I was surprised to hear the cast's response to news of mental health breakdowns for a few staff members working at EA on Anthem.
Back in 2004 I worked at Maxis post-EA acquisition, but pre-relocation to Redwood Shores (HQ) as part of a 40+ person QA staff. During our crunch on a console Sims title we worked 14 hour days on average, 7 days a week for over six weeks straight. In the final days of certification testing pre-gold master we didn't leave the office except maybe for a pair of 30-60 minute lunch breaks over the course of 48 hours. Dinners were provided, as were snacks, but the combined pressure of the hours and the repetition of our work tasks was very stressful for a few members of our team, two of whom had major breakdowns.
One of our team members was picked up by BART police (light train public transit) 35 miles away in San Francisco during a work day. He was incoherent and unable to communicate with them and they found the QA Manager's business card in his wallet. His family had to pick him up and get him help. Another team member also had to seek professional care during this "crunch" and was fired for taking time off of his job. When these two appalling incidents were reported to the QA director at the studio she told the staff that she wasn't willing to change our schedules and if any of us had a problem with it we would be quickly replaced as "testers are a dime a dozen."
I think I would have been skeptical about extreme workplace stress in the video game industry until I had experienced a small sample of it first hand. Some of the people I worked with back then never left their jobs at EA and while they've worked up to more senior positions inside of the company, this kind of atmosphere didn't deter them from the company or the industry as a whole.
EA Spouse was published right around the time we were going through the worst of our crunch days and reading the post a few of us had hopes that there would be major institutional changes made as a result. I stayed there for two more title releases, both of which were post-relocation and while the hours were somewhat more reasonable 12 hour days and adjusted schedules so no one had to work a 7 day week, there were still 48-72 hour workdays during cert. I left the video game industry and never looked back. No other job I've had since has been so dismissive of mental health or workplace safety as it relates to reasonable work hours, time off and reasonable and clearly communicated team goals.
I was glad to hear you guys turn the corner a bit and try to empathise for the team members who experienced the breakdowns on Anthem as the conversation continued. Thanks for the entertainment and the laughs on a weekly basis. Love the show.