A widespread problem in the video games industry which forced programmers into 16 hour days and all night coding marathons has pushed one veteran American coder to the brink… And beyond!

Finding himself trapped in a seemingly infinite cycle of long days and working nights, Pfeiffer began to question the sanity of an industry that relies on work conditions rarely seen elsewhere in the Western world. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with an industry when making games is so expensive that the pressure to push your staff to their individual breaking points is completely understandable, if regrettable”, he says.

What’s a hard done by coder to do? Why emigrate to China, of course!

He soon learned that China has laws in place that make such work conditions as he was enduring at home illegal. Work days there can be no longer than 11 hours, and employees are only legally allowed to work 36 hours of overtime a month. “There are places in the US games industry where the base work week is 50 hours and that doesn’t even start to account for the extended periods of ‘crunch time”, he says. “In China, you couldn’t legally run a shop that way. And heck, who wants to live their lives that way?”

And to make the pot even sweeter, his new studio is going to encourage lifestyle balance (God, how many times has the uber-corp I work for said THAT!).

“We will have an onsite chef for breakfast, lunch and dinner”, he boasts. Massages, dry cleaning, company supplied drivers, language and cultural tutoring (English or Chinese), haircuts, fitness memberships, car washing and maid and grocery services are just some of the other perks Balanced Worlds have in store for their development staff.

Well, there you have it folks. Crushing poverty, labour laws that encourage slavery, practical totalitarian rule and a wholly unintelligent (though educated) population, America just doesn’t have the same opportunities as China for this guy. Sheesh.

  1. Jerk-Face says:

    And don’t forget a continent filled with hot asian chicks. Which leads to an interesting question: Do asian men have asian chick fetishes?!

  2. OmarTheAlien says:

    Flawless logic: American corporations outsource; therefore the sweet spot will be where the outsourcing goes to. Should the trend grow then Americans will be moving offshore in droves to meet the demand. Let the immigrants have this place, the bright girls and boys will be moving somewhere else. And that’s not a bad thing.

  3. Mister Justin says:


    No, they like blondes with big tits.

  4. Jerk-Face says:

    3. “No, they like blondes with big tits.”

    So basically you’re saying that all Asian men should switch places with all white American men? When do we start?

  5. Mister Justin says:


    No, that would be too easy. And you always have to remember, the grass is greener on the other side. If you switch them, your preferences would reverse. It’s part of God’s plan to make us insane.

  6. Jerk-Face says:

    5. “It’s part of God’s plan to make us insane”

    So apparantly God was a huge fan of the Twilight Zone.

  7. Mister Justin says:


    Hey, even God needs to feel powerful!

  8. TJGeezer says:

    Didn’t that spy, “Falcon,” or whatever his name was, move to Russia for kind of the same reasons? (Plus to stay out of jail, presumably.) As I recall, he wound up working in a print shop in Siberia somewhere.

  9. Smartalix says:

    Obviously the situation is radically different for foreigners and locals. I’ve contemplated working in China for a time myself. Not for work conditions, but is tourism and cultural curiousity that much more noble?

  10. ECA says:

    what some may not know.
    In the USA, programmers are CONTRACTED.
    Which means,
    1. they arent really hired by the company.
    2. the company tells them What needs to be done and WHEN.
    3. you Work the hours Needed, no matter What they are, to fullfil the contract.
    4. if you measured the hours Work with the wages….It aint worth it most times.
    5. this has little to do witht he outside world, and getting a bath, or eating.. you are under contract to do something BY a spacific time.
    6. If you dont meet the time frame, they can Dock you pay, of NOT pay you at all…

    YES, If I was still into programming, I would Jump at moving to china or Japan.

  11. ECA says:

    In europe and Japan and china….
    really, almost any of the other countries…
    do you know the compared Number of game releases, PER YEAR to the USA….
    10 to 1…There are more games released in other nations then in the USA…AND most are cheaper then IN the USA.

    Mostly because USA distribution wants to ADD cost to the goods.

  12. maria says:

    My daughter has been working in China for the last two years. As an educator. She says the opportunities there are much greater then in the US right now. As a person who never left her home town,still lives and works within a mile of where I was born this new phenomenon is strange to me. But not so as unusual that I do not know two other kids from our town that are working in Asia now.

  13. Angel H. Wong says:

    Maybe, just maybe if the VAST majority of the gamers realize that nowadays any game can be pretty but not any game can be good, game developers would orient to actually make them fun instead of making amouse potato game.

  14. sirfelix says:

    This is not just about gaming jobs, but how the pro-business government in the US could care less about labor laws.

    In many countries in Europe, 30 hour work weeks and 6 month vacations are the norm, even for starting, low wage jobs.

    I used to design process machinery for Europe manufacturers and I had to build-in seats because workers weren’t allowed to stand on their feet for more then 2 hours at a time. My wife just quit her retail manager job here in the US because the company wanted her to work on her feet for 12 hours straight without any breaks or lunch. Chairs are not allowed, also bathroom breaks are not allowed if a customer is in the store, and she works by herself. And its completely legal, especially when many companies are labelling workers as a labor law “exempt” position. She was working 60 hours and getting paid for 40.

    Mabye we should go back to picking cotton or start taking back the jobs Mexicans do that Americans won’t. Sounds like they would be easier.

  15. Proud Alien says:

    I am not surprised that the vast majority of Americans still genuinely believe in the superiority of everything American. I am surprised, though, to find articles and comments like the ones for this article on DU. I believe John travels quite a bit and he should know better than just dismiss anything not produced here or not originating in the US as inferior junk.

    Believe it or not, people, the world has changed quite a bit since you might have ventured outside of your county or learned about it in your high school. Sure, the US is great in some respects and it absolutely terrible in others. Not matter what you might think or hear on the crappy TV about India, China, Russia (Iran included, by the way), those countries are doing just fine. And I personally know people who went back to their home countries after checking it out here and not liking it at all (nuts, eh?). So, keep dreaming, if you like, but if you really want to know the state of the world you may want to open your mind and take off your rosy glasses once in a while.

  16. Pat says:

    14. But then again there is a 10% chance you won’t have a job.

    And don’t forget all the stuff you give up to live in china (ie freedom of speech).

    What is this guy complaining about anyways, he makes games for a living, there are a ton of people that would jump for his job (that is why they can work him so hard). Anyways, most software companies have great benefits. If he wants to have better working conditions maybe he should do what everyone else does when they want to get treated better, get a better degree or more qualifications. If you are in demand software companies will give you anything you want (look at google and Microsoft).

  17. #15 — are you high? We carp enlessly about the poor quality of products EVERYWHERE. Does this post cited below make you think we are defending non-existent quality?


  18. ECA says:

    How many companies do you KNOW in the USA that make games?
    Then think of 1 other thing…Distributours WONT pay if they dont OWN part of the product…
    Look up ATARI….they USEd to make games, now they BUY game companies and SELL/distribute the programs….THATS ALL they do.

  19. mxpwr03 says:

    #14 – Ok, but look at the unemployment rate in those countries, especially among the youth, and you start to draw another picture. This notion of having those benefits without suffering another form of cost is unrealistic. Pretty soon the true vision of the four freedoms (labour, capital, services, and goods) will be realized and those jobs that offer those benefits will have to start to compete with central/eastern Europe and the system may have to change. The “Polish plumbers” are coming Germany…brace yourself.

    #15 – How do you define doing “just fine.” Those countries you have listed have very high levels of unemployment, or underemployment, Iran’s inflation is rampant, their level of investment is not sustainable in the long-run. Russia & China are ripe with corruption and stifle the ability to secure and utilize property rights without paying off x amount of people. Also the notion of China’s unfettered economic boom is starting to unravel slightly, at least in the major zones of F.D.I., as now the competitive wage has been bid up to a level where other 3rd world nation’s comparative advantage, derived from their natural factor endowment of unskilled labour, is becoming more profitable. India is a better example but the Gini Coefficient for their country is nothing to bolster the claim of “just fine.”

  20. Jägermeister says:

    I’ve visited China several times. I love the country, its people, the food and the culture, but I truly hate its leadership and the pollution. My wife and I talked about moving there a couple of years ago since the opportunities are great, but opted out since health is more important than money.

  21. ECA says:

    and you dont think the US is as/becoming as corrupt as these other nations?? the only difference I see is that we Tax, licence, and regulate it to death in every instance.
    Try building a house with out inspectors, city ordinances, and council approval, INSIDe a city…
    Try building a power plant without federal approval and a $100,000,000 dollar study on how it will work and improve…

  22. mxpwr03 says:

    The regulatory hurdles in the U.S. are unacceptable I would never argue against that. Full fledged corruption as a means to secure the everyday business requirements, not so much in the U.S. In the U.S. if I were to build a house in a metropolitan area I don’t need to bribe a Mafia boss, could the same be said of real-estate in Moscow?

  23. Mark Derail says:

    #14, what, you didn’t want to name Wal-Mart?

    That guy Pfeiffer just had to come to Quebec instead of China. All laws are very similar protecting employees.

    UBISOFT is expanding here in Montreal, in our beautiful Old Port, over 200 permanent new jobs will be created. Great work conditions, but don’t expect one of those jobs to pay more than 50K per year.

    Pour ceux interessés, le bilinguisme est un atout.

  24. ECA says:

    It is a proven fact that There is more then 1 way to DEFEAT a country.
    You dont need war..
    You dont need terror.

    Take there money, take there goods, Sell them BACk at HIGHER prices…
    China is redeveloping, and has Aquied ALOT of goods from around the world, including WOOD, Metals, from the USA…

  25. BHK says:

    Smart move on his part. He’ll profit by being one of those wililng to go to a foreign country to guide engineers in how to make decent games. It might work. I doubt, though, that many of the locals are treated as well as he is.

    However, the games industry is not that bad. I’ve been an engineer, including on a project notorious for it’s crunch time, in the games industry for years, and it’s never been as bad as some people say.

    Most of these guys who complain are young, often just out of college, and have little or no prior work experience. They expect to party and have a good time like they did in college, and yet have a great job with great perks and a nice car and a wife and family. Many people only dream of getting the sort of perks, pay and on the job fun that employees at EA, Activision, Sony, Lucas, etc. get. But hey – I think I’m working too many hours? Time to call a lawyer!

    I’ve worked in other industries where the hours were longer and required more time away from family than any game project ever has.

  26. Jägermeister says:

    #24 – Yes, the treatment of foreigners vs locals is stunning. It’s easy to forget that this is the same country still got Lao Gai prisons. The corporate culture in China encourage ass licking way more than in North America. If you want to advance your career, you better got a wide network of contacts, or else you’re going to be stuck doing the same job for the rest of your life. Things will change, but knowing how deeply rooted these traditions is… it’s going to be slow.

  27. Pfkad says:

    I’ll be emigrating to Southeast Asia within six months. My house is built and my ducks are in a row. The middle class is emerging in much of Asia and the momentum is building. Contrast this with the US where the middle class is stagnant at best. I think Pfeiffer made the right choice.

  28. Smartalix says:


    “Not to mention that I find the fact that they use westernized names when dealing with foreigners patronizing.”

    Maybe if we could pronounce their names properly and knew which to use they woudn’t have to.

  29. Angel H. Wong says:

    Expect kick ass games with Funny Chinglish dialogue in the future.

    “Me harm your anus with my foot evil hearted man.” or something 🙂

  30. Smartalix says:


    How much time do you have for language lessons at a business convention? I don’t have any.


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