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'38 Studios Spouse' speaks out
'38 Studios Spouse' speaks out Exclusive
June 13, 2012 | By Staff




Editor's note: Gamasutra received the letter below on Tuesday evening. In it, the wife of a former 38 Studios employee describes a uniquely heart-wrenching story about uprooting a five-person family for an exciting new opportunity in Rhode Island, where now-defunct 38 Studios was located.

The description of events differs from Gamasutra's previous report, due to its unique viewpoint from someone who didn't work at the company, but relied on it just as much as an employee. She wished to remain anonymous, but Gamasutra verified her husband's name and former position at 38 Studios.

Below is the "38 Studios Spouse's" full letter:

I want to tell a different, but not impartial, side of this story. I am telling this for two reasons. First, to raise awareness and help for any of the family or employees involved. Second, so other people know what companies can do.

I am not a 38 Studios employee, a big baseball star (who may or may not have trusted the wrong people), or some politician trying to prove a point. I am very involved though and affected by this disaster, as a wife and mother, who has moved the most important people in my life to a new state. I knew Rhode Island would be different, but hopefully still an adventure and maybe a home eventually.

We moved to Rhode Island at the end of December 2011. We opened our presents on Christmas Day, took down our tree on the 26th, and began packing and loading moving trucks on the 28th, all because my husband was hired by 38 Studios and told he had to start work as quickly as possible. We spent a month living out of a hotel searching day after day for a house to rent. My children could not get back into school and could not start a new life until we found a place to settle. Finally we found a place to live, paid deposits on the house, utilities, etc. and moved. We registered all three children at all three new schools, because we do have one in each - elementary, middle, and high school. Finally, our stuff is delivered and our life can start again. It's always hard to move and this is our second big move, but we finally made it to the point where we can re-build our support system and boy were we ready.

My husband has been in the gaming world for a long time. Most of his life has been spent working in this industry and he is well equipped to deal with the problems that go with it. He is usually hired when things are ready to be tied up and finished or they need someone with experience who can tell the left hand how to work with the right hand to meet the release dates set.

The first week he worked at 38 Studios he was concerned about the different teams and their ability to work together. He went to more than one executive during the weeks that followed encouraging them to make changes or deal with the release date issue. The company was not ready for him to do the job he was hired to do, therefore he was placed on other projects to wait it out.

Obviously, in the weeks to come our family had less trust in what we were being told. We did not have a chance to love 38 Studios or [founder and ex-baseball pro] Curt Schilling. We really only saw the landslide of mistakes and ultimate failure. We did not see this coming or could we have ever imagined how in 2012 a company could get away with treating employees this way. There have to be laws or safety nets or something … right?

So, on the 15th of May I sat down to pay bills and upon checking our bank account noticed we had not had our direct deposit made by 38 Studios. I called my husband and asked him to check on it when he got to work. When he came home that night he told me that he had to stay for a 5 o'clock meeting to find out they didn't make payroll. He was unhappy, but said that he was promised they were working on the problem and sure they would have it worked out by the next day.

The next day began at 7:30 am and ended at 7:00 pm. It took 10 1/2 hours to find out that they still could not pay him and didn't have any answers. On the May 16th-21st, my husband returned day after day, told to drive in to work and promised pay, but every day came home empty handed after late meetings and more promises. The longest day was 12 hours and each day we were spending more money on gas and more hope going out the window. During this time, we were also trying to keep our children from worrying while they spent each day hoping to catch a glimpse of their dad before they went to sleep.

By the 22nd we were really scared and feeling lied to, my husband decided it's time to work from home to save the gas money as did many others at the studio. At many times it occurred to us to just give up and move on, but we didn't. There was one main reason. If we left the company we would be responsible for the relocation costs of moving to Rhode Island from just five months ago and we did not have the funds to pay for that after not receiving paychecks. From May 22nd-24th, my husband worked from home trying to come up with ideas to get anything out the door and bring in some money to save 38 Studios. We also get another kick while we were down on May 22nd, when one of the employees' wives is at her pregnancy check up and is told that her insurance company has notified the doctor that it was ending at midnight on the 24th of May. When confronted, 38 Studios admitted they had been aware since the 21st of May that due to lack of payment for several months, insurance was going to be canceled on May 24th.

Again, they knew the problem existed and chose to not tell us or give us any notice. On the 24th of May, my husband was laid off officially after six days of wasted gas, with no payment of wages for all of May (1st-24th), no insurance, slim chances of ever seeing any money since the State of Rhode Island would be paid first by all asset sales, and had to drive in once more to get his belongings and attend a meeting on unemployment benefits.

Ok, so time to lick our wounds, get back on the horse, and find a new job. At least we stuck it out and won't have to pay back our relocation costs according to the Chief Operating Officer. Wrong! On June 1st, we get a letter from Atlas Van Lines with 10 days to pay our overdue moving bill of a sizeable amount. Six months has gone by since our move. There was no notice at any point that this had not been paid and now we get a bill with 10 days to pay. Why now? Haven't they had 6 months to collect this? Didn't the company say we would be let out of our contract since they folded? Couldn't they have given us a heads up at any point before we were broke and our savings gone to feed our children? After all, a heads up on this might have alerted us to a problem with 38 Studios before we got to this point. Well on one page in a series, of approximately 45, we signed a document stating in tiny print that we would be responsible if the company does not pay. I don't know if most people are aware, but moving with three kids, a dog, and a cat from one coast to another is a bit tiring and this document was of course presented on the day our stuff arrived in Rhode Island, which was chaos.

So, there goes our credit rating no matter how hard we are trying to still pay for all bills with no income. We have no income, no time to prepare, and I will not let my children starve to pay for a move that did not exactly work out. Why hadn't Atlas collected from 38 Studios? We were told by an Atlas representative that they had a special working relationship with Curt Schilling, therefore they were trying to work with him. Must be nice to have at least 30 days, let alone six months to pay for this bill.

Am I angry? You bet! I have been taken for a ride and am having to take a handout from the government for the first time in my life. Who do I get to direct my anger at? Nobody! The ones responsible aren't around to chat with or pay for the consequences of their actions. At moments I think Curt Schilling trusted the wrong people, but at least he is having to deal with this mess too. At other times, I am angry and think Curt Schilling is a smart man and should have done better!

Where will we go and what is next? I have no idea and am just trying to feed my family and love them and hope moving my kids again won't completely break their trust in us or hurt them too much. I think we could have liked Rhode Island. I think of all the supportive people and friendly faces and how much kindness we have been offered since this happened from people we barely know. We will probably be moving away from this state and paying taxes and working somewhere else soon. It is a shame that certain politicians couldn't get past the need to prove a point about being against 38 Studios and see they were harming their state in the long run. I mean 38 Studios was already here and the way I see it anything that could be done to make it a success would only benefit Rhode Island. As it stands, there are close to 300 very talented people dispersing all over the country and out of Rhode Island. There is an empty building with no game to be sold and a bunch of equipment that will not come close to paying for what is owed more than likely. And worst of all, there are some great people here in Rhode Island that will not benefit from the boost in economy.

My husband is interviewing daily thanks to an amazing industry trying to make up for what has happened. He is a talented man, who feels somehow responsible for moving our family into this mess and wishes he could have saved this company and every person at 38 Studios' jobs. He is just trying to take away what lessons he can and move on.

Me? I blame a company named 38 Studios and all of their executives for moving so many families while knowing they weren't paying bills, weren't going to hit their dates, and were running out of money. Learn this lesson from our struggles so you never have to experience it first hand. Protect yourself and family any way you can, read the small print, and realize no matter how big the company is if they run out of money there is very little you can do to get what is owed to you.


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Comments


Cody Miracle
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Every article I see articles about the families of 38 Studios, my heart goes out to them. I'm glad to see that her husband is getting interviews, and hopefully a job soon. I know that there are other big companies like Epic Games reaching out and looking to hire a lot of the 38 Studios team in all of this chaos.

I really hope to hear more good news, this is just too sad.

Eric Geer
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My thoughts go out to this family as well as all others affected---it's a side of the story that we don't hear in this industry all that often...particularly with all of the studio shutdowns that have happened over the course of the last few years. Hundreds of families roots ripped out of the ground and placed somewhere else without the resources to replant themselves. This time it was politicians/government...but the sad part is that most of the time it is the Publishers that do this to studios...the cannibalistic nature of the game industry is ruthless and needs to change.

Also- this point I don't think has been delivered as much as it should have been:
"It is a shame that certain politicians couldn't get past the need to prove a point about being against 38 Studios and see they were harming their state in the long run. I mean 38 Studios was already here and the way I see it anything that could be done to make it a success would only benefit Rhode Island. As it stands, there are close to 300 very talented people dispersing all over the country and out of Rhode Island. There is an empty building with no game to be sold and a bunch of equipment that will not come close to paying for what is owed more than likely. And worst of all, there are some great people here in Rhode Island that will not benefit from the boost in economy."

Dave Weinstein
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The current Governor is not to blame.

In choosing to depend on publically guaranteed loans, 38 Studios put themselves in a position (having mortgaged their only assets) where they needed to ship before they ran out of cash.

They didn't.

Blame for that lies solely with 38 Studios.

Frankly, the Governor is to be commended for not following the ante. He limited the losses to those he had inherited, rather than doubling down.

Dave Weinstein
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Anthony,

That claim makes absolutely no sense to me.

It requires that there be a body of investors capable of investing tens of millions of dollars, yet so utterly stupid that either they (a) missed the financial issues at 38 Studios when doing all their diligence, until the Governor brought it to their attention or (b) did diligence and found that 38 Studios was absolutely sound, but were swayed by a public statement by an elected official to stay away, despite the underlying financials.

I'm sorry, but that sounds like a lot of BS to me.

Jeff Wesevich
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Three weeks ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with Anthony, but in light of the information which has surfaced since, I have to say that Dave's points are very well taken.

Craig Brooks
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The governor openly shared NDA'd information at press conferences. Whether the investors at the table would've invested enough to save the company or not is besides the point. This governor used us to prove a point and help his re-election campaign. That or he is the biggest bumbling idiot I've ever encountered. Either way, the fact that he shared information he shouldn't have (at press conferences no less) is despicable.

Dave Weinstein
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@Craig

If it would have had no effect on investors, then there was no harm done. If there was no harm done, then it had no effect on the survival of the company at all.

In which case, the statements were "despicable" because?

Michael Rooney
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@Dave
He shared content from an NDA. It doesn't matter if it was harmful or not, though I think we can all agree it wasn't helpful, he "disclosed" information in a "non-disclosure agreement".

I don't think the 38 studios executives aren't to blame, but you can't say the state isn't to blame at all. Being a guarantor on a loan has just as much liability when shit hits the fan as taking the loan.

Dave Weinstein
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@Michael,

He shared information the company wanted to keep private. But I haven't seen anyone present any evidence that he had a contractual obligation to keep that information private (i.e. show me the NDA he alledgedly broke). If he broke a contractual obligation to keep things private, then I agree, he did wrong.

That isn't the same thing as being responsible for the failure of the company. Did revealing the burn rate cause the company to fail? No, any competent investor would have demanded that information as part of the deal, and any reasonably competent analyst can get close by eyeballing the public information. Did revealing the ship date cause the company to fail? Honestly, based on what was shown, I don't see how it was going to ship that early anyway, and either way, investors would have had to have been shown a schedule.

Let us be absolutely clear. 38 Studios failed because it failed to ship the MMO it had sunk so much time and money into. Unless the Governor was moonlighting as a programmer, producer, designer, or artist, it's not on him.

And no, the guarantor is not responsible for the failure of the company. The guarantor is just responsible for the losses.

Michael Rooney
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@Dave: The point I and others are making is that there is no single reason they failed. There are a lot of reasons. Just like there are a lot of reasons, there are a lot of people that can share the blame.

A similar case can be shown in the Titanic if you ask why so many people died when it sank. There are lots of reasons the people died; too few lifeboats, not spotting the iceberg in time, turning instead of taking it head on causing it to gash down the side of the boat, under-filling the lifeboats.

There are a lot of people to blame and that lot of people includes people inside and outside the studio. Some definitely have more blame, but to say that the governor or the state has none is totally ignorant.

Dave Weinstein
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@Michael,

The State of Rhode Island didn't fail to ship a game.

The Governor of Rhode Island didn't fail to ship a game.

38 Studios failed to ship a game.

38 Studios failed because it ran out of money. It ran out of money because it didn't have an income stream. It didn't have an income stream because the MMO never shipped to customers.

What part of this is the responsibility of the State of Rhode Island?

By this notion, if I borrow money from the bank to start a business, and never actually get customers, it is the bank's fault that the business failed. Now, the loss that the bank sustains is certainly partially the fault of the bank for making a bad loan, but the failure of the business, that's my fault.

Similarly, if you want to argue that the Rhode Island legislature and the previous Governor bear responsibility for the losses the Rhode Island taxpayers are facing, I'd agree.

But they are responsible for the loss, not the failure of the company.

Michael Rooney
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@ Dave: So you choose ignorance then?

Dave Weinstein
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@Michael,

If you want to blame someone external to 38 Studios, show evidence.

Michael Rooney
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@Dave: Here you go:
http://gamasutra.com/view/news/169444/38_Studios_Downfall_The_Gam
asutra_Report.php

Dave Weinstein
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@Michael,

I read it when it came out. That's allegations. Not evidence.

We have evidence now (the bankruptcy filing), so that we actually have a good idea of the financial state of the company. That knowledge is something that the (anonymous) sources by their own admission did not have.

Now, I would be entirely unsurprised to learn that publishers bailed on any deals with the BHG studio when they realized the whole company was about to implode. But since the Governor's statements came out after 38 Studios had both missed a required payment and missed payroll (facts that were by their very nature public), I submit that the information as to the financial state of 38 Studios was coming out anyway. The Governor's statements, employee finger pointing not-withstanding, weren't the cause. The financial situation at 38 Studios was the cause.

And even had someone decided to sign a deal with 38 Studios, they'd have hit the kill fee the moment they realized that the studio was about to collapse; at best you are talking about a matter of extra weeks. And given that publishers generally string along negotiations because they know it puts them in a stronger position, I would not put odds on those extra weeks.

[Edit to Note: Yes, I am making inferences about how a publisher would react. I think they are accurate, based on my experience in the industry. The key point is that the information that was disclosed was either already public or easily inferred from public data]

Michael Rooney
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@Dave: "I read it when it came out. That's allegations. Not evidence."

And half of what you're saying is conjecture as well.

The fact of the matter is that the governor came out and misrepresented the state of studio very negatively as a means to protect himself politically. Saying that KoA which sold better than the majority of games was selling poorly and demanding audits when audits are already a part of the loan contract are borderline defamation.

Prior to their shutdown they had shipped a game, counter to what you are saying, and had a planned release date for the MMO of June 2013 according to Chaffee himself (http://www.joystiq.com/2012/05/18/rhode-island-governor-gives-38-
studios-copernicus-mmo-a-june-20/) who was supposed to be taking an active role in insuring the success of the investment also according to himself(http://www.pbn.com/Chafee-issues-statement-on-38-Studios-closing-
says-he-will-monitor-further-steps-taken-by-EDC,53547). Despite him being in vocal opposition to the investment prior to it being issued, he did not attend either of the public meetings for the commission in charge of the decision to voice his concerns.

For that, I can and do blame him at least in part for the downfall of the studio. Deal with it.

Dave Bellinger
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@Dave

Don't worry, your position is clear and you've certainly gone into more detail surrounding the situation that I feel you've needed to. It's obvious that, in spite of whether there was an NDA that should have presented the Governor's statements (Which even if legal would have been, in my opinion, rather appalling since it involves taxpayer money) It doesn't change that fact that:

1. The company was floundering before the statements were made.
2. The financial situation had already been made public.
3. Publisher funding for a Reckoning sequel would not have helped push out the MMO (Though it would have been interesting to see the fallout from someone like EA discovering the millions of dollars they gave to 38 Studios was used for the MMO instead of the sequel they were paying for. Imagine irate customer at a store, except with an army of lawyers and an ability to blacklist you)
4. All the evidence currently points to 38 Studios' mismanagement.

Dave Weinstein
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@ Michael,

Yes, the BHG Studio shipped a game, which sold well, but not well enough for them to capture any of the upside. More details on this (including why the Governor may have thought it a failure can be found at http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2012/06/08/could-big-huge-games-
have-saved-38-studios/).

The primary studio (you know, the one the Rhode Island taxpayers were on the hook for) never shipped anything.

You fault the Governor for demanding an audit? I think the details coming out of the bankruptcy filing make it clear that an audit was needed, and call into question the quality of the ongoing audits that had been provided to the state.

Matthew Mouras
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All the best to you and your family.

Alexander Brandon
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It is for reasons like this that the face of the game industry and ALL industries is changing and needs to change much faster. The world where you get a job and keep it until you retire is gone. Companies should not hire, they should contract, and it's up to us to cover our own insurance, but it also means we're not tied to one employer for survival. I sincerely hope you and others affected find something soon bearing in mind that employment has just as much chance of paying bills regularly as your own efforts to build a business.

Michael Joseph
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"Companies should not hire, they should contract, and it's up to us to cover our own insurance, but it also means we're not tied to one employer for survival."
--

I'm not sure how you figure that is some sort of solution to these sorts of problems. It's not. Companies may be outsourcing and contracting more but that isn't bringing about stability in the lives of the people who are doing the work. It doesn't stop them from being exploited. Infact it probably increases the amount of exploitation.

The old system is still much more stable than the "everyone" is a contractor (except who btw, executives and share holders and money shufflers?) scenario you envision.

Contracting doesn't guarantee you get paid anymore than being employed. Sure you can stop working when the paychecks start falling behind, but when you don't have other work lined up and they keep promising you you'll get paid if you keep on doing the work... well... it's the exact same situation this family found itself in.

And a "everyone is a contractor" future won't look like a society where everyone is self employed owner of their own business. That will never happen prior to some sort of revolution. Having people tied to a job for health care and security is a good way to them under control. Instead, you'd have the type of contractor future where everyone is doing the same work, inside the same buildings, only now they are permanent contractors whereas before they were employees.

That said, in the case of this particular family, I think her husband could have realized 38 was a high risk company. There were quite a few people predicting it's failure on the day Schilling announced it's formation. And he didn't start until Dec 2011...

Michael Rooney
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@Michael: It also gives companies more reasons to be able to get rid of you legally. You'd probably be more careful and plan for shit hitting the fan in that situation, but having an umbrella doesn't stop the fan bound shit from impact.

Melissa Fassetta
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This really humanizes the impact of the studio shutting down. I agree with Cody, my heart goes out to them and I wish them luck and a brighter future.

Josh Jones
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It would be nice if the IGDA would create a system that could help for situations like this. Game Companies could give a small % of profit to the IGDA giving back to the industry. This fund could also help for serious need and could be voted on by the already elected panel. The such system does already work in the V.A. for veterans and they have very strick guidelines on how vets get the money. I can hear people say "Not out of my profits!" " Not out of my bonus!" me personally I read something like this and I think there are more important things than money and we as a industry can take steps to be as strong as we want to be. We have the ability to set standards above other industries. We just have to put the greed down a second and look at what is more important. A little donation to a fund like this could help a family like this. What is more important to you as a human being?
Answer that and find out who you are as a person and what we demand to be as a industry.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I think this is a great idea. In some ways people are volunteering to do this, but you have to look at indies -- the Indie Fund was started by successful indies to help other indies take off (http://indie-fund.com/), and a lot of kickstarter developers are pledging to help other kickstarter projects if they are successful via Kicking It Forward (http://kickingitforward.org/). I think it is a wonderful change of spirit that might make our world a better place if it can take off in other industries, but there are large greed- and fear-driven political barriers to getting there. I know this is a little different from what you said, but in general I wish companies would stop trying to "maximize profits at all costs" and start trying to "get a lot of profits but then helping other struggling companies when they are successful". Peace beats war in terms of maximizing human happiness, why should it be different in industry?

Darcy Nelson
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"...personally I read something like this and I think there are more important things than money"

You personally are not a developer or publisher with shareholders, clearly. Not to be a jerk, but there's been much in recent history to suggest that yes- even in games- profit is the bottom line, and if this hasn't opened your eyes as to how the management views its human resources, I dunno what will.

A better equivalent to the idea of the IGDA creating a 'safety net' fund would be the Army Emergency Relief fund, which is generated wholly from donations. The VA is funded by (lots and lots) of federal tax dollars and they are indeed very restrictive as to whom they give what assistance. Anyway, the fact that we're even discussing the need for such a thing is pretty sad, in my book. If there was ever a need for a union in American (and elsewhere?) industry, it'd be here.

Shawn Lord
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The concept of creating an emergency relief fund for developers is definitely not beyond possibility, especially given the ability for nonprofits to use NPO specific crowdfunding sites. The number of which are growing daily.

I'm currently in the process of working toward 501(c)3 status for our nonprofit (the Collective Agreement), and one of the goals is to create exactly such a fund, and also use our tax exempt status (if and when it clears) to assist with scenario specific fundraising.

Hit up my profile for more details.

Joe McGinn
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The I in IGDA stands for International ... and it is therefore not a suitable place to solve this uniquely American problem. Not suggesting closed studios and layoffs are an American problem - far from it - but referring to the fiercer aspects of employee-screwing documented in this article. The USA has the worst employee protection laws in the developed world (and beyond it - even in China you get severance).

Phillip Abram
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Good read, good advice. Good luck to all affected.

Gavin Goslin
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What she describes is nearly identical to what happened to me and the staff at Pi Studios in Houston, Texas a couple of years ago. The missed payroll, the lapsed insurance, the lack of communication, broken promises, lies etc. I wish the families the best of luck in moving forward, I know how frustrating and traumatic going through that situation can be.

Nathan Zufelt
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Would love to see a list of their Exec's put together for blacklisting. An amazing lack of ethics.

Moving people around while not paying for medical or moving expenses seems like blatant fraud. Whether Curt is responsible or not, there are a lot of middle managers here that completely dropped the ball and lied to people for weeks if not months.

Craig Brooks
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The HR people should NOT be blacklisted. They poured their guts out to help us, despite being in the same situation we were.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"Would love to see a list of Exec's and HR put together for blacklisting"

I like this idea, and semi-think we should do it, but it is a combative pattern, meaning there is a chance for splash damage hurting innocent bystanders. Still, the gloves were taken off by the ruling class in this industry decades ago, so maybe it is time to fight back and keep execs honest. If survival-of-the-fittest capitalism makes the selfish and evil rise to the top, then maybe employment blacklisting/whitelisting of employers that crunch and layoff is actually an ethical way of recognizing and supporting the good executives in this industry while forcing the bad out.

I am working with other devs on an industry website to help push forward discourse about industry exploitation, do you think having a company+executive blacklisting/whitelisting section for members would be a good thing? It has a bad flavor in that blacklisting can be evil in itself (see the red-scare hollywood blacklisting that ruined careers) and I don't think it should be used to ruin the life of a middle manager who lives month-to-month like we do (I would rather help people overcome their heartless tendencies than be heartless myself, though sometimes justice requires fighting fire with fire). Frankly I'm having a hard time picturing myself feeling sorry for an industry millionaire suddenly forced out of the industry with nothing but the clothes on his back and the champagne on his yacht and the mansion he's fully paid for.

As Craig touched on, it is important that any blacklisting strategy be VERY careful and accurate as many people who are involved in layoffs are good people who simply don't have the power to stop it.

Darcy Nelson
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"Rate My Professor" meets the corporate world? Yes please. Someone make this happen.

Frank Diaz
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I was considering coding something like this years ago, but i didn't want to blacklist myself for any involvement in it=/

James Hofmann
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After mulling over the idea I realized that we're kind of moving in this direction anyway. You're almost required to be kind and have good intentions to develop any deep relations in the indie space - though like with any social situation there's always potential for a bit of exploitation and backstabbing, it's historically come from "outsider" forces that are rapidly demonized by word of mouth alone; the real talent sticks close together for their own good.

Anonymity/trust is the main difficulty that enters the picture when scaling up to larger companies. There are plenty of employees who want to speak out but don't have a good platform beyond "___ spouse" tearjerker letters. And anonymous messages need to be verified or they don't have weight - classical blacklisting trusts too quickly that the assertion is true. Since so much of the activity tends to be behind closed doors, it's hard to do fact-checking.

Paul Marzagalli
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Let's not go the blacklist route, people. I've had occasion in my life to meet people who have been blacklisted in different fields, including from back in the HUAC days. It is not someplace this industry wants to go.

E McNeill
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Blacklists are way too ugly. Talk about people all you want, but don't formalize it. I certainly wouldn't want to associate with anything like that.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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What about blacklisting companies instead of individuals? Or not "blacklisting" explicitly but simply creating a forum driven by professionals to describe and compare working conditions at companies to help talent better "shop around" (like carfax but for game studios)?

It seems like there is something to gain by informing people about working conditions beyond the nebulous "game industry is full of crunch" meme that not only fails to provide clarity (which companies are worse than others?) but also tends to implicitly justify crunch in a sort of argument ad antiquitam manner. "It is what it is, no point in trying to change it" (glad we didn't use that attitude re slavery or women's voting rights).

With all this said, since I am sort of on the fence and not experienced with blacklisting -- what is so bad about it? Part of me thinks that as long as no one is forced into it (that is, no one is threatened physically or emotionally if they elect to work at a blacklisted company, merely discouraged to for their safety and health as well as work balance across the board) then it is perfectly legal and even ethical. It merely makes it so companies have to work harder to please us. If this sounds selfish, look at how many hours you're working for your current company to please them. Remember, they've taken off the glove and slapped you across the face several eighteen hour days by now. Also while this is 100% speculation, I bet there is some blacklisting-like tactics going on on the company side. At the very least when you are applying to a company, your ex-boss(es) will get a chance to say things about you to that company that will never be revealed to you via the typical work reference pattern that exists in corporatism. What do you have in your arsenal that is the mirror image of that?

E McNeill
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I think that an anonymous company ratings site would be helpful and pretty safe, as long as it's clearly a forum for positive comments as well as negative ones. Let everyone read the reviews and maybe you'll save some people from misery and encourage some companies to do better.

"With all this said, since I am sort of on the fence and not experienced with blacklisting -- what is so bad about it?"

If you're talking about blacklisting *companies*, then I'm not really sure how you'd make it work (and I'd rather advocate the free review system described above). If you're talking about blacklisting *people*, then it's ugly. It's a lot of mob power directed at individuals who may have no effective means of appeal. As we see in this very thread, anger and outrage is quick to arise, even when the evidence is slim, and even when the supposed victims are defending the accused. I don't want to be a part of that sort of vigilantism.

By the way, since apparently I'm really interested in topics like this, go ahead and add me to your mailing list. My email address is listed at my website (emcneill.com). :)

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"If you're talking about blacklisting *people*, then it's ugly. It's a lot of mob power directed at individuals who may have no effective means of appeal. "

Yeah, that can get ugly :(. It's always a tightrope. Then again just blacklisting companies can make it easy for slimy executives to ruin a company's reputation, quit (likely with a golden parachute), leave the company blacklisted, and go ruin a new one or retire. Absolute black listing seems too dangerous and prone to misfires. But at the same time, it seems hard to fake that sort of thing - it seems unlikely that a couple of dozen people complaining about a company doesn't have some merit. Heck with how scared people are about losing their jobs, a handful of people willing to speak up often hints at dozens more who feel the same way but are too scared.

Anyway, there's a lot of wiggle room (absolute black list vs free review system), and I do think something needs to be done to rebalance the power that talent in this industry has lost to sleazy executives. There is just no rationalizing the crunch+ layoff cycle where developer health and sanity are risked for executive gains. Personally I have been let go for speaking my mind against such evils and simply trying to improve working conditions at a studio against a self-centered producer (who ended up ruining the game and essentially costing the entire studio their jobs a few months after I was let go anyway; just a bit of a "told you so" to validate my concerns that I was trying to voice), so there is a dark part of me that finds solace in having an equivalent "ugly" tactic of my own (the blacklist). Like, I hate violence, but I have no problem with punching a bully that continues to punch you. If you don't care about game development outside of furthering your own pointless wealth-hoarding existence and you are going to set yourself up as a siren call to lure in naive college grads or experienced veterans that deserve better than you but can't start their own company to compete with you because of the realities of the world brought on by the wealth gap and class divide, I have no problem fighting ugly to get rid of you. It just comes down to the age old dilemma of two wrongs (not) making a right. But if you're trying to get along with evil that simply will not relent and will fire you in a heartbeat for pointing out corruption (or simply lay you off a few months later even if you sucked it in and took it), what choice do you have but to fight back?

Maybe the best thing really is to create a "grading" system, though I can already see marketing/HR/executives being paid to upvote the company anonymously. So it can't be done anonymously? Then current employees with valuable insights into unhealthy working conditions won't say anything for fear of losing their jobs. I guess it's never easy taking power from those in power, as that's what power is. It can be converted to fear, bullying, extortion, and lies to protect itself. Oh well, it might be hard, but I'm glad to have people to talk to about it :). Really though, aside from the extremes of blacklisting/company ratings, I think just having some common forums that developers in the industry can vent/strategize/discuss solutions on would be the biggest and most politically correct next step. Open discourse without hot-headed actions might produce good results over the long term.

E McNeill
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Wanting to fight ugliness with ugliness is understandable, but not right. It's okay to hit back, but you still have to use noble tactics. The real-world analogy might be retaliating to terrorism with a suicide bombing of your own. I'd feel icky about that, too, no matter how much the revenge was called for.

(Man, that analogy escalated fast...)

Anyway, I think your best structure might be a simple reviews site in which people have to log in with an email address. Let people choose whether or not to post anonymously, and assume that for every executive shill or lying non-employee there are 10 regular employees who can correct and contradict them.

You could even set up subcategories to rank: Work/Life Balance, Workspace, Leadership, Coworkers, Products. (I'm kinda getting excited about the reviews idea.) A forum would certainly be a good, safe first step, but maybe you could create the reviews board and just see if it catches on. No need to market it or anything yet, just see how people respond, whether it seems helpful, and what problems come up.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"The real-world analogy might be retaliating to terrorism with a suicide bombing of your own."

Which we did, minus the word "suicide", and there were civilian casualties. I feel icky about it too, so point taken :).

So yeah the more we talk and the more I think about this, it seems like just normalizing discourse and helping developers feel like their voice can be heard could be a slower but more stable route to improving QoL. It's been happening already with spouse stories, and the press often picks up on it. It does seem slow, but slow and steady might be good for now -- and if we can find other non-combative launchpads while we have discourse those might increase the pace at which developer jobs are converted to be stable and satisfying.

Joe McGinn
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It's really bizarre to me how Americans think of this sort of behaviour as a *moral* problem. In every other jurisdiction in the world, it's a *legal* problem (and, as such, hardly a problem at all).

Rob Wright
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"My husband is interviewing daily thanks to an amazing industry trying to make up for what has happened."

I have to say, the games industry has really shined in the aftermath of this fiasco. Glad to see other devs and companies giving these poor folks another shot at employment. There's a strong fraternity in the game development community that i'm not sure exists in other, similar kinds of professions. When HP lays off 25,000 people, it's not like IBM and Oracle are stumbling over one another to help those displaced workers find employment. Seriously, if the Weinstein Company suddenly declared bankruptcy, WB and Paramount and ever other studio would be throwing a party instead of impromptu job fairs.

Carlo Delallana
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We do what we do not for the pay, not for the glory, but for the love of the craft. When you have an industry that has passionate people then camaraderie goes deep.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I agree, I have been depressed lately regarding heartlessness in how talent is treated in this industry but seeing the support that people in this industry give their own despite the opportunity to view others as "competition" that should be run out of business gives me hope. I want to see this attitude in the people at the top of this industry, either by changing their hearts or replacing them. Here's hoping it can be the former.

Chris Hornbostel
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One thing to understand about a company that undergoes Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy: in most states and jurisdictions there's a very narrow "window" by which creditors are legally still able to approach anyone they think they can get money from. It is ethically questionable and certainly morally wrong, but that's how accounts receiving works in this day and age. Normally, until the court and the trustee they name to oversee the assets approve the creditors list and amounts owed, those creditors can still seek compensation.

So, in this case, Atlas Van Lines will join a group of other creditors who will huff and puff and threaten to blow the house down. In the end, they cannot do much more than that. The contract they hold was transferred to 38 Studios, and is part of the bankruptcy filing. In fact, it is on sheet 2 of 21 of Schedule F, the list of unsecured creditors and amounts owed. Additionally, Atlas is noted in that document filed with the court as being engaged in contacting individual employees to demand payment. Should the court trustee find that Atlas is indeed an unsecured creditor (which, hopefully 38 Studios financial folks did that contract paperwork, and the lack of contact over the prior 6 months suggests it to be the case), he or she will enjoin them to cease and desist all accounts collecting to individuals. AVL may then have to return any monies collected and clear any reports to any credit agencies made. It is quite significant that AVC's collection attempts are noted in the filing schedule. Judges (and their appointed trustees) tend to not like that sort of thing at all, and that notation tells the trustee that Atlas Van Lines is a priority.

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Joseph Cook
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It says a lot when a 6-months-old moving fee wasn't paid off. It shows that mismanagement in 38 Studios ran extremely deep, for an extremely long time, and undermines the narrative they've been trying to present that their bankruptcy was simply the result of a deal with EA for Reckoning 2 went bad.

Daniel McMillan
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My heart and prayers go out to you! I've been in this industry since 94' and it's like this. I've never been able to settle down for fear of the exact same thing, and already lost my happy marriage years ago. So I know exactly what you are going through and will be praying for you, that it's not long b4 your hubby has a new position.

Kevin Patterson
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My sentiments exactly, my heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this situation.
The article is very sad, and I feel for the spouse and her husband's plight. I hope they bounce back from this quickly.

I wanted to play the MMO and I really enjoyed Kingdoms, and was looking forward to the sequel. Who was doing the music for Copernicus? I imagine the soundtrack was marvelous.

E McNeill
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I get how a company could go bankrupt. What I don't get is how they could justify lying to their employees about it. You shoveled six-month-old moving costs onto them? You didn't tell them when their insurance was expiring? You told them they'd get their paycheck "tomorrow" and never delivered? How the hell does this happen when supposedly good people are running the show?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Agreed, bad faith all around. I hope the employees that were hurt the most can sue one or more of the executives, going into their personal finances if need be. Just like one can't starve or torture a pet just because they "own it" and are "giving it a home", there are standards that our society must strive to maintain for the employment relationship despite the counter rhetoric of "job creation".

Christopher Floyd
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I work at an established developer (14+ years old) recently hit by hard times. I have to say that although it has been painful and we had to let many wonderful and talented people go, at least one consolation has been that those who manage the company have been honest, communicative, and clearly just as regretful as anyone. We had reasonable forewarning; they made the decisions with enough time and money left to give severance packages (I have no idea how generous); and they were straightforward with those who remained about the delicacy of our future prospects. I suspect with a boondoggle like 38 Studios’ dissolution, there is a lot of CYAing the executives have to do. While life could be much better, I am grateful to work for people who care about their team and who comport their business with integrity. Reading about how things have gone down at 38 Studios is heartbreaking. Best of luck to everyone affected!

Kim Pittman
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It really sucks that something like this can tank a person's credit. It's not like her husband was getting a job at some random never heard of studio. But now they will spend *years* rebuilding their credit and lives because one company couldn't take care of their business...

I hope the people responsible get exactly what they deserve.

Reg Stiles
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Here are the people to blame: http://38studios.com/people/management

Please spread these names around (particularly CEO Jen Maclean and CFO Rick Wester) to reduce the chances that they will destroy more game developers' lives with their lack of relevant experience and ethics. The industry will continue to decline as long as we continue promoting the inexperienced.

Diana Hsu
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CEO Jen Maclean was out on maternity leave when things went down.

Morgan Ramsay
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Like Diana said, Jen MacLean was on maternity leave and was not at the company during this time.

Furthermore, entrepreneurs and early management teams nearly always lack of the necessary experience to start new companies and build them up from scratch. If we didn't push forward despite that lack of experience, there wouldn't be a Naughty Dog, or an Insomniac Games, or even an Electronic Arts.

It's true that very few startups achieve that level of success; in fact, most fail, usually within five years. Others linger, stagnant yet determined. But when startups overcome all of the plentiful challenges before them, we thank them for their courage, for creating jobs and products we love.

As much as the risk of failure is scary, and as much as failure is harmful, none of us truly want to endure the consequences of allowing fear to keep us from pursuing our dreams.

Ed Macauley
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Well, Mrs Maclean left in March for maternity leave, yes? Things can change quickly in a company, but the bill for relocation was unpaid (presumably) since December.

Reg Stiles
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We are all well aware that Jen MacLean was on maternity leave during the final weeks of 38 Studios. Plenty of women and men take maternity/paternity leave during a product cycle but that doesn't suddenly make them completely ignorant of transpiring events at their companies nor does it render them incapable of communication. The path to 38's collapse would have been evident for many months before its eventual closure. Making excuses for those who steered this organization into harm's way will only lead to similar disasters in the future.

As for the lack of experience and pursuit of dreams, 38 Studios management team didn't even have the maturity to realize that it was a startup and instead overpromised its abilities to the state, to its publishers and to its employees. There's a difference between the entrepreneurial spirit and gross incompetence and irresponsibility.

Kindra Haugen
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Please do not take it upon yourselves to start blacklisting Jen Mclean. She was on sabbatical before all of this went down.

Lexcellent McCoy
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So someone must have taken her place.It is not a position that can be idle. A CEO is not like a janitor. She took the money, she gets the blame.

Dave Bellinger
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Not trying to join a witch hunt or anything here, but it's been established that Jen MacLean took her leave in March of 2012, and according to this information, as well as the general logic of the situation, there were issues brewing long before that.

Indeed, no one should start blacklisting anyone without proper evidence of wrongdoing or mismanagement, but it's certainly not unreasonable to call for some sort of statement regarding the events in question beyond "She was on leave when everything went down".

Kindra Haugen
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Someone did take her place, of course. All I am saying, though, is that people shouldn't start off on a crusade of blacklisting those whose fault they can't be sure of. I am former employee of 38 Studios. I was screwed over by these events, too. Certainly, some of our management were not handling things as they should...and in fact did a terrible job. I don't even know which of them had the biggest hand in all of this. What I do know is that I would rather not screw someone over who may have actually been trying to save the situation, or at least isn't actually to blame for it. The game development community has already done the right thing, in reaching out to hire the talented people affected by this collapse.

Andy Lunique
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I had the chance to work for 38 studios in Early January. My mother pleaded with me to come closer to home (we're from RI) and I just refused to stay. I told her the risks of that company were too high, and the sales of that game weren't going to be good enough. I've been working in sales and PR for a good amount of time and I just felt it was right. The day she heard about them closing down she called and apologized knowing that I would have lost my job.

My heart goes out to all the families involved in this mess. I beg future game industry leaders to not be discouraged by this situation. Our industry is too big to let a few hits knock us out of digital entertainment.

Jr Hawkins
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It's weird for me to see they were still hiring people that late cause they had told me in November they were focusing on local talent. At the time I just thought they were just doing the typical HR "soft" rejection, but in hindsight somebody seemed to have known they were in financial problems.

Daniel McMillan
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Right now, blame will not be as effective as solutions. Most of us have all been through this at one time or another. If you like, email me your contact info and I'll check with my network to see who I know that may be able to help.

Johnny LaVie
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I think blame is VERY effective and is a great solution.

Don't work for those people again. Remember who they were so that you won't get hoodwinked in the future. Spread the news so others will not get into their messes.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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This is a very tough stance for me to take. Blame is good against evil, education and cooperation are good against ignorance. But there is so much evil in this industry, it feels like a lot of the problems regarding crunch and layoffs and generally treating developers like condoms to discard when done with could have been avoided a decade ago with the appropriate "blame"-related actions to remove the cancerous tumors from this industry so the remaining cells can grow healthy.

I think it is, sadly, time for blame and aggression. Any "solution" you come up with will be actively fought by the evils in this industry. Really, read Activision's leaked Project Icebreaker as the perfect (though not only) example of blatant evil. Regarding 38 studios, I do not know enough to decide if it was the result of evil or ignorance that mortgages and moving expenses were not paid off like promised and employees were kept in the dark until the thirteenth hour regarding missed paychecks and healthcare, but I have no choice but to assume evil when studying the patterns of inhumanity toward labor our society now exhibits.

Daniel McMillan
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Well sirs, just remember one thing. If no-one twisted your arm to accept a job offer, then this is the beginning of wisdom. There are no guarantees - in this industry or any other. In fact, if any one of us could foresee the future, and understand the effect any one of our decisions might have - it would still not be as twenty-twenty as hindsight. In a perfect world, everyone gets to do their dream job forever. Everyone gets to make more money. Everyone rests assured that they have arrived, and that there are no more challenges to a marriage, career, parenting, political systems, religion, sports, or health.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"If no-one twisted your arm to accept a job offer,"

Now you're just being naive.

Accepting a job is almost always done under duress, unless you are independently wealthy. From the moment you graduate college, you're in a situation where your arm is twisted to get a job to pay off college debt and not be a burden to your family. Then when you lose your job, your arm is twisted by the state to look for work AND NOT TURN DOWN THE FIRST OFFER YOU GET to draw unemployment. Also people can't take any job they want like they can eat at any restaurant on a given weekend, as the position has to exist for them to have the opportunity. Finally, in case you are about to say "if you don't like how any business is run, start your own company" -- this is equally naive as the existence of said businesses in a market your company is trying to compete in by nature of competition makes it harder to start your own company.

In other words, starting a company in a field is a privilege to be done _properly_, not a right or a heroic act of "job creation" without externalities. The jobs are already there so long as the field has market value; you aren't creating them, you are merely claiming them and perverting them into something good for you and bad for everyone else. If you start a business in a field making it harder for people to start their own business to compete by overcrowding, then when they end up working for you to make ends meet you tell them they have to crunch and work on a generic me-too game because that's all you're comfortable doing, and (to keep things on topic) you do so in an irresponsible manner where you offer things contractually that you don't end up providing and have started your company off the guarantees of unwilling tax payers, you are contributing a net deficit of happiness and fulfillment to society and must stop or be stopped. The only thing up for debate is if you are acting out of evil or out of ignorance.

frank frank
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I had a similar experience where another game studio did the same thing to me. I was dragged on several months before I was finally let go and years later before I was paid. Talking to a lawyer in the end this is what he told me I should have done.

Most states have laws with stiff penalty's for companies not paying employees, Texas imposes jail time and large fines if convicted. Find out what they are for your state.

1.Inform your employer that you will notify the authorities (In Texas its the Texas Work Force Commission) and you will no longer be coming in if your not paid within 24 hours. Also remind them of the jail time and large fines if convicted for non-payment of wages.

2. If they say they can not pay you, tell the proper authorities you are not getting paid immediately. They take about 30 days to get back to you and, there is also a limitation on how long you have to file a claim (in Texas its 90 days)

3. Quitting a job because of non-payment, means you still qualify for unemployment, they don't have to fire you, but you must file with the authorities first as proof of non-payment.

4.Remember its a business relation ship between you and the company, its not personal. Treat them with the same consideration as they do you. If they can't pay you then you don't work.

Torben Jorba
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There should be serious laws about unpaid responsibilities by second parties.
At least there should be _forced_ transparency, for example when your health insurance will run out. It's not your job to call up H.R. or the financial department every ten days to ask if anything that COULD seriously affect your credit score will happen - and you have no time to react.

In other countries, the window to even call chapter 11 or anything like that is very narrow, and they tighten it even more since the "00 years. In Germany and France for example; if you can foresee that you can not pay your staff and/or your obligations for less than mere 3 month (below 1000 workers), you have to inform the next business bureau.

Six month+ without telling anybody can get you easily an conviction with probation; and much more seriously, an occupational ban in your field of expertise for some years. Those controllers would be banned to work in
this position for two years easily. Try to find a job with this on your name.

This is really a sad story. The point I take away from that is: wait until the second or third check at least went trough before moving everything. Too much fragility in this industry.

Ed Macauley
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Stories like this make me sick. I was caught up in a much smaller scale meltdown at my previous employer, but with similar levels of deceit. (lots of overtime in the two weeks prior, knowing there was no way they could make payroll, etc.) I see a lot of cases where we fool ourselves (or at least try to) into thinking everything will work out, for the sake of the product. It's happened time and time again in the industry, "Don't worry guys, the money is coming soon, just keep working!"

The personal lesson for me is "If the paychecks stop, it's time to go." Sorry you can't make payroll, well sorry I can't work.

I hope everything works out for the 38 Studios folks who were caught up in all this. These stories are so frequent that maybe it's time we started up an independent insurance fund for displaced employees. But that would take a lot more know how than I have.

Craig Brooks
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Something to also remember is that for many more of us at 38, it was more than just a job. We loved our coworkers, we loved our product, and we loved our company. While working there, I faced a major medical issue and they rallied around me in such an amazing way. I was personally and emotionally invested in seeing this work. I too worked until the end hoping things would work out. Ultimately, they didn't and it's been tough on multiple levels. Fiscally, emotionally, mentally, physically. Seeing how the game industry (and many other non-game companies as well) have stepped up to help us all land on our feet has been heartwarming and one of the few bright spots on this all. I will always count working at 38 with such great people as one of the high points of my career, despite the end being terribly messy and heartbreaking.

Jacek Wesolowski
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It seems there are three lessons to learn from this case:

- as an employee, if there's fine print in your contract, don't read it, don't try to understand it - just go find another employer, because this one is expecting to run into trouble (either with you or their environment)

- as an employer, overcome your fears and refrain from putting the fine print in your contract, because it screams "I DON'T TRUST YOU" and/or "I CANNOT BE TRUSTED" in huge red Comic Sans

- as an industry, we should be ashamed, since we have all contributed to environment in which people need to have their spouses do the talking, and stay anonymous at that, because apparently being open about one's problems may lead to broken careers, lawsuits, and so on


Also, it may be a good moment to point out that one generally accepted tool for resolving and preventing this kind of issues is a trade union.

Michael Rooney
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There's fine print in the employment contracts for every employer, even if you get a minimum wage job at Mcdonalds or something.

The correct answer is to read it, if you don't understand it talk to someone who can make you understand it (lawyer or whatnot), and then deal with it accordingly.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Every deal has legalese in it. Not every piece of legalese is fine print, though it may at times seem like this, since legalese tends to be more complicated than one might feel is necessary.

For instance, at one point, I signed a deal which said that, should I break the non disclosure agreement, I may owe the employer a potentially unlimited amount. It also said the matter would be determined by the court. Maybe it's just my continental European mentality talking, but that kind of deal gives me the confidence that I will never owe the company more than I actually damaged them for.

At another point in my career, I was given a contract with a different kind of clause. It named a wide range of things that I might do that would be considered a violation of the deal. It also quoted a flat amount I woud owe them in case of said violation: roughly the kind of money I could earn in two years. Now that's not merely legalese. That's fine print, because it has explosive consequences. I might leak, say, a single piece of concept art, and still be liable for more money than I've ever seen. And the irony is - if I knowingly damaged a company for two years' worth of my earnings, they wouldn't need any clause at all, because this kind of damage qualifies as a criminal offence.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I think one trend that needs to stop with contracts are trends that circumvent or are at odds with the judicial system. You gave a perfect example regarding damaging a company already being a criminal offense (I am taking your word that it is). Other examples include coercing people into giving away their right to a fair trial by binding arbitration, or non-competes which take away a worker's right to try to sell themselves for a better job (or use the ability to do so to negotiate higher raises). Perfect example of how the ruling class wants a "free" economy for themselves and wage slavery for everyone else. A few years ago I would consider such exploitation of your company unethical, but now that I see how far companies will push things for their own gainings the gloves are off in my book.

Torben Jorba
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I think the biggest problem in the growing creative industries are management people who come from a different field and think they can make a "fair buck".

They apply the things they know, lets say from selling mobile phones or anything that doesn't need much creativity. And they are used to squeeze the last bit of water out of stones. Sometimes such a "conveyor belt"-concept works.

But many many times it doesn't. Creative people need the right balance between freedom and strictness (lets exclude strange places like Valve for the sake of the argument ;^)

At the end, the question is: it is working? And this includes paying bills, getting projects finished and not thinking: it was so easy to sell couches. Why is the CoD-Clone not making billions? Maybe I pay them...to much?

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Mikhail Mukin
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Sad story... I think everybody in this industry (apart from good graphics and network engineers - those needed all the time) should have enough money saved for at least half a year. Almost any project can be canceled and almost any company can be shut down with only a few days notice (again, mabye apart from a few COD-level titles... but even then publisher might decide to move it to different studios).

As to moving... yep, weird. I had to move coast to coast (and back) and I noticed that when company was paying for the move the price was almost 2x compared to what I got moving back myself - after calling a few companies and doing minor negotiations (though I had fewer things too). As I learned, long distance moving companies (one of mine was also Atlas Van Lines) will try to trick you... They will say "no charge for wrapping" but you will see $10/paper sheet in the final bill... and who counted how many did they use! On my move back they tried to change extra on the amount already agreed on, saying that I had extra weight: "you probably added something after our estimate". They threatened that the truck will go into different city and "you will not see your things for another 10 days". After couple of hours of the truck just staying next to my new place and many phone calls, they finally say "ok, what can you pay?" (meaning - extra) and we agreed on just some reasonably minimal increase...

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Yeah, in my experience moving companies can be shady. I had to pay an extra grand on what was quoted because they said they couldn't fit an eighteen wheeler into my apartment complex and would have to do it in a more expensive way carrying things via a smaller vehicle to a storage site (but they never brought that up until I had already signed to go with them). So largely it was my fault for not asking, but I had little experience with such matters and just assumed that what I signed was what it would cost to move my stuff from my apartment to my new home; I didn't know they were going to blindside me like that. Let that be a lesson, when moving, make sure to ask them to look at your apartment complex layout and get in writing that you will or won't need a smaller vehicle with storage and how much extra it will cost. I'm not sure what other gotchas they have to sneak in extra after you are committed to them contractually and have no choice, hopefully not many :/

Wylie Garvin
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That's breach of contract and fraud. Next time something like this happens to you, you should sue their asses in small claims court. Contracts require a meeting of minds (agreement between the parties about what each one is getting). They can't add extra charges afterwards that you didn't agree to up front, that's bait-and-switch. They can't hold your stuff hostage if you have fulfilled your half of the contract (paying what they originally agreed to).

Don Draper
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I feel bad for people and families who moved across the country for this joke of a company. However, the writing was on the wall.

I can say this with confidence because I worked at 38 Studios for less than a year. I quit on my own because it was obvious too much money was being spent, too many people were being hired, and most of the guys (and gals) in charge had no clue. The sales projections made no sense.

The governor was absolutely right not to give them any more cash. The tax credits wouldn't have helped: the money was already spent.

As for who to blame? ALL of upper management. There are a couple smart guys who should've known better... but, when you're collecting 15 or 20k a month in salary, why complain?

Buck Hammerstein
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sad and heartbreaking.

that's why a dual income household is that much more secure. i can't imagine the pressure of finding a job could be harder when only one person is the breadwinner.

at least the bills get paid if one person is hit with bad times. vacations and speedboats can always wait.

Diana Hsu
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I agree -- when you have two economic paddles in the water, in many cases, you're not completely devastated as a household when one person loses their job. When my father was laid off, my mom supported the family for a while when he found another job. My two siblings and I were barely affected in the interim, while kids in families with a single breadwinner would probably feel the difference far more acutely.

Jonathan Gibson
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Dual income is the result of a whole heap of economic & social pressures and cannot be seen as a an advantage to the children of such families. Our economic system is extra fragile now as we essentially maxed-out on productivity when both sexes were 'encouraged' to work some decades ago to support our societal financial models.
How much better to create an industry that pays well enough and is secure enough to support a simple family: what's wrong with this picture? We've disarmed ourselves as creative and productive working people following a libertarian every-man-is-an-economic-island religious-philiosphical dogma. As long as there are eager young pups willing volunteer, then VC and managers will gladly grab the next batch by the scruff and throw them against the brick wall to see what sticks. This one smeared a lot of families like broken crayons trying to conjure up a hit and we all see their {bloody} scrawl on the wall.

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Fawzi Mesmar
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Wish you guys the best of luck in the future; our thoughts go to all those affected

James Cooley
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"It is a shame that certain politicians couldn't get past the need to prove a point about being against 38 Studios and see they were harming their state in the long run. I mean 38 Studios was already here and the way I see it anything that could be done to make it a success would only benefit Rhode Island. As it stands, there are close to 300 very talented people dispersing all over the country and out of Rhode Island. There is an empty building with no game to be sold and a bunch of equipment that will not come close to paying for what is owed more than likely."

No, it is a shame that a mismanaged private company leaking money took on debts it couldn't repay courtesy of the taxpayers. This was an act of crony capitalism that would NEVER have happened if a former sports superstar wasn't at the top. These "certain politicians" warned the deal was flawed and risky before it happened because it WAS flawed and risky. Unlike their peers who were swept along by booster-ism and jock worship, they judged the deal like any other business proposition and found it lacking.

These "certain politicians" just happened to be right all along. Had these "certain politicians" prevailed at that time, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games might still be around. The massive infusion of cash and the deal for a location switch may have set in motion the very events that took them under.

Even the author of this article admits that the company was obviously badly run. So, was the answer to toss even more taxpayer money down the swirling drain?

Sorry, but the same line could be given for Solyndra or any other taxpayer-subsidized "investment" venture that was bleeding cash until the doors were chained closed.

The blame goes to 38 Studios and those politicos at the time of the loan who may have facilitated a spectacular crash later on with access to easy government dough. It was Ion Storm all over again, only this time it was the general public who got burned.

It sucks that innocent employees suffered here and I feel for them. I had to flee Michigan as an economic refugee some years back and head to Texas and start over in a new profession.

However, it was the taxpayers of RI got left with the tab and a few political types saw disaster in-the-making and tried to prevent it. I can't fault them for refusing to toss more good money after bad on a deal they knew was too risk-laden for the public purse.

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Sean Scarfo
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Sad... very sad.

Again, how does a company blow through 100+ mil in 2 years and not put out anything that recovers a 3rd of that?

If I had even 1/4 of that bank roll, the amount of games a team of 100 could put out in 2 years is decent. Figure 6-10 ios games, 1 smallish console game, 2 smallish pc games, and 1 larger pc game. While those games may not have been enough to pay off $20 mil, it'd be more than enough to keep a company afloat to continue paying everyone and pay loans.

Ken Christiansen
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I was asked by a producer way back in 2006 if I was interested in joining the team. It sounded great in theory, but experience and instincts led me believe that a rich guy who likes to play video games is not someone to trust with your livelihood. Did he really think he'd be able to pull off the Green Monster Games name? At worst, I thought it would fail in 2-3 years and I'd be stuck in Mass. looking for work. Said producer was out after 18 months, seeing the writing on the wall that long ago.

So I stayed in LA, and never pursued it - I never could have imagined what these poor families are going through - I'm so sorry for the wife above, and the others that have to deal with this struggle.

rod haxton
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Sounds familiar...

20 years ago when I worked for a start-up game company that was bought out by one of the true legends of the gaming industry (no names needed). After a year and half of the buyout we went bankrupt, doors shut, no pay for months, and money lost that was placed in pre-tax health care spending account.

In total I lost $10K, in due wages and pre-tax health care spending account. A class action suit was started by the employees but, to no avail. The ruling was that vendors and suppliers would be paid first out of any money recovered. However, my understanding was that when bankruptcy is declared the owning parties are free to walk away. I don't know if that is true or not but, I never saw a dime, and neither did some of my friends who I am still in contact with.

It's difficult at the time to fathom but, later in life it provides some good stories.

Sadly it wasn't the first time and it will not be the last time. Game studio start-ups are quite volitale and some of the brightest, and most talented fail to stay a float.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"money lost that was placed in pre-tax health care spending account. "

Wow, sounds like a reason to avoid such accounts in the future (you mean like a flex account?). I generally avoid flex accounts because it seems like it's just another complexity in my life that I don't need (and seems redundant wrt group health care), but since it seems like not paying/taking money from the working class when things get bad so the ruling class doesn't have to lose a fraction of their fortunes is the new norm, I say keeping your money as close to yourself as you can should be general advice. It's certainly advice I'm going to start following, viewing any "tax haven" as a risk of money that might just be taken from me.

Scott Strout
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I read this and while I'm sorry your in this situation, if your looking for someone to blame well find a mirror

You moved to a new city to work for a company that was dependent on a new game to be succesful, big mistake.

your husband took a job for a company that was getting in bed with the government, even bigger mistake,

Signed that contract on moving day and didn't read the fine print, big mistake.

your husband went to work and wasted money when he wasn't getting paid, big mistake.

sure your family was screwed over by 38 studios, but nobody twisted your arm or the arm of anybody who took a job from them

Promises are just that and while I feel for you, the only person who is going to get you out of this is well you and your husband. You took a shot and the gun blew up on you. I wish you luck in the future, but please don't sue, that won't help. Lawyers helped get you into this problem, jut focus on the future and don't let this happen again. Disasters like this happen all the time and they will happen again. Life is unfair, I know this better then anyone else. Be happy with what you have

I wish you luck and hope things get better.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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The working class is under constant duress competing with an inevitable and _designed_ reserve army of unemployed. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reserve_army_of_labour. If you don't have time to read it all, the shorthand is that the system is designed to lower wages and job stability by giving employers (the ruling class) more options than the employees (the ruled class) have. In other words, there are always fewer jobs than people able to work, gauranteeing a recursively improving BATNA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BATNA) for the employer class and a recursively immiserating BATNA for the worker class. This is no accident. This is an act of evil and disregard for one's fellow man that will either lead to war or be society's downfall. This is bigger than employee x moving to city y and making a mistake. To focus on a few low-impact decisions made by members of the working class (who, when you start thinking realistically, are incredibly limited in the _actual_ choices they can make despite "American Dream" rhetoric) while ignoring the atrocities that the ruling class does _intentionally_ _every day_ to lower the choice space we have to work with so we are more likely to stumble into those situations is unacceptable and unforgivable. It is like saying a rape victim was asking for it because of the clothes she wore, or someone who got swindled should be blamed for being dumb. No, victims should not be blamed; they should be helped. Good people need to learn to avoid evil, sure, but they are fucking NOT to be blamed for it, especially as any tactic we learn to avoid evil becomes obsolete as evil learns new tactics.

I'm sorry, but I will not tolerate hindsight blame from the peanut gallery. We are in a war against the ruling class that is intentionally, slowly, and methodically taking away our options and coercing us toward misery. That it is not as black and white as "slavery", that we at least have a few poisons to choose from does not mean we are at the level of true control over our lives that we would need to be at for you to have the moral high ground to blame a working class family for a job decision.

"Life is unfair, I know this better then anyone else."

You sound defeated, which does make me feel sorrow for you. I don't know what you are going through or have gone through, but I hope things turn around. However, life is not intrinsically unfair. Nor is it fair. We are volitional agents deciding what life is; in other words, what life is is up to us. The working class says "life is unfair". The ruling class realizes that the working class has given up any belief that they can control life, and since the ruling class still realizes that life is the result of volition they take the reins and form our world. There are no accidents in neofeudalism, this is all designed. Globalization lowering wages, the wealth gap (which is only going to get worse), the eternal army of unemployed that employers have to cherry pick from and dangle over your head if you don't do what they say... this is all designed and intended by evil. We don't need to falsely believe these are quirks of nature; we need to realize that good can design the world as well as evil, and fight back. Together the working class outnumbers the ruling class, so it is far from hopeless, unless you give up and believe it is hopeless in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"I wish you luck and hope things get better."

Wishing and hoping are not bad, but they are as futile as prayer. We need to fight back. I am. I hope you will join me.

EDIT: said there are more jobs than people able to work, obviously meant fewer.

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Scott Strout
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War? Slavery? Wow I'd love to visit your world. Life is simple it as black and white. You're born you live and you die, what happens in between when your no longer living with your parents is entirely your decision, At the end of that day nobody is accountable but you. You can't deny the bad decision she and her husband made.

But you want to take this to more then it is. This is not a war. Do you strap on a gun and dodge bullets and bombs for this struggle you have? nope That's what war is, be get shot and killed and things get blown up.

you make it seem like nobody and the past few years has ever broken through, that the deck is so stacked against you nobody can ever succeed, it's simply not true. if you want something work for it, if you get defeated, try again, but shut up with this being a war.


some people just get dealt a band hand in life, that sucks, you want something more work hard

It' just the way life is, someone will always be richer and more successful, your war? it's lost, because when it's no longer about money and success what will you want then? level the playing field on looks?

you can still be successful if you work hard, I am, but when things go bad don't look to blame, sue or fight some war. Own it and move on, it's a hell of a lot less stressful and you're right you don't know me

sorry I won't be joining you, I fight for myself and my family that's who I'm accountable for.
I don't fight wars that require air quotes. you go right ahead by the way if you if find yourself ever in man I've got a windmill for you to charge. good luck in your "WAR"

P.S.

as soon is your in that ruling class, well I bet your "WAR" will cease to exist

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Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Hey, thanks for the reply. I don't want to touch on most of this because I think we just have different opinions, but I did want to reply to this:

"It' just the way life is, someone will always be richer and more successful, your war? it's lost, because when it's no longer about money and success what will you want then? level the playing field on looks? "

You aren't coming out and saying it, but when you say "level the playing field" it sounds like you are making a common mistake implying that because I (and those like me) feel that some people have taken success from others who deserve it more we think that the perfect world is one where everyone has exactly the same as everyone else regardless of effort. That is ludicrous and frankly I've never heard anyone naive enough to actually think that is how the world should be. I'm not saying those people don't exist, just that I hear the right wing media talk about people who want this all the time and never come across someone who thinks that should be the case. What I do hear people complain about is when they are working hard for something and it is taken from them not by someone working harder, but by someone who games the system or has connections or what-have-you. It's subjective and complicated but I don't think there is going to be any positive discourse when strawmen like "equality of outcome regardless of effort" are brought up that no one on any side of the debate ever really claimed to want. If that's not what you meant I apologize, but it is a common mistake.

Jeffery Wilson
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Well, having been in the development of at least 3 MMO's. You have to realize, every month for the entire project has been mapped out. You know when you should finish, when different parts will be compelted, etc...
So there is NO excuse for the middle/upper management at 38 studio's. They need to have know for at least a year they would never reach the end with the money thay had. So I assume the spent the last year looking for new money, while not covering expenses for at least the last 6 months of that year.
Im no lawyer but this sounds alot like "Fraud".

Dean Martinetti
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This is happening more than everyone thinks...I know of a few teams in LA and in SF that are working without pay because the CEO keeps telling them that money is coming.

some people live in their offices cause they've lost their apartment.. then there are the folks like me who were made redundant and cannot find work even though they have 10+ years exp...

Things are bad all over...I ache for this woman because i'm going thru the same thing now. I was cut loose because of poor management and now i'm literally paying for it..

I hope he gets a job...one of use should be able to work.. :(

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Sad :(.

The sad thing is that _all_ of us are "able" to work, we just aren't all "allowed" because we have a society where a handful of people get to decide who works and who doesn't. It's as effective a tyranny as any that can form in government, but for some reason when corporations are doing it people are complacent despite the fact that corporations now have more power than many countries.


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