IGDA investigating Team Bondi workers' rights complaints

[UPDATE] Industry representative body says that hostile working conditions at L.A. Noire developer are "absolutely unacceptable" if true.

Rockstar Games has come to dominate the month of May, having scored back-to-back hits with the release of Red Dead Redemption in 2010 and L.A. Noire in 2011. However, chart-topper status isn't the only point of commonality between the studios, as both Red Dead Redemption developer Rockstar San Diego and now L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi have had employees cry foul over abusive working conditions.

Team Bondi is under investigation.

In response to the recent allegations against Team Bondi, the International Game Developers Association issued a statement to GameSpot today indicating that it will be conducting an investigation into Team Bondi's working conditions.

"At the current time, we do not know all the facts about the situation at Team Bondi and do not want to misrepresent any parties involved," the IGDA said in a statement. "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 are reaching out to the employees and former employees of Team Bondi to come to the IGDA Quality of Life SIG with their concerns to help us create a more accurate and detailed response," it continued. "We encourage any Team Bondi employee and/or family member to e-mail qol@igda.org with their comments about the recent past and current situation--positive or negative."

The IGDA's comment follows on from a host of allegations leveled at Team Bondi in recent weeks. On Friday, an IGN report quoted a number of past and present Team Bondi employees who detailed oppressive working conditions at the studio. Further, in early June, more than 100 one-time Team Bondi employees claimed they had been left out of L.A. Noire's credits.

Rockstar Games had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

[UPDATE] Responding to a request for comment, an IGDA representative said that should the allegations against Team Bondi prove true, its best form of action is to raise awareness about the situation.

"The IGDA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the careers and enhance the lives of game developers," the representative said. "A big part of that has always been through our advocacy for and on behalf of developers. On a general level for an issue like this we would certainly do our best to raise awareness of the situation, and will continue to educate people about the incredibly harmful effects extended crunch has."

"For Team Bondi specifically we would seek to help affected developers understand what their rights are, and what type of recourse, if any, is available to them," the representative said. "The sad reality is that the 'death march' crunch alleged to have occurred at Team Bondi is still far too common in the industry. While we find the practice to be deceptive, exploitative, and ultimately harmful not only to developers but their final product, and the industry as a whole, in many cases it is not illegal and as such employees have little ability to effect change other than raising awareness of studio practices, and looking to work for studios that operate differently."

"The most disappointing aspect of this is that many people believe that incredible games can only be made through abusive practices like this," the representative continued. "The fact is, games can be built without having to exploit developers through forced extended crunch, and the results can be better for the game they are working on, and for the long-term sustainability of the studio and its team."

The IGDA rep concluded by noting that the organization has as a long-term objective to establish employment contract guidelines for studios that address such issues as crediting, quality of life, and overtime pay.

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Discussion

66 comments
Slagar
Slagar

This isn't just game developers, it goes for all developers (I'm actually trying to leave the industry, after the god-awful lifestyle and having a number of jobs which have paid well below minimum wage, considering the hours I put in). But this isn't just developers, either. Do you think Doctors work 9-5? Lawyers, when someone's liberty is at stake? Do you think business men, who put all their effort into getting their business off the ground, do? I know some people that have worked until 3am six or seven days a week consistently for their work, without getting paid overtime. I know others that choose to work for well below the minimum wage, just so that they can afford to eat. Unfortunately, it's easy to see that it's just simple economics. It's the way of the world, and always will be. THAT SAID, I do not agree with being pushed to work those kinds of hours, especially for such an unhealthy job as software development. I fully support the mission of the IGDA, and hope that they're successful. I hope their ideals are taken up, and spread to other places and other industries.

rabidsquirrel1
rabidsquirrel1

Normally I don't respond to something like this but being former military I can tell you that I am really surprised at the negative reactions to people saying sometimes working 12 hour days happens and to deal with it or move on. I have done 3 to 4 days in a row in the military prior to getting a 4 hour sleep break. You can't run around complaining about it. You can't sit there and whine about how you are tired. Heck you can't even complain about the actual bullets flying around your head. I know that I made a heck of a lot less then a game designer as well. So please tell me how it is soooo bad for these people to have to work 12 hour days 7 days a week when every person in the military is looking at an average of 80+ hours a week and they make way less then a game designer. The real world is calling and it isn't happy sunshine fun time like high school.

Jaga_Telesin
Jaga_Telesin

I'm going to guess that Aussies have labor laws like any other nation, and that those laws cover abuse as Bondi has demonstrated. This will go from a "raising awareness" thing to a "who was directly responsible" thing, and someone will either be the subject of a lawsuit or criminal charges, and do some time in the big house. Personally I think in the end Bondi will fold, and before that happens those who were forced to work massive overtime need to be compensated for that (salaried employment or hourly, makes no difference here). And yes, I would certainly like to see some jail time for the management involved in breaking labor laws. "Crunch Time" weeks or a couple months before release isn't uncommon, but years before it is atrocious.

djforlife84
djforlife84

I just want to say that I work in the Music Industry as a DJ, producer and engineer. I can say that I have worked over 100 hours per week at times. I do not get holidays. Ive done tracking for bands that lasted 30+ hours in recording studios. Ive DJ'd 8, 10, 12 hour sets straight through. My point is I highly doubt Rockstar treats its employees like slave laborers. That is a ridiculous statement. Sure 12 hrs days 7 days a week for a couple yrs is a lot. I hope they get paid overtime or have bonus' for extended hours. I know I do. The game/music/film industry is basically the same. I do not know the entire details of this situation, but I do not think it should be that big of a deal. If you don't like your working conditions find another career. simple. As for Rockstar maybe they should give their employees the respect they deserve. after all, they are the ones making the product.

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

@gamerboy100 First off I will NOT support a company that treats its employees like inhuman laborers. * Secondly game developers get either paid hourly or are on salary. ONLY the top Devs and TOP heads of the company make the additional profit from actual game sales. (unless its a small comp. but Bondi isn't) YOU REALLY think that these people work for years not getting paid, thats really naive.

gamerboy100
gamerboy100

@Infinity_Gauntl You are aware that the money they make is also used to pay the guys who worked on the game, right? Do you think they have to suffer even more than they already have?

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

I might pick up LA NOIR as a used game so BONDI doesn't profit from it but I will never buy a game from them. Its unacceptable to treat people like this and the gameing community shouldn't put up with it.

ecoolen
ecoolen

If you're really doing that on a regular basis, I think it's best you had a little chat with your union or boss.

hexenar
hexenar

I work 36 hour shifts at my hospital, so i think they are being lazy...

Sendmn23
Sendmn23

GEEZ... alot of you guys act as if though Team Bondi had a gun poised at everyones head to finish the game... they had a job, and thats more than enough in these sad times.. and I'm sure they got paid reasonably for their work... you know how people are when there's a "bandwagon." They all like to jump on the negative... me for one I thought L.A. Noire was a well polished game.. and well worth my measly $64.88 that I paid for it....

shootandloot
shootandloot

12 hour days are becoming the norm. I work in IT for a Grocery Retailer and we regularly work 10 hour days. And are on call 24/7. My Daughter works in ICU at the hospital and they are on 12 hour shifts. So what is everybody complaining about??? I know a lot of people that do not have jobs that would happily work 12 hour days to be able to support their family. Sound like someone is a little spoiled to me.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

@boarwar [quote]good slaves...goooood...keep ur mouths shut and make me some more money.[/quote] This should be the Republican Party slogan.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

boarwar
boarwar

good slaves...goooood...keep ur mouths shut and make me some more money. Reminds me of the Billions of dollars activision has kept to themselves and wont give a cent of profit to the creators. God rest humanity in the workplace.

keech
keech

@x-2tha-z You're missing the fact that game designers aren't wage pay. They are salary. Programmers generally make between 45-65k a year (more if you have a lot of experience with the job) depending on position, experience, and the company they are working for. Lead programmers up to 90k a year. Directors can make up to 110k a year. The crunch time this article is talking about isn't a week of 12 hour work days. Or even a month. Often times It's 3 months or more of 12 hours work days 7 days a week. With no guarantee of seeing any sort of bonus for doing so. In fact if you run the numbers against an even halfway decent paying wage job over 12 months. It suggests they are basically working the "crunch hours" for free unless the company they work for decides to give then a bonus for it.

nosferatu94
nosferatu94

it's the true underbelly of the videogame industry... we'll slave ur ass out for a buck. is anyone really that shocked?

ecoolen
ecoolen

@Rigyabliss Sometimes... the grunts are masochistic... sometimes.. But mostly not and you are probably right :)

x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

My employer stopped giving us any overtime over a year and a half ago. Believe me, there's lots of people at my work that would love to be able to work 12 hours a day. The price of everything is going up and we haven't had a pay rise in four years. I understand crunch must be tough, but these guys should realise there's people in a worse situation than them.

Rigyabliss
Rigyabliss

@ecoolen Such an example is nevertheless one of the aforementioned failure of project management. Late decisions to add or change content are not made by the common worker, but rather implemented by them. If there is not enough time to affect such a change then additional muscle should be hired. If the budget prevents such a resolution then the decision to modify the content is a misappropriation of resources. That is not to say that some of these decisions are not made with the best of the game at heart, but this is most certainly at the expense of the average worker's best interests. This is not to say that middle-management is to blame for such occurrences, often they are as much a victim as the base developers themselves. Oftentimes it is the premature release date that is to blame, despite the fact that much marketing and financial analysis deems such dates the best time to launch a product. In such a case, the earlier addition of resources can affect a change that prevents the crunch at a later time. Presumably, most of the detrimental decisions are made by an individual who is not directly affected by the crunch itself, but rather arbitrating in the interest of another party (likely the investors). Despite it all, however, crunch time is still due to the failure of project management, be it middle, or more likely upper.

thesim1990
thesim1990

@VarietyMage Some? You mean most...

GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

Well, if they paid me at least 200000,00 bucks a month, I would have nothing to complain! =D

ecoolen
ecoolen

@Rigyabliss Sometimes a production takes more work than expected because of creative decisions made. The thing is that almost no developer has the luxury of saying things like : "It's done when it's done" (there are exceptions ofcourse..) So that means more crunch.

ecoolen
ecoolen

@Draconous79 The fact that overtime is not paid for most in the industry (games/animation), is a sad fact. But the employees indeed put up with it. Another reason for this is that most are working on a freelance or independant basis. This means that most of the time, employees are payed for delivering a finished "product". So a system of a 9to5-job is almost non-existant. And because of the nature of the freelance job, there is always the fear of the possibility of being fired without notice or reasonable cause. Its a great job! But they know we know it...

Triton
Triton

Mo money, mo money - now that's a lot of Over Time.... ChaChing. Wonder what they will buy with all that OT. Hope they dump it into the economy.

Agent-M
Agent-M

Well at least I now know which companies to avoid when looking for work.

smoke_dog_4ever
smoke_dog_4ever

This game was initially scheduled to come out last August and it gets pushed back 9 months. I'm finding it hard to believe that with an additional 9 months of work time that they were overworked. This is like somebody from Epic Games complaining when Microsoft made them push back Gears of War 3 a year for further polish.

Kanten
Kanten

Really? Bondi is under investigation for this? Isn't this the first rule at EA and Activision?

Draconous79
Draconous79

I have noticed a lot of comments like "oh well... this job works 12 hour shifts all the time and get paid for it and they don't complain". True except for one key point... that in both the games and animation industry... you don't always get paid for it!!! Its just assumed that you will do it for the greater glory... You don't always get paid overtime because of the revolving door mentality of these places... if you don't like it leave because there is always 50 fresh graduates out there who are willing to work for free to get into the industry. The other key point is that industry's that do work insane hours for long periods of time usually pay s#$t loads of money as compensation... again not necessarily in the games industry. Unfortunately because it is a "glamorous" occupation (ie a lot of people want to work on games) they can afford to churn and burn staff because of the limited employment and excess of talent... especially here in Australia. (Not big noting AU... but there is sweet FA game dev work here).

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

If you don't like it, leave. Oh wait, thanks to most laws nowadays employees get to dictate how the company is run. Don't like how you didn't get promoted? Sue for discrimination. Don't like your male boss? File a sexual harassment complaint. I'm all for treating people like people, but no one forced them to work there and no one is forcing them to stay. The part about not putting their names in the credits if they contributed is messed up, though.

HailHellfire
HailHellfire

im sure that the actors were treated like royalty compared to the developers... i highly doubt they would be willing to work those hours on a video game (a movie, is more likely), if this is true, than its a matter of discrimination, why should they be treated any differently from the developers if they are all on the same payroll... sounds like the gaming industry needs a gaming union/guild...

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Actually, crunch time is usually the fault of companies who decide that programmers are interchangeable parts. I've been there. I've worked two 25-hour days in my previous application developer job. Results: more bugs than a bait store, and over a week in patches in both cases. Note: despite both 25-hour days, neither project met the deadline, and both clients said a week's delay was fine by them when they were contacted (after the deadline was missed). Simply put, some companies and bosses are inhuman, and they don't care about other people as long as the deadlines are met - at any cost. And damn them all to hell for it.

emperiox
emperiox

Bobby Kotick admitted to treating his employees like dirt if I remember correctly...how come he didn't get as much heat? Just wondering...

Rigyabliss
Rigyabliss

All a crunch time ever is is a failure of project management. Regardless of their tradition and commonplace, they are an indication that the project was mismanaged until such a point where it was realized the project could not be launched within the stated window at the current rate of work. Crunch time is the fault of a game's administration, not its grunts who are the heart and soul of a project.

reneetruss
reneetruss

@blueguykisame Maybe they should hire you and never credit or pay you a cent.

reneetruss
reneetruss

@steveguttenbug because all they care about is f***ing games. They put games over peoples rights, how sad. If it was happen to them it would be a different story. These companies have an obligate to treat people like human beings.

Spacerac
Spacerac

@PostedOval you might wanna ask George Broussard how well "When it's done" worked for him. :P

steveguttenberg
steveguttenberg

How is it that so many Gamespot commenters are so anti-consumer, anti-worker, pro-corporation? I don't get it.

Leadtaco2o9
Leadtaco2o9

It's not like they are working in the fields are something. It's a video game. But they really should have put them in the credits.

PostedOval
PostedOval

I wish more developers took the Valve/Blizzard approach to releasing games: It will be done, when it's DONE. You shouldn't rush art.

Dr_Jackal
Dr_Jackal

I sure do hope they weren't treated badly.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

@dRuGGeRnaUt staring at a computer monitor for 12 hours ... people THINK they want to do that ... they don't really understand the implications.

dRuGGeRnaUt
dRuGGeRnaUt

In alberta canada, they can make you work 12 hours a day(with mandatory breaks) 6 days a week, as long as they pay you overtime or time off paid in compensation. They can make you work 24 STRAIGHT days in a row, 12 hours a day, but then they legally have to give you 4 consecutive days off. In the oil industry(which is mostly physical labour) most people work very long shifts. I find it hard to believe that working 12 hours at a computer is harder for you than doing heavy labour for 12 hours a day. http://employment.alberta.ca/SFW/1031.html

dRuGGeRnaUt
dRuGGeRnaUt

I don't know what labour laws are like where these people are. But in BC, Canada where I live, as long as they are willing to pay overtime, they can make you work 12 hours a day. Most of the people I know work 10 days normally, and 12 hours is a usual overtime shift. For most of these people it is a physical labour job too, not sitting in a desk. So find it hard to believe they were being "unreasonable" making them work for 12 hours a day. Depends on for how long, and if overtime wages were being paid in full. Personally I know quite a few people that would be HAPPY to work 12-14 hour shifts making games, especially if they are working for such a well known/established company.

KC_Hokie
KC_Hokie

Sounds like LA Noire was a huge hit and now the employees want some of that cash. Too bad that's not that way it works. If it's not written into your contract you can't claim 'I had to work too much' for compensation.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Hmm... Rockstar published games and their badly treated workers... I hope that's not a recipe for success. @decoy1978 That's because the demanding nature of a doctor's work is dictated by things like disease and injury. Nothing demands that much time from a coder, let's say. They CAN work 12 hour shifts, but it's simply unnecessary. It can be necessary for doctors. Oh, and it's just wrong not to pay people for their work, the only exception being if they reject payment. I know it's not unusual, but that doesn't make it ok.

bumpies
bumpies

Who cares they get paid for it. i work at the supermarket and i sometimes work 12hour shifts sure its hard but at the end of the week my pay compensates for it

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

@blueguykisame From what I've read they were pretty much forced to work 12 hour days 6 days a week for well over a year and they only got paid for a 40 hour week. Not only that but they didn't even get the credit they deserved and needed for their future careers. Not that bad you say, I say it's a bloody disgrace.

vannacut
vannacut

 @rabidsquirrel1 lol keep military out of this, you can get beaten, yelled at constantly in the military, doesnt mean you should take that from employeers in civil life...