Gameloft Auckland accused of poor working conditions
Former head studio programmer alleges 14-hour days and false deadlines
New accusations of poor working conditions have surfaced in the New Zealand studio of mobile developer GameLoft.
games.on.net has published an interview with Gameloft Auckland's former head studio programmer Glenn Watson, in which he describes an atmosphere of constant pressure and intimidating working hours.
"Some weeks I was working 100 to 120 hours a week," Watson said. "Starting at 9:30, going home at 2:30 [the following day], and then coming back into the office at 8:30 to start work again was not unusual."
"There were other times when I would be called back into the office at 23:30 by the studio producer, only to head home again at 2:30. It was after I worked four consecutive weeks of fourteen-hour days - including weekends - that I realised I needed to resign."
Watson claims he was inspired to blow the whistle in part by similar allegations from former employees of Team Bondi, but also by Gameloft's reaction to his decision to leave.
"Gameloft asked me to 'apologise' for leaving the studio and shouldering others with the burden of my work. I feel the best apology I can give is to ensure that they never get put through the same rubbish conditions again."
Watson believes that artificial deadlines were handed down by Gameloft's French management to make employees work faster and harder. On several occasions, Watson and his staff discovered that they had several weeks longer to hit their targets than they were led to believe.
Internally, the practice became known as "golding", due to the false claims that they were working towards a game's gold master build.
According to games.on.net, Watson's version of events has been corroborated by a number of former employees who wished to remain anonymous.
The site also claims to have seen "seemingly authentic" e-mail conversations between Watson and the Auckland studio's senior management, which state that the long hours are in accordance with the employees' contracts.
However, Watson believes that Gameloft's practices would be considered "fatigue working" under New Zealand's 2002 Health and Safety in Employment Act, giving employees the legal right to refuse.
For Watson, the situation is all the more galling due to the fact that, during his tenure, Gameloft amended employee contracts to offer time in lieu for working outside of contracted hours.
"They went in and fixed this," he said, "so why aren't they willing to fix the fact that employees are even being asked to work fourteen hour days in the first place?"
games.on.net also reports that the conditions at Gameloft Auckland may be a reflection of its uncertain future. The site spoke with a prominent recruiter for the Australian industry who confirmed that there is a freeze on hiring at the studio, and that Gameloft is currently planning a new studio in Brisbane.