Sunday, December 05, 2004

TSR Story: Salary

Along with many of the fellow bloggers, I am fighting a nasty cold, made worse by the fact that the Lovely Bride is fighting an even nastier one. We were fortunate for the break in the weather this morning that let us go out and get a tree (live-cut, down at Pfaff's), but both of us are paying for our holiday effort.

In any event, the Monkey King posted a bit on the D&D 30 Year Anniversary book, which got a horrendous review on Slashdot, and invited others to contribute TSR stories. While I can think of a number of TSR stories- Jeff Grubb Day, the Editor's Liberation Front, the old Hotel Claire, I instead noticed the bit on the same site about EA requiring its salaried designers to work 80-hour weeks (the latest bit of news is here, where EA is shocked, simply shocked, that they have been taking advantage of their salaried employees in that fashion).

Which reminds me of how TSR's in-house game designers got to be salaried employees.

This was early in my career - early 80's - I had joined TSR as a game designer (a story in its own right), and at that time we were hourly employees. Not only hourly, but punching in on a time clock. You worked your 40 hours. You worked less, you got a lecture. You worked more, well, you got a lecture as well, since TSR was not paying any overtime. For young designers on a deadline, the answer was easy - we would clock out when we hit our eight hours for the day, then went back up to work. Yes, the management was aware, and it was morally and legally hinky, but it wasn't the only morally/legally hinky thing TSR did back then.

You can probably guess what happened next - someone dropped a dime on TSR's free labor pool, and the company got a visit from the state's Labor Relation Board. I and others were asked to explain why we were working hours without pay - the answer I and others gave was that we had deadlines that would not move, so extra effort was required. The idea that the company might be balancing its own scheduling on the backs of its salaried employees never occurred to us. Yeah, we were young, but I can understand why the EA designers may be reticent to complain about real nastiness of seven-day work weeks.

The end result was that the salaried designers got a small settlement and the Monday afterwards we suddenly became salaried, non-exempt employees. And our deadlines? They got a little tighter, since management didn't have to worry about overtime pay anymore.

More later,