Well now, this is something you don't hear every day when you're looking at the video game developer news. Gameloft, that group that brings some of the most fantastic games for Android to the market right now, has a rogue former employee speaking very harsh words about the way their team was treated, citing "dangerous working conditions" amongst other evil things. Given that we love Gameloft's games, it's difficult to accept such accusations, but the ends don't always justify the means, right? Let's talk about this a bit.
Glenn Watson Speaks
Gameloft has an office in New Zealand where an employee by the name of Glen Watson is accusing the company of having 120-hour work weeks (that's something like 17 hours a day) and "a culture of purposely shortened project deadlines." Glenn Watson, former Head Studio Programmer at Gameloft's New Zealand location, is the source of this dismay. His words are certainly disturbing, and remind me of the time I worked in a warehouse loading up Pepsi and Beer all night long - horrible but tasty!
“Some weeks I was working 100 to 120 hours a week. Starting at 9:30 AM, going home at 2:30 AM, and then coming back into the office at 8:30 AM to start work again was not unusual," notes Glenn “There were other times when I would be called back into the office at 11:30 PM by the studio producer, only to head home again at 2:30 AM,” he explained. “It was after I worked four consecutive weeks of fourteen-hour days - including weekends - that I realized I needed to resign." - Glenn Watson
Apparently Glenn's "dangerous working conditions" allegations have been independently verified to the group that interviewed Glenn, Games.On.Net, each of these sources also being employees wishing to remain anonymous. One of the more suspicious elements in this story unfolding is the process of what Glenn and other employees call "golding."
Golding in Auckland
One of the practices that appears to be happening inside the Auckland offices and throughout Gameloft, if reports are true, is the process known by staff members as "golding." This process included, they say, constantly being told that they were under crunch time to make gold on the game when in fact they had time to spare. Glenn notes several occasions where deadlines for games would be handed to the staff, theses deadlines requiring them to work hundreds of hours of overtime only to later find that they had several more weeks than they'd originally been told they'd be allowed:
“Many of the senior staff were becoming suspicious,” he says, “and wondering why their local producer wasn’t standing up for them.” - Glenn Watson
One of the larger problems arises in rules inside New Zealand’s health and safety legislation, "contractual conditions" as Glenn's bosses defined them in several cases possibly being considered “fatigue working” under the 2002 Health and Safety in Employment Act. This law, Games.On.Net notes, allows employees to have the right to refuse work under the given conditions. In that the studio itself can define any amount of hours as "contractual hours" and "reasonable hours" without renumeration.
According to a local jobs recruiter in Auckland, the Auckland Gameloft studio currently has a freeze on hiring any new junior staff and is actively working to set up a new studio in Brisbane. This same jobs recruiter suggests that the "imminent collapse of Gameloft in Auckland may be closer than many of its employees fear," all of this part of an interview with Games.On.Net.
When asked why he did not want to remain anonymous for the interview, as is the norm in the game development community in the New Zealand and Australia regions, Glenn noted the following:
“Gameloft asked me to ‘apologise’ for leaving the studio and shouldering others with the burden of my work”, said Glenn. “I feel the best apology I can give is to ensure that they never get put through the same rubbish conditions again." - Glenn Watson
Well played. Somebody fly this guy over to LA to work for a better company. Meanwhile, Gameloft, what do you have to say for yourselves?