that regardless of all the stupid politics, the poor management, the backstabbing… Warhammer was a crap game. Gee, I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

    Have you considered that maybe that’s what this is about? That businessmen don’t even know whether a product is good or not because they have their heads so far up their ass spouting crap like “providing applications as new touchpoints for consumer engagement” that you don’t even know what “fun” is. You don’t even understand why people play games, just that they’re a commodity like fish or salt or… toothpaste.

    Whether this applies to you or not, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about you. But ultimately, whether he knows it or not, I think this is what EA Louse is really pissed off about.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, to counterpoint your argument here. I’d say that from first hand I’ve seen the exact opposite. The ability of “management” to see the failings in their own roles is possibly the worst case of missing the big picture. The fact that some people who arent management see the trainwreck coming and yet management don’t is not something I’m new to. For instance I was once in a department where our “manager” was an academic who had no professional management experience and no real management skill, hired from a forum I believe because he liked playing online games. After a year of constantly changing priorities and edicts, as a team we decided to protest to other management by offering to leave as long as they stopped funding the obvious failure of the online efforts. It turns out the other management was sympathetic and all of us moved on to other products. But the sheer lunacy of paying someone who had no management skill, to manage an inexperienced team to deliver a poorly concieved product with zero oversight has opened my eyes to the very real prospect of having incompetant management be in control of my destiny.

    What I’m trying to say is that you might have a perspective from management, but I can say that from the perspective of the people working on creating a product, that management perspective is often highly flawed, incomplete or just downright unhelpful.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    I’m intrigued to know what you think the point was?
    I think it was to bitch and moan with little understanding and very personal attacks on the failure of a project.
    What do think it was?

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    i think that is a fair pioint – that in the end the game may not have been good enough. (Although as David Jaffe points out, it had a metacritic of 85% – not a perfect measure, I know, but not a totally rubbish game either).

    But what a hardcore gamer thinks is a good game is not always what the market thinks: Eidos was brought to its knees by its testers pushing for Tomb Raider to become harder, more challenging, more hardcore, while forgetting that a large part of its success was in drawing people who played few games.

    I accept that he was pissed off and out to hurt people (that’s my point about it being immature, unhelpful and being a jerk), but also continue to believe that the view from the trenches can often be very misleading.

    What I am trying to think about is how the games industry can get better at respecting feedback from all quarters. One way is better management (I think we can all agree that), some is thoughtful feedback from the trenches (like Luke Halliwell’s post). I think it is *possible* that this post will help.

    More likely it will make it *easier* for management to ignore the “juvenile rantings of an ill-informed artist” (or however they want to characterise it in order to justify ignoring it.

  • Marque Pierre Sondergaard

    Nicholas, if you really wanted to put the boot into EA Louse, you would have taken the high ground and not dignified him with column inches. Alas, no matter how noble we think we are, we all need the traffic, don’t we? ;-)

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    It’s a fair point. Sometimes riding above something is the most elegant approach.

    I have correlated my increased snarkiness on GAMESbrief over the past four weeks with the arrival of my daughter (who is now four weeks old).

    I’m going to work on being more positive (and getting more sleep) for the next month.