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Trenches comic: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - Colossal

BrogeyBrogey High MaintenanceSanta Monica, CASuper Moderator, Moderator mod
edited January 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub
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LOOK AT ME I AM A PROGRAMMER. BEEP BEEP BOOP BOOP.

01/26/2012 - Anonymous

I managed to land a job as a tester for a rather small cell phone game company. The leads and owner assured me that they always hired up their testers for other positions when they needed to expand their team.

I started, and after 2 months, had still not been paid. There was always some reason for what was going on. The check from the publisher was late. The bank was holding the funds. My paperwork was wrong or lost.

Then one morning, the owner of the company came into the office and congratulated me. We’re going to make you a junior programmer! He then gave me directions and an address to a different building entirely and asked me to show up there tomorrow. I was a bit shocked. Not only did I know NOTHING about programming, but I couldn’t believe they had two offices.

They didn’t. The second office was fake. It had random computers and monitors set up on desks, so we could pretend to work. It was there so the owner could bring through investors and show them his “programming team”
which was nothing but students and testers.

I quit that day and I never did get paid.

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Posts

  • 815165815165 Registered User regular
    I think if you're actually getting paid being a fake programmer is a job I would enjoy a lot.

  • InvisibleInkInvisibleInk Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    I think I found a "lost" story. Between Tuesdays and today's I found this story
    Lockdown With Golf
    01/26/2012

    In 2005, I was QA for the multiplayer portion of uh, INSERT GOLF GAME.

    I never quite found out exactly why—the rumor was either attempted or successful corporate espionage—but the multiplayer testers for this specific game were locked in a secured room while we were testing. The room was about 20 feet by 20 feet, windowless, the wallslined with folding tables. The testers sat in standard desk chairs packed together arm rest-to-arm rest, each roughly in front of an 8” to 10” TV of varying brands and ages. The supervisor sat in the center of the room at a wrap-around desk, half warden and half pit boss… supervising.

    As you can imagine, being packed shoulder-to-shoulder with unwashed men in a darkened room for 10-12 hours per day six days per week (with an hour out on the yard at the halfway point) made tensions run somewhat high. There were frequent fights. I’m not a violent person but I was shocked to find myself threatening people on several occasions. None of this seemed to concern our warden, who spent most of his time on car audio forums with headphones on to tune us out.

    And of course, as if the confinement and tension weren’t enough, as part of the security procedures the door couldn’t be opened unless every Xbox was turned off and every game disc given to the pit boss. As the person who requested the bathroom break stood in the middle of the room watching his workers try to kill him with their minds. As you can imagine this only happened once. What happened twice, however, was testers passing out and wetting their pants, the chair, the floor and probably whoever had the office beneath him.

    And that’s why to this day I can’t watch the Golf Channel without getting angry and peeing a little bit.

    I feel like it got hidden because of how completely illegal it sounds. Of all the stories, this is has got to be the closest to a human rights violation I've read.

    InvisibleInk on
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  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    The bonus story is super D: territory.

  • AnteCantelopeAnteCantelope Registered User regular
    That's two horrible, horrible stories for today then. Not getting paid for two months, and that second story sounds like an illegal psychology experiment.

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  • rockmonkeyrockmonkey Registered User regular
    Yeah that bonus story sounds like it was actually one of the dharma stations on the island.

    NEWrockzomb80.jpg
  • wormspeakerwormspeaker "Objectively Terrible" Registered User regular
    The second office was fake. It had random computers and monitors set up on desks, so we could pretend to work. It was there so the owner could bring through investors and show them his “programming team” which was nothing but students and testers.

    This is unfortunately all too common in many different IT related fields. People who have no idea how computers actually work see the IT field as an easy way to make money if they can convince the right talent to work for them. Further, that talent is generally young and willing to work for free in the hopes of getting a well paying job (see the story above). So they build a stable of young dumb kids and start bluffing investors into giving them money.

    Sometimes this fails and the young dumb kids (or desperate older dumb folks) get no money for a couple months of work. Sometimes this succeeds and instead the dummies get no money for a lot longer period of time before they find out that the boss embezzled it all and fled to Aruba.

    A friend of mine had a similar experience with a computer repair start up. I told him his boss was a sleaze and he was getting duped. But my friend was really desperate for a job, and too proud to work a McDonald's. So he ended up getting paid for exactly 2 weeks out of 2 months and ended up making less than what he could have made at McDonald's in 4 weeks. And of course he couldn't get his back pay from the guy because he was working for a temp company, and the sleaze didn't actually have a contract with the temp company past the initial 2 week trial run.

    So let that be a warning to you kiddies: If you work for a temp company, keep in close contact with them, because if the guy you are working for does not pay them, then they don't pay you. And you don't have any legal recourse outside of a costly court battle with the sleaze, because the temp company will have you sign away the rights to collect from them directly. And if the temp company does for some reason feel that it's worth their time to take the sleaze to court, they'll get any settlement before you do. So you'll end up getting pennies on the dollar at best.

    Or maybe some even more basic advice: If you are working for a temp company and your client tells you to not report your hours to the temp company because he'll pay you under the table, drop that job like the plague. Because he isn't going to pay your ass anything.

  • Zazu YenZazu Yen Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    The fake office thing isn't all that uncommon. I once worked for an eCommerce company that for a very long time only had a dialup connection to the internet. When investors or potential clients came in we would download our sites onto each machine in the office and everyone would sit down at one and flip through pe-cached pages. Then we'd sit the visitors down at the one machine connected to the internet and give them a demo.

    Edit: Funny wormspeaker, I was typing up a story of just such a deal as you made your post.

    Another time I worked for a dinky little company (one guy, his secretary and 3 High School interns of which I was one) which was trying to make money stealing other peoples programs. The guy would find software online with source code then hand it to us to change the copyright noticies, the look and feel a little and maybe add a feature or two so he could sell it under his companies name as original work. The "office" was in his dinky little house on a dirt road out by the Russian River, the computers chained to the counter in his kitchen/hallway which led to his bedroom/office that was taken up mostly by piles of dead motherboards, monitors, a twin mattress on the floor with a sleeping bag, a mini-fridge full of beer and several stacks of porn magazines. I still remember the smell of the place: mildew, stale beer, pot, body oder, hot electronics and the overpowering perfume the secretary wore in a futile attempt to drown out the other smells. One day the guy completely wigged out because he'd been talking to some European investors and one of them was on a plane from France at that very moment and wanted to tour his "facilities" the next morning. That afternoon he rented office space in town and had a friend of his who worked at a furniture store fill it from their "damaged/overstock" suplies, bought some plants, and took one computer from his house. The rest of the office equipment he used were the fake plastic and cardboard props from the furniture store! The printer, fax, all the other computers, all fake props. He arranged it so the real computer sat on a desk where the screen could be seen from the door, the rest faced the walls. We showed up and he gave us all twenty bucks and told us not to blow it for him. His furniture friend got to play the VP of engineering though he didn't even know how to turn on the one computer we had. Our "CEO" brought the French investor in, introduced him around standing just inside the door (I was called a Tech Lead! Promotion!) and then said "Hey, lets get lunch and talk some business!" and herded the guy out the door. That was that. We spent the rest of the day returning the furniture and plants to the stores for refunds. Since the $20 was the most money we'd ever seen from the deal we decided to cut our losses and never went back, though the notice for "interns wanted" re-appeared on our school bulletin board a week later we warned our friends off of it.

    Zazu Yen on
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  • PwnanObrienPwnanObrien Registered User regular
    Zazu Yen wrote:
    The fake office thing isn't all that uncommon. I once worked for an eCommerce company that for a very long time only had a dialup connection to the internet. When investors or potential clients came in we would download our sites onto each machine in the office and everyone would sit down at one and flip through pe-cached pages. Then we'd sit the visitors down at the one machine connected to the internet and give them a demo.

    Edit: Funny wormspeaker, I was typing up a story of just such a deal as you made your post.

    Another time I worked for a dinky little company (one guy, his secretary and 3 High School interns of which I was one) which was trying to make money stealing other peoples programs. The guy would find software online with source code then hand it to us to change the copyright noticies, the look and feel a little and maybe add a feature or two so he could sell it under his companies name as original work. The "office" was in his dinky little house on a dirt road out by the Russian River, the computers chained to the counter in his kitchen/hallway which led to his bedroom/office that was taken up mostly by piles of dead motherboards, monitors, a twin mattress on the floor with a sleeping bag, a mini-fridge full of beer and several stacks of porn magazines. I still remember the smell of the place: mildew, stale beer, pot, body oder, hot electronics and the overpowering perfume the secretary wore in a futile attempt to drown out the other smells. One day the guy completely wigged out because he'd been talking to some European investors and one of them was on a plane from France at that very moment and wanted to tour his "facilities" the next morning. That afternoon he rented office space in town and had a friend of his who worked at a furniture store fill it from their "damaged/overstock" suplies, bought some plants, and took one computer from his house. The rest of the office equipment he used were the fake plastic and cardboard props from the furniture store! The printer, fax, all the other computers, all fake props. He arranged it so the real computer sat on a desk where the screen could be seen from the door, the rest faced the walls. We showed up and he gave us all twenty bucks and told us not to blow it for him. His furniture friend got to play the VP of engineering though he didn't even know how to turn on the one computer we had. Our "CEO" brought the French investor in, introduced him around standing just inside the door (I was called a Tech Lead! Promotion!) and then said "Hey, lets get lunch and talk some business!" and herded the guy out the door. That was that. We spent the rest of the day returning the furniture and plants to the stores for refunds. Since the $20 was the most money we'd ever seen from the deal we decided to cut our losses and never went back, though the notice for "interns wanted" re-appeared on our school bulletin board a week later we warned our friends off of it.

    This sounds like the plot to an episode of Squidbillies.

    JLPENwc.gif
  • wormspeakerwormspeaker "Objectively Terrible" Registered User regular
    Zazu Yen wrote:
    Edit: Funny wormspeaker, I was typing up a story of just such a deal as you made your post.

    That afternoon he rented office space in town and had a friend of his who worked at a furniture store fill it from their "damaged/overstock" suplies, bought some plants, and took one computer from his house. The rest of the office equipment he used were the fake plastic and cardboard props from the furniture store! The printer, fax, all the other computers, all fake props. He arranged it so the real computer sat on a desk where the screen could be seen from the door, the rest faced the walls. We showed up and he gave us all twenty bucks and told us not to blow it for him. His furniture friend got to play the VP of engineering though he didn't even know how to turn on the one computer we had. Our "CEO" brought the French investor in, introduced him around standing just inside the door (I was called a Tech Lead! Promotion!) and then said "Hey, lets get lunch and talk some business!"

    Yeah. As we both said, it's a really common story. I think the bigger problem is that the investors far too often fall for it. I can understand some young dumb kids or desperate techies getting duped, but you'd think people with enough money to bankroll an operation like that would be a little smarter about it.

    Here's some free advice for anyone looking to invest in a startup. Invest only in what you know. If you don't know a motherboard from pegboard don't invest in an IT startup. And, maybe you should check to see if the computers on the desk actually turn on before you hand over the money.

  • LTMLTM Registered User regular
    Alternately, buy pegboard. Rent fake office. Profit.

  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    I think I found a "lost" story. Between Tuesdays and today's I found this story
    Lockdown With Golf
    01/26/2012

    In 2005, I was QA for the multiplayer portion of uh, INSERT GOLF GAME.

    I never quite found out exactly why—the rumor was either attempted or successful corporate espionage—but the multiplayer testers for this specific game were locked in a secured room while we were testing. The room was about 20 feet by 20 feet, windowless, the wallslined with folding tables. The testers sat in standard desk chairs packed together arm rest-to-arm rest, each roughly in front of an 8” to 10” TV of varying brands and ages. The supervisor sat in the center of the room at a wrap-around desk, half warden and half pit boss… supervising.

    As you can imagine, being packed shoulder-to-shoulder with unwashed men in a darkened room for 10-12 hours per day six days per week (with an hour out on the yard at the halfway point) made tensions run somewhat high. There were frequent fights. I’m not a violent person but I was shocked to find myself threatening people on several occasions. None of this seemed to concern our warden, who spent most of his time on car audio forums with headphones on to tune us out.

    And of course, as if the confinement and tension weren’t enough, as part of the security procedures the door couldn’t be opened unless every Xbox was turned off and every game disc given to the pit boss. As the person who requested the bathroom break stood in the middle of the room watching his workers try to kill him with their minds. As you can imagine this only happened once. What happened twice, however, was testers passing out and wetting their pants, the chair, the floor and probably whoever had the office beneath him.

    And that’s why to this day I can’t watch the Golf Channel without getting angry and peeing a little bit.

    I feel like it got hidden because of how completely illegal it sounds. Of all the stories, this is has got to be the closest to a human rights violation I've read.
    Isn't that also a gross violation of fire code?

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  • The Good Doctor TranThe Good Doctor Tran Registered User regular
    Isn't that also a gross violation of fire code?

    Yea, the Geneva Conventions are one thing but the Fire Marshal thou shalt not fuck with.

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  • PikaPuffPikaPuff Registered User regular
    Uh, procedures doesn't automatically mean the door is welded shut and cut open only when all xboxes are off and discs returned. I assume it's easy to walk out the door and get fired.

  • JetstreamJetstream Registered User
    PikaPuff wrote:
    Uh, procedures doesn't automatically mean the door is welded shut and cut open only when all xboxes are off and discs returned. I assume it's easy to walk out the door and get fired.

    Maybe. But then if they're that hard core it wouldn't surprise me if they chained the doors shut. Which is astonishingly illegal, but then so is everything else they were doing.

  • UnluckyUnlucky Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    I'm always disappointed with how little the people in these stories stand up for themselves. Granted, I've been in these positions in different fields (What do you mean I don't get paid for the extra 6 hours of work I did today?!) but once it happens to you once, I would have thought these folks would take pretty strong measures to make sure it doesn't again. I know I have and did.

    A lot of these people seem to be used to it, as in, it keeps happening to them. It's hard to lecture, as I understand it's the industry they picked and they need the money badly, have no backups ect. I always think, move back in with your folks if you can and pick a new industry.

    Edit: These stories have done a hell of a job introducing me to the horror of the games tester though.

    Double edit: Does America not have a 'Fairwork' or equivalent? A branch of the government dedicated to upholding and enforcing workers rights? Australia does, which I am very often grateful for after hearing about the silly goosery that happens in America this often.

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  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    They (we) do, but it takes someone to report the offending company, which rarely happens.

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  • JetstreamJetstream Registered User
    Unlucky wrote:
    Double edit: Does America not have a 'Fairwork' or equivalent? A branch of the government dedicated to upholding and enforcing workers rights? Australia does, which I am very often grateful for after hearing about the silly goosery that happens in America this often.

    It varies by state, typically. Here in Texas we have the "Texas Workforce Commission" to which violations can be reported. But you have to actually report them. Then there are review processes and blah blah blah. I imagine the companies that do things like this probably just shut down and walk away before it woudl happen.

  • GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    And most people would sooner just, you know, say "Fuck it, I quit" and find another job than bother with the bureaucracy.

    Gaslight on
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  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    Every place I've worked has had pretty much zero regard for the concept of workers' rights. Mandatory breaks, not being allowed to work off the clock, open door policies. They are resented when they are not outright ignored. By the employees. It's not difficult for me to imagine that this mentality, and I'm not even going to pretend to understand it, could facilitate the mistreatment of employees we see in these tales.

  • ronzoronzo Registered User regular
    In America, the places that care about workers rights are the places that usually don't treat their workers like trash.

    The places that don't give a fuck because this is a recession and you can be replaced yesterday are usually the ones that don't care about workers rights.

    And people think unions are, somehow, bad *sigh*

  • JucJuc Registered User
    ronzo wrote:
    In America, the places that care about workers rights are the places that usually don't treat their workers like trash.

    The places that don't give a fuck because this is a recession and you can be replaced yesterday are usually the ones that don't care about workers rights.

    And people think unions are, somehow, bad *sigh*

    Even outside of a recession QA jobs are usually like that.
    Some folks are job masochists, some think things will get better if they just pay their dues, a lot are afraid of being blacklisted if they stand up for themselves, or they're simply afraid of losing their horrible dream job.


    One of these days, when I have money, I'm going to have to pay a lawyer to explain to me the fine details of how labour laws affect those in the game industry.
    I'm honestly curious how much of what goes on is actually illegal, and how much we just think is illegal because it's inhumane, but as far as the law is concerned it's on the up and up.

    And then we should do something about it, start a legal fund for game employees looking to protect their health and wellbeing or work to change the laws to keep people from having more strokes or mental breakdowns at work.

    Hell even just making it so that people have to be paid for overtime would be a massive step.

  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    I don't think changing the laws would affect things in a terribly positive way. I should clarify that in my last post I was speaking about jobs in which employee rights are heavily regulated, and the employees themselves continue to subvert them. They aren't pressured in any way to work unpaid hours or pull doubles with no breaks or take all manner of harassment right on the chin, they volunteer all that action. It almost seems like a schoolyard mentality where you mustn't tattle or something.

    In fact, the managers of these joints treated it much like Penny Arcade. They don't analyze it or try to manipulate it for fear of breaking the spell, but their business certainly depends on it.

  • JucJuc Registered User
    I disagree about changing the laws not affecting things in a positive way.
    One of the biggest lines I've been told over and over is that the video game industry enjoys exceptions to labour laws that protect most workers of non-essential services from exploitation.

    If that's true, and the game industry doesn't have to obey many labour laws, I'd like to see that changed if nothing else.
    No one should have to work 7 days a week 12-20 hours a day with no compensation to release an entertainment product.
    Unless it's a FF 6 or 7 HD remake for a current console, then that's ok by my book.

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