Once again I ran into one of those articles I just can’t seem to make myself NOT react to. As usual when this happens to me, this is an article defending something and doing some rotten things to dismiss valid criticisms and pretend problems aren’t problems. This one is about EA.
Here’s the link: http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/06/14/why-do-people-hate-ea
I am actually super hesitant to post this because it pretty much directly disagrees with what someone whom I really respect recently said (not the author of the piece. I don’t know him) and it is the sort of thing that pretty much HAS to somewhat offend a bunch of my friends and it would be silly of me not to expect them to get a bit defensive about it.
I better start by making super clear some things:
- This is not about you guys working for EA with little to no impact on these decisions. You guys are great.
- It is about the problems that make people dislike EA. Which is different from disliking you guys.
- You can enjoy working there and still have problems with aspects of how things are scheduled and managed.
- Criticizing or having complaints about something is not the same as hating it.
- I am not arguing that EA is completely evil nor do I mean to defend anyone who does.
- This isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t like EA. This is about why a lot of people don’t and that they aren’t stupid, weird, crazy or haters-just-to-be-haters.
Problems with the article
There are a number of really nasty things going on in this article! The first, and probably the cause of the rest, is that in an article about the problems with EA, the only source quoted or even mentioned is EA itself. A representative of the company speaking on behalf of its critics is not exactly a formula for a fair and balanced article. The other big problems are 1) it suggests being a big company trying to make money and adjust to digital distribution excuses EA’s behavior and 2) it dismisses criticism as ‘haters’ instead of dealing with what they actually have to say.
Problems with EA
The article left the actual issues people have with EA pretty vague, so I’ll spell out some of the ones I can think of:
- gobbling up competition e.g. Bullfrog
- expecting ridiculous hours of employees and a culture that makes folks feel guilty about not staying late
- people feel that when EA bought competing studios, they ruined future games in the franchises acquired that way, or stopped making them altogether
- the exclusivity deal with the NFL (and resulting lack of competition) is seen as bad for customers
- customers feel cheated by content they have to pay extra for even though it is included on the disc (they bought a disc, but the things on it still need to be bought…again!?)
- customers feel cheated by day-1 DLC (why wasn’t it just included in the game?-type thing)
- customers feel cheated for how online pass means you have to pay extra to use certain game features if you bought it second-hand. (or if you failed to realize your box included a code, which it turns out a lot of folks do)
- despite what Peter Moore says, a bunch of producers sitting down and trying to find ways to exploit people for more money in MUT, FUT, Facebook games, etc. is in fact what actually happens when they design games at EA
- one day 1 out of every 6 EA employees in the entire company were let go
Notably NOT in the list:
- people don’t think game companies should make money
- that EA shouldn’t look for new ways to make money
- that people think EA should be on some intellectual or moral mission
- that EA working conditions are worse than mining diamonds in Africa
He points out that the things in the second of these lists would be silly to be mad at EA for. He’s right, but the previous list still matters! You may not agree that all of these are reasons to dislike EA but I can certainly see where people are coming from with all of them.
People don’t dislike EA because of imaginary “so-called” problems or because they are “haters”. That’s just weasel words and name-calling. People dislike EA because of things EA did or is still doing.
Companies will be companies
The article carefully emphasizes that EA is a company, and companies have to make money. This is true and it’s fine but it’s not why EA is so disliked. It goes on to point out that EA has to adapt to a changing world and that it makes mistakes doing so. It suggests that because something the company did is a mistake it should get a pass. It assumes that these things even are mistakes, even though EA continues to do them despite the outcry.
If they are making their customers feel cheated, it is not excused by the fact that they are a company or that they have to make money or that they make mistakes and are still just learning digital distribution. They still made folks feel cheated.
The article says EA_Spouse was a while ago and things have gotten better. They’ve improved, but people are still asked to work ridiculous hours. The company culture still makes you feel guilty about going home on time. Schedules are still made planning to crunch and even when they don’t, crunching is still treated as necessary and unavoidable. Obviously on the whole, the people who stay with the company still enjoy or need the job enough to keep working there, but this hardly makes the expectation of long hours a good thing. And yes, some places have it worse, but again that doesn’t make it good.
You don’t have to be an employee or former employee for that to make you think less of a company.
Silencing your critics
The article claims to be talking specifically about “hate” defined as a mindset where no matter what EA does it will be criticized. Unfortunately what this this does is cast criticism no matter what it is as hate. The article is assuming the worst motivations for the those with complaints and the best motivations for the company. Maybe the author tried to talk about just these very few extreme cases, but everyone with something unfavorable to say about EA is getting lumped in with the “haters” which is a group/term much easier to discredit and dismiss.
EA is in a position of power in a way that customers who feel slighted are not. Criticism and scrutiny of the company is quite justified.
EA isn’t even what I’m interested in here
I have had my own rocky relationship with EA, but I hope I have been able to put that aside enough to get the important part across: You don’t fix things by pretending they aren’t problems and trying to silence and dismiss criticism as ‘haters’ just makes you an asshole.
If you want to understand why people don’t like an entity like EA, you need to actually look at what it is doing and what the complaints are. And if you want it to stop, you need to own up to it and change, not deny that there’s a problem or use name-calling to dismiss your critics.